Alles Klar by Kat and Tzigane
Summary: The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth...
Characters: A, Bonham, Dorian, James, Jones, Klaus, Z
Genres: Alternate Universe, First Time, Hurt/Comfort
Warnings: graphic sex, graphic violence, non-con
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 22 Completed: Yes Word count: 227048 Read: 289776 Published: 11/03/2006 Updated: 12/03/2006

1. Chapter 1 by Kat and Tzigane

2. Chapter 2 by Kat and Tzigane

3. Chapter 3 by Kat and Tzigane

4. Chapter 4 by Kat and Tzigane

5. Chapter 5 by Kat and Tzigane

6. Chapter 6 by Kat and Tzigane

7. Chapter 7 by Kat and Tzigane

8. Chapter 8 by Kat and Tzigane

9. Chapter 9 by Kat and Tzigane

10. Chapter 10 by Kat and Tzigane

11. Chapter 11 by Kat and Tzigane

12. Chapter 12 by Kat and Tzigane

13. Chapter 13 by Kat and Tzigane

14. Chapter 14 by Kat and Tzigane

15. Chapter 15 by Kat and Tzigane

16. Chapter 16 by Kat and Tzigane

17. Chapter 17 by Kat and Tzigane

18. Chapter 18 by Kat and Tzigane

19. Chapter 19 by Kat and Tzigane

20. Chapter 20 by Kat and Tzigane

21. Chapter 21 by Kat and Tzigane

22. Chapter 22 by Kat and Tzigane

Chapter 1 by Kat and Tzigane
Author's Notes:

Warnings: In this work of fiction, there may be any, none or all of the following:

Laughter, tears, smut, lime, lemon, kisses, fondling, ice cream, torture, rape, mush, cursing, cross-dressing, James-kun, calculators, thievery, mad heroics, Cold War stuffs, espionage, oyster stew, homosexual and/or heterosexual sex and/or relationships, big-nosed scientists, masturbation, mutual masturbation, joy, nuzzling, happiness, orgasms, Alphabets, cute uke types, cute seme-types, adult abuse, abuse-abuse, and pretty much pain, suffering, and torture of all varieties. Oh. And the occasional death. If none of this is your cup of tea, maybe you should avoid it. ^_^

Klaus hated missions that involved civilians.

Especially civilians that proved time and again to be a danger to himself, and themselves. Not to say he didn't trust Dorian, but it was a tight situation, and they didn't have backup. It had been just the two of them on a whirlwind spree of breaking in Stasi buildings and safe-houses, snatching things and shuttling them back to the West. High adrenaline, and equally high risk.

The earl looked more and more uncomfortable with each near miss they had - probably a lack of familiar comforts. They stayed in seedy little hotels and places that wouldn't draw much attention, one room; Dorian took the bed and Klaus the floor.

"This is the last target, Eroica, and then mission accomplished," Klaus told the thief, pulling a tight black sweater down over his undershirt. "Then we can go home."

Slim fingers tugged the silver ring that made up part of the zipper closure on his catsuit, pulling it all the way up to his neck before beginning to braid all of that glorious golden hair in preparation for tucking it up under the black knit cap he had to hide the shine of it. "I never thought I'd say this, darling, but for once, I'll be glad NOT to be alone with you," he joked, though it fell flat. "The calls have been just a bit too close for comfort, Major."

"If I hadn't shot the thug who grabbed your arm, Eroica..." Klaus warned, remembering, vividly, the thief's near capture. "I could have done this mission alone."

"You could have cracked the electronic safe at the last place?" Dorian asked lightly, sliding on his black boots.

"I could have shot at it until it opened," Klaus snapped as he put a .22 against the inside of his ankle, already loaded, and then began to load his beloved .44 Magnum. No, he couldn't have gotten that safe. They both knew it, but at least he wasn't rubbing Dorian's face in his complete *failures* in avoiding the enemy! "This one will be the tightest -- they've probably sensed the pattern we have. Let's try to break it a little by arriving early."

Dorian's agreement was softly spoken, his expression worried. "All right, darling. I'll try to be more careful, since you're so worried about it. I don't know how they've managed to come so *close*. No one else ever has!"

"They're better than the bungling KGB." They should have been, too -- after all, they were German, naturally militant, and highly polished. Just like he was. "Keep a tight run of this, Eroica -- and you'll be paid well when we get home."

The response was remarkably dry for the British man. "Darling, I'll just be glad to escape unscathed at this point..." /And for you to do the same./

"Get this information for NATO, Eroica, and you can escape unscathed from Money-bug, too." An equally dry comment, and Klaus slid his shoulder holster on. "Let's go."

With a little roll of his eyes, Dorian stuffed his cap into his pocket and tossed on a shawl -- black etched with lively red roses and silver-tipped thorn edged green stems. "Of course, darling. Let's go.." The shawl would be stuffed away somewhere so that he could pick it up later, and the cap would be crammed onto his head to hide his golden hair. Klaus didn't need any such cap, with hair so dark and luscious...

"God, you're a flaming faggot," Klaus growled, shaking his head almost angrily as he led the way outside towards the beat-up, nondescript car they had bought. It would end up parked one block away from their point of entry, and everything would go perfectly, and then he would be *home*, in the *proper* part of Germany...

"Yes, darling," Dorian said cheerfully, climbing into the passenger side of the car. "I am. So what? I'm a happy flaming faggot, and YOU get the benefit of my skills since I love you madly, even if you *do* beat me around a bit much, you know. Haven't a clue where I picked up my tendency for emotional masochism, but it's certainly held me in good stead!" After all, he'd been chasing Klaus for *years* with no results other than the occasional punch, slap, or verbal abuse!

"Fuck off," Klaus sighed unhappily as he shifted the junker out of park, swearing to himself, for the seventieth time that he would get a Benz next time no matter what!

The drive was quick, and Klaus coasted into the spot he'd chosen to park -- got out and closed the door carefully, gesturing Dorian closer before murmuring. "Do you have your picks?"

"Would I ever leave home without them?" Dorian asked, raising his eyebrows as he abandoned his shawl and closed the door, tucking his hair up under his hat. "Really, darling..."

"Don't call me that," Klaus snapped softly, before starting off into the darkness in a careful storm -- one that Dorian could only follow in the wake of.

"Yes, darling," Dorian whispered wickedly, marching along after him quickly. "Wouldn't dream of calling you that!"

Klaus led the way carefully for a tiny bit over a block, around to the back door of a fairly discreet building. It could have been an office building, or a medical building, with the heavily tinted windows...

That made Klaus nervous. There was no way to tell if there *was* a trap; he could only keep his gun at ready, and let Dorian work his magic to get them into the building. Then he would locate the room the safe was in from the mental map he had, and Dorian would do his job once more.

"Let's go," Dorian whispered, pausing by the door to lightly pick it open. His fingers were quick, nimble, working almost unconsciously, and then the latch was undone and they were inside, leaving it unlocked behind them in case they needed to make a quick exit.

Their target was on the second floor of the stout building, and Klaus led the way not to an elevator -- that would have been stupid, an easy trap indeed! -- but a back stairwell, and then towards the room. To get in, though, there was another lock. Dorian got that one quickly, too, and Klaus covered him as they slipped into the darkened room, gun in one hand, flashlight in the other.

"This is too easy," Dorian mouthed, shaking his head as he walked through the almost-dark towards the safe that he knew was beneath the desk. "I don't like it..."

Klaus didn't, either, and that was why the gun was drawn. Still, he crouched down beside the desk with Dorian, light steady, gun hand steadier as he kept an eye on the door -- a door which slammed shut even as they both stood up quickly, an audible hiss sounding through the room.

"The window!" Dorian gasped, moving towards it. It was sealed shut, though -- caulked that way, and his eyes widened as he glanced at Klaus, trying not to take another breath.

"*Fuck*!" echoed resoundingly in the room, as Klaus stepped back from the caulked window and fired a round at it.

A bullet that could put a hole in a ceiling (and had on occasion!) barely put a tiny crack in the glass.

Terrified aquamarine eyes turned on Klaus as, unable to help himself any longer, Dorian drew in a deep breath. "Darling," he whispered, shuddering. "In case I don't see you again... I really do mean it. I do love you, truly, I do. If I don't see you again..."

"Shut the fuck up and help me with this!" Klaus snapped, turning away in a sharp pivot. Now was NOT the time for Dorian to fail him and go sentimental! Two more bullets rang out at the same point, then a third, and Klaus knew his aim was faltering.

The soft sound of the thief slumping to the floor was the last thing he remembered hearing even as he fired one last round...

Chapter 2 by Kat and Tzigane

When Klaus drifted into consciousness again, it was to find himself in a suspiciously large room. Large rooms in general were often bad, because it meant that there were more people expected than just he and Dorian.

He and Dorian... heavily cuffed each, wrists to ankles. In fact, the entire room, as his gaze let him focus once more, seemed to hold more chains and strange objects... "Lord Gloria..."

The thief's golden head remained on the floor where he lay, not lifting or moving, curls spread wildly around where his cap had been pulled off and his hair had been released. He slept still, though it seemed obvious that it shouldn't be much longer 'til they were both awake. It was cold enough in the room that waking seemed almost an act of self-defense.

Stasi.

So the mission now was a complete compromise, except what they'd managed to get so far. They would have to think of a way, quickly, to escape before they were interrogated. This was why he hated having a civilian on mission with him! Twice the risk, all his responsibility!

"Mmn..." The sound of Dorian stirring became obvious, the Briton trying to move and whimpering softly when he realized that he couldn't. "Nnn..."

Dorian would have to pick himself free. Then Klaus could be free, and together they would overpower their captors. "Lord Gloria -- wake up!" He shifted nearer the man, to nudge at his side best he could.

"Klaus?" It was a whisper of a question, sounding groggy. "Where...?"

"We're prisoners," he said shortly, nudging more gently now. "I need you to free yourself."

Coming around a bit more, Dorian shifted. "I can't reach my pocket," he answered shortly, trying to clear the fog from his mind. "They should be in the left one. D'you think you might manage it...?"

"I'll try," he uttered, shifting closer as the thief sat up a little. Right in front of the man, but hand movement was limited by the ties to his ankles, so he had to shift nearer yet, to get a chance to dig into the man's left pocket.

Nothing.

"Did you find them?" Dorian said softly, afraid of the answer.

"No." Now he had to work backwards, freeing his hands, shifting towards Dorian's right. "I'll try this side. Don't move."

"All right," Dorian whispered, already knowing they were gone. His hair had been taken down, as well, so the extra pair of picks he'd tucked there would be missing, also.

Klaus slipped part of one hand in, and already feeling defeat, pulled back, settling into a sitting position again. As if he had any choice; it was that, or lay curled on his side. "They'll slip up -- we'll get out then."

"I'm sorry," Dorian murmured, eyes closed. "I'm sorry, Klaus..."
"You shouldn't have even been on this fucking mission," Klaus hissed quietly to himself. "Fuck, this is my fault. But wait -- we'll get out..."

"All right..." Even though he didn't believe they would, Dorian was going to go along with it. After all, if Klaus said it was so, he'd do his best to MAKE it so.

Klaus remained calm, though, and that helped a great deal for Dorian -- nervousness was like a plague. It spread quickly... "Are you all right?" he was asked carefully.

"Sore," Dorian replied. "I feel like I've already been knocked around a bit, but that's to be expected, I suppose. You?"

"Same. Headache from the gas yet?" He sure could feel one coming on, but perhaps that was just a natural proclivity to headaches when they were least useful.

The other man nodded. "Yes. Queasy, a little. How long..." How long 'til they came was what he meant, but the answer was almost immediate with the sound of a door coming open somewhere behind him.

"Not long," Klaus murmured in a low whisper, closing his eyes as if sleeping. "Don't talk. Any."

"[Put Iron Klaus in a chair,]" the first entry instructed, while Klaus marked in his mind the footfalls of five other men behind him. Interrogation it was, then.

Dorian could feel his heart beating madly and he tried to stamp down the rise of outright terror in his blood as Klaus was moved away from him. His lashes fluttered open enough to see the men who placed the dark-haired German in the chair as they chained his ankles down before releasing his hands and bringing them up to cuff them to the arms of the chair, as well. /Oh, God help me to keep my mouth shut.../

"[I am a Major in NATO's army. My name is Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach. I know nothing else,]" he said in crisp German, opening his eyes to look at the face of the Stasi leader. Nothing placeable. Lower-ranking officer, then.

"[You know much more, Herr Eberbach.]" Slowly, he turned towards the four with him -- two more officers, two guards. "[Get me a knife. And tie down the fag.]"

To say that Dorian's German was rusty at times would have been kind. He understood that they were referring to him, though -- he'd heard that word, 'fag', from Klaus enough to know it. When they reached to move him, he couldn't help the tremor that ran through him even as he kept his eyes closed and his mouth shut tightly. /I won't talk. I will not humiliate Klaus.../

They did much the same to him as they'd done to Klaus -- settled him in a chair, ankles bound first followed by wrists. He didn't open his eyes anymore. He didn't want to see what was going to happen next, at least for the moment.

"One of you will tell me what I want to know," the officer said firmly in English, looking between the two of them -- Klaus, sitting firm and stiff jawed in his chair, Dorian looking fearful as his eyes opened again. "The partnership between the both of you is a famous one... Iron Klaus and Eroica. A reluctant partnership, the stuff of which books are written. You hate each other, or so we are told... [The fag will suffer if you do not speak, Eberbach.]"

"[I will say nothing.]" Klaus told him, eyes meeting Dorian's -- a message conveyed for silence.

/Yes./ It was the only answer he could give, wasn't it? And it wasn't as though Dorian knew what it was all about anyway. He only knew that he was to steal what Klaus told him to. It was best for them all that way. He knew nothing except for what they had stolen, and the Stasi knew that already. He had nothing to give.

"We will see." The Stasi officer moved near to Dorian, standing right beside him, knife glinting white in the dull florescent lighting. "If you look away, Herr Eberbach, I will cut his throat."

The pale blue cast of the light only heightened Dorian's pallor as he closed his eyes again, shuddering slightly. /Don't look away, Klaus. Please, God, don't.../ Not that he truly had to worry about that, he thought. It would bother Klaus more to feel that what was happening was his fault, his responsibility, than that it was happening to Dorian specifically.

Steel-green eyes kept locked with Dorian's, and the officer nodded slowly. "Good. Good, Herr Eberbach. You will not look away until I say you can." The blade slipped up, not touching skin yet, a glint of steel that Dorian could see as it came to rest against his cheek. "Tell me, Faggot, what you have been doing for the man across from you in that chair."

"You know what I've been doing," Dorian said faintly, the nausea that had originally been from the gas used on them now rising higher. "I don't think I really have to tell you."

For a moment, blade bit flesh, just a nick against the high bone of his cheek that gained a little shiver, a start. "Just repeat what I know, faggot."

"Why should I?" Dorian asked, still watching Klaus for cues on what could be said and what couldn't. He had a feeling that saying anything at all would be useless, all the same. "You already know, and I'd rather face you than face HIM if I tell you anything!"

Another small cut with that blade, against the same spot as before, with the same results. "Your name and rank, then."

"Eroica," Dorian whispered, eyes momentarily slitting closed, lips trembling. God, that hurt! To think, it was probably only the start... "I have no rank. I'm a thief."

"Why do you work for NATO?" Another press, but the blade didn't complete a downwards stroke -- not yet.

Across from him, there was nothing in Klaus's eyes -- no emotion, no urging, as if the man had already said his piece to Dorian and was expecting the thief to do as he'd said. "Because I'm an idiot," Dorian got out, trying not to whimper or say anything at all constructive. God, that hurt! "Why else would I be sitting here letting you cut my face?"

"It isn't a matter of letting you do anything, Faggot." Something flashed in the officer's eyes, and he looked as Klaus's blank gaze for a moment. "You like men, huh, Thief?"

"Tell me something the rest of the world doesn't already know," Dorian muttered, closing his eyes and biting the inside of his lip. /Bloody hell!/

Eyes closed, he could hear the familiar sound of a zipper coming down -- not his own -- and cloth rustling. Then the knife pulled away from his cheek. "Lean forward, Herr Faggot, and suck me off. I will take that as payment for your silence."

"No, thank you, all the same. I'd just as soon not, you know. I'm afraid I'm a bit out of practice and all that," Dorian murmured, shaking his head. He'd much prefer they kept on cutting him to making him do something like that in front of Klaus.... Klaus, who could never understand what it was to love another man, no matter how much Dorian hoped. Klaus, who would only be worse when speaking of perversions ever after... /IF we get out of this alive,/ Dorian told himself.

The man's hand came out, knife and all, and the slice intersected with the cut already there, a bone-deep dash of the blond's cheek that brought with it a muffled yelp. "You will do as I say, Thief. Lean forward."

Klaus's gaze was blank because he was furiously searching for a way to escape. As mission leader, it was his duty to get all agents home in the best shape possible... and alive, no matter what, was better than dead. He'd promised himself on every mission that he would do his best to make sure Dorian got home alive... "Do as he says, Eroica." Tone flat, carefully reigned in.

Dorian's trembling breath was audible in the room over the low snickers of the extra Stasi, the tears that flooded over his lids unstoppable as they mingled momentarily with the wash of blood that coursed down the line of his cheek, trembling over with heavy plops as he shuddered, leaning forward and opening his mouth to take the man's cock between his lips.

"Ah, that is a good faggot." Sharply sighed words, as the hand that didn't hold the knife patted his head. "If Herr Eberbach looks away, shoot the faggot for me. Now, do your business, thief."

It was worse than disgusting. The man wasn't very clean, and the overwhelming queasiness that Dorian already felt was only added to as he tried to pleasure him. The thickness of the thing, the taste of him, the deliberate jerking thrusts made into his throat, made it difficult, and he moaned in agony as his breath was momentarily cut off by the thing. Perhaps worst of all was the pain of his stinging cheek, the flesh tugging unbearably with the actions of his mouth. /Oh, God. Oh, GOD.../ He'd made love to many men in his life; there was no getting around that. He had. Nothing, ever, had been so terrible, or seemed so wrong to him... and 'Klaus told me to' suddenly seemed like the worst rationalization he'd ever thought to give himself!

Klaus couldn't look away, even as the sick-minded officer shoved in deeply once more, pulling back with a grunt of pleasure to let his semen spit barely inside of Dorian's mouth, aiming for that cut cheek. He would have to apologize to the man when they escaped, have to find a way to thank Dorian for keeping quiet. The thief was probably edging on hysteria now, needing to be freed and with his men, surrounded with his art and not cold metal, chained to chairs...

The officer folded himself away neatly, smiling. "Very nice, Herr Faggot. Now will you tell me what you know?"

"I know nothing," Dorian whispered hoarsely, eyes still slowly leaking tears. "Nothing!"

Now he leaned near to Dorian, the man's breath clean but disgustingly warm against his face. Then, a whisper of words that could only be heard by Dorian. "Would you speak to stop me from doing that to Herr Eberbach?"

The sound of Dorian's breath catching was heard, his entire body seeming to go still before he whispered, "I can't." That was more true than not. He *couldn't*. He would die if someone did such a thing to Klaus and it was his fault, but he *could* not disappoint the German NATO agent. He couldn't!

"We will see if both of you will hold that sentiment," the officer whispered, pulling back. The knife glinted near Dorian's eyes for a moment, but didn't strike. "Herr Eberbach! Will you speak to save your partner in crime?"

"Nein." And still, he hadn't looked away -- couldn't look away just as Dorian couldn't speak.

"Then he will not be saved. Lift your pretty face, Faggot, and I will clean it for you."

/No, no, no, no, no,/ Dorian thought, but he did it. He did it because going along with it wouldn't make it better, but because maybe it wouldn't be so bad if he did. /No, no, no.../

The blade pressed again, drawing blood anew, before scraping down the length of his cheek as if a straight razor, sweeping the semen from his face, and the blood and salty liquid over the gash already on his cheek. Another gash was added, from the edge of Dorian's nose across to the top of his jaw. The officer stepped back for a moment, surveying his work, before repeating the same marks on the other side, each time with a vicious slice of that fine honed blade, each of which drew wretched little sounds from somewhere deep in Dorian that he muffled to the best of his ability. "He is yours now, boys. Keep watching, Herr Eberbach. And remember that everything is because you will not speak."

The obvious trembling in Dorian implied hitched sobs, and the sounds of his breath did not relieve that implication even as the other five moved forward.

"[You ruined his face before we got to play with him,]" one laughed, working on the cuffs that held Dorian's ankles to the chair.

A second snickered slightly. "[It's not his face we're interested in, anyway, idiot.]"

Now beside Klaus, the interrogator only smiled coolly as they brought the slim blond thief to standing, one of them reaching for the ringed zipper that would remove his cat-suit. "Well, Herr Eberbach," he said lightly so that Dorian could understand him, "I'm afraid that your faggot friend won't like this at all."

"He knew the risks," Klaus said stiffly, still watching with half-open eyes. "He... has always known the risks." Whether he'd ever serious considered them, before, though, was another matter entirely! /Of course he never has... I will not let him work with me again. There will be no more missions with Eroica./ Because he felt that Dorian would never want anything to do with NATO ever again. The fun and shine was coming off of the spy game in those moments, the Briton shuddering as he was stripped. Klaus could remember quite vividly from the mission with the exploding vase that Dorian hated to be stripped, probably because it took control from him. Now, to be stripped, knowing there were five vicious agents intent on harming him to make Klaus talk...

The shivering releases of breath intensified once Dorian was naked, and his eyes were wrenched tightly shut. /I won't think about it,/ he promised himself, even though he knew it was impossible. /I won't think about it.../

"[Hey, look,]" one of them snickered. "[It's a natural blond!]" Those words accompanied a tug at the thief's soft manhood, painful, but nowhere near as bad as the gashes on his face.

"[All soft and white,]" the third one purred, a redhead with thick fingers that twisted and pinched at pale flesh as they pushed Dorian against a wall. Chains were brought down, manacles fastened about his wrists. They were loose, a little, not allowing for him to slide his hands out, but allowing a certain amount of movement away from the wall so that both sides of him could be reached.

"Don't...!" It was more a thought than anything else. Dorian wasn't even truly aware that he'd said it until raucous laughter sounded in the room.

Klaus bit down on the inside of his cheek, straining to keep from looking away. No, he couldn't watch this -- but he had to, or the officer still standing beside him would kill Dorian. He still might, but as long as there was a chance of the thief living... But Dorian, for all of his faggish way, did not deserve what was being done to him. He always flaunted his sexuality, but only for pleasure -- and that sharp objection was anything but pleasure. "[This will do you no good.]"

"[Oh, I think it will do us a fine bit of good,]" the interrogator said with that same easy smile, blue eyes lighting up almost cheerfully. "[After all. This is only the beginning.]"

Dorian bit down hard on his lip as one of them slipped fingers idly between the cheeks of his ass, rubbing a thumb up against the delicate aperture there. "[My, my, boys. Look what we have here...]"

"A little hole to fuck," came the tittering mockery in English as the man fondling him forced his wide finger into the Briton, drawing a muffled sound of pain from him despite Dorian swearing to himself that he wouldn't say anything.

/Don't, don't, don't, don't.../

"I won't talk." Klaus was sure of it, even as he watched Dorian bite back his own cries of pain. "Hurting him will get nothing from me." /So stop it. Leave the fucking civilian alone!/

"[Perhaps,]" the man beside him said, lightly smoking a cigarette. "[Perhaps not. It doesn't matter. This...this is only for the fun of it. This is to get them started. He is only the beginning for you.]"

"Hurting civilians for fun? You have no honor, Stasi," Klaus snapped, having to work now to keep looking at Dorian. Ahh, he needed to think of a way out soon! Needed to escape before much more damage could be done to the Briton. Already the sight of blood running down Dorian's face to spill in little runs over white skin was enough to make Klaus want to turn away from the sight.

Across the way, Dorian cried out as one of them pinched hard at his nipples, the lot of them laughing as steel clothespins were brought to bear. They marched them across his chest, pinching up flesh where they could, teasing at him, bruising him. A suggestion was met with more laughter, something he couldn't understand, and he moaned as the little steel pins were brought to bear on the softness of his cock, delved through golden hair to pinch at his balls. He couldn't help the little sounds he made, the thumb still in him, dry, and working at him as they enjoyed hurting him.

"[Perhaps I don't have any honor]," the interrogator drawled. "[Would you like a draw?]" He offered Klaus the cigarette with a strange little smile. "[Perhaps it will help to calm your nerves as you watch this little scene.]"

Careful -- because it would have been a sick trap he expected from such a man -- to not look away, Klaus nodded once, unable to use his hands to grasp the cigarette. "I could use a smoke." And he could, to steel himself both to watching the horror before him and for whatever else might come next. Dorian's skin was not supposed to be treated so. It was always soft and perfect whenever they'd touched in accident over missions and the past few weeks of living in close quarters. Clothespins... sick. Worse was the blood trickling down his throat and chest from his face, lovely and ruined, mingled with tears. Anyone would cry, hurt like that. Almost anyone, anyway, and Dorian was so soft...

The thumb was removed, but it was no relief. Dorian tensed, sensing somehow what came next even without the sound of the zipper that accompanied that cessation, the shifting of the man behind him, the laughter of the four who were watching. They tugged at him, touching the pins, snickering as he felt turgid flesh sneaking closer to him. /Oh, God. Oh, *GOD*!/

Klaus flinched as the man shoved ruthlessly into Dorian, drawing a helpless sound of pain; he'd almost, almost averted his eyes, but there was no part of Dorian that he could look at and not feel anger rise up in him. The man was his responsibility to keep safe, to see safely home after a mission was done, and now he was suffering in ways that Klaus would wish on *no* one, not even Mischa!

"[So. The two of you are still not speaking. This,]" the man smoking beside him, "[is a good thing. It would be less fun for me if you did speak. He has good technique, no?]" he asked, waving a hand towards the man now raping Dorian thoroughly, rasping him raw, blood now dripping down one pale thigh as the thief went limp, wrists above him carrying his weight momentarily. "[The faggot, he loves you. That is what they say in our circles. He works for you for that, even though you do not like him. It must be terrible, hm? To be treated like this as you watch, not caring enough to answer and relieve his pain...]"

If he said anything that could reassure Dorian it wasn't a lack of caring, the torture would only prolong. "Don't make me watch," Klaus said simply, even as he *did* watch, watched another take the first's place behind the Briton. No one, *no* one deserved that, and *no* one but him had ever, to his knowledge, hurt Dorian, and he could barely stand it. For a moment, as the second entered Dorian, Klaus's strong hands clenched into fists before relaxing with effort.

"[There would be no fun in that,]" the Stasi told him with a laugh, giving a sharp direction to one of the others.

The steel pins began coming off, tugged loose with roughness, and the sounds they made were terrible, breaking the skin as they came away, leaving little trails of blood behind. One of the men lifted Dorian from his feet, holding him to give the second rapist a deeper depth of penetration. The sounds coming from Dorian were terrible and soft, not screams... No, Dorian was not the sort of man to *scream*, and even then, even shaking and close to unconsciousness, he did no more than sob and moan quietly.

"You'll die for this," Klaus promised in a rough growl, hands clenching again. And he would -- there were unspoken rules of engagement in this war, and the sick officer beside him was breaking all of them. No one did that to Iron Klaus, or one of his missions, and lived.

"[Perhaps. Probably not, though,]" the interrogator chuckled, leaning down to put out his cigarette in the flesh of Klaus's right hand. "After all. It's just a faggot, isn't it?"

The double entendre was hard to miss, as Klaus let out a hiss of breath, eyes barely kept open. There really was nothing quite like having a cigarette pressed against the skin of one's hand... Though he could imagine, too, that there was really nothing like what was being done to Dorian.

They were on to the fourth, now, despite the fact that Dorian was clearly unconscious, and the first three stood and laughed while the last, the redhead, tugged at the softness between Dorian's legs. Fingers reached up and pressed the cuts on the thief's face, pulling him from his stupor with a cry that rang explicitly of agony. The sound of Dorian's voice was strained, and a sharp sound came clearly as a particularly vicious thrust was given.

"[Nothing of any true importance,]" the man beside Klaus chuckled.

"Shut up," Klaus snapped in a soft hiss of noise. "I will not talk." /Shut up, stop baiting me, before I rip your fucking throat out, you disgusting excuse for a fucking human being!/

"We will see," was the only answer as the redhead began to take his turn. The first of them reached up and loosed the chains from Dorian's manacles so that they could hold him better, bend him for the last one.

"[He's no good anymore,]" the man complained. "[This is no better than my hand!]"

"[So, fuck him harder. Maybe if you get deep enough, it'll get better,]" one of them joked.

In disgust, the fourth stopped, shoving Dorian down onto the floor. "[It's not worth bloodying my cock over, anyway.]"

Klaus started to his feet and caught himself, still watching Dorian. Still unable to look away, and immobilized, and the Stasi officer had caught him actually reacting. /Shit, shit, shit. Not what you wanted to happen... Not what needed to happen.../

It seemed, for the moment, that the thief was unconscious, and the man beside Klaus laughed softly. "Perhaps you would like to see better, hm? Bring him here," he said, gesturing for the men to pick up the abused and bleeding man. His orders were followed without question, Dorian brought along and placed, strangely enough, in Klaus's lap, head tucked against his shoulder momentarily. "Isn't it sweet?" the man said with that strange smile. "Do you think our little faggot will like waking up there with you, Iron Major?"

"I don't know." /Don't move him. He will. Leave him there.../ Anything to save the Earl a little suffering, anything at all...

A prod sent him tumbling off into the floor and brought laughter from the men surrounding them now as they picked him up and shoved him back in the chair across from Klaus, shackling him back into it.

"Leave him there," the interrogator told him. "When he wakes up, we'll go to work again. For now..." The smile he gave Klaus was utterly and completely wicked. "We will see you soon, Major. Perhaps you will enjoy our care as much as he."

"You will not be able to make me talk." To know that he was their next target brought stunning fear and strange relaxation. He was a professional -- he knew, full well, what could happen during any mission. He wasn't an innocent like Dorian was; he was a murderer, a man with a temper and strength behind it.

"We will see," the man said simply, still smiling at him as the others left the room. He soon followed, shutting and audibly locking the door behind them.

Two options laid before Klaus -- wake Dorian up and try to talk to him for a moment, or let the man sleep in the safety of unconsciousness while Klaus tried to escape. Letting Dorian be *not* awake seemed best, so he leaned towards his right hand, tested the lack of leeway he had, and inspected the lock. He'd need a pick, but there was nothing that would do.

It was hopeless.

"Nnnnmmm...."

"Sleep, Lord Gloria," he urged quietly, leaning in again to lick the burnt spot on the back of his hand. There. That took away some of the sting. Carefully, he sat upright, eyes closing to rest for a moment....

And then stopping. He'd been told to not look away from Lord Gloria until told he could... and he hadn't been told so. Best to not risk it when playing games with such a sick man.

The sight of Dorian was hard to bear. It wasn't his nakedness that was so bad -- though perhaps it should have been. It was, instead, the sheer vulnerability of him, the rivulets of blood staining pale flesh, the tears that were even now leaking from beneath blond lashes and swollen lids to clear pinkish tracks down his cheeks. Terrible, it was terrible, and worse was the realization that he was awake, the sound of his voice nearly gone, only a faint whisper reaching Klaus's ears.

"Did I say anything?"

"Nothing. Lord Gloria, I am sorry that... that was done to you. No one should..." He was looking clearly at Dorian, gaze a little shaky but still strong. /That officer will die... slowly.../ "Go through that. They will be back soon. Do not say anything to them. I will get us out of here somehow."
"Hmmm," Dorian managed to say softly, agreeing somehow as he brought his head up, dropping it against the back of the chair. "'t's all right. Hurts," he whispered. "But 't's not you. 'sokay."

"What did you say, Lord Gloria?" He was fluent in English, but there were times that it eluded him, and he was hoping Dorian hadn't said what he'd thought he'd heard.

Eroica was gone again, though, and only silence spilled through the room as Klaus remained there, the cold in the room increasing slowly. It was almost as if they were trying to make them both as uncomfortable as possible, and Dorian was shivering, but it seemed to make him rest easier aside from that. Klaus stayed silent, too, taking the time he was given to watch Dorian through half slitted eyes, resting that way. Cold was a matter of discipline, and it didn't effect him, still warm in sweater, undershirt, pants, boots... Burglar clothing that had been quickly stripped from Dorian's unwilling body.

The sound of the door coming open again seemed to startle Eroica to life, his entire body tensing as his head came up, eyes opening wide before dropping down again. "Ahhhh," a voice behind Klaus murmured, "I see our thief is at least semi-conscious. Enough to be afraid, so that is good."

So they weren't going to leave Dorian alone yet... He'd actually been counting on the thief having a little while to re-gather his wits, and perhaps spot something Klaus hadn't yet. If only the damned shackles gave him enough leeway to do something!

"Well, queer little burglar? Are you awake again?" the man asked cheerfully. "Perhaps someone can hold your head up if you can't quite make it on your own." A snap of the interrogator's fingers brought the redheaded Stasi to stand behind Dorian, hand fisting in those golden curls to hold his head upright. "After all, we will soon be starting on your friend, and I would hate for you to miss the opportunity to watch such a thing, hm?"

"This will not work," Klaus reminded the man, almost as much as he was reminding himself. There was no way that the same thing was in store for him. No, there would be something different, though perhaps just as bad... And when they unshackled him, he would attack as quickly as possible.

"We will see." God, how Klaus was beginning to hate the cheerful sound of those words! A sharp flicker of motion prompted the man who'd first raped Dorian to move forward, a knife in hand, and he began cutting Klaus's sweater loose from him. "After all, the tactics for our sticky-fingered friend have only begun. So it will be with you as well."

/Don't say a thing Lord Gloria, don't.../ There was a realization setting in that made it all the worse -- Dorian truly knew nothing of importance in the matter. Only Klaus. Dorian had suffered not for information that they both had -- only for what Klaus knew. And now... well, it was a relief to realize, idiotically, that the only person who had to keep quiet was himself.

The sweater fell away without resistance, the loss of good, sensible warmth as he was left with his undershirt only to keep him warm.

"Don't," Dorian was whispering, shaking even harder. "Don't...!"

"You will watch," the interrogator replied pleasantly as Klaus's undershirt was cut away, the knife working on getting the soft black pants off of him, not very careful of his flesh as it worked up from a leg and towards his waist. "Just as he did. Perhaps I will be lenient with you, in this. After all, you are not trained to withstand interrogation, are you? You are only a queer little fuck. You will watch, remain conscious, or he will lose a part of him. Do you understand? Tell me you understand, Eroica."

"I understand," Dorian mumbled, shuddering.

Klaus was frighteningly still in the chair as all of this was done, even as they cut off his underwear. So, Dorian was looking at him naked; he still had his pride, his defiance of the sick Soviet who was within his line of vision.

...for all the good it would do him...

"Begin." That word seemed to prompt something, movement behind him, and the men who'd worked on Dorian were now close to him. It was *not* a pleasant considering, and it was an even less pleasant feeling as one of them ran a hand slowly down his chest in a manner clearly meant to titillate, to arouse... or to humiliate.

Humiliate it was, Klaus closing his eyes when that touch came; no reaction other than that, and he was glad he was confined to the chair, glad that they wouldn't risk putting him up to the wall as they had Dorian.

"You see, it begins this way," Klaus was told. Dorian's eyes welled with tears again, heated saline that spilled over helplessly as a hand found its way to Klaus's genitals and squeezed consideringly. "It is always best to show a little of what you may do, do you not think, Eroica?"

"Bastard," Dorian whispered, gasping slightly as fingers pressed hard to his cheeks.

"Yes," the interrogator purred, pulling loose his knife and moving towards Klaus. "Perhaps that is so."

Klaus bit the inside of his lip, trying to not jerk himself free of that grasp -- to do so would have brought delight to them, far more than the unmoving, unwatching thing that Klaus was being in that moment. "[I am loyal to West Germany. I am Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach. I will not say anything you wish to hear.]"

"We will see."

The sound of soft laughter chuckled in his ear as fingers pried his legs open, seeking out the same spot they'd invaded in Dorian. It was conceivably the most horrible thing he could imagine, and the man who pushed a finger into him laughed. "[Ohhh, this one's tight. He's not some sissy fucking queer, though, is he?]"

Lip bitten through as his body failed to win its fight against the invasion, Klaus felt the taste of blood just as much as he felt the foreign digit working its way into him. So, they weren't even going to remove him from the chair...? Well, there was no possible way they could do worse. His pride would survive, and he didn't have to look at Dorian as he was. Eyes closed, yes, a shield against the reality that across from him, Dorian was watching his hands white-knuckle on the arms of the chair, trying to not bring his legs together, and frowning at it all.
"He is thinking that this is the worst which we can do to him," the interrogator said softly. "He is thinking that we cannot hurt him in the same ways we have hurt you. Perhaps he is right. Perhaps we cannot. Perhaps," he suggested, moving forward with the knife, "there are better ways in which to hurt the Iron Major. If destroying his precious pet thief does not make him flinch, perhaps other things will."

"[I thought you wanted me to talk, not flinch,]" Klaus challenged through gritted teeth, as the finger within him twisted sharply and without any warning at all -- ah, were they trying to *gut* him from inside?!

ALL of them seemed to find that amusing. The laughter was almost as bad, in a strange way, as everything else. "[Ahh, but we don't expect you to talk so soon, even though we encourage you to do so. This, then, is just the beginning of the fun for us. We will accept flinching, when later you will talk.]"

Just the beginning? Just...?

/No. Iron Klaus will not break. I will not talk./ He knew that his mind was a wealth of information on hundreds of things beyond any set of documents they could ever lay their hands on. He was a walking book of classified information, waiting to be read...

He gritted his teeth as another twist was given, concentrating on the blood in his mouth. "Oh-ho, so you don't like this. Perhaps we should have done to you what we have done to him. That would involve moving you from this chair, though, and I am not so stupid as that, I think. Boys," he said softly, a pre arranged signal of some sort.

A signal for *what*, though, Klaus couldn't tell. Only that the digit within him pulled out, and he clamped his legs shut instantly, despite his ankles kept so close to the legs of the chair. He couldn't go it blind forever, so he opened his eyes slightly, chin still held high...

To find Lord Gloria, still being made to watch. The expression on Dorian's face seemed so sorrowful, almost aching, and the terrible look in his eyes was nearly impossible for Klaus to bear even as the men around him shifted, a small table being wheeled in from outside of the room.

Laid out with exact precision upon that table was a variety of terrible looking instruments. Surgical steel seemed to be the overwhelming composition, gleaming and pale, better than the knife that the interrogator was now flipping back and forth. "Now, then," he said calmly. "We will begin, Major. What were you doing invading our offices?"

"You already know." This was more of something Klaus knew he could handle. Pain... was nothing. They'd stab him a few times, slip up, and they'd escape.

"This is no better answer than the faggot gave." A scalpel was chosen, the tip of it brought forward to rest against his shoulder. "What were you doing invading our offices?"

"You. Already. Know."

The first slice was made with what was almost joy, a diagonal cut approximately an inch deep that ran from mid-shoulder to just above his left nipple. "What were you doing invading our offices?"

"Ggghh." Klaus's head tipped forwards, teeth clenched sharply. He couldn't manage a 'you know' in that moment. Nothing more than a stoic negative grunt.

"Oh, God..." That was from Dorian, a horrified whimper that gained mimicked sounds from the three who were now watching the interrogator work on Klaus. "Oh, God..."

"What were you doing invading our offices?" The scalpel moved down, slicing across the nipple. "We know what you stole. Why?"

"Geneva... conventions... forbid... torture to...." Ah, God, so deep that scalpel was cutting more than just flesh. There was a patchwork of thin veins and arteries, muscles sliced... "Interrogate."

"[I do not think you comprehend what I mean,]" came the soft German words. "[We know what you stole. Why.]" The last word was said flatly, accompanied by another cut, this one from the right shoulder to just above the right nipple.

"[I serve... Western Germany. I am Major Klaus Heinz... von... dem Eberbach. I will... tell you... nothing more!]" Words barely gritted out in the aftermath of that slice, Klaus curling forward more.

"[You will tell me what I want to know. You will tell me why.]" The next slice crossed the right nipple, carefully calculated.

For a few moments, there was only the steady gasping of breath from Klaus, shuddering at matching sets of deep pain. He wouldn't be able to move his arms well, or quickly without pain, not with those muscles damaged. The man knew well what would hurt him best... "How dare... you..."

"[Tell me why.]" This time, the slices were barely skin deep, tracing patterns delicately over Klaus's chest despite the sounds coming from the thief so close by them.

"Stop... Please, stop, please, stop, *please*, stop!"

That stung, heightening Klaus's outrage, eyes closing again to pull together strength. "Shut up, Dorian." He didn't need to hear the Earl whimpering, over his *own* pain.

The quiet that came was marred by the soft sounds of Eroica across the way; the words had ceased, but it seemed to hurt him impossibly that he couldn't give them. "Ahhhh, this bothers you, then? It bothers the little thief and he bothers you. How remarkable. Make him talk, Nielson."

"[How, sir?]" the first one, another officer, sneered, moving towards Dorian with a dangerous glint in his eyes. "[Why don't we just kill him if he stops talking?]"

Klaus was sure, now, that he shouldn't have snapped that out at Dorian.

"[Keep him alive until I tell you otherwise,]" the interrogator drawled, momentarily laying down the scalpel and turning to smile at Dorian. It was absolutely chilling and the Briton's breath caught in his throat at the sight of it. "You will talk for me, faggot. You will let him hear your voice as I work. If you stop talking while I work, I will hurt one of you. I will not tell you which one. Tell me you understand this."

"I..." Dorian said softly, eyes trained on Klaus. "I understand. What do you want me to say? What if I can't think of anything?"

"You will manage."

Klaus closed his eyes again, against Dorian's face and the gleam of those blades. If it was just the pain, he could withstand it so much better... And better yet if Dorian weren't involved. The earl needed to be far away just then...

"Why?" Dorian whispered. "I don't know anything and he won't tell you anything. Why?"

The interrogator simply smiled. "He will tell me all, eventually. Perhaps I will have to kill you before then. The Iron Major is a strange man. The rumors about him are, perhaps, not as true as we thought. We may deal with him in many ways. I believe that first, I will remove his fingers. What do you think?"

"NO!" Dorian blurted out, nausea rising sharply again. "Oh, God..."

Klaus wanted to panic -- wanted to rage, too, and one was simply easier than the other. "You... will die at my hands. No one plays... fucking games like this with Iron Klaus and lives..."

"We will see."

The scalpel was in hand again, that terrible smile on the man's face, and Dorian's voice was in Klaus's ears even as he began to cut, shaking, trembling. It seemed pained impossibly -- but pained because someone was hurting Klaus, not because he himself was being harmed. "When I was very young, my mother used to sing to me. Oh, God, oh, God, what did she sing? I can't think of it. I don't know, how will I ever remember it this way? She used to sing..." His words wobbled, but they didn't stop, and he seemed to find the words of the song he was looking for. "The water is wide..." It was almost a whisper. "I cannot cross o'er..."

Klaus was just glad he had his eyes closed -- seeing his own blood would have made it worse, if that was possible. His pinkie-finger, fist pried open with two hands of the Stasi officer's nearest 'helper', was being severed slowly. Starting with the sensitive webbing between that and his ring finger, then sharply down against bone. "Awhh, *FUCK*." A growl of noise and his hand jerked within the man's grasp.

"Oh, God, oh, GOD," Dorian half-sobbed, shaking his head and trying to start up the song again. "And neither have I... wings to fly... give me a boat... that can c..c..carry t..two..."

"Your friend seems to be having some problems," the interrogator said cheerfully, wrenching the finger firmly and cutting it loose, dropping it to the floor. "I can't imagine why."

Klaus swore he heard one of the bones in his hand snap -- but it didn't matter much, since all he could feel was a seer of pain that shot from where the digit *had* been. "[Oh, fucking G-god...]" Half gritted and half gasped as Klaus slammed his head back against the chair's back... and then did it again, trying to put himself unconscious.

"Which one shall we try next? Perhaps the index finger," came the cheerful voice over the sound of Dorian's singing. The man obviously enjoyed his work.

"An...and... I thought it was... a trusty tree..."

Klaus tried one more slam, and when all he got was stars behind closed eyelids gave in, trying futilely now and violently to rip himself free of the chair. He didn't care what it did to his wrists and ankles, all he wanted was to be *free*.

"...swayed...and then... It broke..."

"Ah-ah-ah, how bad you are. How very bad, and with your friend still trying to sing for you! Index finger it is!"

Then, with just as much warning as before, he started on that finger, too. God, it was his right hand! His fucking right hand, he *needed* that hand, and... "*FUCK*." It somehow doubled the wrenching pain of the first finger. He'd rather have Mischa beat him senseless again. He'd rather it was the KGB...

"There, there. This is not fucking. Fucking will come later. Now, there are fingers. Perhaps, if your little faggot friend likes, we will stuff them in him later. He would like that, do you think?" he was asked as the scalpel pried down to bone, inserting itself delicately to separate the carpal metacarpal from the rest of his hand.

"An-nd... so my false love... did unto me....oh... Oh... Oh, god, oh, god, oh god, I've forgotten the words," Dorian said almost to himself. "Oh, God, oh, God, oh, Klaus, I can't, I can't, I...!!!"

"Agggh, *GOTT*," Klaus gritted, shaking furiously with that new blaze of pain as he tried piteously to get free again. It was barely a tug at the wrist restraints as he curled forwards again, head down between his knees. Perhaps God was listening partly to his cries, because with the way his mane of hair fell, no one could see the tears streak down his face.

"Oh, God." Dorian whispered, swallowing hard, eyes almost closing. His voice failed him momentarily before he managed to get out again, "Oh, GOD...!"

"Ahhh, your little friend has almost failed us... HAS failed us," the interrogator said softly as Dorian sobbed, unable to get anything out past the lump risen so heavily in his throat. "Since you are already at my whim, I think it is you I will punish this time. Next time will be him." With a nod, he gestured to the man who'd been holding Klaus's hand still. "Pull back his head."

"No!" Dorian spat out, shuddering. "No, no, no, no, no...!"

Klaus drew in a sharp gasp of breath as he was wrenched upright again, scalp tingling from that hard jerk. Now humiliation fought to rise above the pain. He'd been crying, and it was plainly visible. He, Major Eberbach, Iron Klaus, had been crying, and still almost was, the streaks still sliding down his handsome face.

And he was looking at Dorian again.

"Klaus..."

It was the last word he saw mouthed with two whole eyes, a blade digging into the right one firmly.

Dorian had never heard a sound like that come from a human being. He'd seen Klaus kill on occasion, those wolves in particular, and that was what came to mind when he heard Klaus's howl of outrage and agony. The one that Dorian gave echoed it, a sound born of horror and too much hurt and utter misery.

"[They are a pair, aren't they?]" the officer laughed, gesturing to his men. "[Unchain them. Toss one atop the other. We'll let them bleed for a while. Put something over his eye first, and wrap the hand quickly. We can't have them bleed too much before the next go around.]"

His orders were followed quickly and explicitly, Klaus unconscious now and Dorian simply too weak already from shock and loss of blood to do more than wrap his arms around Klaus protectively as they threw them in a heap in one corner. "[That'll be enough,]" one of them said. "[Get those fingers, though. We'll want them later...]"

For what sick purposes, Dorian didn't want to know -- but he could guess...

Things like that had happened to hundreds of men in the line of duty -- and they had been buried with full military honors if their bodies were recovered, and buried as such without bodies if there was enough evidence pointing to death. Klaus had lost a total of twenty alphabets through the years he'd been the head of his Alphabet Soup.

Now it seemed that they would both be joining those twenty agents.

"I'm so sorry, darling," he whispered, tears streaming loose again, body shaking, unconsciousness so very close. "I'm so sorry, Klaus..."

Gunfire.

The shooting of guns brought him to his senses again, after who knew how long. Klaus had yet to revive, but, oh -- gunfire! Orders being shouted, feet pounding down the corridor outside of the interrogation room, and then stopping. A hard battery of hits against that door, and then it swung open.

"Oh, God!" The sound of that gasp was horrified, and more voices joined it quickly, voices Dorian thought he recognized. Z, B, A... G? No, not G, someone was calling for G, calling for emergency medical assistance. It was all right to pass out again...

Chapter 3 by Kat and Tzigane

 

They were rotating shifts in the waiting room and in the room *they* were in, when visiting hours were going on. Two days now, and neither had woken up for more than a mumble or in Klaus's case, a groggy string of cursing. Perhaps it was better that way, because Bonham wasn't sure where they were headed next with anything...

"I'm glad we disobeyed the Earl's orders and followed anyway. Just Jones here and me, mind -- James is flying down tomorrow," he sighed, cupping his coffee's styrofoam a little tighter in his hands as he looked at A.

"Yes," the man said, tilting his head to the side slightly and sighing as he riffled fingers through the straight stuff. "We're all very grateful you disobeyed as well. Can't imagine what.... Well, can't imagine if you hadn't." They were all positively numb, and NATO had them all at a standstill. Half of the Alphabet had invaded the Stasi building and the other half had prepared for getting them out of East Germany, and NATO wasn't quite sure what to do with them since there'd been no order to do such a thing. On the other hand, they'd saved Iron Klaus and they'd soon know what sort of information might have leaked to the East German intelligence community. From the state in which they'd found the Major and the thief, it didn't look good.

"What I want to know is... Who decided they were going to go in without backup hiding somewhere? I mean, even a third person just to watch out..."

"The Major... wished to complete the entire mission alone, to begin with," Z said a little stiffly. "He didn't want anyone to be so at risk."

A sighed. "It just ended up with Eroica and the Major taking all of the risk on themselves..."

"And the major told the Chief he didn't want Eroica there," Z added, fidgeting for a moment to his own cup. "When they wake up, A, who will debrief them?"

"The Major *never* wants Eroica there," A pointed out, shaking his head. "I think the psych staff's got dibs on them, Z. Debriefing's questionable for a while."

"Did you Alphabets kill those agents?" Jones spoke up suddenly, looking at both of the men across from he and Bonham. "They need to die for what they did to Lord Gloria."

"We killed two," A told them. "We don't know how many there were there, though. Could've been more. We won't know 'til we talk to them."

"The Major won't have a thing to do with the psych staff; he'll want to be debriefed right off," Z guessed.

A only shrugged, though. "I think he probably isn't going to have any option unless they decide that it'd be even more detrimental to his psyche *not* to be debriefed than it would be if we did. And I don't think there's any way they'll let us at the Earl. His face..."

"We're going to keep him from mirrors until he's better," Bonham uttered sadly. "I think separate rooms for them might be good, in case.. Uncle NATO doesn't react too well to..."

A nodded. "For now, the hospital staff seems to like them as they are, though, so we'll have to do what we can. We've got someone in there as much as we can..."

"B and C right now," Z said. "I really think a debriefing before an eval would be better for the Major, A -- if either of them have told something important..."

"The Chief says psych gets them first," A said firmly. "We can debrief immediately after the first psych consult, but for the time being..."

"We just need them to wake up," Jones sighed, swirling his coffee a little. "I can't go to sleep at night without thinking about those men hurting our Lord like that..."

"It's terrible," came Z's quiet agreement. "We need to know everything, though..."

"Is... is Uncle NATO in any shape to go to duty again? I mean, his hand, Christ, and his eye..."

Sharp glances passed momentarily between A and Z. "I don't know," A said slowly. "It depends on what the psych consult says, what the doctors say..."

"Why's this psych consult so important?" Bonham asked delicately. "We know Lord Gloria will need it, but... the Major wasn't..."

"A little," A admitted warily. "Mostly just rawness in the area that makes them think that, but..." He shrugged. "Besides. It's not every day someone pokes out your eye."

"Yes, but he's Iron Klaus -- touted for being strong and unbeatable..." Jones chipped in.

"He's human," Z uttered softly, speaking down into his cup of coffee.

A shook his head sadly. "It's just not good, any way you look at it..."

"And Eroica..." Z drained the cooling cup in a swallow, shaking his head. Better than Nescafé, though the Major would have denied it... "Your Earl will probably never want another job with us again. I can't blame him."

A look much like the one that had passed between A and Z made its way from Jones to Bonham. "Well," Bonham said slowly, "until we talk to the Earl, who knows... though it's likely, considering..." It was likely, considering, that the Earl might well go home to North Downs and never come out of the East wing again...

"Considering," A agreed quietly. "I can't help feel we should have been there."

Z sighed. "The Major said no, so..."

"So, who in their right mind would go against Uncle NATO except...?" Bonham said slowly, sighing as well.

"If anyone had vacation scheduled this year, you'd better cancel them -- our guys will be giving us hell, I think, when they're out," Jones tried to say lightly.

Z only looked grim and vaguely sad though. "I'd gladly give up all our vacations to make this right somehow," he said solemnly.

"To undo what's been done, though..." Bonham sighed, starting to stand up. He wanted to go up and peek in at Dorian. "Well, it can't be undone entirely."

"That's the sad part," A agreed. "None of it can ever be undone..."

"I... have a feeling things will work out, Mr. A," Bonham told him gently. "Come on -- let's go."

"Might as well," he agreed. "It's our shift in the room..."

"And then ours next," Jones said, nodding to Z.

And maybe soon the two men they were waiting on would wake up.

Chapter 4 by Kat and Tzigane

 

The hall was locked down, a nurse at the desk and another patrolling past the rooms carefully.

The room the Major and Eroica were in was a large, comfortable one, with a wall of windows that had every other set of blinds drawn to keep the glare of the street lights to a minimum. The beds were several feet apart, perhaps six at most, and there was a chair against the wall near each one. Both chairs had been filled by one person or another all during visiting hours for days, but in the middle of the night they were empty, so there was no one to hear the whimpers that rang out into the half-dark of the room.

In his dreams, Dorian could feel them again -- touching him, hurting him, abusing him, and worst of all, he could feel Klaus's eyes on him. He had known, when the Stasi were hurting him, that Klaus could not look concerned. Intellectually, he had known that.

Emotionally, the wreckage of that look of non-caring was ripping him apart in his sleep.

Nightmares often encompassed the thing which one feared most, and there was only one thing that Dorian Red Gloria feared worse than what had happened to him at the hands of those men. He feared that Klaus, his Iron Major, truly did hate him, and hated him so badly that he didn't care at all what was being done to him. In the dream, Klaus's voice rang with laughter even as the Stasi laughed, even as they slashed his face and ripped him open with their cocks.

When he woke, it was with a violent cry that bled quickly into hysterical weeping, muffled against his arm at first for fear that someone would hear him.

"Wasss?" A heavy slur of speech, and he heard the hospital bed beside him bear a shift and then an aching groan. "Verdammt..."

In a moment that seemed sheerly surreal, Dorian opened his eyes to the realization that they were in a hospital room, seemingly safe. It didn't stop him from continuing to shudder with the weeping that was shaking him, for he couldn't seem to stop at all as he touched his bandaged face and wept all the harder for it.

"[Who...]" Pain was the first thing Klaus registered as he tried to shift again, sitting up only achingly, wondering why his arms were so sluggish to respond. There were many things wrong and odd, but none he could clearly catalogue yet... "[Who cries?]"

"I'm sorry," Dorian managed to whisper, and it became a litany, an endless unbroken string of hysterical words that wouldn't stop. "I'm sorry, I'm sorryI'msorryI'msorryI'msorry..."

"[What...]" He recognized the voice, though not... not the blurry figure on the bed that seemed to lack depth to it. "L-lord Gloria...?" His voice was thick and throat dry from too little water passing through his veins instead of his lips.

"I'm so SORRY!" Dorian sobbed, curling in on himself. He hurt, and he was more than a little hysterical, and nothing would ever, EVER make it right again, or so it seemed in that moment.

They were in a room, a clean room, and there were sheets keeping both of them warm... but he couldn't remember getting there, or even place where 'there' was. "Er... eroica. Lord Gloria, where... are we?"

The soft sound of that broken weeping went on, though, on and on, and there was no answer to the question Klaus had asked.

He finally struggled himself free of the bedding, standing up precariously on muscles that were cramped from disuse, and made his way to the chair beside Dorian's bed. "Lord Gloria, calm down..." They still had to get out, didn't they? Were they still held by the Stasi, or were they free? And what... was wrong with his vision?

The sound of Dorian rocking himself and crying was more audible than it was visible, and when he reached out his left hand and touched the thief, the man gave a sound that was filled with something desperately akin to loss and continued hysterics before any realization of who was touching him set in. The sound of Klaus's voice, real there in the dark, seemed to get through to him when accompanied by touch. "K..K..K...K..laa...us..."

"Ja." A quiet assurance as Klaus racked his mind for details. He left his hand on Dorian's shoulder, touch light, looking around the room for a moment more. Clean, white walls, sanitized smell. "We... are in Hospital."

"I'm so sorry," Dorian whimpered, touching his face again, feeling the bandages, wondering what he looked like, KNOWING Klaus looked worse. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, I ran out of words, I'm so sorry!"

"Sorry?" That was repeated without understanding as Klaus processed the words before it. Dorian ran... ran out of words. Stopped singing and speaking at last, when the slice...

Klaus remembered now -- Dorian whimpering as their eyes met, the thief mouthing his name and then a seer of pain lancing through his face and skull. The injury itself... Klaus moved his left hand, the one more willing, to swipe across his own face, finding heavy bandaging over his right eye.

"I'm so sorry..."

The crying was back, now, soft and agonized and Dorian seemed to curl under his hands, almost fetal. "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I know you hate me, I'm so sorry!!!"

It wasn't quite registering yet, and perhaps they were both lucky in that. None of it was registering yet for Klaus and wouldn't until the light of day pierced through the strange haze of pain-killers. "'n't hate. Can't."

"I'd die if you hated me," the thief whispered, the sound of it almost singsong. "I'd die..." /I'd die, I'd die, I'd dieI'ddieI'ddie.../

"We're safe now," Klaus said, not quite noticing the thief's tone. "We... got out." And he couldn't remember how yet, which pointed towards someone else getting them out. "'re you okay?"

The soft sound Dorian gave him wasn't indicative of anything one way or the other, and it seemed almost as if he couldn't answer, rather than wouldn't.

Klaus moved his left hand again to rest on Dorian's shoulder. "We 'n't talk."

After several moments of those soft sounds and the rocking, things seemed to get better. The thief uncoiled slightly, one of his hands reaching desperately for Klaus's even as he fought to keep his eyes from shutting again, from sending him back into the terrible nightmare world only so recently escaped. "Don't go away," he whispered, a desperate plea despite its faint sound.

"I w'n't." Why would he? The chair was comfortable enough, and there was a bar right against his side that he could lean against... And did lean against it, even as Dorian grasped onto his left hand. There was discomfort on putting pressure against the direct side of his body, so a little shift moved the constraint of the rail supporting his back behind his shoulder. "'m going to sleep for... w'ke me up in thirty..."

Come morning, that was precisely how Z and A found them.

Chapter 5 by Kat and Tzigane

Z was startled when he came in the next morning, and gave the smaller agent a glance, and then, coming in just behind him, there was the doctor assigned to them, who looked just as bewildered.

Klaus was out of his bed -- the sheets in fact, were a little ripped and wadded up at the bottom of the bed, and he was still sitting in the chair beside Lord Gloria's bed. His left hand was clasped in Dorian's stone-fingered grasp, head resting back against the wall.

A whispered softly, "Well, it looks like they've been awake..."

"It... would seem so," Z spoke a little nervously, looking to the doctor. "Should... we move him back to his bed?"

"Major Eberbach," the doctor said clearly, leaning close to him. "Major Eberbach?"

"Nnnh?" A groan of noise, as the one grey-green eye slitted open for a moment before his entire body tensed and he was awake.

The doctor cleared his throat slightly. "I'm Doctor Schneider. Would you like to go back to your bed?" he asked.

"[So we made it out...?]" Klaus's one eye was unfocused, fighting to keep it open at the moment until he gathered himself better. carefully, though, he pulled his hand from Dorian's grasp, sitting up fully at last. "'s Z? Why're you here?"

"Yes, sir. We're here to make sure you're all right," Z said slowly. "We got you out. Lord Gloria's men were keeping an eye on things even though he told them not to, so when trouble struck, they gave us a call..."

One more failure to take onto the mission -- he'd gotten them caught, and hadn't been the one to get them out. No back up, no... Hazily, Klaus looked to Lord Gloria for a moment. Had the man's actions the night before been a complete dream? "'s he goin' t' be 'kay?"

"Physically, yes, sir," A said softly as he reached to help the Major back to his bed. "They think there'll be some scarring..."

All his effort of moving forwards, though, got him was a shake of Klaus's head, as the man didn't rise. "'m okay h're."

"Sir, you might need to lay down," Z pointed out. "You're not in such great shape yourself...."

"Really, sir," A tried to coax, smiling nervously at the major as he grasped the man's elbow to help him up -- only to get a cut off noise of pain, bit back quickly by Klaus. "Oh, the gashes -- sir, I forgot, I'm sorry, Major..."

The sound woke Dorian with a start, a cry parting his lips that was more fear than not, blue eyes unfocused and desperately, desperately afraid. "MAJOR!!"

Both of them in the same room, yelling at each other or not, had the same effect no matter what -- minor chaos. Klaus turned to Dorian again, shrugging off A's barely there grasp. "'m h're."

That seemed to be all it took to lull the British thief into a semblance of calm, that tall body curling in around itself shocking both of the Alphabets as much as their Major's strange reassurance.

"Major, it's time for your medications," the doctor explained gently. "If it's necessary, we can have the beds moved more closely together."

"Ja." he stood on his own, still shakily, and stiff, and let A help him a little, back onto the bed. "'d be a good idea. 'n I think I... r'pped my IV out... n't sure..."

"We'll take care of everything," Dr. Schneider assured him, pressing the call button. "Don't worry about a thing, Major."

"'m n't worried... I just cn't... see pr'ply, 'n I need a sm'ke..." He laid down, though, and let A put the pillow under his head, sheets coming up.

"You rang?" a nurse asked, peeking into the room a few moments later.

"Ah, yes... Could you bring the morning's medicine and go ahead and call psych? Our patients seem to have awakened. You might want to add a sedative for Lord Gloria, as well, thank you," the doctor told her. "Oh, and we'll be shifting the beds a bit closer... They seem to want that..."

"I'll get an orderly, then," the nurse said briskly.

"You don't have to bother -- we can do that," Z offered.

That seemed to gain him a strange look, but the nurse didn't say they couldn't, so A moved one of the two bedside stands out from between the beds and got on the other side of Klaus's. "No problem, right?" he said, eyeing the thing. "I mean, I'm not going to tangle any lines or anything, am I?"

"It should be fine," the doctor said absently as he stepped over to Dorian's bed.

The Earl's blue eyes were open and focused entirely on Klaus. They did not waver or shift until the doctor touched him, and then they widened, fear overriding the necessity of watching the other man so that he shuddered and pulled away from that touch.

Psych was going to have a fun time with those two, the doctor was sure of it.

"I don't think Lord Gloria likes being touched," A said once they'd stopped moving Klaus's bed. The major was already dozing a little again.

"I believe you may be right," Dr. Schneider replied dryly.

Z shook his head as he shoved the other bedside stand towards the corner. "I'm going to go and tell Bonham that they're awake," he said, heading for the door.

"And I'll wait here," A murmured, peering at the Major for a moment, before looking back at Lord Gloria. "This is just a mess."

"It certainly isn't pleasant, is it?" the doctor said almost sadly. "Such suffering."

"What exactly is psych going to do when they come down?" A asked, moving to a spot that was between the two close-together beds.

"They'll have to evaluate both of them and determine what kind of care they need. Your Major seems almost diffident, and Lord Gloria," the doctor said, indicating the Briton with a wave of his hand, "seems both terrified and obsessed..."

"Wait until the Major's off of pain killers. I don't think it's... set in yet, what's happened." A looked over to Lord Gloria again. "And Lord Gloria has every right to be that way."

The doctor nodded slowly. "Absolutely..." Notes were being made now on the charts at the ends of both bed, quickly and efficiently. "Since the nurse will be coming back and psych will be here shortly, I'm going to make my other rounds. Have a nice day."

'Have a nice day'... A sighed, pulling one of those chairs up towards the middle of the room, and plopped down to wait for Z and or Bonham to come back, and for the psych people to arrive.

A sound at the door drew his attention -- Bonham, arrived to check on things. "A," he said quietly, moving into the room. A look at the Earl told him quite a lot, and none of it was good. Those cerulean eyes were fixated firmly on Major Eberbach, and his gaze didn't move even when Bonham sat down beside him. "Hello, Earl."

"They're both awake, I think..." Z said, closing the door behind him carefully. "Someone from Psychiatric is coming down soon, I think -- can you try to rouse the Earl a little?" Then he shot a look over to A, "And you can help me wake the major up a little. Get him up sitting."

Even the touch of Bonham's hand brought a visible flinching and withdrawal from Dorian, the blond thief sliding to the edge of his bed with a soft sound. He glanced away from Klaus only momentarily, long enough to ascertain who was touching him, and then he went back to watching the other man. Guilt was written all over those beautifully expressive eyes, guilt mingled with fear and a strange, intense self-loathing, the only things clearly available through the bandages swathing him. "M'lord..."

"I'm sorry..."

"Lord Gloria, what are you apologizing for?" A pressed while Z gently shook the Major to consciousness. Z was probably the only person in the room who could wake Klaus without an outburst -- excepting, of course, Dorian, who would have only gotten the outburst once he'd said something to Klaus after waking him up...

...but that was usually. And the usual rules just weren't applying at the moment.

"I stopped talking," Dorian whispered, shame written on every inch of him. "I'm so sorry. I stopped talking..."

"Why were you talking, m'lord?" Bonham asked in a worried tone of voice, while Z shot A a glance. Was Dorian trying to tell Klaus that he stopped talking, that he didn't say everything? Just how much damage had been done to the West in that room?

And over in the other bed, Klaus groaned as Z made the device on the side bend the mattress so that he was sitting. "['at day 's it?]"

"[It's Monday, sir,]" Z said gently. "[Psych is coming up for a consult on you and Eroica, sir...]"

"[Psych...?]" Klaus opened his eye again and looked around hazily for a long moment. "[Tell me... everything that happened.]"

"[Bonham and Jones disobeyed Eroica, sir. They followed, and once they knew you were in trouble, they called us. It took us a while to get there,]" Z said reluctantly, "[but you were rescued. We killed two men as they left the building, a redhead and a blond, but we don't know how many might have escaped...]"

Blond -- what a vivid description. His men had always had a way of leaving out anything that could have been important. Klaus was quiet for at least three, maybe four minutes as he ran through everything he could remember. "[Five total. Three officers, two grunts. Was the blond 'n officer?]" He fixed a gaze on his two agents that said, despite his current state -- of which he wasn't fully aware of yet -- that he was mission intent.

"[Yes, sir,]" Z answered firmly.

The blond officer had been the first one to 'have' Dorian.

"['s good,]" Klaus murmured decisively, closing his eye for a moment. "[One guard, one lower rank'd officer, and their commander still need to be f'nd.]"

"[...yes, sir," the blond agent murmured, knowing they'd have to wait for a debriefing to get the descriptions of the men necessary to find them.

"Sir..." A said softly. "I hate to ask you this, but... what did Eroica tell them? He keeps saying he's sorry and that he stopped talking..."

The switch from German to English took a moment for Klaus to register -- not a good sign for a man so fluent -- and then a moment more to remember the answer. "[th' officer who interrogated us made 'm talk -- j'st anything that came to his mind. 'e started to sing, but forgot the words, and...]"

And the man had plunged a knife into his eye for it.

"Gott..."

"[And, sir?]" Z asked gently, the expression on Klaus's face frightening him slightly because it was accompanied by an aching sob from the thief across the way.

"My eye's gone, 'sn't it?" Klaus asked, looking straight at Z, his un-bandaged eye wide in horror as everything finally, *finally* sank it.

"Yes, sir," A murmured, hating to answer that question. "I'm sorry, sir..."

"*Shit*," A low, tight hiss of noise from him, that curse, as he looked at his bandaged hand, head turning to look at it. "H-how... how bad?"

"It's a total loss, sir," Z informed him quietly as Dorian wept hysterically in the background.

"A-all of it? I... thought it was just two..." His voice was a little panicked now, but only quietly so, as he looked over to Dorian. "Lord Gloria? What's wrong?" He didn't need the man crying, not now...

The words were back, barely spoken, hysterical. "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry!" Oh, and he was, terribly, deeply *horribly* guilty and so very ashamed and so very *sorry*!

"I'm calling a nurse, m'lord," Bonham said grimly. "You can't keep on like this or you'll make yourself ill!"

"Hit that button there," A said to Bonham, even as he tried to stop Klaus from getting out of the bed.

"[Nein, this is my fault, this entire fiasco,]" Klaus uttered, pushing past A easily since the man was wary of Klaus's injuries. "Lord Gloria..." A hand, light, rested on the blond's shoulder. He'd always been reluctant to touch the man, but now it seemed a necessary and there was no chance of the man hitting on him. "'s all my fault, that we w're caught. 'u need.. to calm d'wn."

The touch brought a slight pulling away, but it also brought slightly calmer breaths, as if the mere feel of those fingers against him were enough. "I'm so sorry... I'm *SO* sorry..."

Lightly settled there, those fingers stroked softly, completely unsure. "'s my fault. Y're a civ'lian. Y' did perf'ctly."

"I stopped talking," Dorian sobbed, heartbroken. "Your perfect, beautiful eye. It's all my fault. It's *all* my fault. Too stupid to even keep running my mouth..."

"Oh, Jesus," Bonham whispered.

A leaned over for the man and rang the call button.

The hand on Dorian's shoulder squeezed lightly. "I dun' care. 'f I h'dn't 'f told y' to shut up, 'f I h'dn't cuss'd 'im out, 'f I h'dn't let the door cl'se... None 'f it wo'ld 've happen'd."

There were no words after that, but the crying didn't stop, and Eroica began to rock slowly in the bed as if for comfort.

It was frightening to see Dorian that way -- he was always cheery, flamboyant and just *up* about so much... Klaus kept his hand there for a moment more before he let Z move him back to sit on his bed. "'s like watch'n' light dr'wn," Klaus murmured vaguely, before looking at his favorite agent almost desperately. "[My entire hand?]"

"[Two fingers only,]" Z murmured. "[We couldn't find them, so they did some reconstructive surgery to get the muscles to lay properly.... but the other fingers are there, and the hand should be all right..]" Aside from the fact that he could never hold or fire a gun with it...

"[Which ones?]" He needed to know, desperately so -- he knew, was sure that he'd lost his little finger, but beyond that, it had only been another sharp pain...

Z almost sighed, just barely managing to hold it back. He really didn't want to tell the Major, but... "[Index and pinkie.]"

"Someone rang for a nurse?" a woman asked, coming in with a tray holding several medications. "And psych is running late. They say it'll be another half hour... oh, dear, I see Earl Gloria isn't doing well..."

"'s hysterical," Klaus told her. "'e needs t' be c'lmed down." He was looking at the bandaged mess as he told her that -- his hand had been rendered useless. His right hand, the hand that held his Magnum... completely useless. No trigger finger to fire with, no grip...

"We've got a sedative for him here," she said. "Lord Gloria, you have to take your medications," he was told loudly, her hand reaching for him.

He damned near fell out of bed to avoid being touched, Bonham catching him before he could and gently pushing him back in. He could feel Dorian trembling violently, jerking in reaction to his touch, but it couldn't be helped. "Lord Gloria," he said firmly to catch Dorian's attention. "She has medicine for you."

"Pl'se c'lm down, Dorian," Klaus added, having startled again when Dorian moved violently to avoid the nurse. "'s okay."

Again, words from Klaus seemed to calm him, enough so that he nodded and reached for the cup of pills with a shaking hand, looking over at Klaus as if to see if that was the thing to do.

Klaus was a little surprised by that look, but gave Dorian and affirmative nod. "Ja."

The pills were shaken into Eroica's mouth and he took the water Bonham gave him to swallow them down before curling up into a ball, watching Klaus again. "I'm really sorry," he whispered. "Really really..."

Klaus was quiet for a moment, and then he murmured, sure to make his words clear, "Don't be."

"I am," Dorian sighed as the nurse moved to Klaus's bed, handing him a little paper cup full of pills, as well. "I am..."

/God,/ A thought, utterly aching with some vaguely unpleasant emotion. /This is horrible.../

"I d'n't need a sed'tive -- t'ke it out," he told her, handing the cup back, as suspicious a man as he'd ever been.

"One wasn't requested for you," she informed him gently. She *didn't* tell him that the painkiller would probably have a sedative effect -- he needed it too badly.

That got her a drilling look for a moment, and then Klaus obediently took the cup back, taking all the pills at once, swallowed dry. He followed with the water that Z handed him, draining the full glass and handing it back to him. Once the nurse saw that he had taken them, she slipped from the room. "When 'm I goin' t' be debreif'd?"

"After psych comes in," A said. "I'm afraid the Chief insisted. He's really worried, Major..."

"[Fat slug,]" Klaus sighed irritably. "[Why?]"

Z shrugged slightly, looking at Klaus earnestly. "[He's sort of fond of Eroica, sir, and as much as he doesn't *like* you, he does get the most *work* out of you...]"

"[I know th't. Why worry?]" he pressed -- was there something he wasn't being told. "['ll be fine. I need t' be debrief'd.]"

Leaning close, A whispered, "Um, sir, there're signs of gang rape with Eroica, and you've had an eye... hurt, and fingers cut off. I think the chief's considering your welfare as much so that you *can* be debriefed as anything else. If Lord Gloria can only cry, he's not much good to anybody..."

Klaus had to agree there. "[Lord Gloria needs the h'lp. But I don't. I can be debreif'd now.]"

"[Yes, sir,]" Z murmured, thinking quickly, "[but the rest of us have to humor the Chief. We went in to get the two of you without orders, so we're sort of treading lightly...]"

"[T'll him I order'd you to debrief me,]" Klaus insisted sharply, leaning back in the bed again. "I want 't get 't over with."

A glanced across the way as Bonham came towards them. He noticed that Eroica was sleeping now, but still hiccoughing lightly, and that was something of a relief. "Well, sir, since he's got higher rank, I'm afraid his order sort of supersedes yours," A said sheepishly.

"I d'n't need to see the fuckin' psych people... They're full of shit, just a bunch 'a babble." Klaus let his hands fold in his lap, the right one so strangely awkward. He sighed again, unhappily, and then moved his left hand towards his mouth, two fingers slightly parted in a familiar gesture for a cigarette.

"'Ere, Major," Bonham said, pulling a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from a pocket. "Figured you'd want those."

"One way or the other, sir, you're still going to have to go past psych first. Sorry," Z apologized.

The pack was hard to peel the plastic off of one handed, and open, but he didn't ask for help -- he managed to fit it between his lips, and then found he couldn't properly mark the depth and position of it while using his left hand with one eye. "[Light this.]" It was an order directed at Z while he glowered at him.

"Yes, Major," was the correct and *only* answer Z could give, and he lit the cigarette.

Klaus took a slow drag, then murmured, "[We didn't talk.]"

"Nothing?" Z asked softly.

"Nothing."

Z and A both nodded as Bonham looked over at Dorian, reaching up to rub thoughtfully at his face. "The Earl didn't know anything to say. You didn't tell him anything. They just did what they did to *him* to try and put the fear of God in you before they started on you, didn't they?"

Klaus nodded slowly, nursing steadily at the cigarette. It was calming him nicely, and everyone in the room seemed glad that things were quiet again. "I couldn't look 'way, 'r they would 've killed 'im."

Bonham nodded again, thoughtfully. "So. You watched what they did to him, he had to talk through what they did to you, and he couldn't."

"'s right," Klaus affirmed, closing his eyes for a moment. It was still burned into his mind, seared there, what was done to Dorian... "B't we liv'd."

"And that's the important part," A agreed quietly, watching Bonham nod.

"Yeah..." the older thief agreed, expression neutral. /But is it really living? If he's going to be the way he has been so far? Will he get better? Hell, will the Major get better? He thinks nothing's wrong with him, but we all know better.../

A knock sounded on the door then, lightly, before it opened, allowing in a couple of men dressed in khakis and sweaters as opposed to white uniforms or doctor's coats. They didn't even have little name-tags on, and their sweaters were both neutral shades of green and brown, very soothing, one would suppose. "Hi, there," the first one said, a little man with glasses and a monk's fringe of hair, the top of his head gleamingly bald. "You most be Major Eberbach, right? I'm Dr. Spalding and this is Dr. Tigner. We're coming by to talk to you a bit..." Hazel-green eyes glanced at the visitors. "I'm sorry, but perhaps you could step out of the room for a while?"

Klaus gave a snort, looking over to his men, and Bonham. "'f Lord Gloria w'kes, 'll tell you." It was a clear dismissal for Bonham, and permission to leave granted to the other two. "'t w'n't take long."

The little bald man only smiled, nodding at the men as they left and taking a seat close to Klaus as the other doctor checked on Lord Gloria and then lightly brought a chair to the end of the bed. "Well, then, Major Eberbach. I'm pretty sure you know we're here to do a psych evaluation, talk through some things, see how you're doing. How are you feeling this morning? We're glad you've finally awakened."

"'m fine," Klaus murmured, tapping a little ash into bedpan because he didn't want to drop it on the floor. "'ve slept too long."

"Well," Dr. Tigner murmured, his voice deep and calm and terribly assured, "why don't you tell us a bit about what happened?" He seemed to gain some understanding as he looked at Klaus. "It'll help us when the other patient wakens. We've been told there's some hysteria and a great deal of guilt, so..."

"'re you NATO approved? Some of 's classified information," Klaus told them both, tapping ash again.

"We're with their medical staff, yes," Dr. Spalding replied solemnly.

"'re in the NATO hospital? No-one tells me 's things..." A shake of his head and silence while he took another deep, smoke-filled breath. he could have used a drink, too, but he needed two hands for that, didn't he? "'s just like debriefing, then?"

"Not an official debriefing, per se," Dr. Tigner murmured. He had dark red hair and terribly blue eyes and he seemed more commanding than the little man. "More informal, I suppose you could say."

"'s the same thing," Klaus decided. "We broke into the Stasi building. Got trapped, gassed. 'n we woke up, we were chained. Lord Gloria d'n't have any 'f his picks on 'im, 'n I couldn't break the chains." He snubbed out the filter, and started to fumble a second cigarette free. "'n then the Stasi men came in."

An encouraging nod seemed to be simultaneous action from the two, Dr. Spalding saying quietly, "And what did you think then?" Better to use a more concrete word than 'feel' there, he decided. Major Eberbach wasn't likely to react to a word like that very well.

"That we 're in deep shit," Klaus murmured, looking at his borrowed lighter for a moment, and the cigarette. Well, he could try to light it himself, slowly... "We 're each chain'd to a sturdy chair, 'nd the higher offic'r started t' ask Lord Gloria questi'ns."

"Questions about your mission?" the taller doctor prompted gently.

"s right," Klaus murmured, slipping the cigarette into the corner of his mouth and picking up the lighter. Once he'd flicked it on, he moved it carefully closer until it touched and caught the tip of his cigarette. /Perfect./ Then he turned it off, and set it down, taking a draw before he spoke again. "'d told 'im not to speak, so he didn't. He talked a little, prattle, and then, the officer started to cut 's face."

Neither doctor seemed to react too terribly to that and the soft sounds of Klaus's speaking went on again. "'e told me that I had to look at Lord Gloria, or he'd cut 'is throat. So I look'd. Then 'e made Dorian... made 'im give him a b...blowjob. I told him to go along with anything, so we might get out alive." Despite the fact that his voice seemed flat, there was a slight twinge there -- not disgust so much as something almost guilt, almost *aching*.

"And then?"

"'e asked Dorian to talk 'gain. Lord Gloria refused, 'n the man said something to him that I co'ldn't hear. Then the Stasi asked me t' talk, 'n when I refused he... us'd a knife to sc-scrape his... semen off Lord Gloria's cheek." They waited for him to talk again, both simply looking at him quietly, expectantly. Obviously, that particular subject was one that wasn't easy for him, and both of them made note of it. "'e cut Lord Gloria's face more, then told the other four in the room t'... have 'im. They took him out of the chair, chained him against the wall, 'nd... stripped him, tortured him and r raped him. Repeatedly." Klaus let out a shaky breath, his visible eye far from any state of closing as if he were trying to avoid seeing what he *could* clearly see in his mind's eyes. "The offic'r kept talking t' me. I co'ldn't look away."

"Because the man said he would kill Lord Gloria if you did," one of them said softly, more statement than question. "How did it make you feel? To see that?"

"I kn'w... Lord Gloria's a queer. 's been chasing me for years. Everyone know's that he loves me, but... I... No one should ever have that happen t' them. 'specially not Lord Gloria. He's a good, honorable person, even 'f he 's a pervert." Klaus took another slow drag and tapped his ash once more, the gesture almost nervous.

"Did Lord Gloria say anything to them?" the shorter man, Dr. Spalding murmured.

"When?"

"While they interrogated him," Dr. Tigner replied.

"That w'sn't interr'gation. 's sick. He ask.... pleaded for them to stop. By th' third man, he passed out." That gained him a nod, an indication to go on. "'en they dropped 'im to the floor after the fourth, I started in the chair. Couldn't help it -- jus' a reaction to not let him fall. They started to laugh, and the head officer had them pick Lord Gloria up and put him in my lap. He asked me if I thought Lord Gloria would like to wake up there -- I told him I d'n't know, and they shoved him off my lap and picked him up, then put 'im back in the chair again. They left to let 'im regain consciousness."

"You seem so calm," Dr. Tigner said. "What do you feel, now that you don't have to remain as calm as you did while that was happening?"

"When I get out of here, 'm going to find that officer and kill him." That, too, was said in that strangely flat, calm tone, an undercurrent of anger barely audible.

"Do you think that killing him will make you feel better somehow?" came the question from Dr. Spalding.

"It will."

That didn't seem to surprise either of the doctors -- both, after all, had been briefed on Major Eberbach before entering the arena, so to speak. Instead, one of them prompted quietly, "And what happened then?"

"Lord Gloria woke up -- he asked if he'd said anything, I told him no. 'nd I apologized for taking him on this mission. Then they came back in -- the officer had them lift Dorian's head so he could watch when they started on me. They started by cutting off my clothing, because they knew if I was moved from the chair I'd take them out." Klaus snubbed out the filter of that cigarette, and started another. A nod indicated that he should go on, both men watching the steady consumption of those cigarettes. It was the third, so far. Though it seemed, with each progressing breath of smoke, the clarity of his speech got better -- like listening toot a man talk while he woke up at the same time. "They told Lord Gloria that he was to watch me, or they'd cut something off. He said he understood, and then the officer told his men to 'begin'." And then, Klaus was quiet, smoking again.

"And what did they do?" Dr. Spalding asked him.

Klaus cleared his throat, cigarette coming away from his lips, and when he spoke, it was particularly detached. "On of them ran his hands over me while the officer told me that that's how queers do things. Someone... groped me, while another put a... finger or thumb inside of me and twisted it. I gave the officer only my name and rank." Silence seemed to indicate that he continue, and he drew on the cigarette again.

"It was... painful, and from the expression on my face, the officer picked up on it as a weak point -- but told me he declined to remove me from my bindings for his safety. I'd had my eyes closed the entire time, so I opened them when I heard a metal sound and the... digit was removed. Lord Gloria was looking at me, and they'd brought in a table of surgical instruments."

"Surgical instruments?" Dr. Tigner asked softly.

"A scalpel in particul'r. He asked me questions about the break in and every time I didn't answer, he cut deep into my chest. Then when he'd made a matched set, he just started slicing. Dorian started to beg for him to stop, and I told him to shut up.'s when the sick fuck got the idea of making Dorian talk. He cut off my fingers while Lord Gloria talked and sang, and when he stopped, said something... I can't remember what, and then I lost consciousness."

The change from Lord Gloria to Dorian and back again was noted and one of them nodded. "Do you remember anything else between then and waking up?"

"Nothing."

"Overall," Dr. Tigner murmured, "how does all of this make you feel?"

"I already told you," klaus uttered, giving them both a flatly displeased look.

"You want to kill someone," Dr. Spalding replied, trying not to make that sound too dry. "So, you're angry? Furious, upset? Because of what happened to you?"

"'m a professional. I do this for a living, because it's my job and I believe in what we do. Lord Gloria's a contracted sometimes employee who thinks it's a game. I knew what would happen -- I expected something sick. He didn't. 's not right to do that to a civilian."

Dr. Tigner took a deep breath. "So, it's Lord Gloria's hurt you feel anger over, not your own."

"s right. I've done some sick things in the line of duty, myself, but never to a civilian." He finished his cigarette, thought about starting a fourth, and put it off for the moment.

"Is anger all that you feel?" Dr. Spalding asked.

"What else 'm I supposed to feel?" Klaus snapped at them, rather suddenly.

Dr. Tigner only shook his head slightly. "Whatever you feel is appropriate. There's nothing wrong with anything you feel about the matter...."

A soft pained whimper sounded, edged and just barely audible as a momentary silence stretched between them.

Klaus looked over and past them, concern flickering over his face. "Lord Gloria?"

Dorian didn't seem to be waking, though he was shifting and obviously seemed uncomfortable. Another sound came, the two psychiatrists now watching both of them.

"Is he having trouble any time he sleeps?" Spalding asked softly, uncertain as to whether Klaus would know the answer or not.

"Yes. He was crying last night and 's what woke me up. I sat in the chair b'side his bed until he fell asleep again." Klaus was still watching Dorian a little, trying to determine if it was the start of a nightmare.

He seemed to quiet down, though, for the moment, leaving all of them watching him. "How do you think Lord Gloria is going to handle what's happened to him? We know he's been hysterical...." Spalding murmured, Tigner remaining quiet.

"I don't know. 's tougher than he looks..." Klaus finally did light that cigarette, another pain-staking effort of unfamiliar coordination.

"So you think he might pull himself together given enough rest?" Tigner murmured.

"Maybe. I really don't know." He wanted to say yes, but there was no way to tell -- if only the man would stop apologizing to him!

"Have you noticed any strange behaviors aside from the difficulty sleeping?" Spalding was asking the questions again, and that seemed somehow as if the man had read his mind!

"He keeps apologizing for my eye."

"Why?" The why of it hadn't been entirely clear in what Klaus had told them, though Tigner felt that he *knew* why...

"The officer threatened to hurt *one* of us if Dorian stopped talking. When he did, I was pulled upright again, and..." He shrugged, tapping ash off of his cigarette.

"And that was when you went unconscious..." And, by any guess, when they'd destroyed Klaus's eye. "So he feels guilt about this."

"Obviously," Klaus murmured, as if the two men were stupid.

"Do you feel guilty? For what happened to him?" Spalding asked.

"It really is my fault we were captured at all. And my fault that he was even in East Germany." Klaus seemed to say that is if he was discussing the weather, or the newspaper -- but there was an edge around the line of his mouth, the corner of his eye, that was hardened.

"Was there anything you could have done to prevent it? It seems unlikely," Tigner murmured, "so there's really no reason for either of you to feel guilty or at fault."

"It's my duty to protect him," Klaus told them firmly. "He was my responsibility on this mission. I let the door close; I was unable to manage an escape after having escaped successfully on many prior occasions."

Spalding told him softly, "The possibility of escape on prior occasions doesn't guarantee that it would have been possible to escape on this particular one, Major. Were the persons who captured you prepared to do so on this occasion?"

"Obviously -- it was a trap," Klaus commented, shifting restlessly for a moment before he gave up with trying to lay or relax at all. He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and crossed them, wishing he had more on than that idiotic hospital 'gown'.

"Then it's certainly not your fault that you couldn't get both of you loose," Spalding explained to him patiently. "If it was a trap, then it must have been a very good one. You aren't at fault."

"It's my responsibility to keep my eyes open for anything suspicious. I shouldn't have let the door close!" Klaus snapped, flicking his cigarette into the little pan. "I failed in my duties and nearly cost a civilian contract his life!"

"And your own injuries?" Tigner asked him mildly. "Your own life?"

"'s the least that I get for slipping up so badly," Klaus murmured, buttressing a shoulder against the part of the mattress that was nearly completely vertical. "I know what's been at risk from the first day I was an officer."

A glance slid between the two men in sweaters and Tigner nodded to Spalding. "We'll have to come back to speak with Lord Gloria," he said quietly. "Until then, try to get some rest, Major, and think about what we've said. It really *isn't* your fault, you know."

"Everything in a mission is the commanding officer's fault if it goes wrong," Klaus countered, watching them stand up. "Can I be debriefed now?"

"We'll talk with your Chief," Tigner promised as he placed his chair back on Dorian's side of the room.

"Don't bullshit me," he growled, shifting back to sit fully on the bed again. "I want to close this mission off."

"Of course," Spalding said smoothly, "but he's the one who'll have to send someone for the debriefing."

Bureaucracy. Klaus reminded himself that, despite A and Z being right outside, the orders would have to be given. So it was in a tense tone that Klaus finally uttered, "[Fine.]"

That seemed to throw Spalding, but not Tigner, who simply smiled and nodded. "We'll see you again soon, Major," he said as they headed for the door.

Klaus hoped that he never saw *either* of them again, but doubted that would happen. "[That was just shit,]" he muttered to himself, reaching for the sheets with his good hand and pulling them up. He'd just nap. Just a short, short nap...

Chapter 6 by Kat and Tzigane

 

When Dorian woke some hours later, it was afternoon, and he wasn't even entirely certain he was awake. Grogginess filled his head, made him feel lethargic and just a tad queasy. /We're in hospital,/ he remembered, turning his head slowly to the side. Yes, there was Klaus. Klaus was close by, even if he wasn't all right, so things weren't too bad. There was some reason that he didn't think he could bear to let Klaus out of his sight, though for the moment, he couldn't remember why. It was probably just as well. There were lots of things he didn't want to think about, just at the moment. Lots of things he didn't want to *do*...

On the other hand, there were things he *needed* to do -- like pee, badly.

There was a bed-pan on a little table just beside his bed -- two of them, in fact, through one was filled with little spots of ash. That was the one nearer to Klaus. And the room had two doors -- one of which presumably led to the hall outside, and the other probably to a bathroom.

For a moment, he thought about it, even wondered momentarily about how he might have gone before he'd wakened -- he didn't want to think about that, he decided, slowly shifting.

That movement woke the pain that was in him and made him hiss softly, biting down on his already broken lip to keep from making any louder noise. His legs hurt, and there were parts of him that hurt even worse than that -- parts he also didn't want to think about. The memory of his
mother telling him as a child that sticking his head in the sand and playing ostrich wouldn't help him a bit was almost enough to make him smile... almost. If he hadn't had so many truly terrible things running through his head...

Still, Dorian was nothing if not determined. A leg shifted over the bed and then another, both feet on the floor, and *God*, it hurt to sit up, but the need to piss was *definitely* growing. A tug on his arm reminded him of his IV and he peered at the stand, frowning at it as he tried to decide what to do with it.

It moved, though -- so he could actually use the wheeling stand as a crutch of sorts to help in his little journey. The tile floor was freezingly chill against his bare feet, for as soon as he warmed a spot, he stepped forwards again -- heading towards the door that didn't have a little window slot cut into it. That one *had* to be the bathroom.

Naturally enough, it was, and he used it silently, thinking blankly of white tile as he did so, antsy and nervous. He didn't like being in the little room and he *detested* being alone. Once he was done, toilet flushed and hands washed, he was grateful to step back out into the room he was sharing with Klaus. He was even *more* grateful to be able to see him.

There was something about seeing Klaus that seemed necessity. In many ways, seeing him reminded him that Klaus was alive. He could ask for nothing better, that he could think of...

Well, nothing better than that Klaus be alive and whole.

That, in the end, was entirely his fault. Probably the only time in his life he'd ever run out of words, and Klaus had been punished for it. Talk, don't talk, talk, don't talk, it was the story of his life. From 'children should be seen, not heard', to 'don't tell them anything', the world suddenly seemed to revolve around the words that came out of his mouth, or perhaps the words that *hadn't* come out of it. That brought the ever present flood of intense guilt, terrible, swelling, crushing.

He wouldn't think about what had happened to him; he wasn't going to think about why his face hurt, or why it felt as if... Well, as if what had happened to him *had* happened. No... but it was impossible not to think about Klaus. He wanted to think about Klaus and oh, it hurt so much to know that they had hurt his darling Major and it had all been his fault...

"'re you up, Dori'n?" Klaus's voice slurred its way into existence as he clawed up from the groggy sleep of painkillers, starting to sit up again. "I heard a noise..."

"I had to pee," Dorian told him very quietly as he crawled back into the bed, curling up slowly. His toes were cold, and so he was grateful to stuff them back beneath the white sheets and pale pink blanket on the bed. "I don't want to think about how we did before now."

"They took out my cathed'r this morning," Klaus murmured, leaning towards his better, left-hand side for a moment before he sat up fully. "Hate having that strapped against my leg. Tape hurts like hell coming off. Must've taken yours out then, too."

"I didn't notice," Dorian admitted, blue eyes on him sad, yearning almost. "I'm sorry if I upset you this morning..." He felt sort of like crying again, but also a bit numb, exhausted, the sedative he'd been giving still dragging at him. He was too tired for histrionics, and the realization that Klaus had probably been disgusted with him made his mouth tremble momentarily.

"You didn't upset me," Klaus told him, turning enough to study Dorian properly. "I was worried."

Dorian shook his head slightly. "You don't have to say that. It's all right, da... Major."

"I'm not 'just saying' that," Klaus told him, a little furrow starting between the mess of bandages and his visible eyebrow. "How are you feeling?"

Those blue eyes were firmly fixed on him, half-open. "Numb, I think," Dorian said softly. "Tired...." He wondered for a moment why Klaus would care -- after all, he knew how Klaus felt about him, mostly, and the things he'd seen...

It was more than mortifying to feel tears well up and spill over, and it was probably more than a little frightening to see him weep silently after the fits last night and earlier in the morning. He couldn't stop them, though, as they kept trickling. Klaus had *seen* him. He'd *seen* what they'd done, and then he'd been too stupid to keep them from taking Klaus's fingers and his *eye*...

It never struck Dorian that Klaus harbored similar feelings of humiliation.

Slowly, the major slid out of his bed, taking his IV stand with him this time, as he moved to sit in the chair beside Dorian's bed again. "Why are you crying?"

"I don't know," Dorian said at first, trembling violently as Klaus came closer. God! He couldn't control himself! "Because... because... I don't know."

"Does..." Klaus settled into that chair, hands folded into his lap. The movement jostled the IV stand a little. "Does it help any?"

"I think it just makes it hurt worse," Dorian whispered, reaching a shaking hand up to cover his eyes. "I wish you hadn't seen that. I wish you hadn't watched that. I wish they'd cut my throat after all..." And he did, suddenly, wished it desperately! "If they'd killed me, then they wouldn't have... I wouldn't have run out of words... an...and...."

"No!" Klaus's exclamation startled himself just as much as it must have Dorian, but he had to make the other man *see*. "No." Only... only he couldn't think of how to make Dorian see that it was his fault, Klaus's, fault. "You watched me, too. Neither of us had a choice."

Those shaking hands remained over Dorian's eyes, careful not to touch his face, because it ached awfully. It ached even worse when he talked, but when words were so important, how could he stop? "I would have rather died. I would have. I would have, so it wouldn't... so they wouldn't...." His voice trailed off raggedly. "I.... Klaus, you... I'm so sorry..." They were back to that again, then, as it was hard for Dorian to think anything else every time he thought about it. Sorry for Klaus's eye, sorry for Klaus's fingers, sorry for the perverted things they'd done to Klaus, sorry *he* was a pervert, sorry he even existed!

"Don't apologize -- 's as much my fault for getting us caught. It was stupid of me to let us walk in there," Klaus murmured, moving a hand to rest it on Dorian's shoulder again. His muscles ached to make that move, and a few protested loudly, but the painkillers still in his system muffled them.

The slight flinch wasn't the same violent shift of movement that Dorian made when others touched him, but it wasn't good, all the same. "I'm so stupid," came the shaky whisper. "If I hadn't stopped to tell you I loved you, maybe we'd've gotten out."

"The door was locked, the gas was coming in, and I couldn't shoot through the windows," Klaus told him, keeping his hand right where it was. "We... we're both playing a... stupid game here."

A soft hitched breath shifted through Dorian. "I just...." He took a deep breath. "I just... I just..." /I just what, Dorian, you fucking idiot?/ he asked himself, sounding almost like Klaus in his head. "I just wish you had never seen that. It should... what happens, it should, it should never, ever, it shouldn't, and I only wanted..." /I only wanted you to love me, and now I know you never will, because I know I have to disgust you after that. God, I disgust *me*.../

Klaus closed his eye for a moment, partly in frustration, before he looked at Dorian again. "'n you say that coherently?"

Dorian shook his head slightly, drawing his hands away from his face to tuck them between his knees as they came up. The unpleasant tug he felt gained a sharp breath from him as he shifted, shivering. "Nothing should ever be like that. You should never have seen terrible, perverted things like that. I would never... I would never, ever..."

"Do that," Klaus finished for him, and then fell silent for a long moment. "Nothing like that should have been done to you."

"I'm a pervert," Dorian whispered raggedly. /If anyone deserved it, it was me and not you. No one does, but... but they shouldn't have touched you, not *you*.../

"So?" Klaus barely registered his own voice saying that -- was he actually defending Dorian's perversions? /Don't think about that you're doing ... just say it./ "I'm a killer -- neither of us deserved that!"

"You should never have had to see that," Dorian said simply, softly, the sound of it tremulous. "Someone so abstinently clean and strong should never, ever have had to see that..."

"It shouldn't have happened to you; they shouldn't have touched you. I couldn't stop them..." Klaus was having a little trouble, in the face of Dorian's insistence of things he didn't quite believe, of keeping his temper even.

"I'm so sorry," Dorian whispered, sniffling back snot helplessly, childishly. "I'm so sorry..."

"STOP APOLOGIZING!"

Oh, God, the tears that brought, and a violent jerk away from his fingers with them, as if the terror Dorian had felt when everyone else had touched him was now instilled in him at the feel of Klaus's fingers, too. "I'm *sorry*!!" Dorian sobbed, apologizing for apologizing, now, that helpless wash of remorse and shame and utter horror beginning to rise up in him again.

/You fucking idiot. You stupid fucking *idiot*, can't even do this right? Can't keep your fucking awful temper in check.../ Two options were before him -- try to calm Dorian down himself, or hit the call button. Since it was his fault...

"Lord Gloria -- Dorian, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell..." /DAMMIT!/ He half stood, hand moving to touch the side of Dorian's upper arm. "Please calm down."

"I c-c-can't h-h-elp it," Dorian sobbed. "I w-w-w... a-a-a...." He didn't seem to be able to say what he wanted to, but *God*, how he clung to Klaus's hand and wrist where he was touching him, not wanting to let go. "I j-j-just..."

"Shhh. Sit up a little -- 't'll help," Klaus told him, not *daring* to move his hand, but also not daring to touch anything with the bandaged mess that was his right hand.

With obvious effort, Dorian pulled himself together, still trembling rather violently. "I d-don't mean to b-be such a b-baby," he whispered, shaking his head. "O-only I c-can't ssseem to keep myself t-together!"

"After what they did to you, you've got every right." Words told to him seriously, even as Klaus sat down again, still holding onto Dorian's arm.

"I c-could h-have stood it if... if... they...." Dorian closed his eyes, shaking his head. Ah, it didn't matter. He'd still be a wreck even if they *hadn't* hurt Klaus, but then, at least, he could have sent Klaus away and fallen to pieces alone. Then he could pretend that Klaus hadn't seen it all with both perfect eyes and he could pretend, then, that maybe Klaus loved him, the way he'd pretended off and on for so long. So long.... With Klaus right there, vision destroyed by Dorian's own inadequacies, it just wasn't possible to *pretend* anymore. Worse, Klaus was being nice to him. Somehow, that made things seem even more terrible, as if he was offering him pity!

"You need to calm down, Dorian, and rest." Somehow, the intimacy of calling the man by his name and not 'Lord Gloria' or 'Eroica' added to the calming factor Klaus had on the Briton.

"I d-don't know if I c-can," Dorian hitched, sniffing again, the bandages on his cheeks slightly damp. "H-hurt sssome." A lot, actually, the morning's drugs wearing off and the feel of being awake and being in pain certainly wasn't helping the emotional state in which he seemed to exist, now.

Klaus was glad that he'd a higher pain tolerance. "Do you want me to ring a nurse?"

"I d-don't know," Dorian whispered, confused. "M-maybe it's supp-pposed to hurt..."

"What is?"

"Everything," came the mumble. "Everywhere...." Especially his face and *especially* the tender areas below his waist where the steel pins had resided and where he'd been....

/I'm not going to think about it!/

"It isn't." Klaus shifted a little in the uncomfortable seat, and hit the call button.

"D-don't l-eave me alone," Dorian whispered, shutting his eyes. "I c-can't stand it. B-being a-lone."

"'m not going anywhere. Why do you think I would?" Klaus asked him, turning back to the British man and resettling his hand on Dorian's shoulder.

It gained him a slight shake of that golden head, curls sadly matted and not in their usual glorious array. The Earl didn't seem to gleam anymore. Instead, he was a broken toy, used and tossed aside, the glitter all worn off of him. All that was left was a pale glimmer of who he had been, the passing of him marked only by those still-brilliant aquamarine eyes that remained flooded with guilt and shame and that unsettling agony.

Klaus didn't care, though -- perhaps the lack of gleam and glitter was worrying Dorian's men, but it was the Earl's eyes that hurt him so deeply. With a sigh, Klaus drew his hand back, and settled into the chair again, glad to rest his torn muscles once more. "I'll stay right here if you want me to."

"Just don't go away," Dorian begged sleepily, eyes closing as a nurse came into the room.

"Yes?" she asked, smiling worriedly at Klaus. "You really shouldn't be out of bed, Major."

That wasn't even justified with an answer. "Lord Gloria needs his medication."

"It's due in another fifteen minutes," the nurse replied with a slight smile. "I'll go ahead and bring it in, and yours as well," she noted. "But you really do need to get back in your bed..."

"It's all right, Major," Dorian whispered, lashes parting to look at him yearningly, so sad. "Just don't go away..."

"I'm fine right here. Just bring a blanket over," Klaus told her in the firmest tone he could manage.

Well, the chart had said he was a stubborn one... Smiling at him, she moved to his bed and fetched his blanket, carefully draping it around him and then covering Dorian up a bit better as well. "I'll be right back," she promised, heading out of the room.

"It's okay if you lay down," Dorian whispered. "I just don't... I don't want to be left alone." He was a bit more in control, for the moment, but he wasn't *thinking*. If he could just keep on not *thinking*, he thought he'd be all right, but he wasn't sure he could do it.

Klaus shifted a bit, getting comfortable where he sat. "You won't be left alone." /You being this way is my fault entirely, you don't deserve this... no one does, but you, Dorian.... Infuriating as you are, especially don't./ "I'll just rest here."

The urge to apologize once again rose in Dorian, but he ignored it, closing his eyes. He was so tired, and he hurt so much... /I'm so sorry, Klaus. I love you. I'm so sorry..../ At the moment, he couldn't even tell if it was loving Klaus he felt sorry for or the terrible things that had happened to them. The sheer amount of shame he felt made everything overwhelmingly deserving of apology.

"You rest, too," Klaus told him. "Once you've had your medications. Your men will prob'bly come back today."

"I don't want anyone to come," Dorian said numbly. "Just don't go."

"I won't." God, if he had to assure the man of that a thousand times, he would! Anything to calm him down and take away that sharp edge of hysteria... Anything to make him understand. Then he closed his eyes, waiting for the nurse to come back.

It was nearly ten minutes, but when she did, she had both of their medicines with her in little cups, and the inevitable presence of Tigner and Spalding once again.

"Hello, Major," Spalding greeted. "I see you're up and about."

"'m up," he agreed, looking at them both with a bit of a disgruntled look. Two of the people he least wanted near him, right in the room.

"Hello, Lord Gloria," Tigner greeted, watching as Dorian not-so-subtly shifted away from them and somehow shifted a bit closer to Klaus at the same time. "May we talk to you?"

Dorian was already shaking his head. "I don't want to talk."

"Leave him alone," Klaus uttered a bit gruffly, more order than anything he'd said yet. "'s not up to your games."

"We only need to check on you," Spalding said soothingly, shaking his head. "That's all."

"Make it quick." Another order as Klaus glared at them both from the blanket he was situated in. A watchful gaze that said if they made a stray move, despite his injuries, Klaus would find a way to hurt them.

The nurse handed Klaus his medicine and a cup of water, doing the same for Dorian and watching them both take it as Tigner once again found himself moving a chair. "Lord Gloria," he said as the nurse walked out once again, "I know you aren't feeling well, and I'm truly sorry to bother you. We need to talk to you about what's happened, though."

"I don't want to talk about it," Dorian said quickly, hurriedly. "I'm not going to!"

"There's your answer. Leave him alone." Klaus was firm in that, and didn't care if he had to tell *them* that a few hundred times. "Come back later."

"But..." Spalding began, only to be headed off by Tigner's rising from the chair only just moved.

"We'll come to see you again, Lord Gloria," the taller man said calmly, nodding. "I hope you're feeling better soon."

As they headed for the door, Dorian whispered, "I'm not going to talk about it. I'm not. I don't want to. They can't make me, can they?"

"Not if you don't want to," Klaus assured him, settling back into the chair again. He understood *that* -- a horrific mistrust and dislike of doctors in general, of their odd stifling ways. It was humiliating, and what was still there of his pride wanted to rebuke those two sweatered fellows in some violent ways. "Going to rest?"

"Yeah," Dorian told him, glad when the door was shut and they were alone again. "I think so. I'm so tired... I could sleep forever..."

The twitch of his lips that got out of Klaus was a tight one, filled with a flood of bitterness and cynicism. "I could, too. G'night, Dorian."

"Good night," Dorian whispered, closing his eyes.... and that was all it took for him to drift off into a sleep that was uneasy at first, but settled down quickly into a deep and dreamless place where he could finally rest.

Chapter 7 by Kat and Tzigane

It was developing into a frightening situation for Klaus.

Frightening when he thought of it for long -- which was why he was not thinking about it. Or anything, for that matter.

Physical remnants of the humiliating, but blessedly brief, penetration had faded completely. The pain of the smaller cuts on his chest were nothing more than cat-scratches that would scar. The deeper cuts, too, would scar, probably into raised colorless lines, but the tissue was healing in its own slow way. Movement of his arms was becoming less painful. The throb of his hand and occasional searing pain of his still bandaged eye... those were a different story.

It had been a week since they'd woken up, so over a week since the capture and interrogation occurred. Klaus was a near permanent fixture in the chair beside Dorian's bed, despite his own pain. For that, Dorian was intently grateful. The only time the blond thief rose from his bed was to move to the bathroom and back. They were still feeding him a mostly liquid diet -- there had been some tearing as a result of the rape, something that they'd discussed quietly with the British thief one afternoon while Klaus had pretended to nap. It had apparently been quite bad, the reason for the depth of pain Dorian had been in besides the cuts on his face. It had seemed strange to Klaus to realize that they had no mirror in their bathroom, but he began to understand it one afternoon as Dorian's hand silently brushed over his bandaged face as if he could see what lay beneath.

Now, though, they lay close together, both awake and quiet and utterly *sick* of being where they were. Dorian sighed, moving his head slightly. The curls were back again -- Bonham had come in to help him wash his hair, though he'd protested fitfully and been terribly upset when the man had finally managed to get him into the bathroom to do it. He'd refused to remove the hospital gown entirely, despite the fact that he was trembling violently and about to fall by the time they were done. Bonham had left him alone to finish bathing and dress, though he'd stood outside the bathroom door listening every moment Lord Gloria was in there alone.

Bonham had thought Klaus might very well kill him for making Dorian do anything he didn't want to do, even if it had been something so simple and necessary as bathing!

Klaus very nearly had, even with his temper reigned in completely. The protectiveness of the Earl was... unrealistic and maddeningly frustrating for Klaus -- yet, if he'd been unable to protect the man adequately before, he would do so now, even if they were just in a hospital.

The German man was careful to only use the bathroom and shave when he was *sure* Dorian was asleep. It was hard to shave left handed, but Z had brought in an electric for him -- gotten God knows where and he hadn't asked -- so there wasn't any chance of him cutting himself up badly in his efforts. He'd taken one bath, and that was with the humiliation of a nurse supervising the action. The bandages on his injuries had been changed once a day, and it gave him too much of an opportunity to see just what had happened to his hand. He still had no idea, beyond the pain, of what his eye looked like, except that it was still a total loss.

"I think we need books," Klaus murmured.

"That might be good," Dorian agreed, managing to give him something resembling a smile. He in no way came close to the smiling, laughing creature he had once been, but neither was he crying hysterically all the time anymore.

Only at night... only in the dark...

Only when Klaus was so deeply asleep that he couldn't hear it and try his best to bring Dorian out of it.

"I could get Z to bring newspapers..." Klaus suggested, shifting in the chair slightly, leaning his left elbow on the arm of the chair, and then his chin atop his fisted hand. "I hate being in hospital."

The tilt of lips that Dorian gave him wasn't even the beginning of a smile, but it was better than nothing. "You always have, Major," he said quietly. He hadn't called Klaus darling since he'd wakened.

Klaus had never thought he'd miss something that annoying so *stupidly* much. "Dorian... why have you stopped calling me 'darling'?" Klaus asked after a moment's silence. He might as well ask -- isolated as they were, it wasn't as if there was anything better to talk about.

There was a distinct tremble across those fine, pale lips, and Dorian closed his eyes momentarily, voice hoarse when it came out finally. "Because I don't deser..."

"Hello?" came a voice accompanied by a knock.

That horrible, horrible voice -- those men, no, idiots, had left he and Dorian alone for days! Without even an attempt, and now they were back again. "Fuck off," Klaus growled, lifting his head enough to look at the door when they came in. They were determined, sickly so, in trying to get Dorian to talk, and keeping Klaus from being debriefed.

"I don't want to talk to them," Dorian groaned, bringing a hand up to cover his eyes.

"Lord Gloria, you really need to talk to someone," Dr. Tigner said firmly. "We don't want to push you, but it's very important that you do."

"He doesn't want to talk about it with you two, why don't you just *stop* pressing it," Klaus snapped. "You're idiots! Leave him alone!"

Spalding moved farther into the room, looking steadily at Klaus. "We have to talk to Lord Gloria before anyone can debrief either of you. I'm very sorry. That's just the way things are."

And he had to be debriefed, or else he *couldn't* go back to duty... or at least, it would take a while... "[Do you understand that you are stressing him out?]"

"[We understand,]" Tigner told him smoothly, "[but he needs to talk to someone. Not talking about it won't make it go away.]"

"I *don't* *want* to *talk* about it!" Dorian whispered, curling up tightly in his bed. God, he was almost ready to panic, pale and beginning to shiver. He didn't have to understand German to know what they were talking about! /I won't think about it. I WON'T talk about it! I won't!/

"[He talks with me. Isn't it enough?]" They didn't talk about that, though -- he didn't have to mention that fact to them.

"[I'm afraid not,]" Tigner replied quietly. "[He needs to see someone professional and talk about this.]"

"[Can't he do it privately? He's a civilian. He doesn't *have* to do anything NATO tells him, you remember.]" Klaus's tone was cold, uninflected as he gave the two those suggestions.

"He's a NATO contractor," Spalding said firmly. "He needs to speak to one of us."

"I don't want to, I *won't*!" Dorian insisted, voice beginning to edge on shrill. "I won't! I won't talk about it, I WON'T!"

"[You're as bad as that fucking *Stasi*,]" Klaus snapped at them in a rough snarl, before turning to Dorian. "Dorian, please calm down..."

"I don't want to talk about it," Dorian whispered, those detested tears welling up. Damn them! "I can't. I can't. I don't want to talk about it!!"

"[Eroica will not talk with either of you unless he wants to -- he can talk to a private counselor, but I think he's had enough of sick fucks trying to pick his mind!]" Klaus stood up now, letting the blanket slide off of his shoulder and lap, and moved to sit beside Dorian on the bed, a hand on his shoulder again. "Dorian, please, calm down -- you don't have to talk about it."

With a sigh, Tigner shook his head slowly and nodded for Spalding to go out. "[We'll drop back by tomorrow, Major. Do you think it would be better if I came alone?]" he asked, watching Eroica cry and Eberbach comfort him. Their relationship was even stranger than he had been led to believe, and no doubt it was doubly so after what had happened...

"[If you do come again, come alone -- I'll kill him if he says something like that again.]" Words, when heard from Iron Klaus's lips, not to be taken lightly. And then, just as quickly as he'd answered, his attention returned to Dorian.

"All right," Tigner murmured, nodding. /Perhaps if I'm alone, I can convince the Major to help me.../ "I'll see you again, Major. I'm sorry to have upset you, Lord Gloria."

He got an answer, though, from neither of them.

"Shhh, shhh... No one is going to make you talk."

"I can't... I *can't*..." was the last thing the doctor heard as he left the hospital room.

Not too long after, the door creaked open again. "M'lord?"

"Yes?" Dorian asked, eyes opening, still wet, lashes spiked from tears.

Klaus was still perched on the edge of Dorian's bed, as much a sight as Dorian was. He only drew himself up a little stiffer when James slunk into the room.

"M'lord, oh...." The little black-haired accountant trembled for a moment, before rushing to the side of the bed opposite where Klaus sat, and wrapped his arms around Dorian. "Oh, M'lo~oord!"

With an almost violent gasp, Dorian turned, flinching, and cried out, trying to pull away. "Stop! Don't touch me! Don't!!!"

And James all but jumped backwards. "Oh, m'lord, I'm so sorry! I didn't hurt you did I, m'lord? *HE* hasn't hurt you, has he? Ohh, you must come home and get better!"

The sheer pallor on Dorian's face wasn't from moving so fast as much as it was from the horror of being touched. "Just don't touch me," he managed to say finally, trembling wildly. "I don't like to be touched, Jamesie. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry..."

"Ohh, what's been done to you, m'lord?!" James demanded. "How can I make it better? PLEASE let me help!"

"You can help by not making me talk about it, Jamesie-dear. Just please, I... I don't want to talk about it. Tell me everything's all right with you? Tell me North Downs is fine. Bring me something to read, old newspapers, anything," Dorian said wanly, shivering and moving closer to the side of the bed at which Klaus still sat.

"Old newspapers?" James's eyes glinted for a moment, and he nodded obediently. "Anything else, m'lord? Anything?!"

"Just peace and quiet and keep those damned psychiatrists away," Dorian murmured, cringing slightly. Oh, he loved Jamesie, but he wasn't up to so much energy....

"Yes, m'lord! Oh, yes, I'll do it!" And then the accountant was gone in a flash.

And Dorian had, somewhere in there, leaned so close to Klaus that when the German man touched him again, it was a gentle touch to his waist from behind, Klaus's arm up behind his back. High and nowhere near dangerous territory. "You okay?"

"No," Dorian whispered decisively. "Ah, Jamesie... he takes so much energy and..."

"He's dedicated to you -- just tell him that and he'll understand," Klaus murmured. His voice was just beside and behind Dorian, to the right, and it was suddenly very clear to him that if he leaned back perhaps and inch or two more, he would have been completely in Klaus's arms...

Instead, he shifted forward, curling into the hospital bed against slowly. /He didn't want me before, when he hadn't seen all of... *that*, when I wasn't... when I was still beautiful.../ Dorian hadn't seen his face, but he wasn't stupid. /I won't make him suffer me touching him *now*.../ "Maybe," Dorian said slowly, turning to look up at him. "You've been so kind, Major. Thank you. I... don't know what I would do without you."

The bandages on the right side of Klaus's face always irritated it a little, so it was always a little red, but when the left side, too, flooded red, he knew that he'd said something that Klaus just didn't know what to do with. "You deserve to be treated well."

The smile that earned him was so sad that it was somehow terrible, and Dorian licked his lower lip to wet it, saying simply, "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Said almost fondly, as Klaus moved those few inches from the edge of the bed to his chair, picking up the blanket again. "The psych people won't be returning today."

"I'm grateful for that, too," Dorian told him, watching Klaus almost yearningly. "I hate them. I don't want to talk about it. Talking about it will only make it worse..." And how much of it did he remember, anyway? He didn't know. He wouldn't think about it!

"I understand that. They already had me tell them everything I could remember; they might as well have debriefed me. Now I'll... have to tell it twice." That prospect bothered him a little, but there was nothing he could do for it. It was part of his duty. A shift, and he moved his hand to rest on Dorian's hand, very lightly.

With a low sigh, Dorian closed his eyes. "I'm so sorry, Major. I just can't. I can't. If I think about it, if I talk about it, I'll fly all to pieces and never find them to put back together again! I'm sorry! I know it's stupid and childish, but I just can't!"

"I'm not asking you to, Dorian," Klaus reminded him.

"I know," Dorian whispered. "I know."

"It doesn't matter to me at all if you don't want to talk, Dorian. The only reason I said anything was because they're my superior officers."

Dorian took in a deep breath. "They seem to think I'll feel better if I talk. I just... I won't, though. I can't. If I could, I would, I just can't."

"'t didn't help me feel any better about it all," Klaus told him, not yet letting go of the thief's hand. "If you ever can talk about it, I'll listen. If you can't, I'll still listen to you."

Finally, finally, like the sun peeking out from behind storm-laden clouds, Dorian smiled at him -- a *real* Dorian smile. "Thank you. I don't know what I ever could have done for you to be so good to me, but... Thank you."

Klaus wanted to capture that smile, but didn't have a camera -- so instead, he let it sear into his vision, trying to overwrite some of the worse things that lingered in his mind. "You've done a lot of things over the years. Pissed me off a lot, but 's just because I have a temper. You're a good, w-wonderful person, Dorian."

That brought a strange little hiccough of breath and glistening eyes. "Please, Klaus," he whispered shakily. "Please don't say things like that. I don't know if I can bear it..."

"Why not?"

The blond thief shook his head, biting his lip. "I wanted so badly for you to think well of me before, and now, after everything, after what happened. I just... I'm not... I can't..." /I can't be worthy of you,/ he wanted to say, but he didn't know how. "I don't know..."

"I've always thought well of you. You're impressive in what you do, and do 't well. I just..." /Say it, dammit, say it now or never!/ "Had too much pride to tell you before."

That seemed to stall Dorian cold, his lips parting slightly, expression confused. "Why now?" he whispered, looking at Klaus. "Why not before?"

"I don't know." Truthful words, though the truth of them probably didn't help. Klaus shifted, leaning back in the chair, absently rubbing the back of Dorian's hand with his own. "You've seen..." /Parts of me, humiliated, vulnerability, fear, concern, god-dammit you *saw* me frightened for you, I thought you were going to be killed.../ "Things that... I-I..." Klaus took a moment of shaky silence to reign himself in, before he said what he was thinking. "I just can now."

The realization that it took near-death to drag any sort of admission, even of admiration, from Klaus was.... so typical. He turned a palm that paused visibly before clasping Klaus's left hand lightly, his face serious. "I'm glad," he said simply. "There's never been anyone I've..." Loved, he would have said before, but now... "...admired as much as I admire you."

Admiration, though, Klaus knew what to do with. Or, could act like he knew what to do with it. "'n't know why you would. I just do my duty." /And not even effectively, or we wouldn't be sitting here!/ Still it must have been a little startling to have Klaus clasp his hand back, just as lightly but it was certainly not an accident.

"No one else... could *ever*..." Could ever do what Klaus could do. Could ever steal his heart and not give it back. Could ever be so very wonderful and worthy to someone as unworthy as *Dorian*. He bit his lip tightly and shook his head, gaze glistening. "No one else could ever be as wonderful as you," Dorian finally told him hoarsely.

"Don't try to feed me romantic drivel," Klaus murmured, meeting Dorian's gaze with his own still hazy one. His vision was still clear, but the problem of focusing was still there, learning to rely on just one eye. "I don't take compliments... just... if you want to do something like that, get better."

That hurt, somehow, and hurt so much differently than anything Klaus had ever said before. He had ought to be able to take it as he always did, to understand it as he always did, but Dorian's own emotions of shame and sheer unworthiness worked against him in that so that he couldn't understand anything at all. "Of course," he said dully, closing his eyes. "I'll get better, Major..." /So I can leave and stop bothering you so much with my romantic drivel. Even when I try not to annoy you with these things, I can't help myself!/

"Gut." Something roughed Klaus's voice as he stroked the back of Dorian's hand with his thumb, hands still clasped palm to palm. He didn't want to think of that; the factor that touched his voice was... just blanked it out. "Gut." Silence fell for a few moments, and Dorian's lack of movement led Klaus to believe him asleep. "Get better so we can go out on the field again together. If I could make it so you'd smile again..."

That brought a slight shift, Dorian tilting his head up slightly. "I'll try to smile for you, if you want. It just seems so hard right now..." And smiling hurt his face, which in turn hurt his heart....

"This should never have happened to you, Dorian," Klaus murmured, looking a little guilty at having been caught. He'd thought the other man asleep, and he wasn't! "It wasn't deserved, and that sick..." Another word was growled out, one Dorian didn't recognize but could tell was a curse. "That he touched you, hurt you like this... I'm going to kill him once we're out of here."

For a moment, the entirety of Dorian's body was doused with what seemed a strange joy at the thought, at Klaus's words. He smiled, not caring that it hurt. "I'd like that," he said firmly, yearningly. "I'd like that *very* much!"

It was starting to sink into Klaus that the man he'd known as Eroica was either very different from Lord Gloria, Dorian himself, or that what had happened had changed Dorian. But if it was either, it was still stunning to Klaus to hear those words. He could only squeeze Dorian's hand gently and nod. "Ja. 'm going to sleep now. Wake me up 'f someone comes in."

"All right," Dorian agreed quietly. "Do you want to lay down a while?" he asked, looking up at Klaus.

In truth, he did, but... but sleeping in the chair was all right, and just as restful. "Nein. I am fine here." And he didn't want to let go of Dorian's hand yet.

"All right," Dorian said again, closing his own eyes. "I think I'll just rest my eyes while you nap. I'll wake you..."

It was the last thing the tired major heard as he slid into a heavy sleep, half emotional exhaustion, half the drugs hitting his system.


"He won't talk to anyone," Z said with a sigh. "And the Major won't let anyone talk to him, even though he *needs* to. If they don't cooperate, we're never going to get to debrief them."

"From what the psych people are reading off of the Major, Z, I don't think it's going to *matter* if he's debriefed or not," A said unhappily, looking at the coffee cup he held. It was becoming a sort of life's blood now...

Bonham sighed heavily and peered into his own styrofoam cup. "And the Earl *flinches* if anyone gets too near him..."

"Unless it's Uncle NATO!" James uttered mournfully. "Lord Gloria jumped back from *me*! And kept moving closer to that... that bloody *bastard* that got him hurt!"

Z's reaction was automatic. "It wasn't the Major's fault. It couldn't be helped or the Major would have gotten Eroica out right off. He would never let something like that happen if he could stop it!"

"He's always been cruel to Lord Gloria," James told everyone there -- as if they needed a reminder of Klaus's sharp and renowned temper. "And now he's in there, sitting beside the bed and..."

"And making him feel better," Bonham said firmly. "Uncle NATO's bizarre, but he's not a total monster, James."

"He is! He IS a monster!" James half wailed and half pouted, clutching tightly at the cup of coffee he'd stolen. Bonham had paid for it after the cafeteria people had noticed, of course, but it still gave James his little rush...

"I'll agree with bizarre." Mr. A, saying that, was a surprise.

"There, there." Bonham sighed and patted James on the back as he sniffled into his cup. He shook his head. "Well, they say they can leave in another couple of days if they'll just talk to psych, but the Earl...." He shook his head again.

"Lord Gloria can leave," Z corrected. "The Major still has a surgery to... neaten up where his eye was. Tomorrow, isn't it?"

"The day after," A replied, looking over at the other agent. "The Major isn't helping with the Psych people, either. Apparently he's assuring Lord Gloria that it's okay to not talk."

A round of ponderous sighs sounded, the lot of them heavy-hearted. "Well," Bonham said, "I don't know where he'll want to go from here. I'm not sure he'll want to go."

"Who'll want to go?" A asked, looking over to Bonham.

"The Earl," Bonham clarified.

Z shook his head. "Why wouldn't he want to go home? That's where most people like to be when they're ill or hurt..."

"He probably doesn't want to leave Uncle NATO," James sniffed, frowning again.

"Well, when he's well enough to be checked out, he can't just *stay*!" A said firmly.

Bonham's round face became determined. "Well, no one will be doing anything to upset the Earl and that's that. He's badly enough off without anyone making it any worse." Dorian's men were all madly protective of him and the current situation was making most of them more than a little edgy.

"What A is saying is that once the hospital discharges him, you'll have to take him home. That's all," Z replied. "It's not unreasonable to think that you would."

"He'll probably make us stay in Bonn," James said, frowning anew all over again. "He'll make us stay here, and that means I should probably have the flat opened up again..."

"Lord Gloria has a flat in Bonn?" A sounded a little shocked, but...

"Has had for years," Bonham replied. "Ever since he met the Major...."

"This is just... it's just surreal. If... When the major is reinstated he'll probably send all of us to Alaska," A shivered.

Z smiled a little and said, "At least I like snow...."

"I suppose you'd best go along and check on the flat, James," Bonham told the little accountant. "Fetch something for the Earl to read or do while you're at it. Maybe a puzzle of some sort or something." With any luck, James would buy it and not steal it. The little man wasn't the best of thieves! Once, he was good, but then he'd gotten rusty and eccentric...

"I'll do that now," James sighed, finishing the cup quickly, then taking the cup with him as he headed towards the door.

"Well," Bonham said once he was gone, "I don't know how to make the Earl talk to the psychiatrist. If he doesn't want to talk about it, I can't see how forcing him will be good for him."

"It's just... it's the psychiatrist's insistence that they *both* talk -- one of them is worried that more might have happened and that they collaborated on what Klaus told them," Z said. "They just want to be able to give Lord Gloria a clean bill of health before they let him out."

"Then the psychiatrist's a bloody moron," Bonham said bluntly. "Why would they need to collaborate on anything? What happened is fairly clear from what we found and their injuries. If he doesn't want to talk about it, I don't see where it'll do anyone any good."

"When Lord Gloria can eat real food, again, though, it won't matter if he's told them anything or not -- he'll need to sign a statement about the mission, and we'll have to brief the Major eventually..." A sounded frustrated, but it was bureaucracy playing with them all again. The chief was dragging this entire thing out, possibly to humiliate Klaus. "Let's go -- Do E and F have the next shift?"

"Yeah," Z said, standing.

Bonham nodded. "Jones will be here shortly. The statement... what will Lord Gloria have to give for it? If he won't talk about it..."

"We'll find a way round it. Just that he agrees to everything Klaus will say about it," A shrugged. "Signing to let the Major speak for him. Maybe he'll tell us the details of earlier in the mission."

"So long as no one pushes him," Bonham said with a sigh.

Z shook his head. "I think if anyone does, the Major might hit them."

"That... that's what's bothering me most about this. Maybe when Lord Gloria leaves we can get him to sleep in a bed again," A murmured, frowning as they moved towards the trash can to throw out their cups.

"We'll see you," Bonham said, pausing beside them. "For now, I'm heading back to the waiting room to wait for Jones."

"We'll see you tomorrow," Z said pleasantly enough, with a nod, as he and A moved to go to their respective homes. Somehow, the days were just as tiring even when the Major wasn't on duty....


A light knock sounded against the door and it was pushed open, the taller of the two psychiatrists stepping into the room. "Major?" he said softly. Both men were obviously sleeping, but the German man stirred at Tigner's word.

He had all the instincts of the soldier and efficient officer he was -- one moment, dozing soundly, the next, his head was lifted from the wall it had been leaned against, and he sat up, letting go of Dorian's hand in the process. He'd forgotten he'd even been holding it. "Ja?"

"I came back alone," Tigner assured, raising his hands slightly in surrender. "To talk to you once more and to speak with Lord Gloria, if he will."

"Fine." Klaus gave a sharp gesture of his left hand, and nodded at the man. "Begin. Lord Gloria is still sleeping."

"I'm sorry that we upset you earlier," Tigner murmured, settling into the only other chair in the room. "Lord Gloria is obviously not dealing very well with what's happened."

"Obviously -- pushing it doesn't help any," Klaus replied, still glaring at the man -- looking as if he got too close to Dorian, he'd be snarled at.

"Still," the response came, "I'd like to try. I'll also need to talk to you, though, before I can clear you for debriefing. Since Lord Gloria's sleeping, would now be all right?"

"Now is fine."

Tigner smiled at him. "How have you been sleeping, Major? Any problems -- waking up, any feelings of pressure or panic?"

He got a *look* from Klaus, and a little silence before the man lied, "I sleep fine."

"Ahh," the psychiatrist said, nodding. "[No bad dreams, then?]"

"[Some. It isn't anything new.]" He seemed to relax more, speaking to the man in a tongue that Dorian couldn't understand.

"[Are the dreams related to your capture, Major?]" Tigner asked, recognizing that slight relaxation and deciding to go forward in that vein.

"[Not that I can tell.]" Klaus's replies were strangely bland and mechanical as he answered -- as if it *were* a debriefing.

Nodding slowly, Tigner resisted the urge to sigh. "[Are you still angry, Major?]"

"[Yes. Wouldn't you be?]" That was a little sharper, a dryly asked question.

"[I think I would be upset in a different way. There's nothing wrong with feeling anger, and considering the situation, it's more than natural. The fact that your anger seems almost solely based on what's happened to Lord Gloria more than what's happened to yourself...]" Tigner paused, rephrasing that thought. "[I would think you'd be angry for yourself as well.]"

"[I am, but I can't very well shoot myself and have it do much good, can I?]"

THAT wasn't a very good sign. "[I don't think I understand, Major. Why would you want to shoot yourself?]"

"[I failed miserably in my duty to protect my subordinate and to complete the mission.]" The way Klaus said it, it was as if it *should* have made perfect sense. "[I should just shoot myself. This has brought up enough trouble.]"

That didn't seem to shake Tigner visibly, but it wasn't good. "[So you're feeling a bit inadequate, perhaps? And perhaps suicidal as well?]"

"[Inadequate? I don't understand.]"

"[As if you weren't capable of doing your job,]" came the clarification.

"[I'm capable. I've just made an idiotic mistake that nearly cost the life of a contracted civilian and could have put a great number of NATO operations at risk,]" Klaus murmured calmly, shifting to reach back as best he could and grab the pack of cigarettes that Z had brought him.

That clinched the recommendations that Tigner would be making for the Major, but he asked further, "[And the desire to shoot yourself?]"

"['Passing fancy', as Lord Gloria would call it,]" Klaus murmured, sliding a cigarette between his lips and lighting it carefully. His left hand was, out of necessity, getting more dexterous. "[You asked me if I was angry at myself. I vent anger through shooting -- far better to put it to a use.]"

"[And Lord Gloria?]" the man asked, nodding towards the man in the bed. "[Have you noticed any problems that he's been having?]"

"[He's hysterical. Often. Won't let me out of his sight and won't let anyone else touch him,]" Klaus said calmly, taking a deep draw and letting it out slowly.

"[And he refuses to talk about it. Why do you think he won't talk about it?]" Tigner murmured.

"['s probably humiliated by it. I would be. I'd probably deny it ever happened, if I could,]" Klaus murmured. Rather reminiscent, what he was suggesting, of how he'd skirted vaguely over the part of the ordeal where he'd been molested.

"[Would you mind if I woke him and tried to speak with him one more time? It will help him if he will,]" the psychiatrist assured.

"[The first time he tells you that he won't talk is it. I will throw you out of this room if you press it.]" That, too, was said calmly -- but the glint in Klaus's one eye said that he'd manage it somehow.

"[I understand,]" Tigner replied, nodding. "[One last try.]" After all, there wasn't any way to force the man to talk; that would only be even more traumatic for him.

Klaus settled down in his chair, almost on the edge though -- cigarette clasped loosely in the fingers of his left hand, waiting for Tigner to move. "[Do you want me to wake him?]"

"[It might be best if you did. He responds well to you, doesn't he?]" Tigner asked quietly.

"Ja..." Another shift, his cigarette back between his lips, and he settled his hand lightly on Dorian's shoulder. "Lord Gloria...? Dorian...? Dorian, 's me. Wake up?"

It gained him a slight grumble and a sleepy opening of those eyes, a sigh of breath. "Major?" Tourmaline peered from beneath the heavy gold fringe of lashes above white bandages and, for a moment, there was all of Dorian as he used to be in that gaze. It changed, though, and Dorian as he was now became slightly fearful due to the seriousness of that gaze. "Hm?"

"Lord Gloria," the psychiatrist said softly, "I'm back again. I'm not going to make you talk about anything you don't want to talk about. You don't have to worry about that."

Worried blue eyes sought out Klaus, pale face somehow desperate. "Major..."

"If you don't want to, he'll leave," was Klaus's quiet assurance to a man that he had sworn to hate for years. Sworn, but never fulfilled...

That promise was enough to make Dorian turn and look suspiciously at the psychiatrist, but he seemed to agree to the man being there. "All right..." he said slowly. "So long as I don't have to talk about anything I don't want to talk about."

Nodding, the German man sat back in the chair again, going back to smoking -- essentially, the doctor was not going to be able to get him to vacate his protective position beside Dorian's bed.

"Lord Gloria... tell me, how do you view your work for NATO?" Tigner asked after a moment's thought -- round about, he would get what information he could, pressing as far as he could.

"It's enjoyable," Dorian said, curling up slightly to move his feet farther away from where the man sat at the end of the bed. "It's high-risk, but also high-excitement. I... I like that," he admitted.

"So you take the jobs because of the excitement? You can be honest with me, Lord Gloria."

Unhesitatingly, Dorian replied, "I take the jobs because Klaus is on them, and he deserves to have the best." There was no question of whether or not Dorian was the best at what he did.

The German man nodded to that. "Dorian t... truly is the best possible."

"His track record with you proves that," Tigner smiled. That afternoon he'd skimmed the files on them that he could reach with his clearance, and been mightily impressed by the odd dynamics of their relationship and working habits. It had cast Dorian in a slightly better light, and Klaus in a slightly worse light, however, than he'd viewed them before. "Do you still think you're the best?"

"Yes," Dorian said simply. There had been nothing wrong with his tactics for breaking in. Those had been perfect... even if it had been a trap.... A tremor worked through him and his brows drew together slightly. "I do."

"Klaus still thinks the same. So this entire... unfortunate incident hasn't affected either of your own perceptions of your professional selves. But how do you view *yourself* now?" He'd already gotten the answer vaguely from Klaus -- an event that was work related hadn't taken down his opinion of himself in the realm of duty, but had scraped so very low his personal opinion of who he was... and Tigner sensed the same sort of answer, if any answer at all, would come from Dorian.

Silence met that question and, for a while, it seemed that Dorian wouldn't answer. When he did, it was sort of oblique. "I've never been ashamed of anything that I was or... or that I am..." Only now, he was, horribly, deeply, terribly ashamed, mortified that Klaus had seen those perverse and terrible things done to him, ashamed because of his vanity and what had been done to his face, just terribly horribly *embarrassed*, and he felt dirty. Yes... "I...." He shook his head.

"Just tell me if your view of yourself has changed. Yes or no -- you don't even have to tell me how it's changed, Lord Gloria."

"Yes." Oh, that was definite. How could it not be, when he felt the way that he did now?

"All right. Do you think there's any way you could ever view yourself the same again?"

The next answer was just as certain, but softer, almost whispered, and those golden lashes were closed, hands curling closer to Major Eberbach. "No."

Tigner watched the strangely unconscious movement of Klaus's left hand. Cigarette back between lips, hand settling atop one of Dorian's. Was the man even aware of the signals he was sending -- while claiming to be straight? "Do you think you'll be able to live your life the way you used to?"

"I don't even like to go to the *loo* alone," Dorian admitted, brows knitting further. "No."

"Have you thought about what you're going to do when you're released? That's soon, Lord Gloria."

That seemed to be one of those things that Dorian wasn't going to talk about. His fingers shifted, clutching at Klaus's for comfort, a shiver rippling through him. "Next question, please."

"All right." Tigner nodded and gave both men a smile. "Will you work with NATO any longer?"

"As long as Klaus needs me, yes," was the simple reply. "When Klaus no longer needs me, no. I'm not in this for politics, Doctor. That's someone else's call. I'm in this for..." That smooth, deep voice paused, slowing. "Call it admiration, if you will."

"Do you talk with Major Eberbach outside of work?"

THAT brought on a pause, as if Lord Gloria had to consider the matter. "Inevitably, however we meet, it ends up being work, one way or another. Sort of...." There had been the meeting in Iran, but even that had been something... *together*, hadn't it?

"Do you think that you'll contact Major Eberbach when you're released from the hospital? The two of you seem to be rather good friends."

"I don't know..." That answer seemed melancholy, said. "Not if he doesn't want me to, I suppose, but either way, I really don't think that's any of your business...."

Then Dorian was questioning it himself, and defensive about it. "And what would you do if Major Eberbach could no longer hire you for contract jobs?"

"That's an idiotic question," Klaus snapped. "I would never *not* hire Dorian!"

"Do you mean..." Dorian considered the matter. "If someone told Major Eberbach I couldn't be hired, I'd ignore them and come anyway. My accountant would see we were paid, in the end. If *that's* what you mean..."

"I mean if Major Eberbach wasn't there to hire you," he breached quietly, darting a look to Klaus to gauge a reaction.

And saw only a stunned grey-green eye, pupil narrowed in some un-placeable emotion.

"I won't work for NATO without Major Eberbach," Dorian said firmly, shifting. "What's this all about?"

"First, tell me if you would still talk with him."

"[You fucking son-of-a-bitch....]" A soft German utterance, directed straight at Tigner. "[You can't have meant that...]"

"Yes... No... I don't know, why does it matter, what is this about!? It's not about anything that happened, is it!?" Dorian demanded, panicking.

The soft-spoken seeming doctor smiled at them both then, an almost nervous expression. "There's no need to become on edge, either of you..." Klaus looked like any moment he'd lunge at the man's throat, so Tigner stood up, smiling again. "I'm trying to gauge the strength of the bond between the two of you -- since each of you is so intent on the other's condition."

Dorian was shaking, pale beneath his bandages as he shifted to sit up on a hip. "I don't think I want to talk to you anymore," he said sharply, shaking his head. "I don't want to talk about this anymore!"

Klaus, though, was not bellowing as Dorian expected -- he was shaking as he stood up, tossing his cigarette back towards the bed-pan. "[Get out. You fucking high-and-mighty doctor, think you're going to ruin my life by pulling this shit on me...]"

"[My apologies, Major,]" Tigner said quietly as he moved towards the door, keeping an eye on both of them. "[I hope you're both feeling better soon...]"

"[God *DAMMIT*!!!]" he roared at the door that shut behind the man. It left him without an outlet for the anger, no, fury, that had his body caught tight -- standing beside Dorian's bed, facing the door, hand clenched into a fist and what he could move of his wounded right hand trying to fist itself. "Fuck..."

"Klaus?" Dorian whispered, tearing up as he moved away from him slightly. It seemed prudent. It actually seemed prudent to remove himself from the room, but he was afraid to do that. "I'm sure he didn't mean it..."

"Fucking hell... 's not going to... I-I... I... *FUCK*. That god-damned son-of a bitch!!!" It was barely coherent as words anymore, Klaus's swearing -- and only a moment longer before the man stormed away into the bathroom, still cursing, now in four, perhaps five tongues -- loud, sharp words probably aimed at every human he'd ever met. The IV stand couldn't move as fast as he did, and it tore out again, drawing another smattering of sharper curse words than before.

And then, from inside of the bathroom, lights off, Dorian could hear a pounding.

Unable to help himself, Dorian began an unsteady crying again. He was afraid to call the nurse -- they gave him the creeps! He wished desperately for Bonham as he reached for the call button, hiccoughing with fear.

"My Lord!?"

"Is something... Major?!" E's voice, joining Jones's in the worry as the door was opened and they, along with F, peeked into the room. Dorian looked horrified, and the sound of swearing and pounding from the bathroom...

Jones dove for the call-button.

By the time the nurse came in, the sound of shattering tile was more than obvious and Dorian was in a state of such high dudgeon that he was hyperventilating, curled tightly against the head of his bed and fending off Jones's attempts at comfort desperately. Blue eyes were trained on a bathroom door that was locked, despite E's efforts to the contrary. "What's going on in here!?"

"Th-the major!!!" Agent E exclaimed. "He's locked himself in the bathroom..."

"I'll fetch some keys and security," the nurse said quickly.

"NO!" Dorian yelled, breath hitching wildly. "Jones!!"

"Fetch security!" Jones told her, diving for the door -- he had a set of picks out of his pocket in record time, and the simple latch of the bathroom door was undone.

The scene that greeted them within was worse than disturbing -- it was like some bizarre horror movie ritual performed in an insane asylum of old, Klaus repeatedly slamming his left hand into the white tile even once it was shattered, blood streaming down his fingers, and the sight of it made Dorian cry out, a terrible, pained sound as he got out of bed and moved forward. "NO! *STOP* it!!!"

But Klaus didn't *seem* to hear Dorian -- he just kept striking, over and over mechanically, snarling out obscenities.

"Stop it, stop it, *STOP* it!" Dorian moaned, moving past Jones and E, neither of whom seemed capable of doing more than staring in shock. "*STOP* it, Klaus!!!" he cried, reaching for the hand that continued pummelling the broken wall.

Dorian didn't abort that strike, but he did stop the next. Tight muscles under his hands were shaking, and Klaus's every breath hissed in and out between clenched teeth. He wanted to kill something. Throttle something. Hurt something -- not Dorian. Not... oh, he did! He wanted to hurt anything, but couldn't... couldn't do it to Dorian. No, not Dorian. Not...

"Stop it," Dorian sobbed, shaking, clutching Klaus's hand to him despite the horrified onlookers. "Stop it, stop it, stop it!"

There were bits of ceramic drilled into the flesh of that hand, one knuckle split, maybe a fracture -- Klaus couldn't feel any of it yet. Only the thrum of anger in his veins and Dorian's sobbing pleas to him. Dorian was crying and... it was his fault. It was all, entirely his fault, anyway, so why not this, now, too?

Klaus was frozen, unresisting as Dorian clutched his blood-smeared hand against his chest, getting some of it on his hospital gown.

It was then that the two orderlies came in.

"Here, here, move out of the way, there's a good fellow," the first one said, pushing Jones out of the way and heading forward as if to manhandle Dorian away from Klaus as well, bare-assed in a gown or not.

Less than a foot away from Dorian, though, the man got a sharply snarled, "[Go the fuck away!]" from Klaus, the man barely turning his head to look at him.

"Here, now," the second orderly soothed over the sound of the tall blond's hitched breaths. "Just come on out. Someone's going to have to take a look at your hand...."

Both men were hoping it wouldn't take a drugging to get the large, tense officer out of the small room, or the blond man off of his wounded hand.

Adrenaline wouldn't yet let Klaus feel embarrassed that orderlies had been brought in, or that the door had been picked to gain entry... But it would soon. For the moment, though, he responded with that adrenaline. "'s all right, Dorian. I've stopped."

"I c-c-can't b-b-b-b-ear it!" Dorian whimpered, shuddering. "Y-y-your h-h-a nd..." Oh, it was torn and bleeding, and his breath caught in his throat at the realization, blood everywhere and on *him* again, and for a moment, he thought he wouldn't get his breath back at all. It did come, though, finally, as he swayed, shuddering. "Oh, *GOD*...."

But it didn't matter.

Bloodied hand or not, Klaus caught the slight man quickly when he fainted and pulled him close as he looked to the orderlies for help in getting Dorian back to his bed.

"Lord, what a circus," the first of them muttered, moving forward gingerly. He was worried if he tried to take the blond man away from the other one, he'd get punched, so he said soothingly, "We'll just put him in bed, all right? And my friend here will help you back to your bed, all right?"

"Ja. I can't..." His other hand was still useless, and now the muscles that had been sliced were starting to scream at him in protest for trying to bear Dorian's weight. "Need to sit down..."

"I'm going to get the doctor," the nurse said, peeking into the room for a moment, then moving on.

"Lord," Jones breathed as they got things settled. "Jesus. Poor Earl..."

"Poor Major," E whispered, the orderlies putting their two wounded back in their respective beds.

"I'm going to call A," F told E, and then moved out the door.

Klaus was still breathing hard, trying to ease himself down from the surge of numb anger -- the end of it was like going from ice-water to hot. Both hands, the old wounded and the freshly wounded one, were folded limply and unmoving in his lap, leaning back against the partly vertical back of his mattress, and he was looking nearly straight ahead, except when Dorian made a noise, and there were very few of those. Only stray hiccoughs sounded, at best, the other man laying still and white on his hospital bed.

The door opened again, Dr. Schneider coming in with strong strides and glancing at all of the people standing around. "You two," he said shortly, glancing into the bathroom. "Clean that mess up, please. And you two..."

"We'll stay out of your way, Doctor," E said respectfully.

"Completely. We'll be outside," Jones promised softly, already backing towards the door.

It was starting to sink into Klaus that he'd just, in a fit of temper, given them even more of a reason to discharge him. His life, his duty, the *only* person he was or had ever cared to be was going to be taken away from him... He remained quiet for the moment, trying to not feel the pain in either hand.

"Well, Major," the doctor said. "I hope that the damage I see *is* limited mostly to your left hand...." Catching his attention, a nurse moved into the room, looking nervous. "Bring me surgical tweezers, gauze and disinfectant," the man said with a sigh. "As well as new bandages for the Major's other injuries. I'm going to take a look at those while I'm here."

"[I didn't hit anything with my right,]" Klaus told him, laying his head back against the mattress as he let the man start his work once the nurse returned. No real reactions to any pain as the few shards of ceramic in his skin were removed.

"Well, we'll have to take X-rays of this. Call radiology and ask them to slip him in," Dr. Schneider murmured to the nurse, disinfecting the hand, "and bring back fresh gowns for both of them, since it appears that Lord Gloria's gotten a bit bloody, as well." Looking at Klaus, he said, "It doesn't *look* broken, but there are a lot of small bones in the hand. I want to see a film on it before I decide anything else. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to untie your gown and take a look at your chest, all right?"

"[I mind, but I won't stop you,]" Klaus told him. It was a medical necessity, he knew -- the man had to look at his wounds, but it didn't make him any more comfortable with having so little on.

The other man's motions were matter-of-fact, quickly and easily accomplished. "You've strained a few stitches," the man said disapprovingly, disinfecting the area. There was a fair bit of drainage, but the stitches had held, so it would be all right. "Aside from that, you seem to be all right..." As the orderlies moved out of the bathroom, Dr. Schneider said absently, "Could you please hurry along the nurse with those hospital gowns?"

"Will do," the second one promised him as they moved out with bits of tile in the biohazard trash-can from the room.

Klaus let out a little hiss of breath with the application of disinfectant, but only closed his eyes. "[When will I be... discharged from the hospital?]"

"We're going to have to do a bit of surgery to clean up the area around your eye, Major," the doctor told him. "After that, then you can go home. Another week, probably. Surgery is scheduled for the same day as Lord Gloria's release, day after tomorrow."

"[Lord Gloria is being released...?]" So soon! And if he was being discharged from his position... Misery clutched tight at his chest as he tried to not think about that. No, Dorian probably wouldn't contact him.

"Yes. The gashes on his face are healing well, and the torn..." The doctor paused, coughing. "The other affected areas are healing, as well."

"[Good,]" Klaus sighed softly. "[That's... good.]" /He'll get better./

"Hmmmm," the doctor said in agreement. "With any luck, plastic surgery will diminish the scarring somewhat for both of you. We'll see," he said, looking now at Klaus's eye, or rather the lack thereof.

"[I don't care.]" It felt strange to have that bandage removed -- it was familiar now, even if he hated it. /It doesn't matter. Nothing fucking matters../

"Well, it makes some people feel better to know that," was the reply as the doctor re-bandaged him. "I'm given to understand Lord Gloria passed out... Does he do that often? The sight of blood, the nurse suggested..."

"He doesn't faint. I... scared him badly," Klaus admitted, English a bit thick when he decided to switch back.

"All right, well, then, we'll just take a look at him now, all right? Lean back a bit, Major. I'm going to get the nurse to bring you some pain medication shortly, before radiology comes to get you, all right?"

"All right." Klaus acquiesced, relaxing back against the mattress a little, letting his gaze drift over to Dorian's sleeping form. He'd frightened the man, made him half hysterical all over again...

"Lord Gloria," the doctor said, moving to the bed. "Lord Gloria. Can you hear me?"

The distinct flutter of Dorian's lashes came in response, a slightly hitched breath sending a quick shudder through him as his eyes opened. "Wha...?"

"You fainted," the doctor said. "We're going to bring in a fresh gown and let you change, but I'm also going to check your injuries. Is that all right?"

The truth was that Dorian wanted to pull away to the other side of the bed. He didn't want the man to check him, *any* of him, despite the fact that someone obviously had before now. He didn't want to be touched. He wanted... "How is Klaus?" His face turned towards the other bed. "How are you?"

"I'm fine." Oh, he was lying... lying completely. No, he wanted to have a break-down, wanted to kill something, wanted to cry... "I didn't mean to upset you."

"Your poor hand," Dorian whispered as the doctor began to lightly pull bandages free from his face. "I'm so sorry he said that. That terrible *hateful* bastard. He didn't mean it the way it sounded. He can't...."

Dorian watched a wave of *something* wash over Klaus's face, and then fade back into just a blank simmer of anger and shame. "I don't know." And wouldn't know until it was official, but... his gut instinct said it was true -- the man had *apologized* to him, for Christ's sake! "If..." If it was true, it was simply the end of Klaus. The worst shame of his life; he wouldn't be able to go back to the Schloss, not having been discharged. God, what could he *do*?! He was a military man, through and through; there was and never had been a defining line between Klaus and The Major.

"Be still, now, Lord Gloria," the doctor said, the bandages gone as he looked at the healing slashes on what had obviously been an utterly beautiful face. Black thread laced its way in and out of the cuts, healing remarkably well, all things considered. "Ahh, they're coming along nicely," he murmured, nodding slowly before he began lightly touching those ebony-traced lines with antibiotic ointment.

Klaus couldn't help but look -- it was odd to see Lord Gloria looking like that, that pretty face marred by the starkness of black thread. It was *his* fault that Dorian had that done to him, *his* own fault that the Stasi officer had done that to Dorian to get to him. "That won't scar, will it...?" Klaus asked softly.

"We hope it won't be too bad," Dr. Schneider replied. "A little plastic surgery wouldn't hurt, but perhaps it won't be necessary..."

"It's that bad, then?" Dorian whispered, looking to Klaus for his reaction.

"No. It... it's better than I thought it would be." There had been so much blood he'd been afraid the Stasi officer had cut clean through...

Those clear blue eyes shut tightly, the doctor's body shifting as he re bandaged Dorian's face so that Klaus couldn't see them. A moment later, the nurse returned with two clean gowns, handing one to the German NATO agent and the other to the doctor. "Thank you," he said. "Could you pull the curtain?" he requested. "And stay while I check the rest...."

/Oh, GOD,/ Dorian thought miserably.

That put Klaus on edge a little, watching the nurse pull the curtain around Dorian's bed -- if he heard one stray noise, even in the pain that was throbbing through both hands... But he took the chance of partial privacy to rise warily from the bed, and change the gown. *He* had completely refused to wander about bare-assed in that thing and had, from the first chance he'd had to have a say about it, worn boxers beneath it.

As he changed, he could hear the doctor and nurse shifting behind the curtain, Dr. Schneider murmuring softly to Dorian. No sounds of protest came, but he knew Dorian was uncomfortable and unhappy. That had been more than obvious...

"Yes, that's going to heal just fine," Schneider was saying now, the sound of it no surprise. "Yes, let me... there, that should make you feel a bit better, as well....."

Klaus didn't want to know *what* the man was doing now -- better to stay ignorant about things if at all possible. The pain was starting to quell his need to move, so it was very quietly that he got back into the bed again, the warmth of blankets keeping the chill from his legs though they were a trouble to pull up.

When the curtain was pushed open again, Dorian was in a clean gown, but he was white as a sheet and stiff and desperate for sight of Klaus. The vision of the black-haired man was enough to make him relax a little, but even that small amount was replaced with tension again as the doctor pulled up the covers. "There. Major, radiology will be up shortly. Until then..."

Until then the man was going to sit quietly in the bed, and try to not think about anything at all. Thinking brought the rage again, and he'd already hurt his functioning hand... He gave the doctor a quite nod, trying to dismiss him.

"I'll see the two of you tomorrow if that hand isn't broken," the doctor said with a sigh as he headed for the door.

Both of them were glad to see the back of him, and before he was even out it already, Dorian was wrapped up in every ounce of covers he had, pulled all the way up to his nose. "Major," he whispered. "Please. I'm sorry. I'm sorry..." He shook his head. /Klaus. Darling. My darling..../

"It's not your fault," Klaus said gruffly, truthfully. "This is... Entirely me."

"If they..." Dorian shook his head. "They can't. They just can't. I won't... if you're not there, I can't...." /Can't see you. I won't have any excuse to see you, and if I come to you, you'll just throw me out because I'm queer and *dirty* and not worthy of you..../

"You... you can," Klaus murmured, trying his damnedest to not think about it. But it wasn't working, God, he was in a fucking NATO *hospital*, how could he *NOT* think about it?

"Klaus," Dorian whispered, mouth lingering on the next word. "Darling..." He had to say it, simply had to. "Don't say anything. Please. Just... I love you. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry...." He was crying again, and the door opened, allowing a gurney in along with a smiling technician from radiology.

"Hi, there," the woman said quietly. "Major Eberbach...?"

Klaus gave her a nod, still looking at Dorian -- of all the damned times and bad timing possible! He wanted to reply, say anything at all to try to make the blond man understand what *he* understood himself. "Dorian, please calm down."

The soft pitiful sounds just kept on, though, even as Jones, E and F came back through the door. "Oh, my Lord," Jones sighed, shaking his head.

"Major...?"

Klaus just closed his eyes for a moment, not answering. Hopefully his hand wasn't broken...


Two days later, Dorian watched wordlessly as the nurse came in to give Klaus certain medications. He listened to her prattle about the anesthesiologist waiting downstairs and bit his lip tightly.

When Klaus returned, Dorian would be gone.

James had opened the flat in Bonn, and for that, the British man was grateful. He didn't want to leave the hospital, didn't want to leave Klaus...

Didn't want to leave.

He was afraid that if he left, he would never see him again. As much as he felt ashamed and desperately dirtied, somehow, he couldn't bring himself to feel that he was unworthy of seeing Klaus again. Klaus was, after all, a driving force in his life. In many ways, he'd had trouble getting through a day without Klaus *before* now. And now....

Now the man was a desperate part of his life. But... what if that horrible Psych man had been right...? What if Klaus was going to lose his job...?

The man had all but completely withdrawn into himself since the incident where he *had* fractured his hand. Not a break, but enough to warrant an air-brace and many many stitches. He still sat beside Dorian's bed when he could -- mostly at night now, when there was no one to tell him otherwise -- and tried to lift Dorian's spirits, but the British man could see Klaus dying inside at odd, unguarded moments.

"So you're being discharged," Klaus murmured, looking over at Dorian.

"Yes," Dorian told him sadly, looking across the way. "This afternoon. James has opened the flat in Bonn. I..." /don't want to leave you.../ "...don't want to go back to England..."

That one green eye was hooded and tired-looking and Klaus nodded. "Will you leave the address for me?"

Those words brought the sweetest most hopeful smile to Dorian's face! "Of course I will!" he said quickly. "Will... you come? Sometime?"

"I... will. I have an apartment in the older part of the city... I... I'll be staying there for a while." It was a delight to see Dorian smile -- and to know that it wasn't for the possibility of flirtation any more. Dorian wanted him for friendship, companionship... and God help him, Klaus wanted to give that and more.

Cerulean eyes closed, masking quick tearfulness. "I hope the surgery goes well, Klaus," he said quietly. "I hope everything goes perfectly. When do they think you can go home?"

"Another week." But not... not home, no. "I'll contact you when I get out, Dorian."

"I'll be waiting..." Waiting to see him again, waiting to be close to him again, if only for a moment. His was the only touch Dorian could bear, and even then, not much beyond the feel of Klaus's hand clasping his own...

A sad, slight smile crossed Klaus's lips as he nodded -- just as the door opened.

"I'll see you then, Dorian."

A nurse and doctor came in with a gurney again, and Klaus sighed as he got up from the bed and moved towards it in silence. "Good morning, Major Eberbach..."

Prattle that Klaus wanted nothing to do with was all he heard as he was moved out of the room. What he'd wanted to hear was Dorian's response.

/I love you, my Major.../ Dorian thought with a sigh. He rose, much less sore than he'd been even a few days ago, and pulled up the small travelling bag that Bonham had brought with him the day before. Inside lay underwear, tailored slacks and a button-up oxford shirt -- stuff obviously bought only recently since most of the clothing in the Bonn flat had been eaten by a vicious attack of moths courtesy of James's dislike of spending money on mothballs. Well... He supposed James would just have to replace it all, and *that* made him smile a little.

/Poor Jamesie,/ he thought as he moved to the bathroom.

He avoided looking at the still-broken tile as he dressed, contemplating the afternoon. Someone would be in to get him shortly... He'd have to leave the address for the Bonn flat with Klaus's things. /Oh, God.../ How was he ever going to sleep without Klaus there?

And how could he *tell* the man that he needed him to sleep? It would be a terrible blow to what was left of Klaus's ego to find out he was wanted as a giant teddy-bear or night-light to fend off bad dreams.

"M'lord?" Bonham's voice, as the smaller man peeked into the empty hospital room. "Is Uncle NATO gone already?"

"They took him down to surgery," Dorian called, voice flat. "He'll be back. Do me a favor and leave a note for him with the address of the flat, will you? I'll be ready in a moment..." He was buttoning his shirt, and for once, he buttoned it almost all the way to the top. He couldn't... he didn't want anyone *looking* at him...

"All right, m'lord!" Bonham went about doing just as he'd been told, writing in neat penmanship the address and 'Please Visit' beneath that. "How are you feeling today?"

"All right, I guess," Dorian told him. /I don't want to leave Klaus.../ "Maybe we can send the Major something for when he gets back. Not flowers, he wouldn't appreciate that, but... but something he'd like..."

/A job, maybe?/ "If you can think of something, m'lord, I'll find it," Bonham promised, looking back to his fully dressed Earl.

"Thank you, Bonham. You... you're too good to me, you know," Dorian said, trying not to tear up again as he sat to put on his shoes. It was only a *little* uncomfortable, but it still prompted him to finish quickly. "I'm ready..."

The little man nodded, and gave Dorian a smile -- a wide one -- and moved to grab the day-bag, now empty, that he'd brought. "Is that it, m'lord?"

"....yes," Dorian said finally, looking around the room. /Klaus shouldn't be alone when he gets back.../ "Let's go find a toy shop, Bonham. And then, let's go buy a *fish*."

"A fish?" /Well, any whim he wants to satisfy.../ God, just that Lord Gloria was having whims again made him happy. "And a toy store?"

Nodding firmly, Dorian gave him an almost-smile. "Yes. If we can, I want everything back before Major Eberbach is awake."

"Well, then -- let's go!" Bonham chuckled, a little worried, but... /Fish and a toy store...? Oh, this odds me right out.../ And then he led the way from the stark room where Lord Gloria had been for far too long. To be back among beauty and color again would no doubt help him.

"Right," Dorian agreed. /Klaus won't be alone when he wakes up!/


"Just look at this!"

"Oh -- hey, don't poke your finger at it! It puffed up!"

"What if I've killed it...?!!"

"No, I think it's supposed to do that..."

"Waas?" A slur of noise that wasn't even a word, dragged from the sweetness of unconsciousness by A and Z's voices.

"Oh, sir, you're awake!" A said, moving to sit beside his bed. "The surgery went well, Major. They say you'll be able to leave in another four or five days."

"'s good," Klaus slurred softly, eyes closing for a moment as he threatened to slip away on them again -- but curiosity got him first. "Was you poking at?"

"Eroica sent you gifts, sir," Z told him. "A red fish that's supposed to be a Japanese fighting fish. It's got instructions to feed it once a week, and there's some kind of plant in the bowl for it to eat, too. And he sent you a jigsaw puzzle, sir, and a trivia game."

"'s gone?" That had slipped his mind entirely -- well, it was expected, since consciousness had slipped him, too. "'e sent what...?"

A was nodding, though Klaus couldn't see him. "Yes, sir. He sent you a fish, a jigsaw puzzle and a trivia game. The game had a note attached that said you could play it together later."

"Huh. 's good." Shifting a little, using his elbows as levers to groggily sit up, Klaus looked at them -- well, tried to, then just closed his eye. Everything was just swimming. "'d he leave an... address?"

"Yes, sir," Z said softly. "For now, just go back to sleep. We'll be quiet for a while so that you can rest. Everything went well, so there's no need to worry."

"'ve I been disch'rged yet?"

THAT was a confusing question, and A and Z both looked at one another before Z said, "No, sir. You can't leave the hospital for another four or five days, at least."

"' know th't... 'm be'ng reliev'd 'f my... coman'..." he trailed out there, as if saying it, however incoherently, made it worse. Hours from now, after another sleep, he wouldn't even remember saying that to A and Z.

That gained a look of startled dismay from both of the agents as they looked at one another. /Relieved? But he's..../ Z thought, expression stunned. A looked no less shocked, and so he said finally, "Everything will be all right, Major. Rest..."

"Jus'... t'll me..." He was protesting that suggestion with his words, even as he slid back down beneath the covers.

"We don't know anything about that, sir," A told him quietly. "For now, sleep. We'll find out the rest."

"'ll r'ght..."

And then Klaus went back to sleep.

"I'll call B and D," Z said softly, "and get them going right now."

"Get them going...?" A asked.

Deep blue eyes looked across at him seriously. "I want to know what's going on. Don't you?"

"Yes," A nodded. "Let's find out fast, then."

With a nod, Z turned and was gone.

Chapter 8 by Kat and Tzigane

He'd given Z keys to his apartment, under the suggestion of turning on the thermostat and getting him real clothes.

What Klaus hadn't expected in the bag Z had left for him, aside from his car keys, apartment keys, and a spare pair of his boots, was a uniform. One of his very obviously, neatly pressed and folded carefully, at the top of the bag.

He donned it without hesitation, though with a little trouble. The feel of familiar fabric, cotton and wools, had been long missed during his time spent undercover in Eastern Germany, and the time in the hospital.

His hands, though, were still wrecked, and so was his eye, though it was neatly covered with an eye-patch. The stitches on his knuckles were all right to leave exposed, and careful, small bandaging covered the still sensitive stumps of what had once been his trigger and pinkie fingers on his right hand. The phantom pain of those missing fingers bothered him somewhat, but not so much that he couldn't ignore it.

What he could no longer ignore was the impossible knowledge that NATO would be getting rid of him.

That had prompted a decision on his part -- one to go directly back to Headquarters today and speak with the Chief. Klaus had never been the sort of man to put something off, no matter how distasteful it was, and so the necessity of it was impossible to withstand. He wanted to be told to his face about this decision, rather than be given third, and fourth-hand information any longer. If his career, his life itself was over because of some bastard of a psych officer...

No. No, he couldn't blame the man. There was something wrong with him -- perhaps, always had been -- but now he was a risk. A risk to NATO, a risk to missions, a risk to himself and his subordinates...

It still didn't help that his life's work was coming to an end before his very eyes.

The jigsaw puzzle and Trivial Pursuit both were put into his shoulder-bag that his clothes had been in, and he had the fish -- bowl and all, -- held carefully under one arm in his left hand. When he left the hospital, he would look like the perfect NATO officer that he'd almost always seemed to be. No fits of fury or blood -- clean polished, sharp and ready for an inspection that would never come.

"Major Eberbach?" a nurse said hesitantly from the doorway. "I have your wheelchair here... Hospital regulations state that you have to be wheeled ou..."

"I'm walking." It wasn't a snap of words. It was a calm, controlled bellow, of the sort that was expected from the man. God, he even had his hat on, cocked at just the perfect angle! And then he brushed past her.

As he walked past the nurse's station, A and Z moved to greet him, obviously having just come up the elevator. "Can we take anything, Major?" Z asked, eyeing the burdens of games, bag and fish.

"This." Klaus was being so very calm and as if... nothing at all had happened, the mission, the horrors both during the interrogation and in the hospital proper, had never happened. He was Iron Klaus, The Major, if only this last time...

He thrust the fish-bowl into Z's hands with a look to say that he'd better not drop it.

"Y-yes, sir!" Z answered, eyes widening as the fish's water shook up the sides, but didn't spill.

"Can I tote something else, Major?" A asked.

Without hesitating, Klaus imposed on A as the man had asked of him -- the bag that was slung over his shoulder was given to him, Klaus not even bothering to stop his walk down the hallway. A could hear the puzzle pieces shift in their box within it.

"We're going to my apartment first, and then to the office."

"Yes, sir!" both men answered simultaneously as they turned around and marched behind Klaus to the elevator. The doors came open immediately upon a punch of the call button, as if they had known that Iron Klaus was standing outside of them, and all three men got into the thing and headed down into the lobby. From there, it was a quick trip to the parking decks, Z leading the way to his own car, a black Benz much like Klaus's. "Here we go, sir," he said, keying open the locks.

Klaus slid into the back passenger seat, right side, as had always been his custom. They knew. A and Z... they knew by now. It was all just a final, stretch of a facade, one last pathetic moment... Klaus looked down under the guise of studying something, letting bangs and the brim of his hat shield his face from anyone who looked back at him in the rear-view mirror. He'd stay Iron until the last and no one would see weakness.

"Drive."

"Yes, sir," Z said, pulling out of the parking spot and towards the front gate. There, they paid the parking fee and drove away from the hospital in silence. It was a beautiful morning, crisp and cool with the sun shining and the wind blowing pleasantly, not a cloud in the sky.

This was Germany. This was Free Germany, West Germany, that he'd done so much to protect in his life. It was and always would be home. Klaus wasn't losing that, at least -- it would just be home in different ways. He'd find some other way to serve the Fatherland.

He was composed and calm during the drive to his flat, barked at Z and A to follow him up. It was a rare chance -- the only one they'd ever had -- to see the sort of place in which Klaus would live.

The apartment was nearly sterile, so sheerly lacking in personality was it, and Z was suddenly *very* glad that Eroica had given the Major a fish as they stepped inside and saw the purely functional furniture and the bare walls. "Where would you like me to put your fish, sir?" he asked, holding the big round bowl carefully.

"On that table," he directed towards a small table where he ordinarily ate dinner. Klaus took his hat off then, setting it on the nearby kitchen counter. Not only a sterile space that made the hospital seem welcoming, but small. "Just put my bag by the door. Let's leave."

"Yes, sir," A said, putting down Klaus's bag as Z obediently placed the fish in the indicated spot before they headed back out to the Benz again.

Once they were in the car, the trip to Headquarters was short and silent. Both of Klaus's agents knew what was coming -- B and D had done an excellent job of finding out that NATO was going to pension Klaus off and retire him from duty, period. Not even a desk job was going to be offered him, though the Major's notorious dislike of paperwork MIGHT have had something to do with that...

"We're here," Z said softly as he parked his car, glancing back at the Major in the rear-view mirror.

Stiff chinned, single eye cold and flat as two had been in the early days -- when Z had suspected secretly that the man was a robotic prototype super-human agent. It was silly to think that now, but in those first days, what else could Klaus have been? It wasn't that he'd lost any of his edge -- but learning some of his odd habits, and almost endearing quirks humanized him greatly.

"I know." He opened the door with no pause, sweeping the parking garage with a monocular gaze that he was adjusting to dealing with. "Thank you, Mr. Z. Mr. A." To let it slip, or... /They know. They know./ "It's been a pleasure to work with both of you. You're both fine agents -- I'm glad I never sent you permanently to Alaska."

"Thank you, sir." Z answered as they stood together. "It's been an honor to work for you."

"We hold you in highest regard, sir," A murmured, nodding to Klaus. "Every one of us."

No smile -- only a compression of his mouth, and a stiff nod. Then he shook hands with both of them, gruffly, and walked away. In through the parking garage's entrance, he seemed to surprise a great number of people as he wound up the floors to the floor where his office, Chief and Alphabet awaited.

And he still got the satisfaction of having the entire room fall into silence when he stepped in. "Get back to work." No snapping, though -- just a flat, hard-edged order to them. Immediately, all of them obeyed, but they all seemed so happy to see him that they were *smiling* at him as he walked through to his own office to gather together the few personal belongings he kept there so that they would be ready after he had spoken with the Chief. Tossed together into a small paper-tray box. Everything -- pens, little bits of things he'd picked up in some mission or another, a gun in his desk, lighter, cigarettes... His favorite brand. One was put into his mouth, lit and savored for a moment, before he swept the room one last time and then moved out of his office.

Finally, Klaus walked over to the Chief's door, and knocked. "Come in!" came the call, and he pushed the door open and entered.

Inside, the old man sat at his desk, papers stacked in front of him, the majority of the desktop clean as if he had been expecting Klaus. "Have a seat, Major."

He did sit in the indicated chair, one long leg crossing languidly over the other as he let his hands settle on the arms of the chair. "Sir."

"How are you feeling?" the man asked. "We didn't expect to see you again so soon."

"I feel fine, Sir. I recover quickly." /Slovenly Bastard./

"I have your statement here," he was informed. "We didn't get one from Eroica, but your injuries indicate that the briefing given was accurate, and since he wouldn't agree to speak with the psychiatrist..." THAT earned him a *look*. "...we'll do without. As I'm sure you aware, recommendations were made from both the psychiatric unit and the medical doctors who cared for you, Major. Their recommendations were that you be retired from duty as you would most likely be unstable and volatile in dealing with further situations. Would you like to say anything to that?" he offered.

"That you'll never have another officer sitting in my office that had the same success rate and dedication as I have." Proof of that dedication was hard to miss -- two missing fingers and his eye, hidden away under a utilitarian eyepatch.

"That's probably true, Major," his Chief said, holding back a sigh. Even now, getting rid of the man, he was difficult to deal with! "However, all things considered, I'm afraid that we're going to have to take their recommendations as they stand. The paperwork is being processed currently. You'll receive a regular pension and still be able to benefit from NATO medical care, since you've been such a loyal man." He stood, holding out his hand to Klaus. "Good luck, Major Eberbach."

The hand-shake he got was as awkward as the ones that Z and A had gotten -- but it hadn't made them uncomfortable. It made the chief uncomfortable, the brush of gauze bandages against his palm, the weak clutch of only two fingers where before it would have all but crushed his hand.

Then Klaus drew back, silently, and left. Left the Chief's office, reentered his own, grabbed the little box of his belongings, and nodded a farewell to his men. G, clutching a handkerchief, wept openly as he headed towards the door, and the others didn't appear to be in much better shape. Z and A, waiting by the doorway, were the last to nod at him.

"Can I give you a ride somewhere, sir?" Z asked softly.

Drive... he'd need to re-test on his vision soon, so he could see if he was allowed to drive or not with just the one eye. "Lord Gloria's flat. I'll give you directions."

"Yes, sir!" Z said promptly, glad that the Major would allow him to go with him. The keys were in his hand automatically, and they were out the door together, heading back down to the parking bay.

Klaus had always worked well with Z, even if he was a bit of a boot-licker at times. He was a fine man, served well under his command.

They walked to the car in a companionable silence, and this time, Klaus sat front passenger side, the box of things he'd emptied from his desk resting on his lap. "Which way is it to Eroica's flat, sir?" Z asked as they pulled out onto the street.

"It's in the 'upper-class' section of the city," Klaus murmured. He rattled off the address -- then clarified it by reminding Z that it was off of a more familiar road for the younger agent.

They drove in silence for most of the way. Traffic was light, as it was only mid-morning and most of Bonn's citizens were diligently at work (or at least, in their offices). The quiet was only broken by the soft strains of Paganini and Debussy barely heard over the radio as they drove along. "Somewhere near here..." Z finally said softly, slowing down as they reached the section of town where Dorian's flat was, eyes glancing at each of the buildings in the 1300 block. When he finally saw it, he pulled to the side of the street and looked across at Klaus. "Major..." he said quietly, then sighed. "We're all going to miss you very much, Major. You and Eroica."

It gained him a tight silence, and Klaus swallowed back something, lips thinning again. "I... will miss all of you, too. Don't let the Chief get away with too much shit -- it'd be a pity if he did." It was awkward, and he felt oddly near to tears -- so he got out of the car quickly. "Thank you for the ride."

"You're welcome, Major," Z said quietly. "I hope to see you again."

"I hope to see you again, too. You know how where to contact me if I am ever needed." Though pensioned and retired from NATO seemed to close every door off for that.

He turned his back on the other man then, little tray-box still held as he walked towards the unfamiliar building that bore the number of being Lord Gloria's. A pause for a moment at the door, and he rang the buzzer.

#"Yes!?"# came a faintly hysterical voice over the intercom. #"If you're not the Major, go away!"#

"It is," he spoke into the intercom. "It's Major Eberbach."

#"Oh, thank God, Major! Come straight up, please!"# The tinny sound of Bonham's voice over the intercom was accompanied by a clear sound of the electronic latch on the door being opened.

It let him into a stairwell that must have been built for much shorter people than him, and from there to another door, which the small man opened for him.

"Is Lord Gloria in?"

"He's locked himself in his room, Major, and barricaded the door," Bonham answered miserably. "We got the door unlocked, but we haven't managed to get the furniture he stacked in there out from in front of it. He just keeps crying..."

"Show me the room," Klaus demanded, stepping into the over-decorated place, setting his little box of desk-possessions on the table inside the door, scanning to see if the door was immediately visible. "Lord Gloria?! Dorian!"

No answer came, but Bonham pointed the way. "It's down this hall, Major. He..." Bonham shrugged. "He hasn't been sleeping, all week, but he's pretended that he has, and this morning, he found where Mr. James stashed all of the mirrors..." The miserly little thing hadn't wanted to toss them out or rent space for them, so he'd tucked them into the spare bedroom instead. Unfortunately, Dorian had found them.

Klaus didn't listen to the rest of the man's story -- instead, he rushed down that hall, towards the door at the end, slightly, barely ajar, while all the other doors were opened. He knocked first, using the brace on his left hand to hit hard enough. "Lord Gloria? Dorian. Dorian, 's me."

"Go away..." The sound was barely heard, but the soft sniffling and little hitched breaths were familiar to him -- the sound of Dorian's misery that he hated. "I don't want you to look at me this way..."

"If you don't let me in, I'll break it. I came today, just like I said I would -- I'm here, I want to see you." Firm words, sure of what they were saying. Strange, how easy it was to concentrate on Dorian instead of himself -- it certainly made him feel better.

The question that came was half-whispered, barely gotten out at all. "How can you bear to look at me at all?" Dorian eked out. "How can you look at me when I look like this?" /If you didn't like looking at me when I was beautiful..../

"You look fine, Dorian!" Klaus called at him through the door.

"No," Dorian moaned. "No, I *don't*!"

"*Yes* you *do* -- I saw what you looked like when the stitches were still in place! It isn't bad, Dorian!"

Finally, answer came, soft and low. "Really? You....don't mind it? Aren't just saying it to make me feel better?" /If Klaus doesn't mind...if Klaus doesn't mind, I can live with it. I can... I can't...!/ One hand tangled momentarily in snarled locks and he almost laughed. Oh, God, what a mess. What would Klaus say when he saw it? He'd been so upset...

"I've never said something in my life *just* to make someone feel better," Klaus uttered, leaning still against the door. "Now please let me in."

"....all right." The sound of furniture being pushed away from the door came and, finally, it came open slowly, Dorian standing there, shorn locks ragged as he bit his lip. He'd been so upset, so terribly....

"What... what did you do to yourself?" Klaus asked, pushing in through the doorway just in case Dorian saw fit to shut it on his face with him still on the other side. Now there was no risk of that. "Your hair..."

"I was upset," Dorian whispered, eyes welling over with tears. "I thought, if I was so terribly ugly, maybe... maybe I should... maybe I should..."

"Ohh, Gott," Klaus whispered to himself, moving forwards to pull the tearful earl into a light, light embrace. The Earl's hair was a mess -- as if he'd hacked at it with scissors, instead of cut.

That embrace was all that was necessary to finally make Dorian sob, a coarse sound, harsh in his throat, unlike the stifled sounds he'd made as he'd been raped and tortured, unlike any of the noises he'd made in hospital or any time before that Klaus could remember. It ached and was raw, followed by another and another until the entirety of him was shaking with it, his arms coming up to cling to the German man tightly.

Klaus kept himself composed, letting Dorian cling, one of his own arms around the Briton's shoulders, the other loosely around his waist, a light, almost gentle hand on his back. "Shhh, shhh..."

"Major," Bonham said softly behind them, watching the two worriedly. "If you could get him to sleep..."

"I will try," the German man promised quietly, still holding Dorian and letting himself be held, fingers of his left hand soothing against the man's spine. It took him a moment of thought how to manage the position and then grit back the pain of stitches bearing pressure as he picked Dorian up, a slip of motion to catch him under the knees and take a good many steps to deposit him atop the bed. The sounds of that raucous, heart-broken sobbing never faltered any more than Dorian's grip on him, and even when he was lain on the bed, he wouldn't let go of Klaus. That left the other man no choice but to lay down beside him, and the Earl curled automatically against him, almost breathless with the force of his weeping.

Dorian would have to stop crying eventually. Klaus wasn't going to rush the coming of that moment -- no, he was going to let Dorian hold him, and hold the man in turn, absently studying the sobbing face. Just thin little lines, red yet from newness. It could have been so much worse and they in no way -- to Klaus, at least -- marred Dorian's beauty.

The mangled cap of golden hair shook back and forth slightly as Dorian clutched at him exhaustedly, trying to gain his breath back again. "I-I-I'm sssss..."

"No." Klaus cut him off firmly. "Don't start that -- there is nothing to be sorry for."

"I c-cried all o-o-over you," Dorian hiccoughed, finally starting to settle down. "I ruined my *hair*," he whispered, tears coming more quickly again, though without the heart-wrenching sobs that time.

"You can cry over me if you want -- I can't wear this uniform anymore," Klaus murmured softly. "And your hair can be fixed."

"Ohhhhh, noooo!!" Dorian moaned, beginning to cry again in earnest. "Th-th-th they D-DIDN'T!!!"

"Shhh. Calm down, Lord Gloria," Klaus murmured softly. "Dorian... don't cry because of that." /Leave that to me. I don't want to think about it just now.../

"*Bastards*," came the shakily hitched vituperative, the slim thief trembling from head to toe with misery and exhaustion. "M-miserable b-bastards!"

"I don't want to think about it right now," Klaus told him, half fact, half a warning. "You need to rest."

The feel of Dorian's head shaking came against his shoulder. "C-can't sleep," he whispered. "Dreams..." Bad dreams, terrible things in which he relived what had happened to them and, sometimes, Klaus was so cold, and sometimes, he nearly died in them. They were horrible things, and he couldn't sleep knowing they were coming!

"I won't leave. We... you can sleep just like this." And it might chew up every nerve Klaus had, but he'd try it. He'd slept beside the man's bed, how different was it from the actual bed...?

After a while, the weeping grew to only soft hiccoughs and the blond man went silent, curled there in his arms. The feel of breaths shivered against his neck, and Dorian's hands were both pressed lightly against his chest. The scent of roses wafted up around him, tantalizing, slightly spiced, the smell of Eroica that haunted him.

Klaus couldn't tell if the man was sleeping or not; only that he was quiet, calm and warm. So strange, to feel Dorian close against him like that -- he'd always been reluctant to touch anyone, just a simple matter of his upbringing. He'd held the man a few years before when they were in the tank, though... and that was when he'd hated him.

He didn't hate Dorian anymore, hadn't past that initial rage and outrage. "Everything... is meant to happen... for one reason or another. This would be the end... of my killer cycle."

A murmur of sound came from the thief, then, barely heard. "Mmmm?" Definitely asleep, then, and only paying attention to him in the last vestiges of wakefulness that might have clung to him.

"Sleep." A soft order, as Klaus closed his eyes, letting his stiff form relax minutely into a state of watchful doze.

When Dorian finally woke, it was fully dark out and he felt... better. A glance at the clock revealed a red LED display that told him he'd slept nearly eight hours and he felt better than he'd felt since he'd left the hospital. A slight shift reminded him that Klaus was in bed with him -- at some point, he'd turned over, and they were now spooned together with Klaus's arm wrapped about his waist.

Maybe he felt better than he'd *ever* felt...

Klaus dozed for longer than Dorian did, but another shift or so brought him to a hazy consciousness. He was feeling pain again, but his medications were at the apartment, so that would have to wait. For a moment, the arm around Dorian's waist tightened, as Klaus sat up a little. "Was?"

"Hi," Dorian whispered sleepily. "Thank you for staying..."

"There was no reason for me not to stay," Klaus murmured, looking around the apartment and alighting his eyes on the clock. Late. But not too late to walk to the main road and catch a taxi, if he wanted... but he didn't. "Sleep well?"

"Yes," Dorian answered, eyes closing as he laid his head back down on Klaus's arm before turning to look at him. "I haven't slept in almost a week. I couldn't, without... I couldn't."

"It was strange to not look over and see you there." As close as he would come to admitting to some of the same troubles. "So, what now?"

"Would... you stay?" Dorian asked hesitantly. "I can send someone to fetch your things...."

"Stay here...? I've left my contact address as my apartment..." There was no one there to forward a call for him or any other nonsense, if he was gone from there. Just a lone answering machine that had probably blown itself up. "It... wouldn't bother me."

A growl sounded between them, Dorian's stomach rather loudly announcing that he hadn't eaten since the night before. "Ah... perhaps we could see what's in the kitchen or call out for something," he suggested. "And while we eat, I'll send someone to bring some things from your place? Did you..." Dorian gave him a smile that seemed tentative. "Did you like your fish?"

"Yes, I like it very much," Klaus murmured truthfully. The little fish had been company of sorts, and entertainment when he'd badly needed it. "I've got my keys in my pocket here..." He shifted back a little, taking the keys out. So that was what had been stabbing him in the leg. "Your men know where I live?"

Sheepishly, Dorian nodded. "I know everywhere you have to go, da... Klaus," he said solemnly, closing his eyes. "I'm sorry. I do, though."

That was an odd violation of his privacy... then again, the Soviets knew every place he stayed, too. Probably still had it all under surveillance. "'s convenient," Klaus excused, sitting up a little more. "Yeah, have them go there."

As Klaus sat up, so did Dorian, stretching every inch of him with a groan that reverberated through the room. "I feel so much better," he sighed, going slightly limp once he was done. "Thank you," he murmured. "I... I really appreciate this." He sighed again, this one seeming to come up from his toes. "I'm sorry to seem so pathetic...."

"Have I said anything about you looking pathetic?" Klaus asked, shifting up completely sitting at last and pausing a moment before he started to unbutton his uniform jacket. He was soon to be *retired* Major Eberbach... they probably wouldn't bother with a ceremony for him.

"No," Dorian admitted. "I know I must, though. My face...." That trailed off and then he added, "What I did to my hair. Ah, not that it matters...." After all, Klaus hadn't appreciated his looks when they'd been there, so why should any of it matter now that they weren't?

"Your face is still beautiful, Dorian, and your hair will grow back," Klaus told him, slipping off his field tunic and then pulling a pack of cigarettes out of the pocket. It was with a strange reverence that he touched the lapels and epaulets of the jacket, fingers skirting over the silver stitching that marked his rank.

"Thank you for saying that," Dorian told him softly, standing up. "Let's... go get something to eat. Are you hungry? I'll bet you need medicine or something, don't you?"

"'s at my apartment," he murmured in reply, setting his jacket down and standing up, lighter flicking out. "I could use something to eat."

"Come on," Dorian said. "I'll get you something. A sandwich or... well, something, anyway." A quick snatch off of the dresser provided a rubberband so that he could tie the remainder of his hair back and, perhaps, not scare Bonham and James clean to death by the look of him. Then he left the bedroom with Klaus behind him, heading for the kitchen.

"M'lord...?" Bonham's voice was quietly, looking up from fidgeting with the radio in one of the off-shoot rooms. Klaus gave him a single assuring nod as he passed the door behind Dorian.

"We're going to the kitchen," Dorian called. "Could you go and get some clothes for the Major? And his medications.... and.." He looked at Klaus. "Your fish?"

"Yes. Don't break in, the security system isn't worth your trouble -- these are my keys." He paused long enough to toss the man his keys, and then let Dorian lead the way into the kitchen. "I... I'm glad you asked me to stay."

"Are you?" Dorian asked him, looking back at him in surprise. "I... I'm more than glad to have you, I've always...." Always wanted him to be there, or anywhere, for that matter, so long as they were together. If only the circumstances weren't so utterly *awful*...

"I don't want to be alone." There -- he'd admitted it. That he was as fearful of being alone as Dorian. Now... now he had himself to fear in the aloneness of his life. There was nothing for him to do. His life was shattered -- what could he do?

That softened the other man's expression, Dorian reaching out a hand to him hesitantly as he stood in the doorway of the kitchen. "You don't ever have to be alone, Klaus. Not ever. Not so long as I'm alive."

"Small comfort to have when the rest of my world's gone," Klaus murmured in a quiet, miserable tone as he moved towards Dorian.

The slight smile Dorian held faltered, trembling wildly for a moment. "I'm not much, but I hope I'm better than nothing," he whispered, trying to be brave. /Worthless. Totally fucking worthless to you, aren't I?/

"Much better." He was feeling the pain now, feeling it bad, but he still moved towards Dorian, and skirted the offered hand -- instead opting to embrace him again, trying to express his gratitude. To return to his stark apartment, with the only signs of life therein being NATO related... To not be alone.

A sigh wafted past his ear, the sound of it shivering slightly, Dorian holding him close for a moment. "Until Bonham gets your things, would you like an aspirin?" he asked softly, sensing Klaus's tension.

"Yes," Klaus murmured, stepping back at last to be fully in the kitchen, glancing around. Artwork, color... it really was the sort of life Klaus expected Dorian to lead, the kind of decorum he expected. Most of the paintings in the small kitchen weren't the expensive, rare kind that Dorian seemed to like best. Instead, they were small still-life portraits, fruit, kitchen items, that sort of thing. Some of them undoubtedly *were* rare, but those were kept far from the gas stove to make sure that heat would in no way bother them.

"What would you like?" Dorian asked, peering into the refrigerator. "We've got turkey, ham, swiss, gouda, mayonnaise, mustard, kosher dills..."

"Turkey and swiss." He moved to sit at the small -- and probably antique -- kitchen table, resting his chin in his left hand, eye nearly completely closed. It was hard to concentrate so much on *not* thinking...

Watching Dorian putter around the kitchen helped, though, pulling baguettes from the bread bin and slicing them in half as he began to put the sandwiches together. "Would you like mayonnaise or mustard or...?" he asked, the strange feelings of companionship and comfort not questioned as he waited for his answer.

"Mustard." An easily made decision as he lifted his chin from his hand, sitting up a little more. It was good to see Dorian relaxed again, calm and doing things. /At least one thing hasn't changed so much. At least I have this./

The sandwich was made and set upon a plate, joined shortly by a pickle and crisps that were delved out of a cabinet. Dorian made his own, then, turkey and gouda with a little mustard and mayonnaise, and turned with both plates in hand. "I'll get some milk, too," he offered, putting them down on the table. There was something so comforting in Klaus's presence that he knew he was practically boneless with mellow feelings!

"Thanks." Klaus looked at the sandwich, the crisps, and popped one of them into his mouth. Not usual fare for him, but he could enjoy it. Hunger was, after all, hunger... "How long will you be staying here in Bonn?"

"A while," Dorian answered, setting milk down in front of Klaus before curling into a chair to pick up his own sandwich. "I didn't want to go back to England. I thought, maybe, if I was at least in the sa... Well, I thought I'd be able to sleep here. I... can't. Not without you."

The German man nodded, picking up his own sandwich carefully. "I haven't slept too well, either. It... It's been a hellish week."

"I'm glad you're here," Dorian agreed, taking a bite and chewing thoughtfully for a moment before swallowing to speak again. "I think I could go back to bed *now* and sleep 'til morning, with you here."

"We could probably both use it. You especially." A sip of milk chased down the first bite, and from there Klaus ate steadily. He'd always done that with most food, eaten quickly even if he enjoyed it. "Tomorrow I need to go get my eye checked to see if I've got clear enough vision to be able to drive."

Dorian nodded. "Of course. We'll go first thing and pick up your Benz. You'll be more comfortable in that than in my car, won't you? It's not red for once, but still..."

"Yes. I'll need to stop for a minute to see if the Soviets have their surveillance equipment up again. I didn't check when I dropped things off before... going in to the office." His voice dropped quieter during that last part. Office. Damn, he was thinking again... /Stop. Stop, it doesn't do you any good.../

Tentatively, Dorian said, "What did you learn? At the office? Are they... I mean, exactly what... did they say?"

"I've been retired with full pension. I don't know if they're going to bother with a ceremony -- no-one would come anyway. I wouldn't come."

"Every last one of your Alphabet Soup would be there, dar... Klaus. They respect you. They love you, I think, in their own ways. They must be heartbroken, now..." Dorian's voice trailed into silence.

Klaus wasn't looking at Dorian then -- he was looking down, eating his sandwich quickly. He only replied when he was done, finishing the glass of milk. Neat and cleanly accomplished. "There was... no... I've been retired because..." Because they'd marked him as unstable. Volatile. A danger. "I'm thirty two years old. Retired. I... there is nothing I can do."

Gently, Dorian looked across the table, reaching for the hand that laid there beside the plate and touching it. "Klaus...." He paused, tilted his head to the side. "A man like you could do anything. A man like you could rule the world, if he wanted. Don't let them make you believe anything to the contrary. I certainly don't!" Tentatively, he said, "And... there are always other options..."

"There are no options. I'm a spy -- an officer, an agent, a killer. I'm trained in machinery and guns. Other militaries would love to have me -- if it wasn't that I was discharged for being 'Unstable'." And that was the back handed blow to his discharge.

He'd served loyally, suffered through things that no man should for the cause... only to be tossed aside. Failed a mission so badly, and he'd been tossed aside so easily by NATO. Worthless. He was fucking worthless to them.

"That's not quite what I meant. You know... we make an excellent team, Klaus. For the most part. We've been working together forever and... and only gotten caught once. And we survived..." Not whole, no, but survival was survival. "That's more than almost anyone anywhere can say...."

"I'm not going to rob places with you," Klaus told him firmly. "I... can't. I've shamed my family enough."

Dorian shook his head, sudden excitement striking. "No, no. That's not what I'm talking about. That's not what I'm *thinking* about, though of course I don't plan on stopping, I enjoy it far too much, you know. No, I was thinking of something else entirely..."

"What?" It would probably be impossible, or insane, but the way he felt just then...

"I've been contracting out with NATO," Dorian said thoughtfully. "Contracting because of you, I admit, but now that you aren't with NATO any more, that won't remain an option. But..." He smiled, a slow, almost evil little smile, full of glee, somehow, so typically Dorian! "But Klaus, contractors don't have to be stable. We can be as volatile as we like, so long as the results are reliable. And you and I, Klaus... We achieve reliable results... NATO might not want us, but there are so many others who will...." For all that Dorian felt as if his personal life was shattered and he *himself* was full of shame and more than a little degradation, that obviously in no way extended itself to his talents as a thief!

"Like who?" Klaus asked. And what was he good for? Yelling? Shooting...? Not even shooting just then. A hundred different things he could do came to mind, but none of them stuck because they'd never really been a matter of concentration for him.

"Like the Americans and the British and the Swedish and anyone we want to contract out *to*, darling," Dorian answered, caught up in the sheer romanticism of it momentarily before dragging himself back down. "It's an ideal possibility."

"And do what? You'd steal, what would I do? I'm an agent. They have their own agents. No need for me..."

That ragged cap of blond curls was shaking already, though, slips of hair falling loose from his rubberband and just brushing at his shoulders, some still dangling below. "No. I won't work with agents who aren't you. I trust you not to leave me dangling, Major. You would *never* leave me behind, not any more than I would leave you."

"Then... as your back-up," Klaus said, lips curling up a little at that thought. It stung, but yes, that's what he'd be doing. Backing up the thief's operations, serving as bodyguard and perhaps liaison to whoever they were working with.

"No," Dorian answered. "As my *Major*. Nothing more and nothing less than perfect equals. You understand me?" His mouth was trembling slightly. "I'm nowhere near as perfect and good as you..."

"I'm a psychotic fuck that NATO won't even throw into the fray as cannon fodder," Klaus bit out bitterly. "I'm not perfect."

"FUCK NATO!" came the quick response. "It's an excuse on your Chief's part, no more than that. You remain Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach and you always will be, no matter *what* NATO says! You..." That lustrous voice broke. "You're m...y.... Major," he whispered, closing his eyes tightly. "Always. Always.... Even though I disgust you, and I should." Ah, that expression was so sorrowful, so sheerly aching that it hurt!!

Hurt to look at for the Major and know that he was the source of it -- his fault that Dorian felt such pain. /Never should have taken him with me. Maybe I'd be dead by now, but at least it would just be me./ "You don't disgust me, Dorian," he uttered, shifting a little in the chair to take a more comfortable position of leaning back slightly, long legs crossed. "There's nothing about you to be disgusted with."

Curls escaped the elastic holding them back as Dorian shook his head, eyes still tightly shut. "No," he whispered. "There is. There truly is. And I'm sorry for it. I am. But.... but... You *ARE* my Major..." Tears spilled out and over those scarred cheeks. "You *are* my Major. You *are*. You could never be anything less. Do you understand? Please, tell me you do..."

Klaus was lighting up another cigarette as Dorian spoke, having put out the filter of the last one into an ash tray on the table. "Tell me what you mean by that."

"Just because NATO is stupid enough to think you incapable doesn't mean that *I* do," Dorian whispered. "I know you're still just as wonderful as you've always been. Only an idiot wouldn't."

Almost, in Klaus's exhaled breath of smoke, Dorian could hear a tremor -- a minute unsteadiness. "I failed."

"No," Dorian told him. "No. We didn't fail. They learned nothing. We knew they were closing in. *We didn't fail*!"

"*I* failed," Klaus snapped. "I am the one who failed. I moved away from the door. It's *my* fault that we were even caught. *You* were hurt -- I failed in everything I should have done. *I* *failed* in ways that not even one of my Alphabets would have!" Anger was clear in his voice -- anger directed at himself more than anything.

"Please... no....!" Dorian shook his head frantically, eyes flying open. "No! That's not true! It's not! You couldn't have done anything more than you did, Klaus!"

"I moved away from the door! It closed because I moved away from it!! If I hadn't done that, if I hadn't stopped watching our backs, you'd be fine right now! I'd be fine! I deserve what I got for a fuck-up that bad!"

"No one deserves something like that!" Dorian cried, tears streaking down his cheeks as he stood, chair sliding back and sounding loudly on the kitchen tile. "No one, ever, *no one*, and certainly not you!"

Klaus was looking up at that tear-streaked face, heard the falling chair... but didn't hear it, at the same time. It only registered in the back of his mind, absently as he, too, stood up. "This entire fiasco is my fault. It's my fault we were even caught, my fault for bringing an... an innocent civilian with me on such a dirty job, it's my fault for being inept."

"Damn you! That's not true!" the other man shouted, shaking his head again. "I KNEW what could happen! I'm not an innocent, Klaus! I've *never* been an innocent!! It isn't your fault!"

Being shouted at in turn, Klaus would note later, was what brought such a reaction out of him. He slammed his hand down on the table, the brace of the cast making the sound ring louder than if it had been flesh against wood. "*SHUT* *UP*!! I know what I'm capable of!! I know that I didn't perform my best!! *I* *FAILED*!! I've not only ruined my own God-damned life, but I've hurt yours!!"

The pallor of Dorian's face grew as he backed away from the table, still shaking his head. "No," he whispered as he turned to run out of the room. "No!"

Part of Klaus wanted to stay stubbornly where he was. Let the thief flee. If reality hurt so badly.... if the truth hurt Dorian so badly that he'd run from Klaus, then so be it. But another part wanted to make sure he didn't hurt himself again, or do something rash... and then he wondered, quickly, even as he let long legs carry him after the earl, how long he'd cared about the man and why hadn't that part of his mind communicated with any other part of it.

"Dorian!"

The door to the bedroom didn't shut behind him -- after all, Dorian knew even in his fit of being so upset that he'd just open it for Klaus later, anyway. Instead, he simply stopped beside the bed and covered his face in his hands, sobbing fitfully into them. "W-wasn't y-your f-fault!" he wept, shaking his head. "I n-knew something was r-wrong when we went in. I-if I-it's a-anyone's, i-i-i-it's *MINE*!"

"It doesn't matter who... whose fault it is." Klaus's tone was grim as he spoke, unmerciful for himself. "I'm no longer Major Eberbach."

"It does!" Dorian cried, flinging around to look at him. Even weeping, even scarred, he still had that wild beauty that was so impossible to resist. "It *does* matter, it's *my* fault, and you *ARE*! You're *my* Major Eberbach. You will *always* be my Major Eberbach, here!" A hand was placed over his heart, a dramatic motion, but one that was meant to the core of Dorian's being. "Even though it's unbearable to you, even though I'm not worthy of you, even though I fucked up, even though....!" Even though he'd stopped talking... "I love you," he whispered, head falling forward. "I love you, and to me, you will *always* be my Major, *my* Major...."

"Don't call me Major anymore. You can... think it if you want, but don't call me it..."

The look of agony on Dorian's face said so much. "Then what do you want me to call you?" he whispered. "I don't know. I don't know..."

"My name? Anything else you want..." /Darling?/ It was familiar to hear from Dorian's lips, but his pride wouldn't let him ask.

"I don't deserve to call you what I want," Dorian husked out, mouth trembling. "I don't..."

"Stop saying that." A hard, sharp order from Klaus, as he moved closer -- but still unsure, still not touching the other man. "You're still the same person to me that you always were, and you've always called me what you wanted."

That blond head shook, curls trembling around his face now, band fallen loose as he'd run from the kitchen. "I knew something was wrong. I knew, and then, they did... and I... I'm not... and I stopped...."

"Dorian, *Stop*."

Finally moving, the German man put his hands on Dorian's shoulders and walked him backwards to the bed. "Sit down. And remember that you're a civilian. Unlike you, I've been trained all my life in what to do, what signs to watch out for. And I didn't even fucking *notice*."

"I'm a civilian," Dorian whispered, "but I'm also a thief, and my life depends on my instincts, Klaus. EVERYTHING depends on my instincts..."

"So then we've both failed. It doesn't matter."

Dorian shook his head again, leaning forward. He was in Klaus's arms, then, with a strange grace and need. "I just..."

"Stop." Another order, as Klaus closed his eyes, smoothing his hands down Dorian's back. They were unsteady, as if still doubting he should even have been there. "We're... going to talk ourselves mad if we keep this up."

"Then come with me. *BE* with me, be partners with me. We'll work it out," Dorian asked desperately. "We'll make it right."

"I won't steal with you. I won't help you break the law..." /Yes. Yes, dammit, I have nothing else to do, my life is dead, I'm ruined in ways you can't understand, Dorian.../

Arms crept around his neck slowly. "You won't have to steal anything. I won't make you come with me when I steal something, only when we contract out or something.... we'd be so good together, Klaus." /I've always thought we would be so good together.../

"Failures for Hire," Klaus chuckled grimly, bitterly, pressing his cheek against the mass of Dorian's hair. Even cut raggedly, it was still thick and beautiful... "Yes. But I want to get out of Bonn for a while. I... need to."

It was such unexpected and undeserved heaven to be in those arms... "Why not America, then?" Dorian whispered. "Let's go there. Nowhere near Europe or anything like it, darling. We can lord it over all of the ignorant heathens or something..."

"America..." Klaus flipped that over in his mind a few times. There they would be tourists, and he would not be recognized. No one would know the shame of his dismissal, or what had happened to the two of them. "Yes."

"Really?" Dorian whispered, looking up, those damp blue eyes widening. "I'll have James make reservations immediately! Right now! Oh, da..." The realization that he'd already called Klaus darling made him stop and almost shake his head. /I won't bother him with my foolish heart. I won't encumber him with that, when I'm burdening him with so many other things.../

"Where would we be?" Klaus asked, cringing at the thought of wherever the money-bug would put them. "I don't want to be near D.C. Or any capitals."

"Why not the northeast?" Dorian whispered, soothed from the hands still stroking down his back. "The Catskills or the Berkshires. Mountain regions or something, with lots of little antique shops or something to look at..."

Klaus had very little idea of what Dorian was talking about, but nodded. The further away from the risk of being known, the better. "Yes. We'll go there, then."

"Oh, Klaus!" The arms about his neck tightened, Dorian holding him close. "Oh. Thank you!"

"'s as good for me as it is for you," Klaus murmured, hands pressing the mid point of Dorian's back, keeping him close. "Have him make those reservations tomorrow."

An uncomfortable warmth spread down Dorian's spine, his face flushing. "Klaus," he warned softly. "You... might not want to hold me so close..." Ohh, because being close to Klaus was arousing him and he didn't want to chase the other man off now! Not when he needed him more desperately than he ever had before...

"I'm hurting you? I'm sorry, I didn't think..." Klaus's grasp relaxed instantly, hands just barely resting there at all any longer.

"No! No, you couldn't... well, you have, but that's not what I meant!" Dorian said, flustered. "I meant... um, you'll find this disgusting, I *am* disgusting, oh, *GOD*, I can't tell you that or you'll leave..." By then, he was half talking to himself more than Klaus!

"Dorian... Dorian, stop babbling. I don't want to hear any more of this goddamned shit about you being disgusting," Klaus growled.

"Klaus...." Dorian shook his head, not looking him in the eye. "I find you very attractive," came the whisper. "If you stay too close to me, it will be very obvious, all right? I can't help it. I've never been able to help it when it comes to you..."

"You wouldn't do anything while we're sleeping, would you?!" Klaus had obviously startled with Dorian's words -- he'd always been very wary of being hit on, raped by Dorian or otherwise molested.

The flinch that he felt said enough, Dorian pulling away from him. "I'm sorry. I should never have told you... No. No, no, no, I would never... never...."

"G-good," he was told a bit shakily, as Klaus moved to sit on the bed. "Let's go back to sleep, Dorian. You still need more rest. Tomorrow..." Tomorrow he would think, or perhaps not. The new life he was trying to lay down over the ruins of the old one seemed unstable at best just now. /Take each day as it comes./

"You... don't really think I would do that, do you, Klaus?" /You don't think I'm like those men, do you?/

"I... No. You wouldn't." /Not like what was done to you./ But there was always seduction, and he knew if Dorian ever put his heart into such an effort, he'd crumble.

Dorian shivered. "I would never do anything to hurt you," he whispered, shaking his head. "Never..."

"Sit... lay down, Dorian." He began to do so himself -- though he still wasn't bothering to undress. Half of him wanted to sit up and wait for Bonham to return with his things -- the medications that would ease the phantom pain of his fingers and the ache of his skull.

"I wouldn't," Dorian breathed again, visibly trembling now. "I would never do anything l-like that to you. I would never.... not to anyone, not ever... never..."

"I *know*," Klaus growled softly. "I'm sorry I suggested it. Just lay down."

Wordlessly, Dorian obeyed, the way he so often obeyed Klaus when it was truly necessary, laying down on the left side of the bed and tucking his head against a pillow. "I wouldn't," he said again sorrowfully. "I wouldn't, not ever..." /I can't ever touch him, ever, or he'll know I want him and he'll be afraid of me and he'll *hate* me, oh, God.../

"Dorian... I believe you." A tense tone of voice, as Klaus rolled onto his side a little, hand reached out to touch Dorian's shoulder.

"I just... have you *always* been... worried that I would... would *do* that to you?" came the horrified question.

"...Yes, when I first met you." Quietly spoken, Klaus pulled Dorian a little closer, ignoring the earl's rigid horror. *He* wanted to succumb to that same stiff sort of shock over the fact that he was moving. He was moving closer to Dorian on purpose, he was trying to hold him, grasping a shuddering shoulder with his ruined right hand.

"Oh, *GOD*," Dorian moaned, nausea rising sharply. "Oh, *GOD*, how can you lay here with me when... when..." /When you're afraid I'd do *that* to you. Oh, God, oh, God, no, no.../

"I haven't been afraid of it in a... while." At least a year -- and part of that fear had been homophobia, pure and simple.

The soft sobs that shook the man in his arms weren't the hysteria he'd experienced earlier. Instead, they seemed so sad, so heartbroken and utterly miserable that it was impossible to imagine. /He thinks I'm like them. He thought I was... he thought I would... oh, God, am I that terrible a person?/

"Dorian... Gott." There was no way to tell why he was crying now, only that the blond man had to sob himself out of his misery soon. At least, to sleep... "Shhh."

He could feel the slight rocking of the thief's body against his own, almost as if it was a comfort to Dorian to do that, and the way the other man curled up slowly seemed so sad. "I wouldn't... I wouldn't... I'm not..."

"I know you would not, Dorian." It was getting hard to stay patient just then, but he had to -- no frustration entered his voice through some grace of God, and he shifted again, fitting himself protectively against Dorian. "I know you wouldn't."

"It's no wonder you h-ate me...."

"I don't hate you!"

"Don't you?" came the aching whisper. "If you ever thought I would do something like that, then you must. God, what sort of terrible person am I that I could make someone I love so much f-f-feel... *AFRAID* of me, of *that*!?"

So close they were now, that Dorian could feel a shaky breath leave Klaus. "I... it isn't because of you."

"Then why?" Dorian asked, trembling. "Why?? I don't... I don't know, don't answer, just..." His breath hitched. "Just please don't leave me..." /Not like this. It's not what I wanted from you, but I don't deserve what I wanted from you now.../

"I won't leave." It was all he could promise then, all that Klaus could bring himself to agree to. He couldn't leave Dorian, not with the state that both of them were in.

/My Major. I love you. I love you so much.../ "Thank you..."

"You should sleep." /We both should. I shouldn't be in bed with you, holding you, but I can't let go.../

"M'lord? Are you all right...?" Bonham's voice, soft and careful as the footfall that sounded at the edge of the room.

For a moment, it seemed that Dorian wouldn't answer, but then... "Mm. Yes. Did you bring Klaus's things?"

"I put them in the bag that was inside the door, m'lord. I brought the fish -- 'e's on the kitchen table. Are... are you all right?" It was odd to look at the scene in front of him -- Major Eberbach, Uncle NATO, half-curled protectively against a thief he'd sworn hatred for.

"Everything is fine," Klaus uttered quietly.

"Fine," Dorian echoed even as a hiccough escaped him.

Klaus waited until Bonham was gone, closing the door behind him, before he spoke again. "I'll tell you why, someday, Dorian. Not now. 's been a bad enough day already."

"All right," Dorian whispered, sniffing. "All right."

Dorian could have sworn he felt the ghosting brush of lips against his temple -- but perhaps it had been just a hope. Shortly after that soothing touch, though, they were both asleep.

~~~~~

Chapter 9 by Kat and Tzigane
They'd arrived in Boston, and rather than stay in the city for longer than necessary, Klaus had rented an understated car. The problem came to the actual driving itself. His eye-sight in his left eye was good enough to be able to drive in Europe -- but in America, he had no idea. The shaky reaction times his hands had, too, made him unsure of the idea. So he and Dorian had rotated on the four hour drive across the state of Massachusetts to the sleepy little town of Lanesborough.

James had stuck them in a fairly cheap, quiet place. Put them in a house instead of a hotel, which Klaus supposed would give them privacy. It was only as they drove that Klaus realized that it was on a lake -- a lake that route 7 took them neatly along the edges of. He'd driven the last part, keeping his eye out for a street called 'Bull Run' -- and then took a second left onto 'Sunrise Street'.

At the end, another left hand turn onto a drive that curved back in, they found the house waiting. The owners were still there, to give them the keys he supposed, but the house...

Three stories and a basement from what he could tell, a porch on the elevated first story. Pine trees framed the house where it sat on a wide finger of land that stuck out into the lake.

"We're here, Dorian," he murmured, opening the car door and stepping out into... not silence. Bird-noises and the rustle of oak-tree's branches, tousled by the wind. There was a wide cement wall that kept the land from eroding into the lake on one side, and steps that went right down into clear water...

/The little money bug did something right./ It was, too, the sort of scenic beauty that Dorian could get himself thoroughly lost in.

So much the better.

"Mmmh?" Dorian stirred, waking. He'd fallen asleep in the last half hour, an inevitability after the long flight and the drive. There was something about driving that made him sleepy! "We're here?" He rubbed both eyes and shoved his hair back out of his face. It was just barely shoulder length, once it had been straightened, and even more wildly curly than before. "Oh... it's *GORGEOUS*!! Jamesie did a *perfect* job!"

Klaus smiled at his companion as he opened the door and stepped out onto the curving drive-way that sloped downhill to the garage. Then he walked around to the other side of the car, opening Dorian's door for him. "Let's go see if the owners are in -- it really is a... beautiful area."

"Come on, Klaus, let's do! I can't *wait* to stay here! What a beautiful place," Dorian said with a sigh before stretching. "Mmmmm!!"

A smile touched Klaus's lips for a moment, as he moved across a little strip of grass and then up six sturdy stone steps to ring the doorbell. "Leave the bags there. I'll bring them up once the car's in the garage."

"All right," Dorian agreed, long legs moving him easily towards the house as he tucked his hands into the pockets of tailored slacks. He was once again clad in something less than flamboyant -- mostly in defense of Klaus's delicate sensibilities -- but Klaus was *certain* he had any number of frivolous outfits tucked away in his suitcases. "The air is bracing, the view refreshing. Oh, I can't BELIEVE James managed this!" On the other hand, James knew exactly what Dorian liked in a house and generally did his best to make sure that the British thief had what he liked, so it didn't surprise him half as much as it did Klaus.

It did surprise him that the accountant hadn't thrown a conniption fit when he'd had him get two plane tickets.

He didn't know that Klaus had stroked a check for the man to cover the cost of the rental car and plane trip. "It's good. It's perfect, in fact -- those woods there need to be walked through." It was a small-town, with a small-town feel, but it was a small town that didn't know who or what they were... or, in Klaus's case, had been.

"Oh, hello!!" The inner wooden door opened, and then the glass one swung out. "Come in -- you must be... Mr. Gloria?"

"Herr Eberbach. This is Lord Gloria."

"Hullo," Dorian greeted the woman. "It's so lovely to meet you. Thank you for letting us rent your house. This area is just beautiful..."

A man moved up behind her, tall, dark-haired, smiling. "I'm George Cason. It's nice to meet you. I hope you'll enjoy things over the next month..."

Klaus could look him in the eye, which was a little impressive -- he offered, automatically, his right hand and shook the other man's hand, grip still terribly awkward. It would *always* be terribly awkward, just as much as it was meeting anyone's eyes. "I'm sure we will. The scenery was impressive on the drive through, and the lake is beautiful."

"Lake Pontoosuc is a lovely, just lovely lake," the woman smiled, shaking Dorian's hand in a friendly way. "I'm Mary Cason."

"It's so nice to meet you," Dorian said again, smiling. "I hope you have a wonderful second honeymoon." That had been the reason that James had managed to get the house, and managed to get it so cheaply. The couple planned on spending their second honeymoon in France and didn't want to leave their house empty while they were gone.

"I'm sure we will. We're glad someone will be staying here," George told them firmly. James had agreed to pay a fairly hefty security deposit, so long as he was going to get it back when the house was undamaged on their return. He'd nearly threatened both Dorian *and* Klaus to make sure that it would be!

And there was the upside of the rental helping the pay for a little of their trip. "I doubt you could be leaving this house in safer hands," Klaus murmured, looking around with his monocular gaze, as he slipped his maimed right hand into his pocket to hide it.

"George and I will be heading out in an hour or so, but... why don't you sit down and we'll have coffee for a few minutes?" Mary suggested. "And then I'll show you the house. It's pretty simple. This room here is the dining room, and the kitchen -- well, it's right here..." Connected seamlessly to the main entry-room. It looked like, if one kept walking straight, they'd find a small living-room, and a door down into the basement. "Oh, and the great room! We use if for music, and the real living room, but the view is just breathtaking. Picture windows all around... I'm sure the two of you will have a nice stay."

"I can't wait," Dorian answered honestly as the husband stopped in the kitchen to make coffee even as the wife took them further through the house. "It's a beautiful house. Just as nice as the view," he admitted with a smile.

"I'm just glad that we had the luck to find or... well, be found by two people like yourselves looking to vacation! Here, in our little town, of all places..." They skirted the oddly high-ceilinged great-room, and into the living room. Panelled wood walls made the place feel warm, the furniture all old, comfortable and well-broken in. Another turn took them up into a narrow stairwell that came up to the second level. "We have three bedrooms here. The master bedroom, which I can tell you is about as comfortable and warm as a barn, a little room that I use for my sewing and crafts, and the spare-room. I've put fresh linens down in all of them, and the bathroom pipes shouldn't freeze because that room was re-insulated two years ago."

Klaus was trailing vaguely behind, taking it all in. Comfortable indeed... "I'll be downstairs," he told Dorian with a smile. to talk to the husband and find out anything that needed to be watched especially.

"All right," Dorian told him, smiling slightly. The scars on his face hadn't been remarked upon, so he was actually feeling fairly jovial as he followed the woman around the upstairs, being shown what was what.

The master-bedroom was just as huge as had been promised. "It's barely insulated -- I wouldn't want you two dears freezing to death some evening."

A slight flush rose on Dorian's cheeks as he smiled at her. Ahh, James *had* done well! Even if he and Klaus *weren't*... in a relationship quite like the one the other couple probably thought they had, it was still nice to be expected. "Oh, no worries about that. Are there blankets...?"

"Oh, yes -- in this closet right here..." Mary made her way over to a narrow door on the near wall, and opened it. "It shouldn't get too bad in the evening, since it is only September, but then again, we've been known to get snow in October. Never can be too safe!"

"Understandable," Dorian replied cheerfully. "The Americas can have such odd weather! It's charming. Now, about local food... what's good?"

Klaus was standing nearby George with a certain military posture, sharp, straight-backed, surveying and cataloguing everything in the small kitchen. And trying, in a very strained sort of way, to socialize a little with a Damned Yank. He hadn't said it in so many words, but he was *thinking* it clearly. "Is there anything in particular about the house that needs to be looked after?"

"No, not particularly. Everything's been done to ready the house for winter and our terrier is firmly deposited with Mary's mother. Everything should be just fine," George told him. "There's an alarm system which can be set every night -- just use the keypad here. I'll show you before we leave. Other than that, everything should be just fine."

"Gut," he nodded, taking a step back to better look around. "Tell me, is there a firing range anywhere near here?"

That didn't seem to startle the other man -- he could tell a military man when he saw one, and he nodded. "There's one just a little further down Route 7. You turn right onto Bull Run and go past the post office and it should be on the left a block down from there. There's a sign that will show you very clearly where it is."

"Thank you. My... companion is very interested in art and museums and such. Are there many in the area?"

"Quite a few things of interest, though not all are museums. The local museum is small but good and if you travel down the highway and through some of the towns, there are a lot of antique shops with some things that would probably keep his interest." The fact that the couple was obviously gay didn't really bother George. His brother was even more flaming than the blond man, so he was accustomed to that. It was actually this dark-haired one that made him a tad uncomfortable -- so stiff! "There's a theater where a lot of small local productions are put on, as well. That might be of interest to both of you."

That stiffness, though, might have been the military man in him. The accent, heavy and sharp in that firm voice, didn't help either -- such a contrast from the rich, liquid British accent of the other man. "Thank you. I... am very sure now that this was the best choice of place to come to."

George smiled, pulling down coffee cups from a cabinet. "This is where the glasses are. Plates are here," he indicated the cabinet next to it. "You shouldn't have any problem. We're just glad to have someone to look after the house. It's a bad idea to leave anything empty, in the end..."

"A house like this that is best when lived in, perhaps. My family's home has been vacant for at least half a year." Except for the servants, but they didn't count.

Politely, George didn't ask why. "I have to agree. Do you take sugar or cream in your coffee?" he asked, hearing footsteps on the stairs.

"Neither."

"Ahh. Here you are," the man murmured just as they were joined by his wife and the blond man.

"It's just a *beautiful* house," Dorian gushed as he followed Mary into the kitchen. "Lovely, really. I'm so glad to be staying here!"

/Glad to be out of Bonn,/ Klaus thought. Even if it was the homeland, and he'd be heart-sick for it in a week. /Glad to be away from them all, away from NATO, stealing... everything./

"Do you have the coffee ready, honey...?" Mary asked, eyeing Klaus as he looked at Dorian surreptitiously for a moment.

"I'm going to move the car so it doesn't block the drive when you pull out. And get the bags," Klaus told Dorian.

"Would you like some help?" the Briton asked as he was given a cup of coffee, smiling beatifically at Mary as she wordlessly offered him cream and sugar, both of which he accepted.

"Nein." He moved out of the kitchen and down the short hallway, past a tiny half-bath, and out the front door.

It really was a lovely place. He and Dorian could get lost in it -- and he was sure that a month wouldn't be long enough.

"So, what brings two continentals like you to America?" Mary asked pleasantly enough, only once Klaus was gone.

"An accident of fate, I'm afraid," Dorian replied, waving a hand shyly at his face. "We had a bit of misfortune recently and felt the need to recuperate. It seemed best to do it away from Europe, since we wanted something a bit *fresh*..."

"Hm," George murmured in agreement, nodding. "That does sound like a good idea."

"It's just funny... That Americans like to escape to Europe. I've never thought of Europeans wanting to escape to America," Mary commented, taking a sip of her own coffee.

"Usually," Dorian admitted with a fair bit of humor, "they wouldn't! But we're both fairly well known here and there in Europe..." Especially after the fiasco in Italy! "So we thought here would be better..." So long as it wasn't Alaska, they should be just fine!

"Well, neither of us have heard of you," Mary smiled, looking over to her husband -- it was the complete truth, too! "Your friend seems like an unhappy man, dear. I hope this vacation helps him unwind a bit. People like that have nervous breakdowns, you know."

George nodded firmly, thinking, /Or they go postal.../

Dorian smiled. "It's been a rough few weeks. We'll see. Klaus has never been particularly happy, but... we'll see."

"The environment here will work wonders on him, I'm sure," Mary smiled, patting Dorian's arm gently as they all sat down at the dining room table. "However did the, uhm... accident happen?"

"Oh, it's a very long and uninteresting story," Dorian demurred. "It wasn't pleasant. I'd really rather not talk about it at all..."

"Oh, that's perfectly all right! I'm sorry!" Mary was blushing, taking another sip of coffee. "I'm sorry."

"No, no!" came the assurance. "It's perfectly all right, only it's still rather painful to talk about..."

George glanced at his watch and nodded. "Mary? We need to be going now..."

"Quick, show Mr. Gloria here how to use the security system, and I'll go start up the car." And then Mary slipped down into the basement to pull up the garage door.

"It works just like this," George said, lightly pointing to the box. "Hitting arm will set the alarm, the code for disarming is 3135. If you have any problems, this is the number to call. Someone should be out within five minutes if anything goes wrong, but we've never had any trouble..."

"Thank you," Dorian said genuinely, though he knew that in his and Klaus's case, trouble would easily bypass something that seemed so simple. "We really appreciate this."

The sound of two cars passing each other over the gravel drive was audible even in the kitchen, and then Klaus came up from the garage, their bags carried in both hands, the door pushed open with his shoulder. "What room, Dorian?"

"Third one up the stairs on the left," Dorian answered, standing up. "Let me have some of them..."

"The keys are on the table," George said with a smile. "We'll see you in October."

"Come on, George!!"

"October," Klaus nodded, with an almost smile on his mouth. "Goodbye. Dorian, why don't you take one of your clothing bags."

Dorian waved as George stepped out the door though which Klaus had come. "Have a nice time!" he called, moving to take one of the indicated bags. "Well," he said as they headed towards the steps, hearing the other car drive away, "it's just you and me!"

"Yeah -- just you... and me." He smiled a little, letting Dorian lead. "What do you want to do once we settle in?"

"Eat, or take a nap," Dorian laughed, almost dancing up the steps. "Mmmm, I'm still sleepy from the trip, but I'm starving! Airline food is horrid," he decided with a sigh, stepping into the master bedroom and easily laying his single bag down beside the door.

And Klaus dropped three, moving towards the bed. "Nap, then food. I don't want to cook when tired, and it's... *really* eleven at night back home." The joys of jet-lag.

With a wide yawn, Dorian stretched before nodding in agreement. "And when we get up, perhaps it'll be time to go and eat. Let's go out somewhere? I can't imagine whether they've left anything in the refrigerator..."

"They didn't. Last of the cream went into coffee," Klaus told him, stopping and taking off his sweater. He still had his undershirt on underneath, so that was still okay. "We'll have to go shopping tomorrow."

"That sounds perfect," Dorian agreed sleepily, yawning. "Ohh, dear!"

"Ohh, dear?"

"That felt MARVELOUSLY good," Dorian sighed, shivering. "Mmmm. The only thing better than stretching is sneezing. That's positively orgasmic," he sighed.

A half amused snort from Klaus, as he stopped to quickly remove his boots. "I'm going to run a sweep for bugs. You go to sleep -- I'll join you soon."

"I'll be waiting for you," Dorian told him, opening a suitcase to search for his satin pajamas. They were blue, and they felt delicious against his skin -- and Klaus's. "Don't be long?"

"I won't."

And he wasn't. He checked over the bedroom first, and then disappeared into the hall. Ten minutes later, satisfied with the security of the house, and came back into the bedroom to find a lovely picture. Dorian, in the bed, sheets tangled around him a little... Klaus smiled to himself a little as he removed his belt, and didn't bother changing into pajamas. Trousers and an undershirt would suit well enough for a nap.

"You're back," Dorian sighed sleepily as Klaus laid down beside him. That promptly shifted a change, the blond man pressing against his side, face lightly placed against Klaus's shoulder. "No bugs?"

"None. 's a real..." He yawned a little, closing his eyes and slipping an arm around Dorian. "Nice place. 'n this bed's comfortable..." Not that it mattered to him. Bed, ground, chair, it was all the same to him.

"Mmmhmmmm," Dorian agreed with a sigh. Oh, there was no place better to be! How bizarre, that it had taken... THAT... just to get this. "Sleepy," he whispered, breath rushing warmly over Klaus's throat.

"Then go back to sleep." Klaus's half-order was soothing. In particular over the last few days had been that he wasn't thinking about what he was doing, or why. Dorian slept poorly at best when he wasn't there, and he, too, gained from the other man being safe in his grasp. No nightmares or much trouble sleeping, when he had Dorian there with him.

The man was a stability in a life that was still in ruins. This month would give both of them time to see what they could still manage, to fortify the odd bond between them, and for Klaus to work out his mind.

"Yes, Klaus," came the easy agreement, and it was only moments before soft, even breaths were coming from the now-sleeping Briton. With Klaus in bed, it was so easy for Dorian to sleep, especially when held so close...

Chapter 10 by Kat and Tzigane

 

"'Bob's Country Kitchen'...?" Klaus questioned as the car rolled its way down route 7 again, the direction opposite the one they'd come. Mary had told Dorian about the place, recommended it for the palatability of the food and friendliness.

"She said the food was marvelous and that the people were *awfully* nice," Dorian replied, stretching slightly. It was almost eight, but surely the place would still be open on a Friday night!

"That will do, then. Feeling better now that you've slept?" Klaus kept his eyes on the road, looking for the forewarned sharp turn-off that was straight into the place's parking lot.

That question gained him a little groan. "Oh, God, I feel positively *decadent* now that I've slept!" Dorian told him. "Relaxed, rested, pleased with myself..." There was something about waking up in Klaus's arms that did that for him!

"Pleased with yourself?" Klaus took the sharp left turn, and rolled into the parking lot without a problem. Not packed, but certainly not empty, either.

"Inordinately," Dorian sighed. "Everything just seems better, now. I don't know why. Maybe because we're away from Germany and feeling a bit better and I've been sleeping nights..."

"You've been calmer. I'm glad you're doing better." /You haven't called me by my rank... you haven't cried in at least a day.../ He parked the car in a spot far from the building, and paused a moment before he opened the door. "We really needed to do this."

"I agree," the other man murmured. "Mmm, I can't *wait* to see what they have to eat! I'm starving! And I wonder what sort of dessert there might be..." Something with cherries, he hoped!

He wanted to remind Dorian that sweeties weren't exactly good food... but then, the blond man ate them occasionally and it hadn't gotten to him yet. Not anywhere near as bad as it had gotten to the Chief. Klaus got out of the car, waited until Dorian was out, too, then locked the doors. "You'll probably eat it no matter what."

"Mmmmmm, if it's good, I will," the Earl admitted, smiling up at him, the scant inches between them a pleasant difference from the small boys and young men Dorian had once adored. "Maybe I can even convince you to have some, too!"

"Eat that shit? No," Klaus laughed, pocketing his keys and then falling into pace beside Dorian to the white wood-sided building.

"Even if it's re~ally good?" came the cajoling plea. "I'll share just a bite with you. Just a bite?" Dorian teased.

"Nein. You show me how good it is when you start to get a tummy on you," Klaus snorted, patting Dorian's very sleek, flat stomach.

That little motion was so unknowingly erotic it was almost enough to buckle Dorian's knees. /God.../ "Well, I've been eating them all my life," he declared, peering downward. "It hasn't seemed to hurt me at all!"

"That's because you have an idiot's luck," Klaus murmured, drawing back his hand without any hesitation at all about having touched Dorian in the first place. Then he opened the door for Dorian.

With a smile, the blond man breezed past, moving lightly into a well-lit entranceway before pausing to look around.

Bob's Country Kitchen certainly wasn't anything to which Dorian Red Gloria had ever been accustomed. He wasn't sure he ever wanted it to be. The place was clean, the floor was shiny yellow linoleum and the countertops and tables of the yellow vinyl booths were all made of Formica. "Oh... dear."

There was a wipe-board menu up behind the cashier with specials written on it, and then beside that menu another was painted onto a big chalkboard. It looked like the patrons of the place -- a mix of everything, half the town, Klaus would have guessed -- didn't bother using it much, though, and he and Dorian looked just a little out of place

"Fucking dammit."

"Well," Dorian muttered, still smiling, "I guess we take a seat and make the best of it, hm?"

The cashier was looking straight at them and smiled. "Hi -- can I help you...?"

"Ahh.... do we seat ourselves?" Dorian asked. "And is there a menu, or just the chalkboard?"

"Oh, just sit anywhere -- but you order right here, first," the woman smiled at them both, patting the counter-top. "You two new here?"

"We..." /God damn nosy Yanks.../ If the woman was bright at all, Klaus knew he stuck out like a sore, foreign thumb, and that Dorian's accent was hard to *not* place. "We're staying for a few weeks."

"On vacation," Dorian added almost sweetly. "Umm... What's good, then? I'm not altogether familiar with the sound of anything on the menu...." Except perhaps fried chicken, which was something he'd had on the occasional picnic. It usually was sort of soggy, so he didn't like it much.

"How about Clam Chowder?" she smiled. Only 'chowder sounded more like 'chaowdah', which gave Klaus pause.

"Steak, Dorian, is safe," Klaus reminded the man, pointing to a section where most of the less interesting things were -- hamburgers, hot-dogs, baked potatoes.

"Steak, then," came the cheerful agreement. "And baked potatoes and salad, perhaps? Oh, and do you have anything for dessert?"

"Well, we've got ice-cream... and pie -- key-lime, apple, blueberry, and pumpkin."

The Englishman's disappointment at not hearing cherry on that list was almost visible as he said, "Oohhhhh... I don't think I want any, then, thank you all the same! Do we pay now, or sit now?"

"You pay now, because your food will be right along," she smiled again. "So, that's two steaks, two salads, two baked potatoes?"

"One baked potato, one... order of fried potatoes," Klaus corrected, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket with his better hand. There, that was his indulgence in a guilty pleasure for the day.

"Fried potatoes... Oh, you mean french fries?"

That made Dorian smile. The notion of Klaus's little weakness was altogether too sweet and he wished, in that moment, that he could lean up and kiss him for it. He didn't dare, but oh, how nice it would have been!

French... fries? Why did the Yanks have to take something *good* and make it *French*?! "I suppose I mean that, ja."

"You two are so cute," the cashier laughed, ringing up the order, then calling it back to the kitchen.

THAT brought a slight gleam to Dorian's eye, one that was definitely of pleasure as he tugged out his wallet and dropped a twenty on the counter. "Thank you," he told her with a smile, shrugging slightly as if to say that it was simply the way they were -- cute.

Klaus, wallet already in hand, though, did not seem amused by either the woman's comment, or Dorian paying. So he finished opening it -- with his damned hands that still felt slowed -- pulled out a twenty, and then shoved it into Dorian's back pocket. "I told you that I was paying."

That was almost enough to make Dorian's heart stop. "Ohhh!"

The cashier turned away momentarily, shaking her head, and Klaus glared at Dorian for a moment, unsure of *why* the man's expression looked so shocked and startled. "Was?"

"N-nothing!" Dorian squeaked, blue eyes wide. "You just... I mean... um... oh, dear. What do we want to drink?" he dithered.

"Huhm..." Klaus glanced up at the menu again. "And, uhm, a cup of coffee, and... Dorian? Well, whatever he wants," the cashier was directed. "I'll get a table."

"Water," Dorian murmured as Klaus walked away from him to secure a booth. "Lots and *lots* of ice water..."

"Poor thing," the woman chuckled, adding that last bit to the order, and then handing him Klaus's change.

The German man picked a booth in the corner of the room, not too far from the exits, but with a good guarded feel to it. For a Yank restaurant, it wasn't too bad. He'd been in worse places in eastern Europe -- places he would *never* want to go near again.

"Well," Dorian said as he slid in across from Klaus, tongue darting to wet his lower lip nervously, "it should be out shortly..."

"Do you want to go to the museum tomorrow?" Klaus murmured, looking around the room for any no smoking signs.

"That sounds just *perfect*..." Of course, laying in bed all day with nothing more than thin pajamas and a sheet between him and his gorgeous black-haired German also sounded perfect... MUCH more so than a museum at which he probably wouldn't want to steal anything!

Deeming it a safe prospect, Klaus pulled out his pack of cigarettes, and a lighter. "Think the water will be warm enough to go swimming?"

"Maybe," Dorian said. "If you don't mind a little cold. I would imagine that the water's gone chilly by now..."

"That'd be all right. I'd like to give it a shot tomorrow. You could probably sit on the steps and laugh at me when I find out just how cold it is." The plastic was taken off the pack, and he offered one to Dorian before he even thought of taking one for himself.

The other man took one gracefully enough and let Klaus light it before sitting back, elbows on the table. "I'll definitely laugh, Klaus. If it's as cold as I think it'll be..." Dorian glanced around before smiling wickedly. "You'll be lucky if your balls don't shrivel right up."

A slight burn rose into Klaus's cheeks, as he lit his own cigarette, and drew a breath so hard the tip glowed red. It was good to see Dorian getting his old sense for words back again, but the down-side was that Klaus was the *only* target available for it. "I doubt I'd notice much."

/Ohh, my Major, I think you'd notice a whole lot,/ Dorian thought, holding back a sigh. "Hmmmmm, we'll see," he drawled as a waitress came forward, plates in hand.

"One baked potato, one french fry, here you go!" she declared, setting the plates down on the table.

A smile crept across Klaus's face as he looked at the plate. /Damn Yanks didn't mess them up too badly./ "Thanks." He popped one, hot, into his mouth, chewed for a moment and nodded to himself. /Not too badly at all./ It still wasn't the way the Sister made them back in school, but... ah, well. Klaus chanced a glance up at Dorian for a moment. "Anything in particular you want to do? I... I'm used to having things well planned." Neurotically so -- schedule was everything, and often deviating from it made him edgy.

"Oh, I don't know," Dorian told him, picking up a knife and cutting into his potato to add butter and salt. "Mary mentioned that there were some antique shops, things like that. Might be nice to see those..." /Might be nice to break into the Smithsonian and make off with the Hope Diamond.../ "You?"

"I want to go up to the shooting range and see what I can still do. And hike." A few more fries, and he looked up when the waitress came back with Dorian's ice-water, and Klaus's cup of coffee. "Would you mind?"

"I wouldn't mind at all." To be perfectly honest about things, Dorian detested guns and violence in most forms. Violence went with Klaus, however, and so he had somewhat accustomed himself to the matter. "That sounds just *marvelous*," he said, beginning to eat his salad.

"It sounds like you're lying." Klaus's voice was a little amused as he kept eating, with the same strange efficiency that he usually did. "I can go early in the morning, probably before you wake up."

"Mmmmm, no, I want to see you shoot. There's something wonderfully efficient about you when you do." /Erotic./ "I've always liked to watch you."

"I thought you hated guns." There was the fact that Dorian probably wanted to do something lewd while he was taking shots. Probably stare at his ass. Klaus had caught the man doing that a few times in the past day or so, but preferred to not say anything about it. "You'd better not be planning on trying to shoot, too!"

"Why? I wouldn't do all *that* badly, surely?" Dorian teased. Well, actually, he might well, but *still*!

"Do you remember Alaska, Dorian?" When the man had bluffed a gun at Mischa the Cub, and then panicked when Klaus had told him that it *WAS* a loaded weapon.

"Actually, I remember Alaska *very* clearly," Dorian replied, eating a bite before saying anything further. "I really don't like guns much. I'm sorry. I can't help myself. But I don't mind watching you..."

"Since it's all I can really do, you might as well." There was, at the very least, a tinge of bitterness in his voice as he said that which was odd for Dorian to hear, since Klaus had been doing such a good job since his release from the hospital and hiding any anger or resentment he had within him. None of it was directed at Dorian, but it was still... there, kept quiet.

"Klaus... you know, you can do so much more than that. If... it weren't for you, I'd be just crazy now. Completely, utterly crazy. You're worth so much to me, in so many ways. You can do more than just shoot...." That answer was almost sad, Dorian's fork dawdling in lettuce leaves.

"I can't even shoot anymore, not the way I used to." Right hand was a loss, one eye with vision a little worse than his right had been -- what good was he? /Oh, as a caretaker and protector for a thief. A faggy British lord. I'm warming his bed, keeping him calm and happy, watching over him... but at what cost? *Why*?/ He glowered into his coffee cup for a moment, before taking a long sip.

Tentatively, as if he sensed that moment in Klaus, Dorian said softly, "Are you... do you... do you regret coming? With me, I mean? I don't want you to do something that you don't want to do, all for me. I don't want you to be uncomfortable. I'm sorry..."

"It's not like there's any-fucking-thing else in my life. That wants to be in my life." Still not looking up, he drained the coffee cup almost meticulously, fairly sure that when he was done with dinner, he'd have a stomach ache. Nerves twisting with fried potatoes did that.

By that point, Dorian's dinner was abandoned, and he was no more looking at Klaus than Klaus was looking at *him*. "So. You're here because you think I'm the..." He swallowed. "The last thing. The only thing. And not because I'm a worthwhile thing.... No, you don't have to tell me it's not true. I.... I understand that I'm not worthwhile, to anyone, anymore, not just to you. I know. I suppose I just.... I just couldn't help fooling myself for a bit that it might be otherwise. My apologies. I'll be sure to keep it in mind now..." To keep it in mind and to sleep in the spare bedroom, if he could stand it. The thought that Klaus would only touch him because he was desperate for something, *anything*, even if it was a filthy pervert like himself, twisted up his belly in knots, left his breath unsteady.

"No, *dammit*," Klaus snapped, putting down his cup. He was starting to feel stomach-sick *now*... or was that his heart that leapt up and jerked painfully at Dorian's words? /Shit!/ "I want to be here with you, Dorian. I'm not here because of that. If it was *just* that, I would..." Not have bothered. If it had have reached such a point of misery in Klaus's life where Dorian was the only thing left, and he still detested the man, he would have walked over the border between east and west and let them shoot him.

"I want..." Dorian shook his head. God, a restaurant wasn't the place to be having this discussion!! "I suppose I've wanted to fool myself, to think that you're here just because you care for me. I've been fooling myself pretty well, in some regards, I suppose. There's such comfort in your arms and in f feeling as if things could be right, the way I always wished they would be...." The smile that he gave Klaus was brave, but the shimmer in those blue eyes as he looked at him was undeniable. "'m an idiot and a pervert. You don't have to tell me. I know. So..."

"Stop babbling," Klaus barked at him, a distinct unhappy *growl* in his voice. "If I didn't care for you... would I be sitting in a restaurant in goddamned *America*, listening to you try to explain me? *I* can't fucking explain myself! If I didn't care for you I would have let myself just fucking die after all that humiliation!"

Each word brought a flinch, the last ones leaving Dorian white as a sheet and trembling. "I'm sorry," he whispered numbly. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry..."

/Oh, *God*.../ He'd done it again. A miracle -- for all that Dorian claimed he did him good, it seemed all he did when he spoke his mind was put the Earl into a fit. "Dorian, Dorian, don't apologize..." He leaned across the table with his still-braced left hand, to try to grab one of Dorian's.

"It's just so impossible," Dorian whispered. "I love you so much and I'm trying so hard not to let you know and I don't know what to do, Klaus. I... You deserve better, you understand? You do, but I can't help it. I can't help myself, I can't help being so delighted that you're with me even though I am what I am... If YOU can't explain yourself, I can't explain either of us, because God knows we're just a wreck apart and a wreck together, aren't we? I'm so afraid I'll offend you or that the memories will all be too much and you'll leave and I'll just die...."

It was hard to catch onto any particular thought in that rush of words, but Klaus had caught Dorian's hand, and squeezed it as best he could with unsteady fingers. "I don't think anything can offend me." Dorian had seen him at his most vulnerable, bleeding, *screaming*, molested, *crying*, and hadn't lashed back at him with those things. Hadn't spoken about any of it,or said anything that was meant to hurt those unhealed wounds... "Better to be wrecks together than alone."

It gained him the shakiest of smiles, color coming back into Dorian's face. "Yes," he whispered. "Thank you...."

"If..." He started to say something more, but a *very* wary looking waitress arrived then with the steaks.

"Ummmm," the girl said, blinking at their hands and smiling. "Do... y'all want these?"

"I think you can box mine up," Dorian murmured, not looking at her. "I'm not all that hungry now." Actually, what he wanted was cherries jubilee. Badly.

Klaus looked a little green at the idea, in fact. "Ja. If you could put it all in a box, that would be good. Thank you."

With a nod, the girl moved away, and Dorian sighed with relief. "I don't think I could've eaten it. I'm sorry. What I *really* want is cherries jubilee..."

"I don't even know what that is, so don't ask me where to get it." /Or to cook it./ He wasn't a cooking person -- he was a microwave person, a toaster-oven person, a package-of-crackers, cup-of-Nescafé person. The most handy trick he knew was wetting a paper-towel and putting it over dry bread in the microwave to make it edible.

"I'll settle for cherries in any form, I think," Dorian told him, smiling wanly as the girl came back with their steak. Half of the restaurant was sneaking looks at them by then. He really hoped Klaus hadn't noticed!

Blissfully, Klaus didn't notice until he let go of Dorian's hand to stand up. Glancing momentarily away from the man, he could see, with a spy's sense of awareness, glances being taken at them, whispers and guesses at what they'd been talking about and who they were. "Fucking nosy Yanks," he growled, not under his breath so much as Dorian probably would have wanted. He picked the steaks up with his good hand, now clearly glowering at the entire area, as he waited for Dorian.

Easily, Dorian rose, following Klaus as they left the restaurant, walking through the dark. "I'm sorry I made a scene," he said sheepishly. "I'm afraid I can't help myself."

"I think I made more of a scene than you did." Klaus was firm on that as he moved towards their rented car.

"Klaus... what I said in there... I really am sorry if I offended you," Dorian offered. "I can't help that I love you. I tried not to, only it never has worked at all."

"I think if you didn't... care for me that way, you'd wouldn't be able to stand me." The doors were unlocked, and he slid the boxes into the back seat.

That drew a little chuckle from the tall blond as he slipped into the passenger seat. "Well..." he said. "You're certainly not 'my type', Klaus. No. You're in a league *all* your own... and I've never been happier, in so many ways. Just being with you has always been a long wild ride and the most wonderful thing imaginable. I'm sorry if you can't understand that."

"I can't." Hard truth for Klaus to grasp -- that he probably never would understand why Dorian wanted anything to do with a brash, hard-hearted and headed, mean, and now *useless* ex-NATO agent. "What is your type?" /Probably brilliant, artsy... like that stupid little fluff Caesar./

"Oh... fluffy, short. Willing to give in easily to my various and sundry charms. You, though, I've never quite managed to charm entirely. Maybe that's it," the other man murmured as Klaus started the car. "Maybe that's what I wanted but wasn't getting before. You can resist my demands. Though I'm glad you occasionally give in," Dorian admitted, smiling at him. "You don't let me walk all over you, and that's a wonderful commodity."

"When I give in to something, Dorian, it's because it would please me just as much as you." He buckled his seat-belt almost absently. "Do you want to drive around for a little while? Maybe we'll come across a grocery store. We need to get food anyway."

"That sounds like a marvelous idea," Dorian said with a slight sigh, smiling. "Hmm, maybe I can get something cherry there."

"Yeah. And I could use Nescafé."

"You and your instant coffee," was the chuckled response.

"Why does no one else seem to like it?" Klaus backed out of the parking spot, and then pulled out completely, back onto route 7. "It's very good."

"It's instant, darling," Dorian teased. "Very few people are fond of instant coffee."

"It's good, it's quick, and it's got caffeine in it," the German man told him, keeping the car close to the road. "Better than that fluffy stuff most people prefer to drink. If you put that much cream and sugar into it, why bother?"

"Because it's good," Dorian teased. "And I like it that way. We'll buy your Nescafé, darling. Just the way you like it!"

"We'll buy it if we can find a grocery store," Klaus corrected almost grimly. He had a feeling they'd be driving for a while, probably get lost at least once before Dorian's luck kicked in and got them there. It certainly wouldn't be his own luck kicking in, since it seemed to have kicked *off* a few years ago.

"So long as we don't run out of gas," Dorian told him with a smile. Ahh, but the notion of 'running out of gas' with Klaus... He almost sighed. /Dreamer,/ he told himself sternly.

"Keep your eyes out for a pump-station then," Klaus murmured, flicking his eyes to the tank. Half a tank -- they'd be fine.

For a while, they travelled in silence, searching steadily for a grocery store or a gas station, one. The town was mostly quiet, lights out, stores and houses mostly dark. "Hmmmm... oh!" Dorian said. "There!" 'There' was a Shop and Stop, lights on brightly, a few cars outside. It was obviously open, and Klaus pulled in, parking the car close to the front. "Marvelous," Dorian sighed. "Let's run in. I'm sure they'll have cherries!"

"Coffee, milk... eggs, bread, can you think of anything else we need?" Aside from everything. It was oddly, almost sickly domestic to be going shopping for groceries with Dorian, but it was also something to do that he didn't mind. They were... there, together, sleeping in the same bed, same room, same house, in America after having fled their troubles in Bonn.

"Things you and I can cook. Stuff that comes out of boxes like... er... macaroni and cheese or something," Dorian said, shaking his head. "Easy stuff. I'm not much of a cook, Klaus," he said apologetically. "I can scramble eggs but not much beyond that."

"I can cook. Some. Almost. Nothing fancy," Klaus shrugged, locking the door as Dorian got out of the car. Plain food-stuffs. "Maybe we can work on that while we're here."

"Sounds promising," Dorian drawled, hands shoved in his pockets as he shut his own door and walked around the car to Klaus. "Let's go in."

"Hopefully it won't be closing soon." That would have just topped off his day. As it was, he was half tempted to drag Dorian back to the car, drive him home, and drag him up to bed.

"I don't imagine it will," was the optimistic reply as they reached the door, a step on the pressure sensitive pad at the door sending it open so that they could slip inside. Once there, Dorian fetched a buggy fairly cheerfully and peered towards the vegetable area. "Let's start over there?"

"Any reason you want cherries? Or is it just a whim?" At least he was buying this whim, and not trying to walk off with it, Klaus mused to himself.

"A whim," Dorian admitted. "Don't you ever just have a taste for something in the back of your mouth? And things aren't the same 'til you eat some of it? Nothing else will do!"

"The only thing that gives me that problem is when I haven't smoked for too long." On occasion he'd gotten quite pathetic in his need to smoke -- he'd never bothered to figure out if it was the nicotine that made him need it, or the simple soothingness the actions held.

Dorian simply smiled. "I'm passionate about my cravings," he admitted. /And my worst craving is for you..../

"Until you've gotten it, or stolen it, or whatever, and then you don't care anymore," Klaus commented, wandering over to look at the lettuce.

Dorian shook his head, pausing behind Klaus. "No. No, not really. There are a few things which never fail to keep my attention and my feelings," he said solemnly. /You. You're one of those things.../

The store was oddly empty -- well, not odd if he remembered what time of night it was -- and that silence made Klaus lower his voice just a little when he replied. "Like what? Art in general?"

"You," Dorian admitted softly, beginning to lightly pick through bunches of carrots for just what he wanted.

The German man swallowed, turned, and set a head of lettuce down in the cart. "Me. Why?"

"Because I love you," Dorian answered quietly. "Because it seems like I've loved you forever, even though you can't love me back. That's all. Just because I love you."

"Dorian..." It wasn't the time for a conversation like that... but when it was a better setting, they didn't have that problem -- at least, not as often. "I can't see why you would. I've done nothing but be angry at you for so long..."

That gained him a slight smile. "Love's got no rhyme or reason. *I* have no rhyme or reason, for that matter. I just do. It just is. That's all."

"Someday, I'll understand you," Klaus sighed, moving to get behind the cart. "What else do we need?"

"Oh, this and that," Dorian said. "Bread, sandwich things, ummm.... grapes. Cherries. Fruit. Ah... maybe TV dinners, if neither of us is all that proficient at cooking, Klaus...."

"I can make soup. And we can eat out," Klaus scoffed. Though, after the fit between both of them, he didn't think Bob's Country Kitchen was an option any longer, unless they got it to go. But he would *not* eat a TV dinner.

"All right," Dorian agreed easily enough. "Let's pick up some wine and such while we're here, too. It won't be anything fancy, but it ought to be drinkable, hadn't it?"

"Yank wine?" Klaus shook his head. No, the Americans couldn't quite do something without fouling it up. "I doubt it. We'll get something decent if they sell it, though -- a little wine in the evenings could be nice."

"Or surely they have a store for such things *somewhere*..." Dorian trailed off, peering at all of the varieties of bread now before them. "Oh, dear. Well, I suppose one's about the same as another..."

French, Italian... He grabbed a thick loaf of Italian just for the simple reason that it wasn't French. Anyway, they both turned as hard as rock on the outside within days. "We'll drive more tomorrow -- and when we find that store, we'll buy something *decent* to drink."

"Mmmm," Dorian murmured in agreement as he wheeled the buggy along. "Oooo, olives! I like olives. Not as much as cherries..."

Klaus was nodded, looking around -- and then fell back a pace as he spotted the plastic boxes of fresh cherries. "This what you're looking for, Dorian?"

"Ooooooh!!!" came the almost-coo. "Yes! That's EXACTLY what I'm looking for! Thank you, Klaus!"

A moment of looking at them -- and glancing at the price -- and Klaus turned, handing two boxes to Dorian. "I hope you enjoy these."

The fact that the blond Briton was nearly PURRING over the things was a fair sign of how much he was going to appreciate them! "Ohhh, I think I'll enjoy them quite a bit. I'll even share, if you ask nicely," he teased.

"'s all right." Because Klaus grabbed a bag of oranges for himself, and seemed pleased with that as he set them in the cart. Not ever so loudly pleased as Dorian could be, but pleased nonetheless.

"All right. On to the next aisle?" Dorian asked him with a smile. The urge to kiss him was terrible, a drawing need that was nearly enough to drown him in pleasurable thought that matched the deed of kissing any other man, ever. /Oh, Klaus.../

"Macaroni and cheese doesn't seem like such a bad idea," Klaus commented as they turned down the cereal aisle. "I know I can make that without trouble. Add some meat in, too, and it's not so pre-made."

"Like that Helper stuff?" Dorian asked. "Jamesie *loves* that. He says it's economical or something..."

"No, that stuff's poison," Klaus told him, shaking his head. "Just macaroni and cheese that you add meat to. The less prepackaging the better. 's not healthy to live off of boxed food."

"Well, Jamesie never claimed it was *healthy*. Just economical. He's so utterly cheap at heart. He can't help himself, you know. It's part of his charm, really," Dorian insisted.

"It's the part of him that keeps you economically afloat," Klaus murmured in amusement, picking up a box of Cheerios after a moment's thought, and tossing it into the cart.

"That, too," came the sheepish admission as Dorian added shortbread cookies and Pop-tarts. "He's really a good man, most of the time. Just aggravating on occasion in his miserliness."

"Alaska. Rome," Klaus reminded him. Times when James had been more than just irritatingly miserly. He had been... brilliantly annoying in Rome, even when money wasn't concerned, and Klaus had delighted in spilling the man's payment by leaving the locks on the suitcase open when he'd tossed it out of the plane. Then the mess with the money plate in Alaska. But Alaska... Rome, and Alaska quick on its heels, had been when he'd realized that Dorian was a worthwhile human being -- one that he trusted. It had only grown since then, that trust...

"I'm watching how much sugar you put in the cart," he warned Dorian.

That gained him a roll of those blue eyes and a smile. "There's nothing wrong with a little sugar, Klaus!" he attempted to explain. "Really, there isn't! It's only Pop-Tarts and cookies! I promise nothing else too sweet, all right? Except maybe sorbet or something..."

"I never wonder why you Brits have horrible teeth. Present company withstanding." No, Dorian had a crisp, dazzling smile...

"*I* always felt it was a lack of dentistry skills, darling. Have you ever been to a British dentist? No?" Dorian shuddered. "Dentists... gah..."

"NATO dentistry..." Klaus shuddered. Military health care was abrupt, took a while if you weren't an officer, and... and the German man realized that he couldn't open his mouth without saying something about his now defunct job. Dorian could see his facial expression fall by degrees.

"Come on, then," Dorian said softly. "Let's go check out the bad American wine, all right?"

"Ja. And..." Klaus glanced over the cart briefly. "Meat and milk." /And liquor. Something hard. So I won't think anymore./

"Cheese and butter," Dorian added. "And eggs...."

"I'll find those things -- you see if there's anything else you can come up with," Klaus said, moments before he started towards the back of the store -- the freezer and cold section. He picked up a package of ground beef and a package of sausages, then moved to get a quarter-circle of cheddar cheese. All that was easily carried with his left hand, the eggs added to that, and then he snagged a gallon of milk with the... two barely useful fingers of his right hand. The frown on his face had grown worse by the time he met up with Dorian again.

"Are you all right?" Dorian asked him tentatively. Several things had been added to the buggy -- mostly bath items, because they hadn't bothered to pack those things since they'd known they would just shop for them when they arrived. Paper towels and paper plates had also joined the ranks of their buggy -- Dorian hated washing dishes.

"Ja." He dropped the milk in first, then used a weakened grasp to move things from his left hand to the cart. "Anything else?"

"I rather think that's it. It *looks* like enough, don't you think? Whatever else we need, we can always come back," Dorian offered. "Except for the wine..."

"Let's see what there is." And then he led the way for the aisle he'd spotted when he'd gotten the milk, boots clicking loud on the tiled floor.

The buggy wheeled along after him, Dorian pushing it and following quietly until they reached an aisle that contained both soft drinks and wine, as well as a small amount of liquors. "Well...."

"Pick the wine," Klaus instructed, moving towards the liquors. Something hard, something *decent*...

By the time he got back, Dorian had picked out a couple of bottles that didn't look like they would be *too* bad and he was still perusing the others. "No," he decided, "I think that's enough. Did you find what you wanted?"

Two bottles of whiskey, a brand that Klaus didn't recognize but hoped was all right. "Ja." Both were set in the cart, and then Klaus surveyed over it, nodding. "Let's check-out, then. By the time we get home, I think we'll be tired enough to sleep."

Obediently enough, the cart turned in the direction of the cashiers, the line of little stations with their lights mostly dark save for one or two. "I think so," Dorian agreed, reaching up with one hand and rubbing at an eye. "I could definitely sleep until tomorrow, even with our nap."

"Yeah. Well, the time-zone difference, the drive, the flight..." he shrugged as he slipped in front of Dorian and the cart, so he could pay when the tired looking cashier had rung them up.

It took only a few moments to empty everything, Dorian setting things up with a strange sort of *order*. Everything of which they'd bought more than one went together, things from the same aisle were placed out in the order from which they'd come off the shelves and, finally, the alcohol was placed behind it all. "There."

Klaus only gave that a side-long glance from the corner of his eye, pulling his wallet free again.

"Plastic bags okay?" the cashier asked, very *obviously* staring at both of them.

"Ja."

Their purchases were all neatly moved over the scanner until the woman reached the alcohol. "ID, please?"

That got her a *glare* -- as if he and Dorian were underage! Klaus had to set his wallet down to free his better hand so he could pull free the little case he kept his IDs in. "Here." His NATO military ID, the picture taken years before the ordeal that had recently ruined his eye. /I actually have to get another one... 'retired' status. Hah./

She looked at it suspiciously, but it seemed to satisfy her, because she rang the stuff up. "That'll be forty-seven eighty-three."

"I think I've got the eighty-three, Klaus," Dorian offered, digging into his pocket. They'd had money changed over as soon as they'd arrived, and he still had the change from the diner.

"Danke Schön," Klaus murmured, putting away his ID and then picking up his wallet to hand the cashier a crisp fifty while Dorian handed the woman change. /Hopefully we can get back to the house without too much trouble./

Once the woman handed Klaus the three dollars in change along with his receipt, Dorian began gathering bags and putting them back in the buggy to take outside with them. "There..."

The receipt ended up tossed into the nearest bag, and then Klaus slid both hands into his pockets, under the guise of looking for keys. "What are we going to do once this month is over, Dorian?"

"I don't know," Dorian answered honestly as they headed back outside. "I think we should make it known that we're available as contractors at the end of the month, Klaus." It was what they had already partially discussed, but... "The information community would snap both of us up in a moment, I think. You're notorious for carrying out your missions to the letter, even while being aggravated by me, and I can steal almost anything..."

But Klaus wondered, and not without reason, if they could still hold up under duty. "They'll snap you up, Dorian," Klaus murmured, sure of *that*... and nothing else. He'd been discharged -- no 'retired' -- because of what had happened to him. 'Post Traumatic Stress disorder' -- what did that mean to him? Nothing more than a fancy label placed on him and used as an excuse to be rid of him.

The British thief paused at the car as Klaus keyed open the trunk. "No," he said softly. "They'll snap *us* up. On my own, none of them would have been interested. They weren't before, and the entire intelligence community probably *knows* who I am, with the exception of those idiots at ICPO. It's you and me, together, that they'll want. I'm almost certain."

"I am a... a..." Klaus had to reach to find the word in english, as he flipped open the trunk. "A liability."

"You," Dorian said, "are the most incredible agent in existence, and NATO is full of complete fucking idiots."

/I fucked up, why can't you *see* that,/ Klaus thought in hard frustration. "I agree to the latter. I used to be the former."

"You still *are*," was the prompt reply, "and we'll show *them* and *I'LL* show *you*."

"Huh." That got him a baleful half-glare, and Klaus moved to unlock the car. "Don't bother."

Closing the trunk, Dorian moved to the passenger side and slid in as Klaus unlocked his own door. "Klaus. It's true."

"Shut up, Dorian. I don't want to hear it," Klaus snapped, slipping in and slamming the door behind him. That sentiment had been building since the restaurant, but it still wasn't right of him to take it -- even so lightly -- out on Dorian. His fuck-up wasn't Dorian's fault.

The requested silence was given him as Dorian lightly put on his seatbelt, facing front wordlessly to look out over the rest of the parking lot. /It's true,/ he thought defiantly. /It's true, and you can't make me change my mind about that!/

The car didn't pull out right away -- first Klaus pulled out a cigarette, and lit it, for the first time in days forgetting to offer one to Dorian too. "Are we going to sleep when we get back?" Klaus asked, just as he'd already done. He didn't want to talk, didn't want to think or find something else to do -- he just wanted to give in to sleep and pretend in the hazy moments before and just after slumber that everything was okay.

"If you want," was the soft answer. "We should put things away, first. Have a bath." A bath, where he would hate every moment of being alone, but where his crying wouldn't upset Klaus.

/Shower./ It would be refreshing after such a long, damnably long day... "I'll put everything away, and you can bathe." That way he'd have something to do, with not too much real time to play with. Boredom was a vicious enemy.

The suggestion gained easy enough agreement as he started the car and backed it up, heading out of the lot. "All right."

Getting back to the house was easier than finding a grocery store had been. Just find route 7 again, and then the turn-off, and everything became familiar, despite rolling down a half-mile long street that had at most two street lights. "Gut."

For a while, silence continued to rule between them, even as they slowed to turn into the house. It finally became obvious that Dorian could resist it no longer, however, and he said softly, "You're worth more than you think you are. I wish you wouldn't fight it so much."

"I've been retired from my career for *mental* problems; I'm half blind, and..." And his ruined right hand, but he didn't need to remind anyone of that. Not himself, at least. "It would be a mar on any record. I'm just as loathed in other agencies as I am in NATO."

"You aren't ever going to allow me to make anything better, are you?" Dorian asked quietly, head down even as Klaus parked the car. "I'm not even worthy of helping you, am I?"

"You're helping," Klaus told him, coasting carefully down into the darkened garage once he'd opened the door, and getting out again to close the garage door behind them and flick on the light. "You..." He waited until Dorian had at least cracked open his door before he went on. No use talking to someone who wasn't listening. "You're helping a lot."

Standing, looking at him, those deep aquamarine eyes seemed so sad. "I don't feel like I am. I think you're the most wonderful person ever to live," Dorian murmured extravagantly, "but I can't make you see that. I don't know how."

"Most wonderful person..." Klaus muttered it in echo, shaking his head as he unlocked the trunk and grabbed the bags that had the liquor. "I'm not, Dorian. I don't know where you got that idea, but I'm *not*." /I'm a failure, at everything. Everything. Battles won, war lost, doesn't matter. Failure./

"You are," Dorian answered numbly. "You are. You're *my* most wonderful person. Doesn't that count for anything at all?"

It didn't make sense to Klaus -- that there was a distinction between the actual thing and being *Dorian's*, but... "Explain."

That blond head shook slowly, curls cascading wildly around his face, even more corkscrewed than they had been before he cut it. "I love you," he said finally, softly, face exquisitely sorrowful. "I think you're the most wonderful person in the world. Nothing will ever change that, nothing that you do and nothing that anyone else thinks or says. *I* know that they're wrong. *I* know that you're more wonderful than any of them can imagine. If the rest of the world is stupid, then that's their problem, not mine. And it isn't yours, either. You're still the most wonderful person in the world... to *ME*."

What a sorry state Dorian's world was in, when he was the most wonderful person, Klaus wondered, looking at the earl with almost disbelief on his face. "Why? What have I done to... deserve that from you?

"You've never let me down," Dorian whispered. "You have always been just who you are, no matter what."

"I have let you down, though." Klaus moved past him, through the cluttered and odd-smelling basement, up creaking stairs to the door that he had to unlock to get into the house. His voice had ached oddly to tell Dorian that, and he hoped the earl hadn't noticed.

"Why... do you say that?" The response was softly hitched, but spoken nonetheless. "Why do you say that when *I* let *you* down?"

"I didn't get us out. I... I didn't protect you." He had the door unlocked, but leaned on it a moment as he said that.

"And I could have stopped us ever going in, if I'd paid attention at all to my instincts," Dorian replied in a whisper. "If you're at fault, then so am I, but even if that weren't true, you'd still be the most wonderful person to me. I can't help loving you now any more than I could in Italy, or any time since."

Italy. Rome. The mission with the Vatican, the catacombs, the Pope...

Shooting the television screen, wiping lipstick off of his hand and proving his lack of knowledge of it in general, the catacombs, Dorian so damned close he could feel him, being followed so closely, fear when Eroica was caught, then obligation to free him, lying for why he'd freed him... "Don't mention missions to me."

"Not mentioning it doesn't change anything," came the aching murmur, ignoring the fact that the statement applied even more to himself than it did to Klaus.

He finally opened the door between basement and first floor. Dorian was just... too close then. Too, too, dangerously close to too many things. "I don't want to remember."

"I still think you're wonderful."

"Fine. Think that. Go wash up; I'll put everything away." Klaus's words were just snaps of sound, unhappy and without anything behind them at all -- orders from a voice too familiar with giving them to manage much else in that mood.

In miserable silence, Dorian ascended the stairs with an exhausted obedience, leaving Klaus alone to bring things in from the car and put them away. He didn't bring up soap or shampoo, so he hoped that there was at least *something* in the bathroom to use... /Oh, Klaus,/ he thought disconsolately, eyes already welling with the sheer despondency that he felt. /I can't help that I love you. I'm sorry that I can't make you understand.../

The bathroom had *soap*, but not shampoo; well, Dorian could manage one night with just one and not the other.

Klaus took his time putting things away, and after ten or so minutes, had it all put neatly into the refrigerator. Then his monocular gaze hit the things that he'd left sitting out -- the shampoo and soap foremost.

/I'll take these up to Dorian -- he's probably been waiting,/ he told himself, mounting the stairs tiredly, and then turning left into the brief hallway, stopping at the bathroom to knock lightly despite the sound of running water. "Dorian?"

A momentary pause sounded, as if he hadn't been heard, but then a reply came over the sound of the water. "Yes?"

"I have the soap and shampoo."

The water shut off, Dorian's voice seeming a bit louder. "Oh. Come in..."

The door opened carefully and with hesitance, Klaus unsure what he might find when he strode through.

What he found was Dorian, standing in the shower, frosted glass pulled back slightly, a small towel clutched to his chest that covered him (mostly) to the tops of his thighs. "Thank you," he said meekly, looking at Klaus.

It took every ounce of Klaus's resolve to hand Dorian the shampoo and soap, wrappers still in place, through the opened glass. "You're... welcome." /Move. Back out of the room. Don't stare.../

Almost negligently, Dorian went to work on the wrappers, the towel sliding to the side before Klaus could get out of the room, revealing quite a bit more than Klaus really wanted to see, in that moment. "Damn," he muttered to himself, tugging it back up. "Sorry..."

"It's all right," Klaus murmured, backing up quickly and then closing the door behind him, more than a little abruptly. It... wasn't anything he hadn't seen already, wasn't on purpose.... but the German man still had to force down a rush of warring emotions. He could admit to his almost vicious protectiveness of Dorian, his need for the other's company; all of that was hard enough to admit to. Anything else was hazy and brought up a rush of self-loathing with it.

So why was the image of Dorian clutching that falling towel burned onto his retinas with such clear and detailed memory?

/I can either take my medications, or get something to drink. Medications, drink.../ It was such a toss-up, but his hands and the still healing muscles of his chest were starting to really kill him, and if he wanted to be able to put them to any use at all.... /Medications./ That granted a hazy bliss of its own.

A drink would just have to wait 'til the next day.

It was perhaps twenty minutes later that Dorian entered the bedroom, to find Klaus still dressed, prescription bottles on a table beside him, and a book resting in his lap, reading it absently. He was trying his best to find *something* with which to distract himself.

"Sorry I took so long," came the apology, the tall blond man already dressed in satin shorts and sleeveless pajama top in a brilliant aquamarine. "I hope you didn't have to wait long..."

"'ve been reading," Klaus dismissed, sliding the book on modern weaponry onto the bed as he stood, and grabbed his pajamas from his still mostly packed suitcase.

"Sorry," Dorian apologized again, slipping into the bed on what had become 'his' side.

How that had happened or begun, Klaus had no idea. He didn't really favor one side or the other, since he always slept dead center on his back when he was alone. Which had been always. "I didn't mean to snap at you earlier."

"I know," was the quiet answer. "I'm sorry. I can't help the way I feel about you."

And Klaus had no idea what he felt about Dorian -- no name for the emotion that could rise to his lips. "We'll just have to disagree there. How are you feeling?"

"Tired..." Lonely, sad, heartbroken, worthless, a million things, but telling that to Klaus would only make both of them feel worse!

The other man nodded, agreeing but not needing to say it. The same sentiments practically glowed out of his eyes, as he stood in the doorway for a moment, just looking at Dorian, before turning down the hall. "I'll be back soon."

"All right," came quiet agreement, Dorian shivering. /Don't leave me alone for long.../ His earlier thoughts of sleeping alone were long since gone. He never would have managed it, anyway, he knew!

Originally, Klaus had planned to take a quick shower; the plan detoured once he realized the tub was big enough to let him stretch out with moderate comfort in it. He let the water heat up again -- since Dorian had used the ready hot water in his shower -- and then ran it partway full. He slipped in carefully, wincing as he adjusted to the temperature before settling in completely, reaching a hand for the soap on the edge.

He took his time about bathing, relaxing in the water slightly once he was done, heating it up again after a while because it was cooling off a bit. He was lost in thought, truth be told, in memory and unpleasantness, and he hated it. /I should have gotten him out.../

"Klaus?" A knock on the door sounded, Dorian's voice worried. "Are you all right? You've been gone..."

"Mmn?" He lifted his head from the edge of the tub, finishing getting the last of the shampoo out of his hair. He'd spent probably too long in there, but the heat of the water had mellowed his tense frame.

"Are you all right?" Dorian fretted, a hand on the knob.

"Ja." Klaus laid his head back down, and did a brief touch-check for soap, feeling over the ripples of scarring left by the mostly healed gauges in his chest, and then... then his hand stopped before he could let it tend to something that was just a natural reaction. Was it to the water and relaxation, or Dorian's voice, though?

"Are you sure?" came the hesitant reply. "If you're sure, I'll go back to bed and wait for you..."

/Wait for me./ His mind echoed that a few times, and Klaus dragged himself sitting upright, and then shifted out of the water completely. The air in the room was a littler colder than the heat of the water, so he had to deal with the first slight chill as he grabbed a towel. "'m fine." The... problem would fade soon enough.

"All right..." Even through the door, it was obvious that Dorian was reluctant to go.

"Go to bed, Dorian," Klaus sighed, tying the towel tight around his hips, as he unzipped his shaving kit.

"...all right," Dorian said again, and then Klaus heard him moving away, leaving him to himself.

Not that Klaus had really wanted to be alone. But it was a matter of habit, of facade... A matter of trying to regain shattered dignity. He couldn't even guess why he was trying, only...

Only that it wasn't helping anything.

A moment later, Dorian's voice came again, as if he'd not gotten very far at all. "I don't want to go back by myself," he called.

"It's just down the hall," Klaus growled softly as he closed his shaving kit without even starting to shave. Tomorrow. He'd do that tomorrow morning, when he wasn't tired, and thinking of doing things with that sharp blade that he shouldn't think about. Dorian needed him, even though no one else did; at least he was still useful to someone, hmn? That had to be worth something, "I'll be out in a moment."

"Can... I wait?" came the insecure question. "I can't... I'm by myself..." And that was the truly *terrible* thing. Even being in the shower was almost too much for Dorian, because he couldn't bear those moments spent alone!

"You can wait." The tone he used softened when he said that, starting to dry himself quickly before slipping on underwear, his pajama bottoms, an undershirt and then the pajama top. His hair was still partly wet, so for a few moments Dorian heard no movement but the roar of the hair-dryer.

By the time it turned off, Dorian was more than a little antsy, pressed against the doorjamb and shivering. /No one is in the house. Klaus is in the bathroom. It's only me and Klaus. Everything is all right. Klaus will be out in just a minute.../

When the door finally opened, it was with a rush of relief -- and Klaus starting to step through, turning off the light behind him. "You should have just gone to bed," he chided quietly.

Almost before he was out, Dorian's arms were around him, his entire body pressed to Klaus. "I couldn't," he whispered, shivering. "I was alone!" Alone except for Klaus. Alone except for the fear that someone else was in the house...

"I was just right *here*," Klaus told him, slipping a hand very lightly around Dorian's waist to help calm him. "Are you cold?"

"A little. Mostly... just... I had to wait for you," came the explanation.

An explanation that sounded childish, but... But it made sense to Klaus, and that was what was disturbing to him. "Are you going to start following me into the bathroom now?" he asked, trying to tease just a little as they walked over wooden floors and into the master bedroom. He flicked off the hall light on his way past.

"Would you let me?" The scary part of *that* was that it seemed half serious. "It just took longer than usual is all, and... and it's dark..."

"Turn on a few more lights?" Klaus suggested, closing the bedroom door behind them as they entered. "I was making sure everything was healing."

Telling Klaus that every light in the house being on wouldn't work seemed incredibly childish just then. "How are they?" Dorian asked tentatively. His own stitches and sutures were doing just fine aside from a lingering tenderness and the redness of the scars on his face. He hated looking at himself in the mirror, but... "Are you doing all right?"

"Sore," he shrugged. The muscles of his upper chest often protested any movement at all, tightened and cramped, but... well, they were healing. Still healing, but it was better than not healing. "I'm going to go shooting tomorrow, though." He wanted to test his left hand, but the fracture still made him unsure of shooting with anything other than a simple pistol. Not his Magnum. Not yet.

Crawling into bed, Dorian continued to shiver. "Can I come?" he asked tentatively.

Klaus didn't get in bed, though. Instead he stretched out on the floor to start push-ups, tentative and carefully waiting to see if anything pulled. "If you want to. I thought I could go and be back before you woke up, though -- I know you sleep in."

"Don't leave me alone!" The sound of that was almost hysterical, and Dorian was clutching the covers close to him. "Please!"

"Dorian, the house is secure," Klaus told him, smoothly executing push-up number six, and then seven.

"But..."

A little tremor worked its way down Dorian's spine as he laid down, closing his eyes tightly and pressing the heels of his palms to them. /But what if it isn't?/ he wanted to say. He couldn't, though -- he couldn't. Klaus was already a paranoid man to begin with; did he really need Dorian questioning things when he thought the situation was safe?

"All right," Dorian whispered. "I... I can stay by myself..." God, he'd be crazy before Klaus ever got back!

"You can.... 20... come with me... 21... if you want." A rare offer; but Klaus *knew* Dorian got jittery around guns!

"I'll be good and quiet," came the promise, some relief flooding through Dorian and into the pit of his belly.

"I just don't want... 23... you to be nervous... twenty... four..." He completed twenty five total before he felt what was a suspicious-seeming tugging of muscle and stopped before it got any worse. Then he turned over to do sit-ups.

Watching him, Dorian could feel his erection rising at the sight of Klaus's motions, and he shivered slightly. /Down, down, down,/ he thought to himself. "I'd be more nervous here alone," he admitted softly.

Mid-way through one, Klaus stopped, looking over at Dorian. "Why?"

"I just..." The covers were still tugged close to Dorian even as he leaned to the side of the bed to watch the other man. "I just can't.... I can't... I don't want to be alone. And I can't stand it."

"But when you're alone, there's no threat." Klaus's normal reasoning, as he went back to doing sit-ups. Yes, when one was alone, there was no one there who knew one's failures, no one who could say something to remind one of everything, no one *staring* at one's eyepatch, or ruined hand...

The realization that Klaus didn't understand was there, but it was hard for Dorian to let go. "I'm just afraid," he admitted miserably. "I'm sorry to be such a coward."

"You're not... a coward." /I am./

"I am," Dorian told him firmly. "I'm afraid to be alone. I can't sleep without you with me. I don't even want to go to the bathroom without you! It's all I can do to do *that*! If that isn't cowardly, I can't imagine what is!"

Silence, as Klaus quickly finished the sit-ups, and then moved to get under the sheets. "Does it matter?"

"It does if you're disappointed in me," Dorian said, quickly shifting closer to the center of the bed and to Klaus.

The German man, with a little rustling, settled comfortably on his back, knowing Dorian would soon be pressed against him. It was a comfort, really, no matter how he started off sleeping because he always ended up moving closer before he woke up. "I'm not."

"That's all right, then," Dorian whispered, a hand lightly placed on Klaus's arm, his head nuzzled up close to the other man's shoulder. Here, close by, he was safe, even in the dark. No matter what. "So long as you aren't..."

/I'm disappointed in myself, scared, lost.../ "Good night." Klaus laid there a moment, then moved his left hand to rest atop Dorian's shoulder, pulling him closer still.

That was perfection, a deep and sorrowful perfection. Being so close to Klaus had been something Dorian had wanted, dreamed of, needed for so long and not gotten. No, it had taken... /I won't think about it./ Instead, his arms moved, one to lay across Klaus's belly, the other to curl between them as his head came to rest on Klaus's shoulder. "Good night, Klaus," he whispered, able to close his eyes, finally.

Laying there awake, with Dorian so close wasn't hard... it was trying to sleep. He'd been tired, but frustration and anger at himself had driven a great deal of it from him. Now he could concentrate on the feel of soft golden curls tucked against the side of his face, the warm frame curled against him... Even the steady damp breaths that tickled his own dark hair seemed somehow wonderful, just as the arm wrapped around Dorian's slim frame was vaguely remarkable!

/I love you, Klaus,/ Dorian thought sleepily, shifting even closer with a sigh.

Other times they'd slept together -- all other times in fact -- exhaustion, physical or emotional, had pulled him into a heavy sleep. Now, though, there were so many sensation to contend with, and nothing to keep his mind busy. Only the feel of warm arms. Dorian was the only person he'd ever slept with, the only person he'd ever let touch him that much, that way.

Why?

It was easy to think that it was what they had been through, easy to simply consider that Dorian needed him, but...

Was that the truth of the matter?

Klaus wasn't going to consider it too deeply. No matter his reasons for it, they had been through a certain type of hell that only they could understand even slightly, and Dorian *did* need him in a desperate way...

And if his easy acquiescence to Dorian's need was because he was just as sick as those Stasi men who'd hurt Dorian, what did it matter?

"Having problems sleeping?" Dorian asked softly, startling him slightly.

/He doesn't know.../ "Yeah."

"Is there anything I can do to help you?" came the next question, along with a slight shift of Dorian's body, legs coming up, hips moving slightly away from Klaus.

The movement all but made Klaus jump out of his skin. "No," came the thick murmur, eyes sliding closed tightly.

"Maybe some warm milk?" Dorian suggested.

"No, but thanks." An already rough tone roughened more, and Klaus wished Dorian would either lie back down or move away entirely. Because with him so obviously awake, too...

Well.

"All right," came the murmur, sleep not nearly so far off for Dorian, who snuggled closer again, breath becoming steady and even before very much more time had passed.

Why was it that he could better face these things when Dorian was sleeping? /I'm not a queer, I don't want to do anything with him, I'm not.../ He couldn't get out of his mind the image of Dorian trying to unwrap the shampoo bottle, or those first moments after his clothes had been cut off, when Klaus couldn't look away, and the violation that followed. /I'm not like that, I don't want to *do* that.../ It was disgusting, wrong, and so many other things. But the arousal those images conjured up when combined with Dorian pressed to his side was undeniable....

Especially when the other man sighed and shifted closer, the feel of a hip pressing to Klaus's own.

His already tense form stiffened worse, breaths all but stopping as if that would get rid of the erection that wasn't held in place by boxers and loose pajama bottoms. Dorian couldn't know, *ever*, and he had to get away from that comfortable, warm touch against him before it got any worse. It was unfortunate for him that Dorian shifted in that moment, a thigh coming up to cross his own even as the blond Briton hugged himself tightly against the German's tall, lean frame and almost audibly *purred*.

In that moment, it didn't matter if Dorian had felt Klaus's erection or not -- it was a startling movement that made Klaus jump free of the bed and that grasp, swearing under his breath.

It also woke Dorian completely, nearly scaring him half to death so that he cried out, suddenly fighting the covers. "Stop! STOP!!! Oh, GOD, No! Klaus! KLAUS!!!"

Startled still, Klaus barely edged near the bed close enough to untangle Dorian, and then back off again. "I'm here, Dorian." /Not for much longer. I need to go for a run, or... something.../

In tears, the other man reached out for him and, unable to find him, curled around himself in the center of the bed, breath hitching with fear and the desperate need for light -- light and Klaus. "Wh-wh-wh..."

A hand finally touched his shoulder, barely there but that callused touch, an odd mixture of gentleness and firmness, could have only been Klaus. "Dorian?" Had they both scared each other so much?

Tremblingly, Dorian took hold of that hand, clutching it tightly to his chest. "Klaus. Klaus. Oh, G-god, Klaus. I was a-afraid. You w-w-were gone and it was d-dark and I thought..." He had thought someone had taken Klaus out of the bed and away from him. "I th-th-thought sssomeone had t-t-taken y-you...!"

"I just... needed to get up," he said, letting Dorian clutch his right hand against his chest. He didn't want to be touching Dorian just then, but... Thank God, if there was one, for the darkness that would hide his arousal from Dorian.

"I couldn't b-bear it if sssomeone took you!" Dorian got out, grasping tightly to that hand, unwilling to let it go. The mere thought of someone hurting Klaus was horrific, unbearable! "I'd d-die..."

"No one's going to... take me," Klaus tried to assure, moving close enough to put one knee down on the mattress, other hand reaching out to stroke, despite the brace, through Dorian's hair. "I'll be right back -- I just need..." /An excuse. Any excuse, anything to get away for a moment, so I don't.../ "To go to the bathroom. All right. I'll be right back. I didn't mean to scare you."

"Okay," Dorian whispered, still shivering even as Klaus withdrew. /I'll try to stay here 'til you come back. I'll try.../

The marching pace was faster than usual, Klaus padding out of the bedroom and then down the hall to the bathroom, door closed firmly behind him. He turned the light on first, and took a moment of adjusting to the blinding glare before he could categorize things properly.

He was aroused still, and that was what was making him most nervous. Best to... tend to it, disgraceful as that was, so he could at least get in bed with Dorian again, and they could both sleep.

Silently, the tall dark-haired man leaned back against the wall, looking at himself in the mirror for a moment in disgust. /I've fallen this far. God, I'm no better than those fucking Stasi, am I?/ came the grim rumination even as he tugged at the elastic waistband of his pajama bottoms. Their swift removal to rest at the top of his thighs was quickly followed by a similar shift of white boxers, leaving his heavy erection free and in his hand.

He closed his eye so he wouldn't have to look at himself in the mirror as he committed the act, shifting his body so that his lean weight rested on his shoulders and heels. /This is sick, wrong, and that's why I'm hiding in the bathroom./ So Dorian would never associate him with the sick East German officers who'd done those things to him. It was hard to imagine that his callused, ruined grasp could be Dorian's. Three fingers instead of five, and a rough palm against aching hard flesh, starting a slow stroking.

He was trying to concentrate on the image of Dorian in the shower, towel slid temptingly to one side. It was safe, almost. There was no hint of the horror filled images that tickled at the back of his mind. No tearful blue eyes as he wrapped pink lips around a thick cock...

"Klaus...."

The whisper wasn't even remotely horrified, though it likely scared Klaus himself half to death. No, it was simply there, sad and vaguely needy, and the touch that brushed over his face....

/Shit./ Could Dorian tell what he was thinking? Could he? He had to -- had to be able to guess! He sounded so sad that it hurt... And Klaus couldn't do anything. Just froze in place at the sound of Dorian's voice, motions stopped mid-stroke. /I'm sick, this is wrong, go away, Dorian... leave me to this shame, *go* *away*!/

"Klaus..." came the whisper again, and that time, it was accompanied by the brush of lips against his mouth, half-fearful, and a hand clasping lightly over his own.

"Gott." A tight, miserable utterance, Klaus not moving -- not moving away or towards those lips or the hand over his own. /Don't. Don't, you're just doing this because you need me, I won't leave, go away, leave me alone to this.../ Now if only those thoughts could form words and leave his lips.

It never once occurred to him that Dorian was doing it because he *loved* him.

The hand that clasped over Klaus's shifted, Dorian's body moving closer to him as he kissed Klaus again, lips opening partially to press against them. /Klaus./ He didn't know what the other man might do to him, and for the moment, he didn't care. He only knew he couldn't go another moment without the dark-haired man close by him, and doing this with him, if Klaus would let him... It would be so beautiful, even if Klaus hated him afterwards, even if...

Still no motion. Klaus was caught -- mind screaming obscenities at him, orders to push Dorian away, to tell him no, and *why*, while his body wanted to push Dorian to his knees and do just what that fucking sick Stasi officer had done. He wanted to thrust into Dorian's mouth, wanted to take pleasure from the lips pressing against his own, while part of him wanted to hyperventilate, run down the hall and out of the house, to run a few hundred laps around the house.

Instead, that slim thief's hand pulled lightly at his erection, tugging, touching him, pleasuring him, and it was awful and somehow wonderful all at once, combined with those sweet, drugging kisses. There was need in Dorian, need for comfort and for pleasure, and he didn't dare to rub his own growing erection against Klaus, but oh! God, what exquisite wonder there was in pleasing him!

A single huff of gasped air left Klaus, the war of motionlessness lost to the assault of Dorian's hand wrapped firm around his heavy erection. His own hand had fallen away what seemed like long ago and that left the thief's fingers only on his aching shaft, slipping over the hooded head with pre-ejaculation slick fingers for long moments before he came, a shuddered release that was warned only with a gasp. Even as his body's sensations seemed to center into that area, a rush of relief leaving him with a lingering nausea and disgust.

"Klaus..." came that tender whisper again, accompanied by another of Dorian's kisses, so lingering and unique, something he could never have imagined feeling before that moment.

He responded a little to that kiss, even as he felt his stomach trying to claw up the back of his throat. Then he broke away, trying to speak but unable to find the words. What could he say, other than he was sorry? That Dorian couldn't understand why he was doing that, that he shouldn't have touched him, because... because it was sick, and Klaus had used him.

"I love you. I'm sorry. I love you..." Dorian said softly, trembling as he remained there, close to Klaus, the feel of the other man's slick fluid still on his palm and wrist. "I shouldn't have come in. I shouldn't have touched you. I know you'll hate me. I know you don't like me. I'm so sorry. I love you. I... I love you."

/I don't know what love is. I'm sick. I'm a failure. You *don't*, shouldn't want me.../ The grim expression Klaus wore didn't change when Dorian looked at him. It was the same shamed, disgusted look he'd had on his face when Dorian had slipped in on quiet thief's feet. "Don't." /I'll hurt you./

"I'm sorry," Dorian apologized again, backing away slowly, knowing innately that the look of revulsion was meant for him. "I can't help it. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have come in. I'm so sorry..."

The German knew, nearly instantly, that he'd hurt Dorian. Just what he'd been trying to *not* do, why he'd left the bedroom in the first place, why he couldn't let Dorian touch him... His one green-grey eye opened slowly, and Klaus wasn't looking at Dorian as he pulled his boxers and pajamas up over his groin to at least hide himself from Dorian's eyes. Though the man had seen him before, when that Stasi had molested him, hadn't he? That had hurt so much...

"I-I... I didn't want to hurt you."

"You could never hurt me," Dorian replied quietly, watching him with aching, heavy heart. "Never, Klaus. Never..."

"Yes, I could." And Dorian just couldn't see it, or didn't want to. He didn't move away from the wall, because there was nowhere to go. Dorian would follow, no matter what, so running was a waste of energy. "I don't want to hurt you. But I... do."

Helplessly, Dorian moved forward, wiping his hand frantically on his shorts before flinging himself against Klaus's chest. "No! You don't! Klaus!!"

"I do!" It was a rough bellow, reminiscent of Klaus when frustrated on a mission. But his eye had never had that look in them before. Agonized disgust that reached past anything Klaus should ever have felt in his life. "You don't know the things I want to do. You don't *know*!"

"Then tell me!" came the cry, needful, desperate, that aquamarine gaze levelled on him pleadingly. "Tell me, Klaus. Please!"

The first night in such a nice house, in a country far from their troubles in Germany, and still they couldn't relax.

/Such a fall from the pedestal he puts me on -- 'most wonderful person in the world'... that wants to hurt him. If I tell him, he'll hate me, be scared of me, and then he won't need me anymore.../ And when even Dorian turned his back on him, that final human being that wanted something to do with his life, so ruthlessly... when that final thing that he had left him... He'd probably palm his Magnum, fractured hand or not, and blow his skull open. Dorian was the only thing that made existing worth anything.

"I can't!!"

"Then come back to bed with me," came the defeated whisper. "Please, Klaus. I don't mind this. I would have done it for you before, if you'd ever wanted it. I'd do anything for you..."

/I don't deserve that, I don't *want* that..../ "I..." He still couldn't move from the wall, couldn't meet Dorian's eyes solidly yet. "I can't do this anymore, but I can't lose you, Dorian."

"P-please don't leave me," Dorian whispered, horrified to feel tears welling up again. If Klaus left him....

If Klaus left him...

He'd *die*....

"I won't, I just..." Needed to tell Dorian what was wrong, but couldn't risk it.

"Anything," came the ragged promise again. "I'll do anything, only...."

"Let's go to sleep," he said finally, tone tense and trembling. /And I can try to forget that I'm just as sick as the Stasi that hurt you./

That gained him agreement, those arms still holding tightly to him. "All right," Dorian said, lips trembling. "All right."

Klaus didn't pull away; rather, he took a back step towards the door, sliding his own stiff arms around Dorian at last. "If... I do this again, don't follow me. Please."

"....all right," came the promise, softly spoken. It was obvious that what Klaus wanted wasn't him, and he'd always known it, so why did it hurt so much to have it reiterated in such a polite way? "All right."

"I don't want to hurt you. You... wouldn't understand." /You'd be as disgusted as I am./ He turned off the light as they passed into the hallway again, towards the darkened bedroom.

"I just don't understand," Dorian told him softly, staying close to him in the dark. "I can't imagine you ever hurting me..."

Arms around the ex-intelligence officer, Dorian could feel the intake and exhale of a steadying breath. "If I tell you, don't shun me."

"I could never," Dorian replied, a hand moving soothingly down Klaus's side.

"The Stasi..." he hauled himself short of saying it as they neared the bed, before starting again, a clearly nervous hesitation. "I want to do what they did." Further description was too graphic to rise past his throat, so he went as general as he could.

For a moment, Dorian stiffened, breath caught in his throat before he could get a hold of himself. "To do what they did..." he whispered slowly, "...but not to hurt me."

Klaus finally pulled away from Dorian, moving to lay nearer the far edge of 'his' side of the bed. "It's sick, it's wrong, I..." /Want to do that. So much for your 'most wonderful person'./

"Klaus.." The sound of that voice didn't sound even *remotely* disappointed. "What... what happened...yes. That was wrong. But that's not the way it's supposed to be," Dorian explained quietly, sliding into the bed to lay close behind him. "It isn't the way things are supposed to happen. There's another way, a beautiful way, and it's tender and wonderful and so good. So good..."

"No." He wouldn't, *couldn't* believe it; Dorian was probably lying because he was scared of losing him. That was sick, too -- that Dorian would do anything, even if it disgusted him, to keep Klaus. Anything at all; he didn't deserve to have such power over someone he was supposed to be protecting. "No."

The blond man's arms slid around him, holding him tightly. "Yes," Dorian murmured sadly. "Yes. There is. You knew I was a homosexual even before this, and... and what they did was terrible. Terrible, Klaus, to both of us, but even tenderness can be perverted and made cruel! Even something so perfect can be made wrong. It isn't terrible of you to want what you want...." God knows Dorian had been hoping he would for years!!

"Yes, it is." He couldn't bellow or snap -- Dorian was too close, stiflingly so, to do that. Not when he wanted to wrap the man close and just hold him, pretend that none of it had happened. "It's a sin against God, against everything, it's wrong, and don't want to hurt you -- we..."

"You don't believe in God," Dorian told him gently. "And neither do I."

Because if God *really* existed, with all of the 'good' in him that the church insisted was there, how could things like what had happened to them *happen*? "I won't hurt you like that. You're.... you're just trying to make me not feel as sick as I am."

The blond man's breath teased at his neck, brushing past the hair there. "If I can prove to you, somehow, that it isn't sick, will you believe me?"

"It can't be proven." He closed his eye tightly, letting out a shaking breath. He was falling apart again, after having done such a good job of putting himself together after the initial incident. That had been weeks before, why start to shatter now? "Don't bother. Just... go back to sleep. I won't leave."

"Do you trust me?" Dorian asked him quietly.

"Yes."

"Then I'll find a way to prove it to you," came the whisper in his ear. "For now... for now, though... just hold me. And I'll make it better somehow. I love you, Klaus..."

"I know." And he didn't know what he felt for Dorian. A familiar road to cross, that Dorian knew too well and Klaus was tired of tripping on. Sleep would be a long time in coming, though, as his body worked through the trembling fine edge of hysterical fear that had verged into his system for a few moments there.

"Come here," Dorian invited, tugging at him to turn him over, closer to the other man. "Come lay in my arms...." /I'll make it better. I'll just have to think of how.../

Stoically, Klaus shifted a little, arms moving edgily to slide around Dorian. He was used to holding the other man, not the other way around.

"There," Dorian whispered, closing his eyes. "There. It'll all look better in the morning, darling..." And even if he *wasn't* worthy of Klaus, he wasn't going to let him suffer and think he was as sick as those bastards who'd harmed them!!

"Ja." Klaus agreed for the sake of agreeing, before the argument dragged on much longer and he just found himself dying inside worse than before. Everything Dorian said his mind countered with something new and horrifying, showing himself parts that were almost cancerous in their sickness.

The soft sound of humming came to Klaus's ears, teasing at his memory. It wasn't his own favorite, no, not what he'd hummed to make himself sleep for years, but it was something else, meant to soothe, and Dorian's arms around him tightened only slightly as the other man sighed.

Strangely relaxing, and if he simply laid still, arms around Dorian in turn, breathing the smell of the shampoo they'd both used, and that odd, slightly spicy hint that was just Dorian... Exhaustion had a chance to catch him finally, and Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach slipped in a slumber held in the comforting arms of a man he'd sworn years before to hate for all eternity.

Chapter 11 by Kat and Tzigane
Sunlight spilled through filmy curtains, highlighting blue carpet and pale cream walls, the invasion somehow warming on what had turned out to be a fairly crisp fall morning, September or no. When Klaus's green eye opened slowly, it was to two realizations. The first was that the room was more than a little cold, making him extremely grateful for the extra blanket that Dorian had put on the bed before they'd gotten into it the night before.

The second was that Dorian was wrapped inextricably around him, arms and legs twined tightly as if he would never, ever let go.

Dorian had a certain tenacity to him when he wanted to, which was often. It took Klaus a moment, though, to recall the night before and place the reason for that tenacity. He was in Dorian's arms, not the other way around... and they were both so comfortable, wadded up in the warm blankets in that drafty room. Reason told him to get up, that it was already seven, while his body kept him right where he was, gazing around before laying his head back down.

"Mmmmmmmmm," Dorian murmured, shifting slightly, moving so that he was more comfortable before sighing and settling down into sleep again. "Hmmm."

The Briton seemed happy enough in his sleep. This was something that Klaus was sure granted the blond man pleasure and comfort. The night before had driven them both to their own personal horrors, whether Dorian wanted to admit it or not. Best to enjoy what was surely enjoyable, without a question. He stayed quiet, wanting to savor it all before they were both awake and would have to start the day.

For a while, they remained there, close and warm. Dorian stayed wrapped around him, sighing only every once in a while until finally, Klaus felt it against him -- the slight nudge of growing erection, and heard soft whimpers to accompany it.

The nudge against his clothed hip started him, a sudden tenseness in his form, but he could pat himself on the back for not jumping out of the bed. He stayed where he was, just lifted up a little from Dorian. /Every man gets that sometimes./

"No..."

That was something every man *didn't* get sometimes.

"KLAUS!"

More startlement, a tense sort of bewilderment as he shifted to settle against Dorian's side, shaking him a little. "Dorian?"

With a gasp, blue eyes flew wide, and for a moment they were filled with panic, not seeing Klaus at all. When they finally did, though... Arms flung about his neck, Dorian's face buried in his shoulder, the other man holding him tightly. "Don't ever leave me!" he blurted out, shuddering. "Don't ever leave me!"

"I didn't..." He sighed, giving up -- words were sometimes useless against Dorian's outbursts, and this seemed to be one of them.

"Don't leave me," Dorian continued to whisper softly, holding him Klaus. "I love you. Don't leave me. Don't.."

"I won't." It was all he could assure Dorian of; why couldn't the blond man see that he was everything Klaus still had? "I wouldn't."

Little tremors shook their way through the thief, his fingers clutching lightly at Klaus. "I was dreaming..." he whispered. "I dreamed that you left me because..." Because he couldn't prove to Klaus that what Klaus wanted was nothing like the Stasi. "And I..." And he had slit his veins from wrist to elbow at the horror of being alone, and the phantom pain of that dream motion had wakened him. "Love you. Ohh..."

"No -- I won't leave you..." If Klaus dreamt, he never remembered them. His sleep was too heavy to allow memories to leave it. Only vague stabs of emotions and unease lingered and those could have been from the night before. "Everything is all right here. We... we're safe."

The trembling slowed to a still, finally, but Dorian didn't lift his head from Klaus or his arms from around him. Instead, he remained there, quiet, quiescent. /Oh, my darling... How can you bear me this way?/

"I was going to ask how you were this morning, but I can guess," Klaus observed with a grim sort of dryness, closing his eye again. "You don't have to worry about me leaving."

"I'm sorry," Dorian apologized quietly, clinging to him. "I know you must hate me for being so stupid and weak and *queer*, but I can't seem to help it..."

"I don't hate you." It seemed, sometimes, that was all he ever said to Dorian. He missed the back and forth, sharp comments and insults passed between the both of them... anything that would tell him they were *both* better.

"I'm sorry," came a second apology. "If I embarrassed you last night. I was afraid, by myself, and... and I didn't think. I didn't want to embarrass you."

At least it had only been embarrassing to a point. "You've seen worse," Klaus verbally shrugged.

"Maybe," Dorian said softly, nuzzling against him, unable to stop that action. "But I never want to embarrass you or hurt you. Not any more than you would want to do the same to me..." Even though Klaus had embarrassed him before, things were... different... now.

The incident where Klaus had ordered Dorian to remove his underwear had been quite the embarrassment for *both* of them -- if only because Klaus always reacted so hotly to Dorian's jabs. Or, had. "Let's... just get up, all right?" Or lay there quietly, but he didn't want to start off the day in the same rut they'd already worn thin.

"Are you going to go shooting?" Dorian asked him hesitantly, beginning to untangle himself from his tight grasp of the other man.

But Klaus wasn't letting go yet; wasn't letting go at all, it seemed, as he stroked a hand over satiny material, down the line of Dorian's upper spine. There was no reason for them to get up in a hurry -- as long as they *did* get up. "Ja."

"Can I still go?" Dorian asked him quietly, snuggling close again. /Oh, that feels so.../ So nice. It felt so marvelous...

/You'll have to come with me, because I can't leave you here alone./ The more that Klaus thought about it, the more frightened he was by his actions and Dorian's. There *was* something wrong, he knew, but... but it was funny that the doctors hadn't paid it much attention. /Or they did, and that's why they recommended what they did./ "Ja -- then we'll drive around and see what else there is in this town."

"That sounds like a good idea. Maybe we could go for a long walk this afternoon," Dorian offered, nuzzling against Klaus's shoulder.

"Through the woods? The path there..." It was narrow but it wove and then disappeared into the thick woods. He wanted to explore it out, see how far it went and where it wound so close to the edge of the lake to begin with.

With a little sigh, Dorian burrowed even closer, eyes drooping again. "Hmmmm. Mhmm..."

"You're not going back to sleep."

"No," came the sleepy agreement accompanied by a weighty sigh. "'m not..." Even though that statement was patently untrue!

Klaus finally turned his head so that he wasn't looking straight at the ceiling any longer; the new view was the pillows, and the top of Dorian's head. Near, comfortable... yes, he could finally hold Dorian like that without those surges of nervousness. For the moment at least. "This isn't so bad."

"Hmmm?" That brought him Dorian's attention, more awake than before. "How's that?"

"'s more comfortable than when we were in the tank." Holding each other. Then again, Klaus was pissed as hell for the ruin of his tank at the time, and that fluffy Caesar was between them, all but freezing.

"I've always been happy in your arms," Dorian informed him, an extravagant statement, but so true!

A snort, the noise almost a laugh, and then Klaus started to try to sit up while still keeping Dorian close. "You're an enigma."

"A puzzle within a puzzle," was the agreement, blue eyes blinking open slowly, still darkened with sleep. "Is it really time to get up, then, Klaus?"

"Nearly seven thirty," the German rumbled, shifting to fully sit up, leaving Dorian partly in his lap. At least there was no problem of a morning erection to deal with -- not after the tense night before.

/I don't want to get out of your arms./ No, if left that way, Dorian would undoubtedly remain right where he was for days on end! "D'you think we can drop by a bookstore today, too?"

"Why not? Are you looking for anything in particular?" Stretching slowly felt good, even if it did awaken now familiar pains in his body.

"I don't know..." Well, actually, he wanted to look and see if he might find something to help Klaus, or perhaps something on surviving rape, so he could understand more about what was going on with both of them, only he wasn't sure what. "Something to read while we're here. Relax with. That sort of thing...."

He wanted to offer Dorian a book of *his*, but... well, the man wouldn't want to read his familiar history tomes or weaponry books. The art book, though... "I still have that book on museums you gave me. But, yeah, we'll go to a bookstore." An excuse to have something to look for as they drove, at least!

"Really?" That sounded somehow hopeful and it gained Klaus a smile, the curve of lip and the gleam in Dorian's eyes making him shiver a bit. "I'm glad you do," he said solemnly.

Well, there was no reason that he *would* have gotten rid of it -- just like the Trivial Pursuit, and puzzle that Dorian had left him at the hospital. No one ever gave him gifts, unless he counted the few bottles of liquor the Alphabets had given him out of obligation at Christmas, most of them trying to get on his good side. /No more terrorizing my poor Alphabet soup,/ he mused, looking into Dorian's gaze for a moment before he looked away. "Gut."

A stretch came from Dorian, as well, tumbling him partially off of Klaus in a mostly pleasant way as he yawned. "Mmmmm, I suppose we should get dressed...."

With Dorian, that was always an adventure in and of itself, though less so now than it had been before. "Something comfortable," Klaus murmured, finally slipping away from Dorian as they were no longer entangled.

With a sigh, Dorian watched Klaus rise and head for his suitcase before he stretched out on the bed, eyeing his own. "I think I'll wear *blue* today." Blue had been a favorite color of his lately, much more so than red. He wasn't even sure he'd brought anything red with him at all!

It certainly made those sapphire eyes light to life; Klaus was sure that Dorian knew that and dressed with that in mind. The Briton was the sort of man to know what made him look good. Klaus on the other hand, didn't care if there was something that highlighted him or not. Warm brown trousers were chosen, crisply pressed despite having been in a suitcase, a new undershirt and underwear, socks, his boots and then finally a shirt -- plain, off-colored linen. He was trying to not still wear his suits from work.

One way or another, he was still an incredibly attractive man, and nothing could deter from that for Dorian, who rolled out of bed slowly. "You can have the bathroom first," he told Klaus, stretching again, the sound of his back popping noisily in the room.

Wincing just slightly at that noise, Klaus moved down the hall to the bathroom. A quick, *quick* shower, just to clean his body, and hopefully Dorian would be all right with him being gone for a short time. He still had to shave, and with a schedule of sorts set for the day, there wasn't too much thought in his mind to using his razor for anything but scraping the stubble from his face.

By the time he was done and out of the bathroom, Dorian was dressed, pajamas abandoned in a heap by the side of his suitcase. Dark slacks and sapphire silk shirt were accompanied by one of his many scarves, a thing of paisley with blues and greens and golds rampant amongst the various colors, setting him off despite the scars, making him as beautiful as he had ever been -- to Klaus, anyway. "Shall we get breakfast on our way there, or grab fruit from downstairs?" Dorian asked.

"Out; we can try cooking later," Klaus told him, moving to his suitcase again to pull out his shoulder holster, with the Magnum in place already, and put it on; then a second gun, a much smaller semi automatic was shoved beneath the waistband of his pants at the small of his back, safety *firmly* in place. Two extra clips were tossed into his pocket. "Do you want to try that place we went last night?"

"Not particularly," Dorian admitted, face flushing. "I get the feeling the regulars might stare us right out."

"The people from last night probably won't be there this morning. Just this morning; while we're out, I'll keep an eye out for other places." He couldn't remember anything that they'd passed in their search for a grocery store, so that would have to do.

"All right." It wasn't as if Klaus didn't have a point, after all, it was just that Dorian hated being stared at anymore. Once, he would have accepted it easily enough, but now... "At any rate, I s'pose we'd ought to go, then..."
"Do you want to drive, or will I?" Klaus was asking him, moving out the door, down the short hall and then the stairs; but when he reached the bottom he stopped and turned back around. "Forgot my arm brace." The keys were tossed deftly at Dorian as they passed at the top of the stairs. "Warm it up?"

That golden head nodded, Dorian taking them and heading downstairs. At least the sun was up -- that was most of what made it possible for him to bear going alone, and only the trip through the basement gave him any trouble. Once he was in the car with the doors locked and the motor running, though, it wasn't so bad -- he only had to wait for Klaus, after all.

The German must have run down both sets of stairs to get there as fast as he did, the arm-brace being strapped firmly in place as he waited for Dorian to unlock the doors for him, buttoning his shirt-cuff over the unyielding plastic and fabric.

"Hi, there," Dorian greeted lightly, relief flooding through him. "That didn't take long!"

"No -- I just forgot to grab it when I picked up my guns," Klaus agreed as he slid into the passenger side. Dorian driving was a good sign -- perhaps the day wouldn't go as oddly as the one before it.

"Hmmm. How do I get the garage door open?" the Briton asked, peering backwards. "Is there a magic device or something?"

The seat-belt wasn't even clicked in place, before Klaus was out of the car again. It was manual -- required unlocking, and then for Klaus to haul the thing up to a point where it would stay up. "Back out, and then I'll close it."

Carefully, Dorian obeyed, sending the car out of the garage and then waiting for Klaus to get back in it before he hurtled off towards the road. /Right side of the road,/ he told himself, tongue pressing to the back of his teeth thoughtfully. /Right side./ "Left from here?"

"Ja," Klaus told him, seatbelt *firmly* in place. The right side of the road shouldn't have been too hard for him -- continental Europe was right-sided, but Dorian always either ignored sides completely or kept that little reminder in his mind firmly. "That restaurant is on the way, actually."

"All right," came the agreement, and then they were off with a fair squeal of tires.

No matter what side of the road Dorian was on, he was on it *fast*.

Klaus drew satisfaction from Dorian's speed, as it proved some sort of improvement to him, that even emotionally crippled Dorian could function. And knowing Dorian could function gave his own continued existence hope. Now to *test* that hope, to see how well he could site with his left eye, shoot with his left hand.

"How far is it?" Dorian asked a moment later as they hurtled towards town. Hmm, it felt *good* to drive again, and to drive *fast*!

"Not much farther -- remember that the turn comes up fast." He'd nearly missed it himself the night before.

It certainly *did* come up fast, but Dorian just sent their little car whipping around it and headed on towards town obliviously. "And the shooting range is past the post office? Or did they say to the right?"

"Past it on the right." He was *praying*, too, that no one pulled them over for speeding. Wouldn't that be hard to explain?

As they came into the little town, Dorian slowed the car to a more reasonable pace so that they wouldn't knock over any old ladies or small dogs, peering about for the post office. "There's the restaurant," he noted, slowing further and turning into the parking lot. "It looks pretty quiet..."

"But open," Klaus uttered, noting that sign right away. Quiet like that was a good sign -- it was early, so if anyone recognized them from the night before, nothing would be said, would it?

Carefully, the car was parked and they got out, locking the doors behind them, Dorian glancing around in curiosity at the little town. It was a cute place, rather small, and not too busy, or so it seemed. "Ready for coffee?" he asked Klaus, knowing innately that the other man NEEDED caffeine.

Shifting his shoulders a little -- a movement that moved his holster a little forward, but also to a more comfortable spot -- Klaus nodded. "Yes. Too ready for it."

With a smile, Dorian led the way inside, stopping just at the counter to peer at the breakfast choices. "Coffee," he told the woman who looked at him expectantly. "Ah, scrambled eggs, bacon, hashbrowns..." Blue eyes glanced at Klaus, just behind him. "And you?"

"The same." It sounded good, and at least it wouldn't be *burnt*, as one of them probably would have done.

"That'll be eight-forty-three," the woman at the register told them in her nasal tone as Dorian dragged out a ten and gave it to her.

/I'll just buy his books,/ Klaus decided, letting Dorian pay for *that*, while he moved to get a table in a corner. Yes, far more empty than the night before, and the place held no faces that were familiar to him from the night before -- though a few were staring discreetly. /Fucking Yanks./

Thankfully, Dorian ducked into the corner with Klaus, lifting his hands to cradle his face in them as the waitress brought coffee. "Thanks," he said lightly, smiling at Klaus. "Not a bad start to the morning, then," he noted, nodding at the cup now in front of Klaus before he began to add sugar and creamer to his own.

A little creamer was tossed in as if to temper the heat, before Klaus took a testing sip and swallowed. "Not a bad start. We should be fine if we keep busy today."

"Well, between looking for a bookstore and the shooting range, it hadn't ought to be too bad," Dorian answered hopefully.

More coffee passed his lips, and he shifted to pull a cigarette pack out of his pants pocket, the lighter with it. "Mm. I just won't go very far from you."

"I'm sorry to be such a burden," Dorian apologized. "Maybe it'll get better, one day." Not that he wanted to ever be apart from Klaus, anyway!

"You're not a burden to me." But Klaus didn't have a way to prove that to Dorian, just as Dorian couldn't prove things to Klaus. "For something to be a burden, it would have to be hindering."

The response was dry with an odd humor. "Klaus, I have problems when you leave the room to *pee*. If that's not hindrance, I'm not sure what is!"

The edges of his mouth curled up for a moment, though he wasn't looking at Dorian. /What would you think if I told you that I worry when I'm away from you? You'd probably not believe me./ "If you knock, it wouldn't be."

Unable to help himself, Dorian laughed in response, shaking his head so that those short golden curls danced around his face. "Hmm. I'll keep that in mind, then!"

Klaus's wry expression didn't shift -- only seemed to spread a little. It was good -- no, much better than just that -- to see Dorian laugh or smile the familiar laughs that reached his eyes as well as his lips. "I do things that must hinder you. So we're even."

"Mmmmm," Dorian said on the end of a chuckle. "Oh, I think everything is just wonderful. I'm so happy..." His face fell slightly into sadness. "I haven't been so happy in a very long time, and in so many ways, that's disturbing..."

/At least you have been happy./ He could remember elation at missions done well, or smugness when Dorian stumbled or something happened to Mischa. But never quite in any form that Dorian had exhibited so often. "Before... the mission, were you?"

"Sometimes," Dorian admitted. "Often. Mostly when I was with you. That was the most wonderful thing. In a way, getting to..." His face fell further, hands hiding it momentarily. "God, I'm terrible for even thinking it. In a way, getting to be with you made up for anything that could happen. It was worth any risk. Ever."

/And this, Eroica? Was *this* worth it to you? Is it worth it to me?/ "I've never understood that. I probably won't ever."

"I hope one day that you do," Dorian replied quietly even as the waitress stepped up to the table again, plates in hand this time. "Thank you, miss."

"You're welcome. Need anything with that?" the woman asked.

"No, not at the moment." /For you to leave./ He unwrapped the utensils from the rather thin napkin, and laid it neatly in his lap.

Once the waitress was gone, Dorian smiled at Klaus again. "I suppose, in the end, it's ridiculous. That you mean so much to me, I mean. That I can't get by without you. I can't help it, though," he said quietly. "Even if I could, I wouldn't want to."

"What about your men?" Who had surely done so much more in Dorian's life than Klaus ever had.

"My pretty boys..." Dorian said softly. "Well. For now, they'll wait. I couldn't get by without them, either, but in a different sort of sense." He shrugged. "None of them are you." Even Jamesie hadn't been, his poor dark headed little miser.

He drank more coffee as he shifted his fork awkwardly into his right hand. "But I've never done anything for you." /Nothing that you would ever know *was* for you./

"Love has nothing to do with what someone does for one or what one gets out of it," Dorian noted as he began to eat. "If I want something, I can get it for myself."

"I've treated you like shit."

There wasn't any way of getting around that! "Sometimes," Dorian agreed.

"But..." It still didn't make sense. "If we... had've escaped, Dorian, we wouldn't be here."

"I know." The sound of that deep voice was soft, contemplative. "I know. I suppose, if that had been the case, I'd still be traipsing after you, all over the world," he admitted, shrugging slightly.

"This was what it took, then," Klaus murmured, looking back down to his coffee and plate. It took both of their lives to be shredded before Klaus could face that he clearly cared for Dorian. More... wasn't anything he was ready to think about. What Dorian had done the night before still scared him.

"To stop our endless cycle, our little waltz?" Dorian asked him. "Maybe. Maybe..."

"It's a romantic enough idea for you to take to," Klaus groused back at him, careful to keep from himself what *he* thought of that idea. Trapped in a cycle? An empty cycle, that he'd both loved and hated.

"I can't help myself," Dorian admitted, digging into his eggs with his fork and taking a bite. "I'm afraid that I've simply got a romantic soul!"

"Huh." Klaus fell quiet again, spearing a piece of bacon, then starting to eat in earnest. Nothing ever went right for him for long -- nothing. There was little hope that, after everything that happened, he and Dorian could continue on as they were indefinitely. No, Dorian would get better and stop needing him with the desperation he did just then; he'd realize how *far* Klaus had fallen from the man he'd first harassed those years before in the halls of Schloss Eberbach. That he didn't have anything left behind him -- the title, castle, family, and history would be taken from him once his father investigated the reasons for his dismissal. And that there wasn't anything *in* him; no hope for a future beyond the current day, no goals, only a flickering drive to carry on, as if living itself were like smoking. A habit he couldn't quit.

The silence seemed overwhelming, Dorian eating just as steadily as Klaus, until finally he could bear it no more. "What are you thinking?" he asked quietly.

"That the killer cycle isn't over yet." That his *life* was just one gigantic fucking mess and the only reason he'd managed so well was because of rules handed to him that he'd followed. Goals given to him. A future dictated to him.

It took Dorian a moment to place that thought, his head tilting to the side. "Maybe it is," he said quietly. "Maybe it will get better."

"How?" Klaus looked up at him for a moment, just brief, but in that moment Dorian saw so much... nothing. Just an aching *nothing* in Klaus's eye, a lost glaze over grey-green.

"I don't know yet," Dorian admitted. "I don't know. But time is on our side, now. Things will have the opportunity to straighten themselves out... Well. So to speak."

Klaus almost chuckled, though it wasn't a particularly happy sound. "I no longer have anything to do."

"Yes, you do. For now, we have to rest. Concentrate on now," came the quiet advice. "Tomorrow will take care of itself."

"More resting. But what are we resting *for*?" He finished the food on the plate, then picked up the mug of coffee, taking a long sip. "You still can do what you've always done." /You have no idea what my rank meant to me./

"You think?" The sound of that question was dark, worried, and gradually grew softer. "I'm not so sure. It takes nerves of steel to do what I do. I don't have those anymore..."

"When you see something you want enough, you'll be able to." Klaus sounded so sure of that fact that Dorian could almost believe just from the tone of the rich baritone.

That gained him a smile, a strange emotion flitting over Dorian's expressive countenance. "You have the strangest faith in me," he murmured, reaching for a piece of his bacon.

"You never failed to be embarrassingly persistent in your pursuit of art before, whether or not it interfered with international politics."

"And your pursuit of international politics *so* often has interrupted *my* pursuit of art," Dorian teased him gently. "Besides. Rembrandts are *much* more interesting to me."

/And they still can be, Dorian./ Eroica could continue to cross paths with various agencies, but Iron Klaus... "Perhaps it did; still, you can keep your Rembrandts."

"One day, I'll have to show everything to you," Dorian told him gently.

"What do you mean? You entire art collection?" It didn't really interest him too much -- he'd probably spend his time trying to see which ones had been recently stolen.

"Mmm. Everything," Dorian replied solemnly. "I can't seem to help myself. So often, people who have a thing don't appreciate it. *I* appreciate it."

"You've never seen the entire Eberbach art collection, have you?" Klaus asked after a moment.

"Only the Man in Purple," Dorian admitted. "D'you know, I think that I have a painting at North Downs which is remarkably similar, only of another man."

"It wouldn't surprise me -- lots of people had portraits painted out of vanity," the German shrugged, looking to Dorian's plate to see if they could leave yet.

The other man was down to his last bite of eggs and bacon, so it would only be another moment. "Well, perhaps," Dorian agreed easily. "Only I'd like for you to see it, sometime."

"Sometime." Klaus seemed to doubt it would happen, as he slid the coffee cup onto the center of the plate. "Ja, sometime."

"Mmm," Dorian murmured, taking a last swallow of coffee, himself, and dropping a couple of ones on the table. "I'm ready if you are."

"I'm ready -- time to test out my sighting skills," he uttered, rising to his feet and then starting out of the little booth in a rush of movement that was familiar for him. Only he barged right into someone just walking past, in his too-large blind spot.

"Oh, I'm sorry!" the man stuttered, shaking his head. "Wasn't looking where I was going!"

"I..." He backstepped, looking down to the man with his half-gaze. /Couldn't see him, standing right *there*./ Had his senses left him, too, for pinpointing the presences of people around him, or was it just the distraction of Dorian's conversation with him? "Sorry."

The fellow backed away quickly, heading on for the bathrooms, and Dorian smiled at Klaus. "Shall we?"

"Ja." An expression that had been wavering between vaguely pleased and flat turned grim, letting Dorian lead the way out the door, towards the car.

By the time they reached it, the keys were in Dorian's palm, and he unlocked Klaus's door first before moving to the other side and opening it to slide behind the wheel. "It's just down the street now, right?"

"Ja. Just down the street." /I'll still be able to hit the targets. No reason I shouldn't be able to.../ He was half dreading this, half fearing it -- what if he *couldn't* shoot any longer?

Silence reigned between them for a time as Dorian drove, hunting the small shooting range. It was fairly obvious when they found it, the sign proclaiming it to be exactly what it was, and so he pulled into a parking space in front of the store and cut off the engine. "Here we are," he said, the tension in the car rising steadily.

Tension that probably wouldn't abate until Klaus had shot out the ammo in his guns and the clips in his pocket. Seatbelt was undone, and Dorian's companion got out of the car, reaching to the small of his back to pull loose the pistol nestled there.

Swallowing hard, Dorian followed him. There was something incredibly *sexy* about Klaus when he had a gun in his hand, unbearably *hot*, especially considering the fact that Dorian *detested* guns. Still, even shivering slightly, he couldn't resist the other man, or the urge to follow him.

Perhaps it was that Klaus's guns were powerful, deadly, and he was masterful with them. They were an extension of already impressive strength, and they were well loved by Klaus himself. Nothing else in that man's life received such attention.

Klaus paused at the door, long enough to scan the outside of the place, and then stepped in.

The interior of the store was dark and cool, lit by fluorescent bulbs that ringed the area and buzzed slightly. Cases full of guns were highlighted carefully, each displayed by size and type, and in their own way, Dorian found their presentation a lovely thing. It was something about knowing Klaus, *loving* Klaus, that made him see the beauty in the things, even though he didn't like anything at all about them other than their gleam. The proprietor's voice caught his ear, and he looked up to see what was being said.

"These are my guns," Klaus was telling the man absently, putting his German army issued pistol and then pulling free of the shoulder holster the Magnum, to lay both on the counter in front of the man. The clips from his pocket followed, and then he dug into his pocket with his maimed hand to find his wallet and IDs.

"Got some pretty heavy firepower there, doncha," the man drawled slowly, picking the guns up to look at them. "Where'd ya get 'em?"

"Europe." An arrogant, stand-offish tone that Dorian had heard often when Klaus dealt with Mischa, or when Klaus dealt with People he didn't trust in general. "They're both mine; ah, and my ID." The only one he had, his NATO ID card.

"Mmmhmm." The man murmured, nodding his head slowly as he looked it over. "Got the right permits, I reckon. Still. Pretty heavy, 'f you ask me." Dorian could see the brown of the man's eyes as he peered up over the rims of his glasses at Klaus. "You going to be shooting left-handed, I take it."

The brace on *that* hand was suddenly too visible, but Klaus nodded as he took his ID back. "Of course." As if he could pull a trigger or grip a gun with his right hand.

"Well. I reckon it'll be fifteen dollars," came the drawl. "Stairs that'll take you down to the basement 're over in the corner. I take it your friend'll be goin', too."

The magnum was slid back into it's holster with a frightening sort of ease -- from the look in Klaus's eye, to who the ID card said he was, it was clear that people had died at the end of those guns. The pistol was picked up next, the clips slid away in his pocket again, then his wallet came out to pay the fifteen. "Yes, he will."

"You'll find earplugs and such at the bottom of the stairs. Put 'em in before you go through the door at the bottom," the man ordered, taking the money and promptly adding it to the till.

"Thank you," Dorian murmured as Klaus turned and headed towards the indicated stairwell, the slim blond following him.

At the bottom of the dimly lit stairs were earplugs and the more familiar muffling ear phones that slid on with ease. "I want you standing behind me, Dorian."

"Yes, Klaus." The agreement was meek, even as Dorian slid in plugs and slipped the ear phones over them, shivering slightly. "I won't go anywhere else," he said, though he couldn't hear himself, and Klaus probably didn't see him saying it, either. Still... it made him feel a bit better to have said it, and that was enough!

The hallway beyond that door held four corridors, widely spaced apart and brightly lit, targets set up already at the end. Klaus chose the most brightly lit one, and then unbuttoned his shirt-sleeve to take off the brace. He couldn't shoot with that on -- the gun wouldn't be held properly and there was too much risk of it pulling to one side or another.

Timidly enough, Dorian slipped up behind him, hands stuffed into h is pockets. /I won't jump,/ he promised himself as he watched Klaus lay the brace down. /I won't jump.../

He jumped.

It was just a muffled bang through the plugs and earphones, but it was satisfying for Klaus -- to pull the trigger, hear that long missed noise. The first bullet, that tore clean through the little bulb of clay set up on the top row, far left, that was a bullet he wanted to put through Mischa. The next was for that Stasi officer, the next his chief, and that sneering redhead, the fucking psychiatrists in the hospital...

He didn't notice he'd emptied all eight shots until he realized the muffled bang wasn't there anymore.

Behind him, Dorian cringed, hands up over the ear phones, eyes trained on those exploding bits of clay. There was no question about it -- Klaus was just as good as ever, and he still hated guns with a passion!

The first clip was flicked removed, and he jammed another in with speed, picking up where he'd been. Eight more shots, as accurate and angry as the first eight, and then he put the gun out of habit, still hot, against the small of his back after reloading it and putting the safety back on. It burned some, but only enough to redden through his shirt, not to actually hurt. He'd done that before, too. The magnum came next, and he realized he'd have to get a new holster so it would settle properly on his right side.

Gnawing his lip, Dorian let out a shaky breath. Now... it was time to see what Klaus could still do.

He'd brought an extra clip for it so it wouldn't be left unloaded when he was finished, even if he could no longer use it. Hesitance, Klaus knew, would be his enemy, so he brought the weapon up, safety off, sighted carefully and quickly at a clay bulb to the right, before pulling the trigger.

It shattered.

Seven more times, with the same elating result.

He still had it. He was *still* Iron Klaus, even if he wasn't Major Eberbach any longer.

When all the shots were fired, he just lowered the gun, standing there, not yet willing to take it out of his hand. He had to get a new holster, a box of bullets for each weapon. He wasn't completely useless, apparently. Perhaps he could do sharp-shooting for someone, or...

Or.

The feel of Dorian touching him caught his attention, the other man's trembling hand holding tightly to him for a moment, almost fearful. The need for Klaus was desperate, and the sudden fear that perhaps the other man had discovered he was still who he had been before and would no longer be willing to put up with him was terrible!

Klaus took off the head-phones first, not having bothered with ear plugs; then he slid an arm around Dorian's waist, keeping him close. "I'm still Iron Klaus."

There was no response from Dorian; his ear plugs and headphones were still firmly in place. Instead, there was only the tight grasp of arms wrapped about him, holding him close, and the feel of the blond man trembling against him. /What if.../

If it was fear of the guns that made Dorian tremble, or something else, Klaus couldn't tell. But he just held the man, finally pulling off the headphones, letting them drop to the floor. "Dorian."

The green foam earplugs didn't muffle the sound of his name, quite, so blue eyes came up to look at Klaus, Dorian's arms still tight around him. "Yes?" he whispered unsteadily.

Klaus was smiling as he looked at Dorian -- an expression that reached his eyes. Still terribly, hopelessly lost, but not so achingly empty. There was at least something left to him that Klaus could personally be proud of. The incident with the Stasi hadn't shattered him completely. "Are you all right?" Klaus asked, smile that same victorious baring of teeth as he'd seen a few times before.

"Yes," was the answer, quietly spoken, arms coming up to wrap around Klaus's neck. "I told you," he whispered. "I told you..."

"I need to let my left hand finish healing; and then I'm going to fine tune it." He still needed to work on speed. But accuracy... just as perfect as before. "I can do *this*."

"You can do *anything*," Dorian told him worshipfully as the door from the stairs opened slowly.

"'S everything all... Holy Jesus!" the man from upstairs declared, eyes wide. "Well. I reckon nobody's dead..." he muttered to himself.

"Everything is fine." Klaus' tone was sure, sharp and heavily accented as he shifted away from Dorian enough space to slide his gun back into the holster. "Is there any place around here where I can buy more bullets? And a new holster." The one he wore was obviously for right-handed, which he also obviously wasn't anymore.

"Got some things upstairs y'might like," the man drawled, dark eyes still wide. "Might want to look at 'em before you go."

"Gut." He finally did pull away to pick up the brace for his left hand, watching Dorian absently as the blond man removed his ear-plugs.

"All done, then." That was said with more than a little relief, and Dorian smiled at him.

"Yes. I think I'll come here a few times once my arm is healed more, then I can just go out and shoot in the woods." He buttoned the cuff in place, not even bothering to suppress his smile. "I knew I could sight with the left if I had to, I'd just never checked to see if it was as good..."

"I never had any doubts," Dorian told him solemnly, nodding. "Never."

/I did./ But there wasn't a need for them. He could still *shoot*, still kill... "When we go back to Europe, Dorian, shall we vacation in east germany for a few days?"

"You want to go back?" was the startled reply before Dorian saw the decided *gleam* in that green-grey eye. "Yes," he said slowly, nodding. "Yes. I think so..."

"Once everything has healed." And with that, Klaus started up the steps, waiting a moment for Dorian to follow.

Klaus had a new goal to work towards.

That, of course, meant time, planning and a lack of moping, which was an entirely good thing! Unless, of course, time, planning and a lack of moping meant that there would be less of Klaus near him, in which case, it wouldn't be good at all. /He'll get tired of me now that he knows he can be himself again. It won't be long. I should just face up to it and work on it before he goes away.../

"We need to get a map while we're out," Klaus started to tell him, as they reached the top, "And I need to make a few calls. Do you want to help me on this, Dorian?"

"I want to be beside you every step of the way." It was the only answer Dorian *could* give, and it was one he meant most firmly.

"[Best back-up I've ever had, Dorian.]" He nodded to the shop-owner. "You said you had holsters?"

By that point, the man was just a little wary of *both* of them, particularly at the swell of pride that appeared on the other man's face when the first spoke those foreign words. They didn't seem too sane, if anybody had asked him! /Buggers at NATO are probably *all* crazy.../ "Yep," he drawled slowly. "Right over in the corner there. Look all y'like."

Klaus not only looked at the shelf, but he picked them up, tested the leather's strength, and the sizes of them. When he'd narrowed it to two he realized one was set on the right. One choice less, so he carefully slid off his old holster, and handed it to Dorian. "If the Magnum fits in this one, I'll get it," he informed the shop-owner.

"All right, then," the man agreed, still watching both of them as if they were rattlers across from him.

First he put it on, adjusting it with all of the familiarity of a man who was a professional about such things. If felt awkward, but fit properly. He'd just have to get used to being left handed when it came to his weapons. Then the test -- would his Magnum... Yes. "This, then, and a box of bullets for each gun."

Wordlessly, the man behind the counter fetched the things Klaus wanted and rang them up. "Sixty-three-seventeen."

Paid for in cash -- more suspiciousness from the pair. Cash was damn hard to trace...

Klaus had taken his old holster from Dorian, looking at it almost fondly. "I should send it to Z."

"He'd appreciate it," Dorian agreed quietly. "Z worships you, you know."

"Worships?" Klaus asked, taking the bag from the shop-owner and turning smoothly towards the door.

"The very ground you walk on," Dorian informed him. "You've never noticed?"

"Not really," Klaus said truthfully. "He was always a loyal agent..." A good man that he missed not working with anymore. "He was respectful."

That brought a smile to the blond thief's face, thoughtful, his brow knitting. "Most of your men tried very hard to be."

"Huh." Well, there wasn't anything he could do about that fact *now*; he wasn't an agent any longer, wasn't anything. But the line between Dorian's brows... "What's wrong?" he asked, moving to the driver's side to unlock the doors of the car with the keys Dorian had given him.

"Now that you know you can...can do what you did before..." Dorian gnawed at his lower lip. "I suppose I'm just wondering how long it will be before you get tired of pandering to me," he whispered.

Quiet, and Klaus leaned against the top of the car's roof. "I've been wondering how long it would take you to realize that's all I am and leave."

Startled, Dorian looked across at him, eyes going wide. "I wouldn't. I couldn't. Ever. Good God, Klaus! You... You mean so much to me. I would *die* for you. I would die *without* you. I couldn't... CAN'T... Ever..."

"It's only a matter of days more before my father disowns me; I don't have a rank any longer, a job, a family, or a point in life," Klaus rattled off, the confidence to *tell* Dorian everything coming only from the fact that he could still shoot well.

"None of that," Dorian told him firmly, "has *EVER* mattered to me. I love you. I can't live without you. If I could, d'you think I'd have followed you all over the world and back for the last ten years? On my thirtieth birthday, we were holed up in a slum getting shot at, and I never once thought about where I *could* be because I was with you and nothing could *ever* have been better than that. Do you think any of that could ever matter to me?"

"I'm nothing," he murmured, sliding into the driver's seat, waiting for Dorian to get into the car too. He didn't speak until the passenger door was open. "There's nothing *to* me, Dorian. You have... fascinating aspects to you."

"There's *everything* to you," Dorian disagreed as he shut the door and slid on his seatbelt. "There's your sense of humor and rare smiles, there's the way you're so damned protective and your sense of ultimate justice. There are so many things, and I see more and more of them every day! There's *everything* to you, Klaus!"

Klaus just couldn't see any of it -- only that he had Dorian's companionship and the added bonus of still being able to shoot well. "I keep thinking you'll see you're wrong."

"I know that I'm right," came the firm words in return. "And somehow, I'll figure out how to let you see it, too."

/Just like he'll prove that I'm not as sick as the Stasi./ "Fine. Do you want to go find a bookstore?"

"Please," Dorian replied solemnly. "Klaus?"

"Ja?"

"I will never get tired of you. And I will *never* leave you."

Klaus didn't look over at him as he pulled out of the driving range's parking lot. Didn't care to -- but from his profile, the side with the plain black patch over his eye, Dorian could see a hundred things flit over his expression. /You can't leave me. Ever./ "All right."

With a sigh that sounded audibly of relief, Dorian leaned back and closed his eyes. "I just... needed you to know," he murmured. "Even if *you* leave *me*. I won't ever willingly go away from you..." /Not until you leave me, and then, I'll die.../

Common sense was telling Klaus they needed to get help -- that this was sick, and unhealthy. But help from whom? A doctor? Klaus's common sense could also, Klaus consciously noted, get fucked. "Neither of us is leaving the other. Okay. Do you want me to help you look for anything at the bookstore?"

"I was thinking of looking up some things on r..." He stuttered on the word. "You know. And maybe something fun to read, too."

"I don't know. 'r'?" Klaus asked seriously. If English was his native tongue, perhaps he'd have known.

"Rape." The word seemed to shiver off of Dorian's tongue, his face paling slightly and then flushing heatedly. "I thought, maybe..." His voice trailed off into silence.

"Maybe?" /Why would you want to *read* about it, Dorian?/

"Maybe there would be something that would... I don't know. Something that would make it.... easier to comprehend. Easier to live with. Less something to..." He didn't know.

"Oh." Dorian was wanting to think about it, wanting to... try to get help, in his own way. Klaus wasn't about to stop that -- he wanted to help Dorian, but he *also* wanted to forget as best he could that anything had ever happened to *him*. It was hard to watch over Dorian and be aware that they'd both been hurt. "I'll help you look, if you want."

"I'd appreciate that," the tall blond said quietly.

"If..." Klaus stated to try to say something, but it faltered and he just drove for a minute or so in silence. "If I can do anything, Dorian..."

"Thank you." The scenery outside was moving past, and Dorian was fairly well missing out on most of it. Even if they'd passed a bookstore, he wouldn't have known. "You've been wonderful for me, Klaus."

/I'm not, though./ "Just tell me what I can do." The town was still thin, though things seemed to appear more frequently as they passed from Lanesborough to Pittsfeild.

"Hold me," Dorian answered quietly. "Stay close to me. And don't let me go..."

"I wouldn't want to." He turned onto Main Street when it appeared, and they found themselves on the outskirts of a small downtown.

"I think I see one," came the murmured remark, Dorian pointing to the right side of the street. "There."

Klaus eyed the shop-front that was fast approaching, and then pulled into one of the many parking spots along the street. "Do you have change for the meter?" He knew he did, but trying to find it in his pockets...

"Yeah," Dorian agreed quietly, digging in his own pocket to tug out quarters. "I do."

"Shouldn't take us more than... an hour?" Klaus questioned, waiting until a car driving by has passed before he got out, locked the door,and then walked around to the front of the vehicle where he was safe from being hit.

"I don't think so..." After all, it didn't look like it was too big. He wasn't sure he'd find anything he wanted in there!

Klaus wasn't sure anything Dorian was looking for even existed, but he wasn't going to say that. "Fifty cents, then," he said, walking towards it to see if it was *normal* or not. It was then that Dorian realized the pistol was still clearly tucked in place against the small of Klaus's back, the handle and part of the trigger jutting above Klaus's waist-band.

"Um... Klaus..." he said tentatively, change in hand. "Are you sure that you should take that inside?"

"Take what inside?"

"The gun," Dorian said softly, nodding towards him.

"The..." Klaus realized then that he was still armed to his teeth. A moment spent to backtrack, opening the passenger side door, and putting his empty clips and the pistol under the seat. But the shoulder holster stayed in place. "I didn't notice."

Dorian only smiled at him, though, tilting his head to the side slightly. "I just didn't think they'd let us in, or they'd call the police or something."

"Yanks," Klaus sighed, shaking his head as he re-locked the car, watching Dorian put the money into the meter. Hopefully they wouldn't even spend that long in the bookstore.

Hands once again in his pockets, Dorian strolled towards the store and pushed open the door, stepping inside. It was actually a large store, though it was crammed to brimming with used books, to the point where he *felt* small.

"Hello there -- can I help you?"

"Umm..." Pale skin flushed, turning Dorian's scars livid even as he felt Klaus come up behind him. "Could you direct me to..." To what? /To your section on rape and abuse? Ha.../ "To your help section? For trauma and the like?" he murmured.

The *look* the man was getting from Klaus, daring the book-seller to say a *thing*... He shivered, trying to smile at them both. "We don't really have much of a help section, sir," he said, trying to not stare at either man too much. "But if you want to look at it, just follow me..."

"Thank you," Dorian said, becoming less tense as he followed along behind the man. /Well... at the very least, he might know if there's another bookstore in town.../

"What kind of help books are you looking for? The first aid/Trauma section is right here...." It was on a base at the back of the room, the lower shelf of a set of dust-covered shelves.

"Ah...." The mere THOUGHT of trying to express what had happened to them broke Dorian out in a cold sweat. "Um... well... I don't know..."

"Books on... psychological help," Klaus said for Dorian. "For Trauma."

"Yes," Dorian agreed quickly. "That."

The bookstore owner looked back at both of them for a moment, taking in the two of them. One looked wispy, and had that warm deep British accent that MUST have dragged women to him... but from the way he was dressed and the long hair, he was gay. And the man behind him, frightening with the patch over his eye, the grim expression, military build and shoulder holster...

"I really don't know what you mean -- I'm sorry."

"Oh, well, maybe we can just look a bit?" Dorian suggested, a hand coming up to cup a cheek, hide his face.

It was a little late, though, since the man had already been trying to not stare. "Well. If you two need anything, just shout, okay?" And then he moved around them, headed towards the front of the store again.

It was a relief for the man to be gone, but Dorian knew he wouldn't be able to look at a thing, much less *buy* anything about what he wanted. "Maybe there's another store in town..." he suggested, biting his lower lip.

"We can ask," Klaus murmured, crouching down to look at the shelf that had been pointed out to them, and then the shelves above them. Help with sex lives, love lives, first aid, self esteem...

Nothing on rape or violent sexual trauma, nothing on torture of any sort. Nothing that looked even remotely helpful, in fact, resided on those shelves, which made Dorian sigh. "Maybe there's something in fiction we can pick up," he suggested, shaking his head and then sneezing. "Oh, God, at the dust!"

Klaus rubbed at his nose, backing up. "What kind of fiction do you read?"

"Ohh... this and that," Dorian answered. "Whatever sounds good to me at the time. I like mystery novels..." He was also rather fond of Gothic novels, as well, and he supposed he'd like romance novels if only there weren't women in them!!

"We can ask where those are," Klaus murmured, rising to his feet and nearly backing into a shelf behind him. "Then I'll find out where another store is."

"All right." That was said with a grateful sigh, Dorian brushing at his slacks. "Goodness. I've got dust all over me now," he fretted, frowning. "I don't know if I WANT to find anything else..."

"Maybe we can look in the other store if there is one." Everything there was used, anyway -- pages missing probably, spines already broken in. "We'll... look for those books first."

"All right," Dorian agreed with a sigh, shivering. "There're probably spiders in here, God knows, and if I don't HAVE to deal with them, I'd just as soon not."

"Funny the KGB never seemed to scare you, but spiders..." Klaus smiled for a moment, until they neared the store's owner again. "Are there any other bookstores in this area?"

"Uhm..." the man looked at them again, and nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, try 'Either Or' bookstore. There's a building a block down, and it's inside on the second floor. The bank's there, too."

"Thank you," Dorian said, promptly heading for the front door -- he wanted to get out before any MORE dust attacked him!

And Klaus followed as if... almost like a body guard would. How odd.

"We can walk down there, ja?"

"Why not?" came the question by way of agreement, Dorian smiling at him. "That sounds like a marvelous idea."

"Mm." And he wanted to get a map, too -- that stayed in the back of his mind, along with maybe getting a novel to read. "Big building..." A look up the street, and then down it revealed one such building, framed in black steel, on their side of the street, down it. "There. Let's go."

Keeping up with Klaus proved to be its usual interesting pace. Even with legs just as long as the other man's, Dorian somehow always felt that he was scurrying, and the sudden imagine of poor short little James running away from him (or trying to!) came to mind. /Hmmm, running from Klaus. Bad idea,/ he decided, amused as they came to the door of the building. "Second floor?"

But it wasn't hard to figure that out, as opening the darkly tinted door took them right away into a warmly lit space, with tinted skylights and trees growing indoors. A sealed in court-yard of sorts, with shops off of it, and a metal stair-case winding up to the visible store-front of Either Or. "Seems so."

"Marvelous," Dorian said with a sigh. "This looks like at least we won't get dirty searching through things!"

"This town is such an odd mixture of old and new," the German murmured, walking forwards towards that twisting staircase.

"At least it'll make it interesting to explore," came the suggestion, Dorian heading right behind him as Klaus began to take the steps at what would have been a run to most people. "So we'll have plenty to do!"

Klaus very much doubted that he'd be *able* to feel boredom with Dorian there with him. "True. If we do run out of things to do, we can always keep ourselves busy." He stopped in front of the glass door, looking at the tightly packed, but neatly organized and clean store.

"Oh! They have little signs to tell you where everything is!" The relief coming off of the British thief was nearly palpable at the thought of *not* having to ask anyone where something was. "Marvelous!"

"Gut." Stepping in, Klaus was nearly at once accosted by a smiling young girl.

"Hello -- may I help you?"

"Ach, no, we're looking," he startled, forging in through the doorway only because the girl reminded him of G.

"Everything looks like it'll be easy to find," Dorian said with a nod, smiling and stepping closer to Klaus. Women really gave him the creeps, most of the time!

"Ja." Klaus started towards the fiction section at first, before looking at Dorian for verification of that.

That seemed to be fine with the other man because Dorian was close behind him, eyes already locked on the little signs directing them where to go. "Ohh, there are the mysteries, but let's check the new fiction first?" he almost asked, smiling.

"All right." He wasn't partial either way -- just keeping his eye open for anything that would catch his interest even a little. He looked to the woman on shift as if he were just along for the ride.

It gained him a smile from her and a nod as she went back to sorting books at the front desk, occasionally answering questions as patrons wandered up front looking for something or to check out. Her non-threatening demeanor meant that Klaus could relax somewhat, which meant in turn that Dorian could, as well, his eyes glancing along the rows of books thoughtfully. "Ohhh. That looks good," Dorian murmured, reaching out to pick up a novel off of the shelf -- _Windmills of the Gods_.

"Huh." Noncommittal, Klaus letting his eyes scan the shelves for a moment. No, nothing in particular caught his gaze. "I'm going to walk around a little and see if I find something."

"All right," Dorian agreed, holding his book and smiling. "Just... I'll probably find you shortly." Because he couldn't stand for Klaus to be gone long!

Klaus wandered off through the aisles, and once he was gone another sales girl came near Dorian, smiling. "Have you read anything else by Sidney Sheldon?"

"Not really," Dorian admitted with a smile. "But I like mysteries, and thrillers, so I think perhaps it won't be too bad. Do you have any other suggestions?"

"Do you like bloody mysteries, or the more... plot-ish character based ones?" she asked him politely.

"Plot-ish," Dorian decided with a nod, "though blood really doesn't bother me much." After ten years with Klaus, blood had *better* not bother him much!

"There's one that's... it's good, and I can't remember the writer off the top of my head..." She started to lead him towards the mysteries. "There's a murderer on the loose who's raping and killing young women. Very intense."

At the mention of rape, Dorian shuddered. "Actually, I'd just as soon avoid anything violent of a sexual nature," he said in a low voice, humming with tension. "I'm afraid that doesn't suit me at all..." A shiver crept down his spine and he peered about for Klaus.

Klaus was nowhere in sight, though he'd be easy enough to find when Dorian went looking. "Hmn... well, how about something by P.G Wodehouse? They're funny suspense and mystery," she recommended, tapping the spines of a few. "Wooster and Jeeves -- it's a very good read."

"That sounds *marvelous*," Dorian sighed. It also sounded as if there were no women in it, or at least, not the sort who would be aggravating main characters, and *that* pleased him. "And do you have any books on trauma? Er, loss of limb, that sort of thing? Violence? Ah, in the help section, perhaps?" It was so much easier to ask someone who wasn't looking at him as if there was something wrong with him!

That question, when paired with his reaction to her first recommendation, made a swell of sense to her. "Actually, I believe I might..."

"I would so appreciate your help," he replied calmly, trying not to feel completely and utterly *pathetic* for having to look for such a thing at all! "Thank you."

"There's a small section over here," she murmured, taking him to a discreet corner of the 'self help/humanities' section -- books of all sorts, some on trauma, rape, torture and its effects on the human mind. "Not many, but occasionally we have someone come in here looking for something."

"Thank you *so* much*," Dorian said gratefully, face flaming with color. "I appreciate it." And if she'd just go away, he'd appreciate it even more!

"You're welcome," she told him with a short nod, and then started to leave -- for a moment. "The, ah... dark haired man with the patch is... with you? He's wandered over into the uhm... younger section of the store, if you're looking for him." With an armful of deep, dry military history books, which probably disturbed her more than the patch.

"Thank you," he said again, looking around for Klaus. "That will help me find him later!" Klaus's affinity for children's books was sweet, and it made him smile. /I've made good choices in giving things to him,/ he decided.

He wasn't in view of that quick glance around, so Dorian was left to finish going through that little section. A few books caught is eyes, and given how little they knew apart from the actual physical injuries, anything would do! /Hm... _The Second Assault_.../ Well, that was one he would choose for himself. For Klaus.... /_The Body in Pain_. Ohh, that looks interesting. I wonder if he would read it?/ Carefully, he seated himself on the floor to go through them further. /_Rape Crisis Intervention_... _Images of Trauma_..../

Anything that could help either of them; he didn't want to talk about, or even think about what had happened to him, and Klaus was still denying anything was wrong. But it was in his dreams, clear and sharply stabbing at him, and if he didn't do *something*...

"Dorian?"

"Hm? Klaus!" The sound of that voice made his face light up, the books stacked around him gathered quickly. "I found lots of things," he said, looking up at the other man. "What did you find?"

"A few things. Some non-fiction, a couple of fiction." Three books about Prussia's wars of conquest, _The Magician's Nephew_ and _The Dragon and the George_. "You?"

"These," Dorian said, holding them out spine up so that Klaus could look at them. "I wasn't sure. They all seemed applicable!"

The titles of all four made Klaus wince inwardly. "I guess they are."

"Do you think it's all right?" came the tentative question, as if Dorian sensed that internal discomfort. "I mean, I can not get all of them at once, we could come back later, or..."

"Get them," he shrugged. "We'll look at them; we have a month here. Did you get anything to read for... enjoyment?"

"Oh, yes! There was the Sheldon novel I picked up when we came in and the salesgirl gave me a couple of books about some Jeeves," Dorian replied. "It sounded like it would be quite good..."

"Then we'll go check out -- I'm paying for them all. Come on." He wouldn't pay in cash this time, but travelers check -- that way he'd end up with change back. The longer he could avoid a bank, the longer he could remain ignorant as to if his father had disowned him. Two accounts would become one and that would be that.

Agreement was easily gained as Dorian stood, books gathered in his arms, and followed after Klaus to the end of the aisle and up to the front counter. "Here," he said calmly, putting his books next to Klaus's as they were placed on the counter.

It was the girl who'd first jumped them when they came in, giving them both a quizzical look -- first them, then the *odd* assortment of books there. Books on rape and trauma, paired with mystery books, history books, a science fiction novel and a children's book. "Is... that all, sirs?"

"Yes," Dorian answered with a firm nod. "It is."

"Okay." She smiled again, nervously, and started to ring in the books. While she did that, Klaus was pulling out a hundred dollar traveller's cheque, signing the back of it; he was fairly sure that their books would go over it, but best to only sign on one to start with.

Nervously, Dorian glanced around as she worked on the books, eyes roaming over the store. /I wish.../ He wished that people didn't stare at them. That was what he wished, he decided, sighing slightly as he saw a small child not far away looking at them with wide eyes. /Damn./

They made quite a pair -- the symmetrical marks on his beautiful face were striking, and Klaus's cold sternness was only highlighted by his maimed hand and missing eye. Once, Dorian had loved to have people stare at him, because they were admiring his beauty. Now...

Now, it was a distinctly horrible feeling, one that shamed him to the core of his bones. /I just wish no one would *look* at me.../

"That'll be $117.94," the girl said timidly.

The cheque was handed to her, and then Klaus pulled a twenty from his pocket. "We'll have to go to a bank after this, Dorian."

"All right. I think there's one just downstairs, isn't there...?" he asked the girl behind the desk.

"Yes, sir!" she answered, nodding as she made change for Klaus. "Just down the stairs. I'm sure you'll see it once you're down there!"

"Gut. Thank you." Klaus took the two sturdy paper-handled bags from the girl, then realized he didn't have the grip to hold one in his right.

It didn't matter, though, because Dorian took it lightly without being obvious, his hand momentarily pressed to Klaus's before the bag could drop to the floor. "I can tote something," he protested lightly.

The look Klaus gave him as they left the store was a slightly grateful one, right hand slipping into his pocket where it could at least be useless and inconspicuous. "I'm going to change more Deustchmarks to American dollars, when we're in the bank."

"That sounds like a marvelous idea," Dorian said lightly. "I suspect James will be sending money shortly, but he'll let me know when he does, so."

"It isn't a problem if he doesn't." Klaus had more than enough, from years of living inexpensively -- except for his weapons -- and having saved most of his pay. Which was a blessing, since he would soon be cut from his money through the family.

"All right," Dorian told him simply. He knew that Klaus was worried about what his family would do and believed that he'd be disowned shortly.... /Well. He knows them better than I do,/ he thought with a little sigh. It wasn't as if Dorian wasn't familiar with disapproving families... After all, his own mother had abandoned him and taken his sisters with her!

The bank was actually a branch bank, where Klaus changed his money for a small charge. Quickly, glaring at the teller who was trying to not stare at he and Dorian. Not even a curt 'thank you' left him as he left the teller, headed towards the exit. "Anywhere else, Dorian?"

"Oh, I don't know.... What time is it? We could always get something to eat to take back to the house, or we could try cooking..." 'Try' being the operative word.

"Hmn..." He glanced to his wrist-watch, and realized it was *still* before noon. "We can get lunch here -- let's take the books back to the car, and I'll put more money in the meter."

Acquiescence came in the form of Dorian following him out of the room and towards the car, the other man quiet behind him. "I..." He sighed, shaking his head as they walked down the street. "I don't think I'll want to come out very often," he decided. "I really don't like being stared at..." Even though he'd loved it, before....

"You could..." Klaus slowed his pace a little, out of consideration, so Dorian could walk beside him. "Makeup. It would cover easily, I think."

That gained him a slight smile, Dorian shifting closer to him. "Maybe," he said, though he wasn't sure he intended to try. It was one thing when in disguise as a woman, but... as a man??

"You shouldn't be... embarrassed, Dorian," Klaus told him, pulling car-keys free to unlock the trunk and put the bags there.

A sigh drifted from the blond man as he leaned a hip against the car, slipping his bag into the trunk once it had been opened. "I just don't...." He paused, shrugging. "I used to want attention, I suppose. To be looked at, admired. Now... it's just so different. Now, it makes me uncomfortable. I'm not sure makeup of any sort would change that..."

"The marks make you look... more distinctive than ever." /Gained in the service of a country and cause you don't even believe in; you took that job... why? To be with me? Near me?/ Klaus stood there, hands atop the trunk long moments after he'd closed and re-locked it. "Why would it make you uncomfortable?"

"Because they aren't looking at *me*," Dorian explained quietly. "They're looking at what's happened to me, and maybe they're judging me or pitying me because of it, and I hate that."

/You're marked like that because of me./ "If you covered them, no one would even notice." A shift, left hand still atop the trunk, right disappearing into his pocket as he stood in front of Dorian, almost casual. "I don't want us to live in a bubble."

"Yes, Klaus." After all, what else could he say? He knew that Klaus was right... just... He sighed. A morning in public was just not making him happy, he supposed. "Let's go find somewhere to eat?"

"Sure. There has to be some place..." He turned slowly, eyes taking in what he could, and finally seeing on the other side of the street, the corner where another cut into Main, a sign and awnings. "'Friendly's'?" Dorian was asked, as if Klaus expected him to be more knowledgeable of American restaurants than he was.

A shrug was the answer, Dorian shaking his head. "Might as well. With any luck, it'll live up to its name, hm??"

"Ja." Klaus was trying, now, to cheer Dorian up. His own mood was often quickly dismissed in favor of tending to Dorian's. "Come on -- is there anything you want to eat?" /Something with cherries, perhaps... and when we get back to the house.../ He wasn't going to go tromping through the woods. Tomorrow for that; today he'd see what they could manage in the way of keeping eachother busy. Read some, burn dinner perhaps.

"Let's see what they have," Dorian murmured, smiling at him slightly. /And Klaus doesn't understand why I think he's so wonderful.../

The german lead the way to the cross-walk, waited for the light to turn red on the way they were crossing, and then strode across it with Dorian beside him. Traffic was light, even for lunch-time in a small 'downtown' area. "What do you want to do when we get back to the house?" /Anything./

"I don't know," was the admission. "Maybe we could read for a while, or go for a walk. Whatever makes you happy." A nap wouldn't be misplaced, either -- Dorian could have slept at least another hour that morning!

"Reading for a while would be good for me." His pace down the street was slower now, an almost leisurely pace that helped relax both himself and Dorian. "'Whatever makes me happy' isn't an acceptable answer, though."

"Why not?" Dorian asked. "You try to make me happy, don't you? Why can't it be?"

"Because I don't know what that would be." He told Dorian that with far less struggle than he'd expected to have with himself to admit that. What made him *happy* was an impossibility, NATO far from his reach, the missions that went with it... duty, service, the satisfaction of a good mission, success, victory... and beyond that, his guns, watching the news, reading the paper, exercising. Very dull.

"Then we'll have to find out," Dorian decided. "Maybe we can play the game I got you when we go home. That could be fun..."

"And burn supper." If supper really failed, they had cold steaks from the night before that they could still eat. From his pocket Klaus procured his lighter and a cigarette, offering it to Dorian. "We won't come back out again, I don't think; not today."

/That's a relief,/ Dorian thought, taking it from him and drawing in a deep lungful of smoke. Hmmm, he was only an occasional smoker, but sometimes... sometimes, that was *just* what one needed!! "Sounds like a plan," he agreed, stopping outside of the restaurant.

Klaus was a hellacious smoker on the other hand, and quickly drew one for himself from that pack, and lit it between cupped hands before he opened the restaurant's door.

Within was a clean-feeling, brightly lit place that was *chill*, and had ice cream freezers on either side of the entrance.

"Hello -- welcome to Friendly's!" an older woman greeted with a smile. "I'm your server today, and my name is Belle -- two for smoking?"

"Yes, thanks," Dorian told her, and they were quickly shown to a table on the other side of the restaurant, where a slight haze of smoke existed. /Klaus should like this!/

It wasn't a table so much as a two-seater booth, the padding comfortable to sit on, stuck in a corner. There were other people there, eating their meals, chatting amiably. Belle slid a menu in front of each of them. "Do you want to order something to drink?"

"Ahh.... Water, please? And coffee?" Dorian requested, uncertain about American drinks on the whole. He had no desire for a soft drink, and anything else was just iffy!

Klaus nodded in agreement to that, picking up the gaily colored menu and starting to read over it. It seemed all rather senseless -- desserts and the like, a lot of ice-cream -- until he realized he was reading the wrong side.

"Hmmmm. I wonder what's good?" Dorian said thoughtfully, peering at his own menu.

There were a lot of different kinds of sandwiches, burgers and odd names for seemingly normal foods. /Stupid Yanks./ Klaus looked over it a few times before he decided he'd get a basket of chicken strips, and set down his menu. Dorian was still looking at his, so it gave the German a chance to look at the Earl's face.

The lines weren't so bad as they could have been. Flat, straight traces of red and paler skin. It was the deliberateness of their placing that probably drew the stares...

But when Klaus looked at him, it wasn't staring. It was a study, of blond hair, the remarkable blue eyes that were down-cast just then, and Dorian's beautiful face.

"Klaus?" It was questioning, soft, Dorian smiling at him. He'd been caught looking at the other man, and now Dorian was surely wondering why! He didn't ask, though, only said, "Do you know what you'd like?"

"Ja; I'm getting chicken," he replied, looking away after having been caught. "You?"

"I think I agree with you," was the answer, the menu placed lightly on the table. "Chicken it is!"

"You just didn't want to decide!" Klaus accused, though his tone was light, almost chuckled.

"Caught!" Dorian declared, winking at him almost flirtatiously -- one of the first times in forever Dorian had seemed *himself*, and each of those moments Klaus carefully tucked away for remembering later. "I confess, but to no more than that!"

"The next time we go to a restaurant should I order something you won't like, so you'll have to decide?" Klaus asked him dryly, his own mood seeming to lift in response to seeing Dorian smile the way he *used* to.

"I might try it just to see if my tastes have changed," teased the response, Dorian tucking loose curls back behind an ear and sighing slightly. It was a happy sound, mostly, as if being there alone with Klaus was making him feel better already.

"So you like chicken?" Klaus asked his, looking up as the waitress arrived again, water and coffee in hand for each of them. It didn't give the German much time to contemplate the fact that he didn't seem to know much about Dorian at all.

"Would you two like to order now?"

"We'll have the chicken, here," Dorian told her with a smile. "With fried potatoes." He wasn't about to call them chips or french fries -- Klaus seemed offended by that!!

"Two baskets of chicken, fries... will you be having dessert?"

"Let me think about it," was the reply, because he knew that Klaus wouldn't want any. Still... he should ask. "Klaus?"

"None. But if you want something..."

"No," was the decision. "There are cherries at home."

"None then," Klaus told the waitress, watching her nod, smile and then leave.

Answering Klaus's question of before once the waitress was gone, Dorian looked at him. "I like chicken." /But most of all,/ he thought, /I like you./

Chapter 12 by Kat and Tzigane
The day had been spent reading -- not any of the 'help' books that Dorian had bought, but alternating between The Magician's Nephew and flipping through the history tomes. Klaus could face that he wasn't yet ready to think about things in *any* perspective other than an 'I've been trained on what happens, I'm okay' perspective. That was a complete fucking lie, but he could at least use it as a comfortable shield.

Dinner had gone well -- for re-heated steak and potatoes -- and then he'd eaten cherries with Dorian. Fruit wasn't really a dessert, and he wanted an excuse to watch the stain of it build slightly on Dorian's lips. When half of a carton was done, Klaus had insisted they'd had enough -- then asked Dorian, "What now?"

"The news is on," Dorian offered. "And there's the liquor we bought last night...."

"Wine, or the liquor?" Klaus asked, moving to carry their plates to the sink so he could rinse them quickly.

"The liquor," Dorian decided, fetching tumblers from the cabinet full of glasses. "Would you like ice, or d'you prefer it neat?" he asked, holding them in his hands and tilting his head thoughtfully to the side. The flavor of the cherries was still on his mouth, and he lightly darted out his tongue to taste his lower lip. The fruit had been sheer heaven, *exactly* what he wanted, and he was absolutely sated with it.

"No ice." The sprayer was pulled free of the sink, and Klaus quickly rinsed the plates they had eaten from rather than making use of the paper ones. It was odd in a way, how such a military man would do such a thing -- and *well* -- but then, Klaus was also deathly neat. More than once since he and Klaus had started to live with each other, Dorian had found his happily tossed clothing, or book, or paper, or whatever, put neatly away where he couldn't find it.

Luckily for Klaus, Dorian found that charming. /Almost cute, in fact!/ "All right," he said, looking for the bottle and finding it neatly placed beside the wine rack next to the refrigerator. "I'm ready when you are," he announced. "Do we want to take the rest of the cherries?"

"We've had enough cherries, Dorian," Klaus chided, looking over to him as he picked up a towel to dry the plates with. "How well do you handle liquor?"

"Fairly well," Dorian decided. He wouldn't get drunk right off, but he *was* likely to get tipsy quickly. He wasn't very fond of being drunk, in and of itself. Getting drunk often meant getting *sick*, and he definitely didn't like that! "You?"

"You've seen me drunk before, Dorian -- it takes a lot," Klaus said, lips wearing that odd smile that was a little vicious and a little proud. He'd have to keep his eye on Dorian as they drank, to make sure the Briton was okay still.

"All of that German heritage?" came the teasing response. "I should warn you. Pirates' blood flows in these veins!" That thought rather amused Dorian, who laughed softly. "Hm. Well, I s'pose I had to get it *somewhere*..."

"Get what?" Plates were neatly stacked on the counter, and then Klaus walked past Dorian, snagging the bottle of whiskey. Then he led the way to the living room. There was one big chair there, but the sofa faced the television, too...

And he and Dorian could easily fit in either together. /Get your fucking filthy mind clean, Klaus./

"My urge for thievery," Dorian teased further, settling onto the couch and looking up at Klaus almost *expectantly*. "Is this all right, then? If we sit together, we won't chance dropping the bottle..."

/We already share a bed, and.../ And Dorian had jerked him off the night before. How could Dorian even *ask* that, Klaus wondered as he sat down beside the thief after he'd grabbed the remote control. "It's fine. What channels here show news?"

"Dunno," was the answer. "Just flip through a few and we'll undoubtedly find one eventually. I mean, it's about the time for news, so surely most of them will be playing it, right?" Dorian asked, reaching for the bottle that Klaus had tucked between his legs to twist off the top.

"What're you--!" Klaus cut himself off as he nearly jumped to have Dorian doing that. The set cut on, and Klaus flipped to three before he dropped the remote quickly, and just *handed* Dorian the bottle. "A warning would be good."

"For the news?" Dorian asked him blankly before realizing that Klaus had meant the bottle, now in his hands. His face flushed heatedly, mouth turning down. "Oh! I'm sorry, Klaus, I didn't think...." Didn't think that something so simple would upset him or remind him of what had happened. /Dorian, you idiot./

Klaus was now as tense as a wire-rope pulled so taut it was near snapping -- even as he rested his back against the cushion behind him, frowning firmly as he watched the CBS news begin. No, there wasn't really a reply he could give Dorian -- not one that wouldn't just embarrass him worse, or make Dorian unhappy. Silence was better, even if it was strained.

"Here," Dorian said, offering him the first glass poured as a way of making peace. "Now we can sit and make fun of the rest of the world, all right?"

"Make fun of...?" Klaus wasn't quite following that, as he swirled the glass a little, watching the gentle sloshing.

"Sure. Politicians are all idiots at heart, darling," the British man declared. "Half the fun is in realizing that they're idiots!"

"Incompetent, often," Klaus agreed, as the show cut right away to a commercial break. THAT figured, but it gave him an excuse to re-settle himself, one ankle resting atop the opposite knee. His old sitting position with long legs spread haphazardly made him uncomfortable now, so he'd gone back to the older habits of crossing them or stretching them out in front of him.

With a sigh, Dorian leaned back and slightly towards Klaus, pulling his own legs up underneath him slightly as they watched little cartoon characters dancing across the screen trying to sell something. "Mmmhmmm," he agreed, taking a swallow of his own drink. It was rather strong, and he didn't think he had ought to drink much of it, or he'd be too drunk to walk to bed! /So much for my tolerance. This stuff's deadly!/

Klaus's first sip was with little reaction at all, only an appreciative noise, and another sip. As long as Dorian was unobtrusive and familiar at his side... /No. It's not even an 'as' anymore... I want him here, I want more, but it's sick. He's been hurt and he'd do anything for me./ It was a trust that couldn't be abused.

When the news came back on, it was with dreadfully serious faces and blathering about some American politician who'd apparently confessed to cheating on his wife weeks before. "Good God. Doesn't *every* politician cheat on his wife?" Dorian asked. "I thought it was some sort of private perk of politics. 'Here's your office, here's your desk, here's your new mistress... er, pardon me, *intern*'," he said lightly, shaking his head.

"Not all politicians, Dorian, are like that," Klaus murmured, taking another sip from his glass. "Maybe it's just you Brits and Americans."

"Hm. I think it's a universal failing, personally," came the reply over some babble about a football strike. "I thought strikes came in baseball??"

"Americans and their sports," Klaus sighed, finishing his glass before he turned to Dorian for more to be added. "'Soccer' is a much better sport."

"Mmmmm," Dorian agreed amicably, pouring for Klaus before topping off his own glass. His cheeks were a little flushed, but drinking of any sort always made him warm, and he wasn't tipsy yet. "It's rather ridiculous of them to call it football, anyway. The only thing to do with feet is when they kick it, and they only do that twice or so in a game. It's all running about and trying to squish one another into the mud, isn't it?"

"No mud. I watched a game once. There isn't any mud. Rugby has mud." Another shift, Klaus's stiff posture seeming to loosen a little. They were talking over the news, but he didn't care too much. It was serving as comfortable background noise, and if there was something important, it would catch his eye fast enough.

"Rugby has a great *deal* of mud," Dorian agreed dreamily, sipping at his own glass. "I haven't played in years...."

"You used to play that?" He couldn't really see it. Dorian, little, had to have been more of a fairy than Dorian the adult!

The blond man nodded. "Poorly. Very poorly. I'm afraid I spent more time *in* the mud than I spent running, but I've always been quick, so there were times I got ahead of the rest of them and didn't do too badly. You?"

"Never. I played soccer, though, all through boarding school." A little at the military school, as well, but those had been informal games. Memories like that were safe to take out, touch, look over and let Dorian see a little of; safer than missions... Klaus took a long swallow from his glass, then took the bottle from Dorian to top it off. They'd come a long way from him making Dorian drink out of his hands.

"I'll bet you were cute," Dorian said with a little sigh. "Little soccer shorts, and so *intense*!!" As if Klaus could ever be anything *but* intense!

"Is there something wrong with the shorts?" Sometimes, *somehow*, Klaus could miss things like that, little innuendo or things that amused Dorian in that way. "Intense... I was captain of the team. Suppose that counts."

With a sigh, the British thief laid his head over on Klaus's shoulder, the thought of it somehow deliciously romantic. "Ohhh, I knew you would be, and so *cute*! There's nothing wrong with the shorts. I'll bet you were adorable in them..." Adorable wasn't exactly the word, but if he'd said sexy, Klaus might have killed him!

"I'm not adorable and never have been," Klaus denied. The glass was moved from his right hand to his left, and then Klaus slid his right arm around Dorian as if it belonged there. And maybe it just did. "Cute. Huh."

Pleased with himself, Dorian sighed again and finished off his drink, nuzzling against Klaus. "Mmmhmmmm. Very cute," he agreed, working the top off of the bottle again. "You're very cute now."

"I'm cute? I demand you tell me how." Klaus watched Dorian get the top off, pouring *full* glasses for both of them. Dorian seemed to be getting a little tipsy, but... not drunk. /Hell, I'm getting tipsy. Too long without drinking./

"You have the most *adorable* smile," Dorian purred, taking a long swallow of his drink. /Hmmm. Bravery in a bottle./ "And the way you laugh. And how sweet you are. And how gorgeous you are..." He was babbling and he knew it!

Flushing pink, Klaus tried to find distraction in the news, but found only a deodorant ad on. So, attention back to Dorian, Klaus had nothing to do but look at the head pillowed against his shoulder. "Don't say things like that." /Especially that last one, Dorian, because it's such a lie./

"They're true!" Dorian protested, drinking again. His cheeks were flushed, his lips curved up in a smile, and it was *so* damned tempting! "All of it's true. And now you look like a beautiful pirate, and I'm very fond of pirates," he declared almost happily. There was just something about being tipsy that was *too* delicious!

"Pirate..." Klaus echoed that, letting it sink in before the embarrassed burn of his cheeks turned to humiliation. A PIRATE?! "I'm no fucking pirate, Dorian," he snapped.

"But you *are* beautiful," Dorian sighed, lifting his face up slightly to smile at Klaus, gaze brushing over the other man's luscious lips.

Lips that soon quickly drained the glass, long swallows that must have burned on the way down. "You haven't seen the eyepatch off, have you?" He'd been very careful about keeping it placed neatly over the mess.

"No," Dorian admitted softly. "But it wouldn't make me think any differently about the way you look. You're a beautiful man... I appreciate beauty. I appreciate you."

"Can't see why," Klaus sighed, taking the bottle from Dorian to fill his glass again. There was just a little left in it in case Dorian wanted some, but... But Klaus would appreciate the liquor more, probably, once the numbness set in. "Pirate. Hah."

"It's a little romantic," Dorian admitted, sipping at the remainder of his glass. By the end of it, he knew he'd be in purely maudlin shape -- maudlin or horny, and which was worse, he couldn't say. "But it's still very nice..."

"It's a mess under it. 's not aesthetic at all," Klaus sighed, nursing the drink a little, his other arm still loosely around Dorian. That he hadn't pulled back was a very good sign, despite the calm, *definitely* maudlin mod settling over him.

"I dun care," Dorian declared. "Not a whit. Not even a bit. I love you madly, so it doesn't matter at all."

"Nothing matters, does it?" That, too, was depressing. "It doesn't matter to you that I'm as sick as those Stasi?"

"You aren't." That reply was firm, even if Dorian himself was tipsy. "You dun want t'hurt me. 'S not so bad, 'f you dun want t'hurt me, you know. 'S actually quite nice. Especially if you kiss me. I like it when you let me kiss you," Dorian whispered, looking at Klaus yearningly.

"I haven't kissed you." The night before didn't count. that had been a panicked reaction, not a kiss...

"Could you kiss me now?" Dorian asked, mouth parting slightly by way of invitation.

Dorian wanted him, to, was *asking*....

/He's been drinking./ "You're probably drunk, Dorian." /Just kiss him. I want to. I want to do so much.../ But Dorian was still lying when he said it wasn't sick.

"Probably," Dorian agreed. "But I've wanted you to kiss me even when I was sober, so 's not something I dun want..."

Those stumbled words were quickly taken from him, by the careful buss of Klaus's lips against his, warm, damp from drinking. Unlike the night before, Klaus could concentrate on what it felt like, first one press, then another, then a third where he let his lips part a little, pressing without pulling back.

He could feel Dorian's mouth part for him, the other man bringing up his free hand to lightly touch Klaus's shoulder as he accepted the kiss, sighing quietly into it. Being kissed by Klaus was even better than kissing him had been the night before, and Dorian was willing to let him go as far as he would like before either of them stopped. The mere realization that they *would* stop was there, an automatic assumption, and so he wouldn't be disappointed when they reached that moment. Instead, he was going to enjoy every second of the kiss for all he was worth!

Klaus finally drew back, pausing just a bit back from Dorian's lips. Then he pulled back, setting his half-finished glass aside before settling with Dorian near him again. "Did you like that?" His voice came out so very husky, slow and deliberate.

"Very much," Dorian agreed a little breathlessly, mouth tingling from the last of that delicious kiss. "Oh, so much. Klaus, if I ask you to again..." The blond man was having a hard time fighting back need, and in more ways than one. He knew he wasn't ready for more than kisses, knew that nothing was going to be easy for them, but he wanted Klaus so much...!

"Just..." One wall defeated, it seemed, only the broken cobbles left behind to stumble on. "Just kisses," Klaus whispered, leaning back in just a little bit to take another from Dorian, just as slow and exploring as the first. It was amateur compared to some of Dorian's lovers from the past, but there was *something* behind it, and a tenderness that made up for any imperfections.

"Yes," Dorian whispered, trembling, his arms sneaking around Klaus's neck, glass tilted upright and still clasped in one hand. "Oh, yes, Klaus, please..."

Sweet, slow melding, and Klaus flickered his tongue briefly between Dorian's lips, a barely made motion, and then he drew back again. "'s nice."

"I could kiss you forever," Dorian said by way of agreement, mouth trembling slightly. "Oh, Klaus..." His arms tightened slightly, body half laying across Klaus's chest.

Klaus's left hand -- freed of the brace since before supper -- plucked Dorian's glass from his fingers and slid it onto the table. "Just kisses." Anything else... was too tempting and too much. He couldn't tell if, without the haze drifting into his mind, he'd even be able to do that again in the morning.

"All right." That was the second agreement he'd gotten from Dorian even as the blond thief shifted slightly, moving so that he was more comfortable against Klaus, face lifting again. This time, his lips snuck the first kiss, pressing softly against Klaus's before stealing that luscious lower lip to suck at lightly for just a moment. "Mmmmmm...!"

"Uhmm..." The soft noise that left Klaus was hard to place, but it wasn't a protest. "'s that a kiss?"

"Mmmmhmmmmm," was the answer even as Dorian's tongue lightly darted out to brush at Klaus's upper lip and along the line of white teeth.

"Don'..." the protest or question aborted, and Klaus pulled Dorian nearer to him, kissing back, making a slight mimicry of the tantalizing suckle at his lower lip.

The little sound of pleasure that gained him was *definitely* a good thing, Dorian's arms tightening around him, pulling them closer together. He'd never wanted anything so much as he had wanted to kiss Klaus, and it felt better than any dream or fantasy he'd ever had! Carefully, he slipped his tongue deeper into the other man's mouth, teasing, reaching gently for the tip of Klaus's tongue and finding it, rubbing it lightly with his own before drawing back to fairly simple kissing for a moment.

That simpler version was needed to keep Klaus's mind together, to keep him from scattering to pieces -- or, so Klaus felt when he finally broke the tender lock of mouth against mouth. "'s go upstairs...?"

"Please," Dorian murmured huskily, nodding, heart framming violently against his ribs. "Yes...."

"We... aren't going to do anything, but..." Lay there close, closer and more comfortable than they could manage on the couch, kiss, hold...

"Right," Dorian agreed, head spinning just a bit with rising passion and no small amount of alcohol. "Right...."

He was moved to fully sitting with Klaus's careful guidance, and then pulled to standing. "kay?"

"Never been better!" Dorian assured huskily, his tongue darting out to touch his own mouth. "Mmmm... one more kiss before we go upstairs?" he asked softly.

The earl was leaning on Klaus more than he was standing, to begin with, so it wasn't much of a shift to move him just a little closer, meeting those lips cautiously.

/Ohhh, Klaus,/ Dorian thought deliriously, shivering slightly with the innate tenderness of the other man's touch, something most people would have assumed to be an impossibility. /Anything was worth this moment.../

Well.

Almost anything...

"'s the stairs now?" Klaus asked, knowing he was probably incoherent from the haze of the liquor settling over him like a heavy blanket, and the shock of trying to process that he was kissing Dorian.

"Sounds like a good idea," Dorian agreed, wobbling a bit as he made a move in that direction. "'f we can get that far..."

The German's pace, though, was steady as he crossed the carpeted floor to the stairs. "Jus' hold onto me."

"Holding on," Dorian agreed, chuckling as he wobbled again and ended up leaning on Klaus. "Holdin' tight. I didn't mean to get so drunk. Oh, dear. It was awf'lly strong stuff, wasn't it?"

"'s been a while since I drank like that..." Klaus smiled for a flicker of a moment as he started up the stairs, slowly, one hand around Dorian's waist and the other on the hand-rail. "'m not going to be taking my medications tonight."

"'s it good for you not to take 'em?" Dorian questioned, hiccoughing slightly. "Ohh..."

"I c'n skip once," Klaus shrugged, forging his way up the stairs. Stopping could be a chance to lose balance, and he didn't plan to let go of Dorian until they were in the bedroom.

"Aa~aall... right," Dorian said by way of agreement, chuckling quietly again. "Ohhh, Klaus," he sighed. "You give the best kisses. I always knew your mouth was so soft..."

"'s it?" That was chuckled as much as it was questioned, as he set foot in the hallway, glad to no-longer navigate the stairs.

"Mmmmhmmmmmm...!" That was fairly hummed, Dorian taking a deep breath and letting it out once more. "Will you kiss me 'gain?" he asked, smiling.

"'n the bedroom." Oh, if his men could see him just then... Klaus pushed open the bedroom door, moving towards the large bed.

"'s a good place for kisses," Dorian agreed as he tumbled into the bed, laughing softly again. Ohhh, being drunk felt very good when Klaus was being so marvelous to him! "I'd like to be kissed here, with you in my arms. Would be *beautiful*," he sighed, reaching up and placing a hand over his heart.

"Mmm, why?" Klaus asked, putting a knee down on the bed beside Dorian, and then tumbling after him to simply stretch out across the bed on his stomach.

"'Cause I've wanted it for so long," the dreamy answer came. "Wanted you to hold me and kiss me and..." /And love me.../ Even if Klaus didn't. Even if he wasn't worthy of that emotion from his beautiful German Major...

Who wasn't quite beautiful anymore, or a major. "How long?" Klaus pushed himself up on an elbow to move closer to Dorian, to hold him close and warmly.

"Since you held me in th'tank," Dorian answered, smiling up at him. "I think, since then. I wanted you t'do it again, an' I hated you, an' you were so frustrating an' so *marvelous*. An' I wanted you t'do it again."

"'re completely drunk," Klaus told him, tone as solemn as he could manage while verging on the same himself. "Get over here."

"Yep," Dorian agreed with a sigh, scooching over to Klaus's side and draping himself over the other man. "That's strong stuff you got. 's impaired all kinds of things. Dun know. You gonna kiss me again?" he asked.

"You really like that," Klaus sighed softly, a contented musing as he shifted nearer Dorian to take another kiss. "We should prob'ly change clothes..." So they could be more comfortable when they indulged in kisses, tentative but wanted by both parties.

"Mmmmmmmmmm," was the sound of Dorian's agreement, muffled by the kisses he was giving Klaus's jaw. "Bath would be nice, but 'm a bit too drunk to bathe." If he tried, he'd probably only manage to hurt himself!!

"We could... in the morning, 'stead," Klaus uttered, shifting Dorian so he could kiss the Briton's soft mouth a little. Maybe getting changed was a bad idea, too. He could sleep comfortably enough as he was, and Dorian probably could too. "'d prob'ly fall."

"Mmmhmmmmm...." Dorian answered. "Gotta change, though. Gonna get wrinkled..." Not as if they already weren't, but in some bizarre way, that logic made sense to him.

"'ll right," Klaus murmured, letting his companion free with reluctance. He *liked* holding Dorian close, but if the man said he needed to change clothes, well, then he did.

With some effort, the slim blond worked his way out of the bed ass first, thinking that would help him keep his balance. He was at least partially right -- he didn't fall over until he reached his suitcase. "Ooooops!"

"'n okay?" Klaus sat up more, chuckling a little at the sight before him. Dorian sprawled on the floor, hair in his eyes, pose one that was so pretty it had to have been calculated, perhaps years before and practiced. That sight urged Klaus to sit on the edge of the bed, and then stand, walking slowly over to Dorian to sit down cross-legged beside him.

"Ooops," Dorian declared again, smiling at him in that brilliantly Dorian way that Klaus loved so much. "I think I c'n get things out better down here, dun you think so, too?"

"Yeh." Smiling back a little as he leaned forwards to help Dorian sit up a little *neater*, Klaus decided in a hazy manner that he was happy. In that moment, sitting there with Dorian, he was happy. "C'n I help you find things?" he offered, knowing he was still a good bit steadier than Dorian.

"My blue pajamas 're dirty," Dorian told him earnestly. "Gotta have something else. What color d'you like?" he asked, poking at his suitcase and smiling at Klaus again.

"Anything," the german shrugged, trying to figure out why Dorian's pajamas were dirty. He'd only worn them once, the night before, and... oh. Klaus's face flushed a little more than it had been already. /It didn't just disappear, so 'course it was on his pajamas.../ "'ll do washing tomorrow."

The blond man nodded with solemn mien, as washing clothes somehow was the answer to life, the universe and everything. "Okay. I like the blue. 've got purple. D'you like purple? You *dun* like red..." Dorian, it seemed, was a remarkably *happy* drunk, and one with very little sense!!

"Purple's fine." Red... He didn't like to see red on Dorian -- in general it was a fine color, but on Dorian... "Red looks like too much blood. 'minds me of you hurt; 's not a good thing."

"Ohhhhh," Dorian replied, looking at him worshipfully. "'ll throw it all out, then! Woosh! Gone!"

"'s other colours you look 's nice in," Klaus told him, peering into the suitcase's jumble of clothing. There wasn't *one* suitcase, either -- there were four total, all *big* things, and Dorian's hefty carry on, and a duffle. Klaus's own things were in one suitcase and a duffle, and he suspected *himself* of having brought too many clothes! "Blue, green, white... 're pretty in white."

"Oooohhh!!!" That seemed to be the word of choice for the evening! "White... white, white, 've got white, it's... AH-HA!" And, indeed, he did have white, in pajamas that were much like his blue ones. The only difference was that the legs of the things were actually long pajama bottoms as opposed to short. "'s this good?" he asked, looking to Klaus for his opinion.

Drapey, and very Eroica in style, with a thin draw-string that Dorian probably wouldn't bother to tie. Klaus nodded approval, smiling again. "'s good. 's very good." Now, to get off the floor, and get his *own* pajamas...

"Kiss me again," Dorian breathed, leaning forward slightly and almost tipping over. "Then, we'll change. 'kay?"

"Right." Klaus's hands came up to steady Dorian, resting at the tops of his hips as he leaned up to receive the gift of Dorian's kiss. He realized that come morning he could blame liquor, or insanity, or... but he wouldn't. It wouldn't do either of them any good -- the truth helped, even when it was hard to say, in any little bit he could say it.

The soft sound that Dorian gave as Klaus kissed him was utterly delicious; there wasn't a doubt in his mind about that, even as Dorian's lips parted, granting him entrance and giving him that enticing swipe of tongue again, teasing at his own lower lip and seeking out the edge of his teeth. It was good, beyond good, and he wished it wouldn't ever, ever stop...

"One more?" Klaus breathed when it broke, tugging at Dorian's hips a little. A motion that brought the tipsy thief down atop him with a thud.

"One more," Dorian agreed breathlessly, sprawled out over him. /This is some sort of drunken hallucination, and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it,/ he decided, closing his eyes and pressing his lips lightly to Klaus's before parting them.

What followed was another slow sparring of lips, swipe of tongue against tongue before melding closer for a moment to a delicious twining; then Klaus broke it. "Hmmhm," the German smiled up at him, hands moving to lift Dorian to his feet again. It hurt the still healing muscles of his chest a little, aggravated earlier by his shooting testing, but the feel of Dorian's lean body, even if it was through a filmy sort of shirt... wonderful. "'ve got to get my clothes..."

The urge to suggest going naked made Dorian shiver and then laugh at himself. "Hmmmkay," he agreed, beginning to strip absentmindedly so that he could change. "I'll try an' not fall over again..."

"Mm." Klaus stood unsteadily, using the floor to push himself up, back-end reaching 'up' first, before he straightened. And then tried to cross the floor in a fair facsimile of his usual walk. Tried.

"Oh, Klaus! The room is weaving around you! How remarkable!"

"Was?" Klaus asked, pivoting quickly and finding himself, remarkably, on the floor, still looking at Dorian.

THAT prompted yet more amusement from the blond man, who promptly swayed his way towards Klaus. "Ohhhh, the room made *you* drunk, too. Up... we go," he declared, holding out a hand for Klaus.

Klaus declined, though, shifting to push himself up again. "Oh, no, 'm not going to end up w' you fallin' again..."

"D'you think I'm drunker'n you are?" Dorian asked him suspiciously, clutching his pajamas to his half-naked form.

"Mm, ja," Klaus said decisively, deciding to simply crawl over to his suitcase once he was up to his knees.

"You're pretty drunk," Dorian decided, pulling on his pajama shirt before unbuttoning his slacks and letting them fall. "I must be 'n pretty bad shape..."

"Think so..." Klaus sat down beside his own suitcase, looking over his shoulder at Dorian and openly staring at the sight that met his eye. The hem of Dorian's shirt just skirted the tops of his hips, and without the slacks, and the underwear he wore being pulled down already... there was a lot for Klaus to look at. Just like the night before, when Dorian had been showering, it was arousing in ways that the events of the Stasi *hadn't* been.

A momentary fumbling hid all of that from view, but then Dorian's bottom met with the floor again and he somehow managed to get his pajama bottoms partially on, tugging at them. They rolled up, and he frowned, trying to untangle them. "Uh-oh..."

"Need... need help?" Klaus offered, throat suddenly just *parched* for water, air, anything...

"I broke them," Dorian said sadly, though that *wasn't* the problem. If Klaus could just get them unrolled, the thin silk would be just fine. The problem lay in that word, though -- IF. "They don't work anymore! And you wanted the white..."

"I'll help," Klaus told him, trying to figure out just *how* Dorian could have broken them. He moved, still fully dressed, across the floor, on hands and knees all the way, over to where Dorian sat, pants caught about his knees. "No, 're just twisted."

"Ohhh," came the sound of understanding, Dorian smiling at him again. "Can you fix them??" he asked, blinking at Klaus almost audibly.

"Ja. Lift... your hips little," he told Dorian, moving a bit over Dorian, as he started to unroll the sides carefully.

The flood of emotion that brought spilling through the British man's veins was undeniable, a shiver working down his spine as he gave a soft little sound, pleading, wanting... even though he didn't think he wanted anything at all!! "Klaus...."

"Ja...?" Klaus's tone was a careful, but still fuzzy one, as he kept shifting the fabric over Dorian's legs, hands stopped with it just over Dorian's bottom and groin.

"That's... very nice!" Dorian told him breathily, squirming and trying *not* to show his very obvious reaction.

It seemed to confuse Klaus some, until he decided to finish fixing Dorian's pants for him, and *found* the obvious reaction. "Ohhhh."

"I'm sorry," Dorian murmured, shivering and biting his lower lip, turning his face away slightly. "Oh... I'm.... I can't help it..."

"...why...?" Somehow, Klaus found the breath to ask that, as he drew his hands a little away from Dorian's hips. Why was the earl hard -- *him*?

"B'cause it's you," Dorian explained, face flaming with color as he shivered. "B'cause I know you won't hurt me. B'cause...." Because he'd *always* wanted Klaus...

Looking down again, in the dim light of a room lit only by what the un curtained windows let in, Klaus could see the earl's cock in better detail than he ever had before. Perhaps it was the angle, or how humiliated and vulnerable the Briton looked, but Klaus was struck by how very similar that felt to the moments Dorian had been deposited in his lap. Quietly, he shifted a bit closer to Dorian, one hand slipping from the aborted movements of pulling up Dorian's pants to touching bare skin.

A soft release of breath sounded, Dorian's tongue darting out to moisten lips gone dry, legs coming together slightly at that touch. "Klaus..." There was something about his name being spoken that way that was utterly and completely decadent, wonderful, intense. It sounded so good, and Dorian's hands were reaching for him, the other man moaning quietly as he drew Klaus into another kiss, shivering. "Mmnn..."

Dorian would probably want to see the back of him in the morning, Klaus realized fleetingly. He tugged those silky pants back down a few inches before he let his right hand rest atop Dorian's bare thigh, weight resting on his better left hand as he lazily kissed Dorian back. He was touching Dorian, and the man's skin didn't feel as if anyone else had ever touched him, ever hurt him. Pure bliss.

"Klaus..." came the whisper again as they broke apart momentarily. Even in the light coming through the window, the expression of dazed and exquisite pleasure on Dorian's face was more than obvious. "D'you wanna do this on th'bed?" he murmured, a hand stroking slowly down Klaus's left arm.

"D'n want t' move," Klaus murmured, his maimed hand moving very slowly against the skin of Dorian's leg, the juncture of thigh and hip, over lean muscle. If they moved, he'd lose his nerve.

"Kay," Dorian agreed, shivering and leaning to kiss him again, body rocking slightly towards him. "Mmmm..." Oh, God, it had to be a dream or some sort of fantasy! There was no way the warm feel of Klaus's touch against his flat belly could be real!!

That hand moved, from over Dorian's stomach to just down, his two fingers brushing nervously at the edge of golden blond curls of hair. /I shouldn't do this... It's wrong to do this, it's wrong to *want* this.../

A darting tongue teased at his lower lip in that moment, Dorian yielding to him gloriously. Hands came up to lightly pull at his shoulders, tugging him closer, and the slim thief shivered, obviously wanting more of him. "Please, Klaus..." he managed to get out in a whisper. "'s okay. 's what I want, f'r the longest time... *please*..."

/He's going to hate me.../ Slowly, that hand wrapped around the base of Dorian's cock, giving it a slow stroke. Heat, hard and slicked just a little, *Eroica's* cock in his hand... Klaus kissed Dorian all the harder in that moment, as if to keep himself from fully realizing his actions.

The little sound that Dorian uttered against his mouth said it all -- said that he wanted it, that it was pleasurable, almost unbearably so. His hands, roaming over Klaus's chest, paused to tug at him, get him close, even as his hips rocked up to the wreck of Klaus's hand. The way he trembled was sweet, the way he kissed Klaus in return unbearable, and he was so *hot*!! He seemed to be throwing off pure sparks of heat as he writhed beneath Klaus's touch, begging wordlessly for him.

But a hand on his erection and heated kisses were all he was going to get from the man. All that Klaus could manage to give as he finally stopped all thought in his mind and tried to concentrate, hazily, on Dorian's bucking beneath him. The Stasi had never taken that from Dorian, had they? No, no proof of pleasure given then, and this writhing seemed so different than that other.

"Please," Dorian begged prettily, panting breaths escaping him as he rocked to meet Klaus's hand, moaning. Golden curls scattered around him, head shaking slowly from side to side. "PLEASE, Klaus... wan' *MORE*..."

"Can't." It was all that Klaus could answer, too, even as he pumped Dorian's hardness, thumb rubbing over the uncut head. Slick, and Klaus realized that he had another man's secretions on his hand. /'s Dorian. Just Dorian.../ So with that thought steadying him, he kept the touch going, a touch that made Dorian cry out and wrap his arms tightly about Klaus's neck, whimpering with the sheer pleasure of it.

"Love you," the blond man gasped out, shuddering as he kissed Klaus deeply. "'ve always loved you!"

Always, it seemed -- always, always the man who was a complete opposite from him; shining light while he was all but a dark night in the middle of a blackout; on the other side of the law, while he was an stalwart, upstanding officer; a raging homosexual, while he was stern and straight... But no straight man could be, drunk or not, reacting so heatedly to Dorian's kisses, touching his cock, and wanting more.

With a cry, Dorian came, stiffening with pleasure and biting his lower lip hard when he did, the tingle of it spreading from groin to every nerve he had, concentrated so intently upon the spot where Klaus's hand worked that it was almost enough to send him spinning dizzily into unconsciousness. Instead, he simply kissed Klaus again, barely able to think or move or do anything except *be*, head swimming with drunkenness and orgasm. "Ooohhh!!!"

After that kiss, Klaus simply settled against Dorian; left hand still planted firmly on the floor, leaning on it, his right lifted to slide around Dorian's chest after he'd wiped it on his own trousers. Then he slumped a little, eye closed as he rested his head against the earl's shoulder.

The sound of his name was a prayer on Dorian's lips, dazed and softly spoken. "Klaus... oh, Klaus, my Klaus...." the man murmured dazedly, the glowing aftereffects of pleasure still glazing him deliciously. "My Klaus..."

"'re not angry?" came the slow, accent heavy question from beneath his chin.

"Hmm-mmm," was the sleepy negative answer. "Dun know why I would be," Dorian whispered, shivering. "'s wonderful, when you touch me..." Beyond wonderful, actually. "'ve always wan'ed you to..."

The German fell quiet again, holding himself still, very still, as he held onto Dorian. But when he spoke again, it wasn't pressing any issue or asking any questions. "Bed?"

"Mmmhmmmm," Dorian told him, yawning and shifting slightly to feel Klaus's erection against his thigh. "Ohh, you're still...." He smiled, pushing his leg with a bit more force to rub against Klaus's crotch.

"Uhhn..." The sound was an almost crippling one, of too much sensation at once through too much fabric; But the discomfort helped almost, eased guilt over what he'd just done, as he moved counterpoint to Dorian's leg.

"Darling..." came the whisper from Dorian's lips. "Klaus..." He was kissing the German man again, then, a hand moving to strive at the catch of Klaus's trousers to work gently inside of them.

"*No*..." He was firm on that, as he batted Dorian's hand away with his right. Even though he had to let go of the man to do that, lift his head minutely. "Just..." The pressure of Dorian's leg was enough, and he couldn't think of a way to convince Dorian that he didn't deserve the comfort of Dorian's hand then.

"Please," Dorian murmured, kissing him again, even though he let Klaus take his hand away. "Nn..." Instead, he went back to pressing against Klaus with his thigh, shuddering slightly as he rocked towards the other man. /This... *THIS* is what pleasure is. This is what it should be, between me and Klaus, wonderful and tender and not.../ He wouldn't think about that just at the moment. Everything felt too good for him to even contemplate *that*!

"Ohhh..." Klaus's completion came fast, a draining rush that left him with a low groan and a tight shudder that felt like it would never end. Still a good release, better than anything his own hands had given him, and it was just from rubbing against Dorian...

He could have slept right there, so tired and fuzzy-headed he felt, and he clung to Dorian a little once more, his body feeling wonderfully boneless. But they had to get to the *bed* or else there'd be a whole range of stiffnesses to deal with come morning.

"'m shleepy," Dorian mumbled, kissing him again tenderly. "'sh very nishe, Klaush..." He was already drunk, and the aftereffects of orgasm were leaving him even less coherent than he'd been before. "'sh wunnerful..."

Somehow, the German managed to gather himself enough to jerk upright, Dorian coming with him. They made it to the bed, slumping into it shortly after reaching the edge. It took only a moment to pull Dorian's pants up the rest of the way, to pull the sheets down, and then for both of them to slide beneath the soft percale. With a sigh, Dorian shifted against him, curling up with his arms around Klaus and a leg pressed lightly to him, head nestled on the other man's shoulder.

"Do love you," he mumbled sleepily, rubbing his cheek against Klaus tenderly. "Ver' mush."

"Mm-hm." Tired agreement, in the moments it took Klaus to slide into heavy unconsciousness that felt as good as sleep, Dorian held safe in his arms.

Chapter 13 by Kat and Tzigane
/My head is going to explode,/ Dorian thought miserably, shuddering. Sunlight was pouring into the bedroom and he knew he was going to die if it actually hit him full in the face. /Oh, GOD.../

To top it all off, he was almost *too* warm, and could swear to God there were button-imprints on the side of his jaw from Klaus's shirt. The man was beneath him, sleeping like a dead rock, still completely dressed as he'd been when they'd come up the stairs.

/To wake him or not to wake him.../ Well, if Klaus was going to feel as shitty as *he* was feeling just at the moment, it was probably best to let him sleep, Dorian decided, shifting his face slightly to at least move himself off of the buttons. /Maybe if I sleep a little longer, I'll feel better once I wake up again.../

Although how many times before had *that* worked for a hangover?

The shift of his head stirred Klaus a little, but it was only to get an unpleasant growling noise, and Klaus turned his head on the pillow. Somehow a rough night's sleep had dislodged his eyepatch; now Dorian could see the rippling scar where the knife had done its work, the still lingering swelling, and how the eyelid and lashes that covered it seemed to be a little sunken in.

It didn't change Dorian's opinion of him as being an incredibly handsome man in the least. Of course, he supposed that Klaus would have to be gone from the Earth entirely for him to *not* love the man and think he was wonderful and handsome and brave, so it was just as well!

Klaus didn't seem to notice Dorian's physical imperfections, so why would Dorian notice Klaus's? It didn't mean the person was any different... even though they were both, in light of their pasts, drastically different now from how they once were.

And 'once' wasn't so long ago.

With a slight sigh and a wince, Dorian closed his eyes, stomach clenching slightly. /I'm never ever drinking like that again,/ he promised himself once again, shuddering. /Yuck./

"Zrrrh." Klaus was making 'trying to wake up' noises, shifting to curl up on one side and finding himself hindered both by Dorian still curled against him and his own clothes.

It was NOT the way he wanted to wake up!

Dorian on his side was more and more normal -- but the odd feeling of clothes twisted around his body, a little sticky, uncomfortable around his groin, and a *throbbing* headache... that was what he wasn't used to. "Nn, dor'an..."

"Go back to sleep," Dorian whispered, even that sound impossibly loud in his head. "'ve got a hangover. You too, prob'ly."

"[Need smth'n to drink,]" Klaus mumbled, lifting his head blearily to look around.

"Hmm?" Oh, he was in too much pain to muddle through any language other than English,and he wasn't even sure he could muddle through THAT!!

"'m wasser?" Klaus asked again, squirming himself a little upright. Ugh, completely dressed, and he could faintly remember why his pants were clinging to him in such a disgusting manner.

"You're Darth Vader? What?" Dorian asked, confusion setting in for the moment.

"Nnn." Dorian's voice was just a tad too loud in that confused moment for Klaus's comfort. "Drink, ah... Whater?"

"Oh." That was a whisper of sound, Dorian sighing slightly. He'd made his *own* head ache worse, so he might as well go search out some tylenol.... "'s not in here. I'll go get you some from the bathroom..."

"Mmmhn." That was a protest, Klaus shifting fully sitting with a miserable sounding noise. "'ll 'et 't."

"I want some, too," Dorian told him. He wanted to brush his teeth, and he wanted *pain killers*! "Wanna brush my teeth. You want anything else?" he whispered.

A shower, he was sure. "'m be back," Klaus said quietly, shifting to sit at the edge of the bed for a moment before he lurched to his feet and grabbed the pajamas he hadn't put on the night before.

The mere fact that they weren't so close together was actually good for Dorian, cool air rushing in to replace the heat of Klaus's body and relieving some of the nausea that had been steadily growing since he'd wakened. "I *hate* being drunk," he mumbled.

Klaus nodded in bleary agreement for a moment, before he tromped off unsteadily down the hallway to the bathroom. Short moments later, Dorian could hear the water in the shower blasting at full power.

"Go back to sleep," Dorian muttered to himself, clutching his aching head. "It'll get better if you go back to sleep..."

Fuck sleeping. He wanted to brush his teeth!! Klaus was in the shower, though, and he remembered the last time he'd walked in... well. While the thought was nice, it had upset Klaus terribly, he knew, so that was out for the time being. /I can wait.../

The night before had been nice, though, hadn't it? That was a thought to turn over and over as he laid there, waiting to hear the water shut off. It had been more than nice, really. It had been... *perfect*. Almost. So much of what he'd dreamed about, wished for, wanted. He wondered what Klaus was thinking this morning. He wondered if Klaus remembered... He really hoped that he did! /Ohhh, maybe the hangover is worth that.../

Hopefully Klaus wouldn't do what he'd done the last time -- never mentioned it directly, as if it had never happened. What would it take to strip Klaus's mind of years of teaching, and the traumatic experience with the Stasi, just enough to let him see that not everything was horrible? Dorian didn't know. Still, whatever it took, he supposed he'd have to go slowly with it. He wanted Klaus to know pleasure, and not fear or shame. He had felt enough of that, now, for both of them, and he certainly didn't intend to inflict anything worse on Klaus than he'd already suffered!! /My poor darling.../

But he'd heard an admittance he thought he'd never hear -- Klaus saying he *wanted* him. Even scarred and not *quite* the same, Klaus wanted him; pathetically needy, and Klaus still wanted him.

Another ten minutes passed, and Klaus returned -- damp from the shower, dressed in his pajamas, a glass of water and a box of tylenol in hand, both of which were handed silently to Dorian as he moved to pull the blinds.

"THANK you," Dorian murmured, taking the lid off and promptly swallowing four of the little capsules, shuddering as he polished off the water. "My head's going to explode," he decided with a sigh. "You're clean. I should go bathe, too..." Except that he really didn't want to get out of bed at all!

"Ja." Though, Klaus wasn't going to press that, as he moved to lay beneath the sheets again, laying down tiredly. He'd had to clean seepage around his eye -- something that was unexplainably disgusting for him -- and had put the patch firmly back in place over it again. And now, after a freezing cold shower and a couple of glasses of water he felt better.

"Mmmm," Dorian sighed sleepily. "'s going to get better. 'd you take some?" he asked.

"Ja. Dr-- three." Softly uttered, Klaus closing his eyes as he shifted miserably to lay on his side, hoping that it would help his head in *some* manner.

For a while, they laid there silently, about a foot apart, and Dorian finally drifted back to sleep. It was fairly difficult, considering the pounding of his head, but he *knew* he'd feel better if he could just *sleep* for a while!! Which left Klaus to watch Dorian once some of the throb had abated from simply laying there quietly, not moving. He was turned towards Dorian, too, so when he finally cracked open his eye, it was took no movement to look at the earl's sleeping face.

The red lines of scars in no way detracted from the countenance upon which he gazed; indeed, he really didn't see them. Instead, he saw golden lashes brushing pale cheeks, lovely pale lips parted in steady breaths, a straight nose, a firm jaw. He saw beauty in that face, just as it had ever held, and nothing, ever, could convince him otherwise. Only now he could admit to seeing that beauty, torn between shoving it away and keeping it close to him. He had to keep Dorian safe, because he'd failed once. He was a failure at everything else, it seemed, but Dorian wanted him there still, so he had to try to keep him safe, to make him better.

It never once occurred to him that what he saw looking at Dorian was what Dorian saw when he looked back at him. Dorian himself had just realized that they shared views of each other.

Klaus closed his eyes again, shifting his left hand to rest it on Dorian's chest as if it had moved there in his sleep.

"Mmmm..." It was only a sleep sound, and Dorian shifted, moving closer to him. The room was quite chilly, and now that they had both cooled off, it seemed that he wanted to be close to Klaus once again. It was something Klaus wanted to oblige Dorian in, though for the moment he didn't move his slightly fisted hand from where it was curled at the center of Dorian's narrow chest. Hopefully that would keep the nightmares away.

The other man's arms moved around him, Dorian nestling close, and his head found its home against Klaus's chest despite the fist between them. The man sighed softly, blue eyes fluttering open slightly. He was reassured by the sight of Klaus there and smiled before closing them again, nestling close in his sleep.

There was something disturbingly comforting in knowing and feeling Dorian move consciously closer to him when he thought Klaus to be asleep. He'd have to analyze that when he was more awake...


Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach had never thought that *denim* could be flamboyant.

Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach was *wrong*.

Perhaps it was the fact that the jeans Dorian had slid over lean hips were almost the same shade of blue as the Briton's aquamarine gaze. Perhaps it was the fact that the t-shirt the man had on was spattered with paints in shades of that same color accompanied by purples and greens and even magenta. Perhaps -- just perhaps, mind you -- it had something to do with the scarf tied about Dorian's waist in equally complimentary colors.

Dorian was *definitely* feeling better than either one of them had felt the day before!

"Ohhhh!" the man declared, stretching until his back popped. "I'm glad we spent all day yesterday in bed! I feel up to the climb now!"

Klaus glanced over to the stout mountain they were going to hike, and shifted on the gravel of the parking lot as he locked the car. "Yesterday neither of us felt up to more than staying in bed." Except to get water, go to the bathroom, or, finally around eight, get food. It had been a waste of a day, but it had also been a little enjoyable for Klaus; lots of opportunities offered for him to become more comfortable than he already was around Dorian.

His own jeans, in his opinion, were thankfully not flamboyant, and neither was his comfortable leather jacket and the work-quality olive shirt he wore under it.

"That's true," Dorian admitted with a smile, hands shoved into his pockets as he smiled at Klaus. "Today's glorious, though. Shall we start up? I wonder what the view from the top is like..."

How Dorian could get his hands *into* those pockets seemed to be the most prominent thought on his mind as he nodded briskly and started towards the trail. "The trees are pretty here, with all the leaves turned."

"Red and gold and green and umber," Dorian agreed, sighing with pleasure as he followed after the other man. /Klaus has the cutest *bottom*,/ he thought wistfully to himself. "It should be a *glorious* sort of day, darling!" That word was coming more and more into his vocabulary in the last day or so; he was unable to help himself.

It seemed a good thing, to Klaus; that Dorian was returning to himself, in flamboyance and speech. He could still shoot perfectly, Dorian was still the foppish man who'd both pissed him off and drawn him in without explanation. "There's no risk of rain -- the view from the top is supposed to be really good."

"Come on," Dorian encouraged, reaching for his hand. It would be all right if Klaus rejected him -- he wouldn't mind it too badly -- but he hoped that the other man would not.

The excuse Klaus used was that the trail was supposed to be steep in parts, and that he wouldn't want Dorian to fall. Also, holding Dorian's hand like that, his right hand clasped in Dorian's left, Klaus taking the outside of the path, helped to hide his maimed fingers and too familiar bandages over the knuckles of fore and pinkie fingers.

"Look!" Dorian murmured, pointing ahead of them and to the right. "There's a brook over there. Looks promising for a stop on the way back down, don't you think?"

"Stop for what?" Klaus asked, looking at his companion a bit curiously.

"Oh, just because," Dorian answered, grip lightly caressing as they walked further up the trail.

"Just because... you live by such whims," Klaus managed to smile. Each step was well placed, guiding Dorian over the dips and rises of leaves and twigs, any possible point where an ankle could be twisted or foot caught. It was a natural action for him to be that sort of careful, so it left a lot of his mind free to look at the trees that, for the moment, were on either side of them.

"It's beautiful," Dorian whispered, the sound a sigh of pure pleasure. "Oh, Klaus..." For a moment, he hugged himself against the other man's arm, then sighed again. "I'm so glad we came here."

"Hiking, or to America?" Klaus asked with a quirk of his lips.

"Both!" came the happy decision, Dorian sighing again.

"Will you be able to enjoy yourself so much when we go back to Europe?" he asked seriously. And where in Europe -- London, or Bonn?

That seemed to require serious thought, for Dorian shook his head. "I don't know," he said finally. "I really don't know. There are things to DO in Europe, things..." Things that might take Klaus away from him, somehow. "Things that might separate us, one way or another. I don't know."

"What things?"

"I don't know," Dorian said softly, shrugging. "My thievery, your feelings of devotion towards your family... I don't know..."

"I thought we were going to work together," Klaus almost reminded -- hoping inside, with a desperate sense, that Dorian hadn't decided against that. If he had, where would that leave Klaus?

Dorian paused, smiling at him. "I want to desperately. I just have this fear you'll get tired of me... That's all."

"Don't bother being scared of that," Klaus told him, squeezing Dorian's hand as he looked up at the trail ahead of them, and then the trees again. "I won't. I couldn't."

"I'm glad." So softly that was spoken, it almost went unheard, but the clasp of Dorian's hand in his did not change.

For a while, they continued in silence, walking steadily up the trail. Every now and then, they would pause, but for the most part, it was a steady journey until Dorian spoke again. "Almost there!"

"The steepest part," Klaus agreed; they'd been hiking the path for perhaps two or so hours now, a walk that he took easily, his body glad for a return to old habits.

A slightly dreamy smile crossed Dorian's face -- flitting fantasies of falling and being rescued dancing through his brain, even though such a thing was utterly unlikely. He wasn't the sort of man to do that! "Let's go!"

"A race to the top?" Klaus asked, letting go of Dorian's hand to observe the stretch, a long curve that disappeared as it reached the top.

"Why not?" Dorian laughed, and promptly took off before Klaus could even think of running!

Klaus had sheer stamina, but not Dorian's playful speed -- and no already building reserve of adrenaline to power him along. He started just seconds after Dorian, but couldn't beat him to the top, where the path burst from well-tracked dirt and leaves into a well groomed lawn and cement path.

"I WIN!" Dorian whooped, turning slightly and coming to a halt, flinging his arms around Klaus as he slowed down, as well. "YES!"

"You cheated, you thief!" Klaus laughed, still moving forwards with Dorian caught in his arms for a moment. There were few people there at the time, only the employees of the park and a small smattering of people; and Klaus didn't care -- it was a joy to see Dorian show his old jubilance. "Hey... I'll race you to the tower!"

And then he took off at full speed towards the monument the moment he let go of Dorian.

"KLAUS!" Oh, it was a delight to hear that yell from behind him, the other man racing to keep up and not quite making it for the laughter that he couldn't hold back.

Dorian couldn't remember when he'd last enjoyed himself so much! It was a delight, and more than a delight, and he loved every last minute of it, even when they stopped at the base of the monument. "Oh, DARLING!"

Laughing wolfishly, Klaus pulled open the wooden door of the tall tower, and held it open for Dorian to come into the stone structure with him.

"You win!" Dorian conceded, panting slightly. "Ohhh!!"

"Come along, Dorian -- we've got the stairs ahead of us, so you can see the view!" Klaus told him firmly, offering his right hand out to Dorian.

Hand in hand, Dorian moved up the stairs beside him, feet hurrying along the way. "I'll bet it's *gorgeous*!" the blond said enthusiastically. What a wonderful day it had been so far!

"It's supposed to be!" Klaus agreed, as they took the winding flight all the way up to the platform at the top, with its viewing windows. Beyond the windows they could see more than just the mountain -- sectioned off pieces of land, splashes of color, bright and crisp from the turning trees, the scatterings of houses and the little town they were staying in, far in the distance.

"Ohhhhh," Dorian let out a little gasp, eyes going wide. "It's BEAUTIFUL! It's worth the entire trip!!"

/Hiking with you and seeing your face just now was worth the entire trip. Hearing you laugh.../ Klaus's gaze drifted between the view, and Dorian's awe struck face, before he looked out the window again, and down.

Below, a familiar figure moved, coat tucked closely about him, envelope in hand, and it caught his eye. It was not a flamboyant figure; not a terribly attractive one, either. No, it was that of a fairly large man, hat upon his bald head, sunglasses on.

Mischa.

Klaus instantly slipped into a mood Dorian thought he would never see again -- sharply observant and strictly calm; he didn't stop watching the Soviet.

"What's wrong?" His voice was not a whisper; instead, it was a low murmur, British drawl gone crisp, his own eyes following Klaus's gaze and widening upon seeing the person below. "Hm."

"Ja," Klaus drawled, watching as another -- a casually dressed Tank -- approached Mischa.

What were the fucking chances of THAT happening, with them there, so far from Europe!

"Well," Dorian said softly, watching the two move to exchange information. "THAT certainly puts an interesting question to mind..."

"Which one?" Klaus asked in a low-toned rumble.

"First off, what they're doing. Second, can we steal it? Third, is it worth the effort? Fourth, how on earth did we manage to come here at just the right time?" Dorian paused. "There are others, but those are my main questions, just now."

"Five, how the fuck can we avoid it? It's just the damned Yanks, Dorian," Klaus growled. Mischa, too, though, and that was rivalry that had gone back before Dorian had ever known Klaus was alive.

The response that Dorian gave was slow, serious. "Maybe," he said finally. "But I think we should keep an eye out, all the same."

"Yes; we'll stay up here until they've left," Klaus decided; he wanted to see where each one went, to be stored away in his mind.

"Hmmmm." With a sigh, Dorian shook his head and smiled, eyes sparkling slightly. "I love you when you're like this, Klaus! So serious, so beautiful..."

"Dorian..." In earlier days, he would have snapped, bellowing and perhaps given away their location. Now, though, there was only a whisper of, "Not now."

"Yes... Klaus..." The sound of it was almost disappointed, but Dorian didn't move away from him. Instead, he simply shifted a bit closer, and continued to watch, as well.

They watched papers trade hands, and then watched the two agents part, shaking hands briskly before heading in opposite directions. "One of them hiked, the other drove." Mischa was *not* the hiker, he knew... Dorian's hand was grabbed, and Klaus started quickly down the stairs. "We're going to get the license number of whatever vehicle he came in!"

From there, it was a pell mell run down the stairs, Dorian right behind him, and they only stopped once they were in the parking lot. A tan sedan pulled past them -- a rental car, Lincoln Continental.

Mischa was in it, and he'd seen them just as well as they'd seen him.

"ABT-269. ABT-269 -- Dorian, remember that," Klaus said, still mouthing it to himself as he watched the car roll down the rocky drive.

"ABT-269," Dorian repeated obediently enough. "A, B and T are agents. 2 plus 6 is 8 plus one more number is 9...."

"Let's hike back down," Klaus sighed, rolling the plate's tags around in his mind. "It'll take us a while, anyway -- 't'll be suppertime by then. 's already too late to call over to Bonn."

"First thing in the morning," Dorian promised him, still holding his hand. "D'you want to take the easy way down, or hike the trail again?"

"We can take the trail." Klaus was already turning back the way they'd come. "You wanted to stop by that pond..."

"Brook," Dorian reminded gently.

"Yeah." Klaus kept a hold of Dorian's hand as they crossed where cement became dirt again. More things to crowd his mind, seeing Mischa there, thoughts of the Stasi rising up, inadequacy, being unable to protect Dorian properly.

A few moments' silence led Dorian to softly ask, "Are you all right?"

One booted foot crunched down in a pile of leaves, and he could see Klaus tense before he realized it was his own. "Ja."

"It will be all right," Dorian promised him quietly. "It will be, darling..."

"Look at our luck, Dorian, and tell me that!"

"Our luck will get better!" Dorian declared. "It will!"

"Yours might; mine never has." /And it's not safe for you, Dorian... I can't put you at risk.../ Couldn't pursue this any further than passing the information on to Bonn, if they'd take it from him.

If.

The set of his jaw should have told Dorian of the familiar steadfast determination that was setting into Klaus.

"All right, darling," Dorian agreed calmly. "Whatever you say."

"You don't believe me." /Of course he doesn't; you're lying, after all.../ The crisp breeze seemed, just then, to be taunting him more than just blowing.

"It's not that," Dorian denied. "I just... It's just worrying," he admitted quietly. "Our little calm world's intruded upon now."

"I'd almost think someone's setting us up," Klaus said, barely under his breath, as he grasped Dorian's hand a little tighter. "We're going to play this carefully; I won't have you hurt."

"I'm a grown man," Dorian told him, moving close to him. "I'll be careful, Klaus... we'll do things the way you want them done."

"No doing anything behind my back, all right?"

It hurt, a little, that Klaus thought he would, but he supposed it was deserved. He'd certainly done just that often enough in the past... "All right."

The hand that held his squeezed once more, Klaus's expression a tense one as he continued down the path, finally stopping at a little niche in the trees, dragging Dorian with him.

"Klaus?" he asked softly, surprised.

"I want to put a delay between us reaching the bottom and any chance of Mischa waiting there for us," he explained.

"...oh...." That sounded a little disappointed as Dorian looked up at him from beneath that heavy fringe of gold lashes, eyes darkened slightly from a sudden want. "Hm."

They moved a little deeper into the niche before Klaus was satisfied, sitting down on a felled tree and pulling Dorian with him. The area certainly looked well used, for purposes Klaus didn't want to guess yet.

"A kissing spot," Dorian said faintly, smiling at Klaus just a bit weakly. At first, he'd thought that was what Klaus intended to use it for...

"A what?" Klaus asked, too attuned to listening to sounds of the trail to have been paying Dorian too much attention; the words had passed him right by.

"A kissing spot," Dorian told him solemnly. "You know. A place in the trail where people stop for kissing, and... that sort of thing."

/Of course he would notice something like that./ Somehow having that explained to him only made him nervous now, already on edge -- was Dorian expecting something of him...? "Oh."

For a while, silence continued, Dorian sitting beside him, staring out at the trail on which they *weren't* hiking and along which no one was coming. /I wish.../ Well, he wished Klaus would kiss him was what, but that was too much to ask for in the light of day, he supposed, and particularly *sober*.

"I think it's safe," Klaus murmured after another moment, looking over to Dorian. "Do you want to go?"

"...sure," Dorian agreed, attention caught as he looked over at Klaus and smiled. "Let's go now." Even though he really wished Klaus had kissed him....

"Is... there something wrong?" Klaus asked after a moment, stopping short of leaving the little area -- something seemed off about Dorian, though it was nothing he could pinpoint.

"Oh... nothing in particular," Dorian said. "Just feeling a bit wistful, I suppose..." After all, who wouldn't? The little side grotto into which they'd stepped was beautiful and obviously meant for romance. That was as much Dorian's nature as it was anything else....

"Wistful," Klaus repeated; he couldn't understand it -- wistful after spotting KGB agents in their vacation spot in America... "Let's go, Dorian." His right hand was held out, offered to the blonde man to keep him safe and close.

"All right..." His hand was taken, and Dorian moved close to him, smiling slightly. That yearning expression was still on his face, though, as if nothing could wipe it away from there.

Klaus wanted to ask 'why' Dorian looked that way, but then were soon making their way down the trail again. He found himself lingering at times, caught up in the wonder of such beautiful nature.

"It's gorgeous, isn't it?" Dorian whispered to him as he paused at a bend in the trail where sunlight spilled down and struck a vein of quartz in the mountainside. It turned to pure molten gold on the way to the ground, almost enough to fool the eye into believing that it was real. The whisper reflected almost exactly what Klaus was thinking, that blond head settling momentarily on his shoulder.

"Ja," Klaus sighed, tone so very quiet as he looked at that. "Ja... Dorian, I want to keep relaxing here a while more. I'm not sure... I'm well enough to go back yet to doing things."

"It's all right, Klaus. That's why we're on vacation, isn't it?" Dorian asked him, nodding. "So that we can recuperate before we go into business...."

But seeing Mischa had boosted his *duty* into readiness; not the rest of his mind or all of his body. "I'll call Bonn tomorrow, give them the plate number and tell them what I saw, and then that's it," he said, tone odd -- as if he were convincing himself of it.

"All right," Dorian agreed somberly. "It's all right, darling. That's what we'll do, then."

"This isn't normal for me," Klaus finally said, tone uneasy as they continued to take the trail down. "I've never..." Been so unsure.

"It will get better, darling," came the promise. "I know it will. We.... we're not ready to go back to being who or what we were, are we?" the Briton questioned, uncertain. "Or... like we were?" Oh, he wouldn't be able to bear it, if Klaus went back to the way things were before!!

"I don't think... we'll go back to the way we were," Klaus spoke, tone a tentative one, but he at least said it. "No, we're not ready to work again yet. But at least I can still shoot."

"Oh." The sound in that voice was one that was purely relief, Dorian moving closer to him. "I don't think I can bear it if we go back to that," he whispered, laying his head on Klaus's shoulder as they continued down the trail. "Really, I just don't think I could..."

"I... I wouldn't want to. Even if you do enter the bathroom without knocking," the German whispered, slipping his hand free of Dorian's grasp to slid it around the man's waist. God, Dorian had corrupted him completely, to get such word and actions from him in public... but it helped both of them. And felt good; anything that felt good, that could drives away old memories...

With a smile, Dorian sighed slightly. "I'm glad," he said simply. "I'm so glad, Klaus."

Klaus was silent for the last downward leg of the hike, a little tired but in a good way, as he moved to slip behind the steering wheel. Until that moment, though, he hadn't let go of Dorian's comfortable form. "Where should we eat dinner tonight?"

"Hmmm... we could try Bob's again," Dorian suggested. "Even cold, the steak was awfully good. Maybe I'll even try something *exotic*..." Well, while he was sure nothing on the menu was TRULY exotic, some of it had sounded a little *odd* to him. Why not?

"Clam chowder, you mean?" Klaus asked, putting the key in the ignition. "All right, then -- I'll get us there. Did you like the hike?"

"Oh, yes! It was gorgeous!" the other man said, nodding. "Thank you, Klaus. That was a marvelous thing to do today." /I only wish I'd had the nerve to kiss you when we stopped.../ "We should do it again sometime..."

/And maybe put that 'kissing place' to a little use,/ Klaus mused, quickly pushing that thought down before it reached more of his conscious mind or made him feel sick. No, his nerves were wound tight enough as is. "Tomorrow we can hike outside the house. And I want to try to swim..."

"Darling, I believe I'll lay on the dock and *watch* you," Dorian informed him. "That water's going to be *awfully* cold..."

"I might not do anything more than sit on those steps that go into it and put my feet in," Klaus shrugged, truthful at least, about that. "I've been in colder water than anything this place would pull up." Alaska, in fact... /Don't think of that, don't think of missions.../

"I believe a cold shower's almost more than I can bear," Dorian admitted wryly. "I don't think I'd really care to try my luck with the water of that lake!!"

"Then you can sit and watch, or fish me out when I turn into ice," Klaus said as he backed out of the gravel parking lot and took off down the road. "But I'm still going to try."

At that, Dorian laughed. "Mmmm, well, I'll watch you closely and save you from hypothermia," he declared, stopping to yawn. "Ohhh. That was delicious. I'm sure we'll sleep quite well tonight, or I will, anyway." He always did in Klaus's arms, but he'd be tired from their hike tonight, and that would be good.

"Would you be willing to go running with me, Dorian?" Klaus asked, glancing over at his companion. If they did everything together, why not at least expand their range...?

"ONLY if I get to wear those fun little silky running shorts," Dorian teased. "Then, I'll do anything you like!"

"You have a pair of those with you?" /No, what am I saying...? Just... just that I want him at my side all the time./ And if he had Dorian at his side while he ran, it would probably cancel out part of his reason for running.

"Mmmm, no, but I could buy some, don't you think?" the other man asked. "In blue. You like blue, don't you? Or green. Green might be better..." Anything but red. Klaus didn't like red at all, even though it looked TERRIBLY good on Dorian! So, no red.

"Whatever color you want; tomorrow we'll go find out where more stores are, anyway," Klaus said, taking a turn smoothly. "After, that is, you've thawed me out."

That made Dorian laugh, which in turn made Klaus a bit proud of himself. The fact that Dorian *could* laugh again, could smile, could... could just be *Dorian* every now and then... it meant so much to him, even though he never would have thought that it could. "No problem, darling. I'm excellent at thawing."

"Which reminds me... next time we drink together, just one shot each, right?" best to keep the light, comfortable banter going, since it seemed to be working.

"Oh, GOD, yes," Dorian agreed. "I hate hangovers. They're awful..." Even though he had deeply enjoyed every last moment of the moments they'd spent together while drunk, touching, kissing...

"And being drunk just makes everything fuzzy." Like the details of how his pants had become a sticky mess, and why he'd slept in them. But nothing had been mentioned about that interlude, so perhaps...

"Beautifully so," Dorian sighed dreamily. "But I'm awfully sure that I find the morning after abhorrent..."

"You like everything fuzzy?"

That gained him a smile. "Sometimes. If I'm fuzzy with you."

The smile made his mood lift, but the words... the words struck him almost sharply, even though Dorian hadn't meant them the way Klaus took them. "Would... it be all right if you weren't fuzzy?" /Or is that the only way you can stand to have me touching you?/

"It would be even better, then," Dorian said softly. "Only I can't imagine you wanting to... well... with me.... if you weren't..."

Subject breached, and the wall couldn't just be patted closed. /Talk with him./ "It... brings up things I don't want to deal with, but..." /I want it; it feels good./

"But?" Dorian asked him quietly.

"I want... you, only, if you *knew* what I wanted, if... you wouldn't want me too," Klaus said, tone edged with unease.

The next question was asked solemnly, Dorian's face quite serious. "Why?"

"Because it's sick." Tense words from Klaus, as he tried to not think of what he was saying to Dorian.

"Because of what you saw?" The questioning was almost gentle, both of them watching the road ahead of them more than one another. "What you saw wasn't right. That's true..."

"But it's..." What he wanted to do. He wanted to take Dorian, make him cry out from the feeling of it, wanted to feel a warm mouth around his cock, but... but all of that hurt Dorian, and he couldn't *hurt* Dorian. It was already bad enough that it was against everything he'd declared for years of his existence.

"What you saw was... rape, Klaus. Plain and simple." God, he hated that word, hated knowing someone had done it to him, couldn't bear the thought of it, but... "What would happen between us would be nothing like that. Nothing...."

"God-dammit, I *know* what happened," Klaus snapped in a low tone. "I can't be sure I wouldn't hurt you. I... I just can't."

"Would you..." Dorian swallowed hard. "Would you be upset if I showed you?" he whispered.

"S-showed?" Klaus's eyes widened a little, still looking at the road. "No, Dorian. We're not... I mean... There's no need for either of us to be... any more humiliated."

"It wouldn't humiliate me!" That golden head shook slightly, a negative motion. "I've... Klaus, it's not as though what we're talking about isn't something I've never done before..." He bit his lower lip nervously. "It's... it's wonderful, really, when someone..." Loves you, he wanted to say. "When someone is tender with you and kind. It's magnificent..."

"We're talking about something *I've* never done before." Klaus chanced a glance over at Dorian's face, wondering if the conversation brought the same blush to Dorian's face that he could feel burning on his own cheeks.

"I know. That's why I volunteered to show you. You... you can just watch. If you want," Dorian finished hurriedly.

"No, I don't want to... watch anything," he told Dorian, knowing that it would only bring up memories of being unable to *not* watch Dorian. "I know... that we need to figure this out before we go back to Europe, before we... live together for real, work together..."

"If you want me, Klaus..." Dorian drew in a deep breath and sighed. "I'm yours. You know that. I've always wanted you. And now, you're so tender and so good to me..." Klaus wouldn't hurt him, wouldn't pinch or twist or force too much into him or make him do anything that he didn't want to do!

"[I can't deal with this.]" A miserable utterance made under his breath, focusing his eyes on the winding road they were driving along. "I don't know."

For a moment, Dorian had to think about what Klaus had said. "All right. We don't have to talk about it now," he said solemnly. "It's all right, Klaus..."

The hands on the steering wheel, one still bearing the brace from when he'd fractured it against the wall, the other more permanently maimed, were white knuckled in their grasp on the leather covered metal. "We keep putting it off -- *I* keep putting it off, so it only comes up again."

"Klaus, you want to, and you're afraid to," Dorian replied. "That's more than understandable! I don't mind that we talk about it and put it off. If it makes you so uncomfortable..."

"I don't like having things hanging over my head," he told the other man seriously. "And this... hangs over my head every night."

The thief nodded, closing his eyes and laying his head back against the seat before saying quietly, "Klaus. Whenever you want to try something, tell me. Whatever you want to do, you don't have to be ashamed to say it. I..." Dorian turned his head, opened his eyes to look at him. "I don't feel that I'm worthy of your affection, you know. I don't. But I would never, *ever* be appalled at you or shocked or hate you for anything. Even after... after everything, I still love you. I do. Nothing could stop that. Nothing could make me ashamed of *you*, even if I'm ashamed of myself. You understand? Do you see? I love you. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry..."

"Dorian, there... there's nothing to be sorry for. Nothing." This was what had been so wrong since it had happened -- they ran in ruts, caught in trains of thought that apparently they could only pretend to leave. That realization brought a stabbing glimpse of themselves to Klaus, two ruined people together. "Please don't do this, Dorian."

"Don't love you?" Dorian asked. "I can't help it. Truly. I..." His brows knit. "I didn't used to be ashamed of myself for it. I don't know if I am now or if I just feel... that I should apologize to you for it. You never asked for me to love you or wanted me to, only I can't help it. I just do. I just have. It's *just* *there*. Even though it always made you ashamed and humiliated you and I suppose it's that I'm sorry for..."

"No," he broke in, before Dorian could go on. He'd been keeping an eye out for a point where they could pull off safely, and here the shoulder on the road was more than generous enough to stop the car. "No, I mean... we... we get *caught* in things, Dorian. It... my English isn't good enough for this. We keep repeating ourselves."

"....oh...." Dorian paused. "You mean... my apologizing to you..."

"Ja! We've been doing it for weeks now!" Klaus told him, expression now drawn taut in concern for *both* of them.

"Well... you know, what happened was awfully traumatic, Klaus," Dorian said, gnawing at his lower lip. "It was. And I think maybe we just need time. A little time, and it will get better, I'm sure of it! And if we're aware of it, then maybe we can change it!"

"If we keep aware of it. So, stop apologizing and... if you're going to tell me you love me, do it like you used to -- neither of us need it explained." Klaus turned more in his seat, unbuckling the seatbelt for a moment as he watched Dorian.

"Do you mind, now?" the blond man asked. "That I love you?"

"No, I can't; not when I think..." /That maybe what I feel for you is the 'love' you've spoken of so floweringly. But it doesn't make my heart sing, or any of your romantic mush. It makes me want to keep you close and safe./ "That I might, too. I don't know. 'm not sure."

"Oh, Klaus!" Dorian's hands were fumbling for his own safety belt, and once it was undone, he nearly flung himself against the other man, arms wrapping tightly around his shoulders. "Do you mean it?" he whispered. "Do you think... oh, *KLAUS*!" If Klaus loved him, *nothing* in the world could be so terrible that he couldn't live through it!

Klaus had wanted to pull Dorian into his arms when the man had started his too familiar apologies. Now he just let Dorian get close to him, slipped his own arms tightly around the blond's torso. "I... I don't know what it is. But I don't want to ever let you leave, or see you hurt again."

"Oh, Klaus," Dorian whispered again, face pressed to Klaus's throat. "I won't ever go away from you. I won't. I swear it. Never..."

"'s good," Klaus sighed, closing his eyes as he felt his body give in to relaxation at last. It was something that, oddly enough, he could only find in such a strong form when in Dorian's arms. Only then... "I don't want to not have you."

"You won't ever have to, darling," Dorian whispered, almost drunk on Klaus's words. "Ever. Ever. I'll be with you always!" So extravagant of him to say, but so true!

"As long as... we're both sure of that," the German murmured, pressing Dorian a little closer. "Everything else... should just be easier."

"All right," Dorian agreed simply, still holding Klaus closely. He could feel his heart pounding, veins almost surging with the sheer intensity of joy. "That sounds wonderful."

"And if I start... repeating myself, stop me," he uttered, words a sighed breath against Dorian's hair. "Let's go eat. Then we can go back to the house and watch the news." Sit close, talk about nothing, laugh at the stupid Yanks...

With a little sigh that drifted over Klaus's throat, Dorian pulled back slightly, practically *glowing*. "Sounds like a marvelous plan, darling," he whispered, daring to press a kiss lightly to the other man's lips.

A kiss Klaus let happen, unchallenged -- and when Dorian drew back, grey-green eyes weren't averted. He was looking at Dorian -- still so confused and lost looking, but at least now he had something other than himself to use as an anchor. "All right."

With a little sigh that was purely happiness, Dorian settled back into his seat and put his seatbelt on again. "Oh, God, I'm happy," he said softly, shaking his head. "I feel almost surreal, as if I shouldn't exist but somehow *do*..."

"Why's that?" Klaus asked him, moving back to sit straight in his seat, buckling the belt before he started the car again.

"Because I never thought you'd ever feel anything but anger for me after all these years," Dorian said lightly. "And the fact that you do... I could just burst."

"How much I hated you at first... that was the worst of it," Klaus said, pulling back onto the mostly empty road.

That gained a sudden little chuckle and a confession. "I still have your tank, you know. It's in *marvelous* condition."

"You do..? I'll have to see it sometime." And make sure it was still a functioning vehicle; but there was no reason to take it away from Dorian, not the way things are now. "I thought... at first that you might have sold it to the Soviets."

"Oh, *heavens*, no!" Dorian told him, a little appalled. "I've kept it and had it repaired and it's quite a beautiful thing. You said that you loved it," the man sighed wistfully, "because steel was beautiful to you. I couldn't bear to part with it after that."

"You kept it out of... sentiment?" Romantic mush, but... but it made him smile for a faint moment. "Hmh."

"Well... you *liked* it," Dorian told him sheepishly. "Jamesie bitched awfully about the upkeep of the thing, but I told him I was going to have it and that was that."

"You... you're still going to work with your men, aren't you?"

Blue eyes darted over to look at him. "...yes. Does that bother you? It's who I am, you know, and who they are. And how could I do without them? They're my family..." All he had, really, since his mother had taken his sisters and abandoned him to remain with his father, calling them both 'unnatural'.

"Bonham and Jones are all right fellows," he said after thinking for a moment. "But your money-bug and I have never gotten along; still, I don't want you to lose your family. I'll just adjust."

"Thank you," Dorian told him, smiling helplessly. Now, THAT was love, even if Klaus hadn't put that name to it. "I do adore Jamesie, and he *is* awfully good to me sometimes.... and he *does* keep me from overspending terribly..."

"I can help you watch that, too." He could also subsidize the household a little with his pension; not quite how he'd expected to be living once he retired, but then, nothing was quite as he expected.

"It isn't that there's no money, darling, and God knows I can just sell a few things if we need any, but if left to my own devices, I can't balance a cheque book to save my life," came the sheepish admission.

"I've been taught how to do that and manage an estate for when..." /If./ "...it's my turn to see to that duty."

"Wonderful!" Dorian could already see the number of thundering arguments Klaus and James would have, probably resulting in the little accountant running off to hide somewhere. Well... they'd figure something out. "Oh, there's the restaurant!" Dorian sighed. "I'm starving!"

"If you get sick from something odd you try here, I'll drive back," he said, tossing Dorian the keys one he'd rolled into the lot and parked it.

Dorian's agreement was cheerful enough as they headed through the parking lot and into the restaurant. "I believe I'll just try their special or something," he said as he opened the door and stepped in. "What about you?"

"Oh, I'll stick with the steak," he began to say, though his gaze *snapped* to one corner of the room as they entered.

"Major Eberbach?!" A exclaimed first, and that brought Z's head up from the little stack of papers he was studying.

"Oh!" Dorian said, blinking visibly. "Ah... darling," he whispered, "I think this puts a bit of a twist on things." So much for vacation!

As if Klaus needed to be told it put a twist on things! He moved forwards, towards the table where the men who were once his Alphabet Soup sat, an odd mixture of military and strained civilian style clothing. "Why are all of you here?" Though he no longer had the authority, he could certainly *ask* why his old life was so violently intruding on his new one!

"Er... well, sir," A began a bit nervously before looking to Z for an explanation. What to tell the Major!? For surely he was still the Major to *all* of them...

"We're here on duty... sir," Z said, meeting the Major's one-eyed, and still very stern gaze. "There's activity in the area..."

"ABT-269," Klaus uttered, "is the license plate of the car Mischa got into."

"He saw us about the same time that *we* saw him," Dorian admitted.

"He was at Mt. Greylock with an American... Z, you'd better not tell me you're basing the mission out of here," Klaus growled.

"No, sir," Z said. "I won't tell you that." Well... it was true, but he wasn't going to *tell* the Major that!!!

"You know," Dorian said, glancing at Klaus, "there's the basement..."

Old life, intruding so closely on new again... "Dorian, order dinner -- to go; men, get out to your cars, I'll give you directions," Klaus murmured almost reluctantly. /If I can't serve directly, I can serve indirectly./

"They can follow us," Dorian suggested. "It won't take long..."

Klaus gave the men a dubious look -- if they were idiotic enough to be setting up camp in a *restaurant*, could they truly be smart enough to follow them...?

"Fine," he assented after a moment's thought. "But get dinner."

"Yes, Klaus!" was the cheerful reply, all of the Alphabet watching them with shock as Dorian hurried over to the cashier and placed an order -- one for two of everything in the place, and could they get it delivered, or did they need to wait?

The lady agreed, stunned, that she could get someone to deliver all of it if he would give them the address. He cheerfully did before trotting back to Klaus, smiling. "We can go now. Dinner'll be coming after us. If the Alphabet's already eaten, we'll just stuff it all somewhere to be warmed up tomorrow!"

That hadn't been Klaus's exact idea, but... well, Dorian would always be extravagant, and sometimes he could bear it. "All right -- Z, follow my car," he said, reaching for the keys that he'd earlier tossed to Dorian, as they all headed out into the parking lot.

"Yes, sir!" Z replied promptly, all of the Alphabet standing up at his prompting to follow after the thief and their Major.

"Darling, I think your Alphabet is happy to see us," Dorian whispered noisily, glancing back at all of those grinning faces.

"Hmm." So much for a vacation, or even the hopes he'd had for a quiet evening. "The first person who breaks anything in the house gets killed -- we're renting it," he growled over his shoulder as a warning as he unlocked the doors of the rental car, and then slid in. Klaus waited until Dorian was in, buckled up, and until most of the Alphabets who were there were in their cars, before pulling out and onto Route Seven.

"Don't you think killing them would be a little extreme, darling?" Dorian teased, smiling at him. "We could just send them out swimming in that freezing cold water, instead. That's almost as good as Alaska!"

"I don't think it's that cold out," Klaus said, keeping a track of them in his rear view as he took the road steadily. "Where will be put them up? Idiots seemed to have just gotten into a plane without too much plan laid out; ten of them. The other sixteen must be on assignment or desk work."

"Or, God forbid, on their way," Dorian pointed out. "I haven't seen anything resembling a hotel. I suppose they could sleep on the floor..." Though what would they say when Dorian and Klaus went to bed together?? What if Klaus wouldn't go to bed with him since they were there? How could he sleep!? /Maybe this was a very bad idea.../

"Two in the spare bedroom, two in the attic, two in the office-craft room, four in the living room," Klaus murmured, working through the spaces of the house in his mind. "They'll manage."

And THAT meant Klaus would still be sleeping with him, which made him sigh with relief. "You're brilliant, Klaus!"

"Don't say that," he sighed, shaking his head. No, if he was brilliant they wouldn't even *be* in America... /Stop that. Don't think that way, Eberbach./ "We'll help how we can on this, but otherwise we're just giving them a place to stay."

"Yes, Klaus!" Dorian agreed cheerfully, glancing in the rear view mirror at the cars following behind them. "I'm glad to offer your Alphabet some help. They're good men, really."

It was hard to forget the outward crying of some that day he'd left. "I know." He'd always known, even if he did keep them in line with threats -- it was for their own sake, anyway.

With a pleased sigh, Dorian settled back in his seat, happy to simply stay where he was for the moment. "I'm sure we'll have our supper soon, darling. We can watch the news while the Alphabets putter a bit, perhaps?"

"Get themselves sorted out down in the basement," Klaus agreed. that would be hard, to not do a thing when there was his old job calling to him, so fucking close by!

"Sounds like a plan," the tall blond murmured as they pulled into the driveway.

They stopped right in front of the garage door, and Klaus got out to pull it up, before pulling the rental in. There was enough room for one more car, and then the rest would have to park in the driveway and scrape pine-tar off their vehicles come morning. "This isn't going to change anything?" he asked, shutting the car off, before he opened the car door.

"I hope not," Dorian said softly. "I wouldn't want you to be uncomfortable, but I don't want anything to change, either. If it would make you feel better, I... I'll try not to cling so that everyone can see me do it..." That was the best he could offer!

"I don't care; we.... are the way we are. If it bothers them, too fucking bad. I don't work for NATO anymore," he told Dorian, before he did open the door, to find A, B, K, H and Z getting out of the car that had pulled into the garage beside them. "You can use this basement for whatever you want. Dinner will probably arrive soon. There's enough space for all of you to sleep upstairs."

"Thank you, sir!" Z told him with an expression that was almost purely worshipful... too sweet, Dorian thought. "We appreciate this very much!"

"Darling." Dorian nudged Klaus slightly. "The holster? Is it upstairs?"

The holster... "Later," Klaus murmured, turning to go upstairs; he fully expected the Alphabets to set up for themselves, and figure out what they were doing without him there. And he would give Z his old holster, only not with so many others there.

"See you later," Dorian told them with a wave as the rest of the Alphabet filed into the garage through a side door. After that, he followed Klaus through the musty smelling basement and up the stairs towards the kitchen.

The door between the first floor and the basement was closed, but not locked as it had been the night before. Now they were alone again, but with nothing to do, and the Alphabets so close... "I'll turn on the television -- do you want to make tea or something?"

"All right," Dorian agreed, moving to the kitchen sink to fill the kettle. "That sounds marvelous. I think we've probably got something to snack on somewhere -- I bought those shortbread cookies, and I'm starving, darling. How about you?"

"I'll have one," he shrugged, turning the channel to the news that was already showing -- a glance at his clock showed it was already later than he'd thought. "News is on."

"Be right there!" Dorian called, putting the kettle on the stove and scrounging up the cookies before heading in to sit down beside Klaus, curled against his side. "Here," he offered, smiling at him for a moment. There was something bothering Klaus, and he knew what it was, but... "Are you okay?" he asked seriously, nudging the other man slightly.

"Almost," Klaus murmured, taking the offered shortbread and chewing it in as he shifted a little closer to Dorian as he took in the information that the American news was covering. More about their football strike -- most of their news was domestic centralized, just like the paper that was delivered daily.

"Do you know, American news is the most deadly dull thing in the world?" Dorian declared. "It's no wonder they think they're the center of the universe. No one else ever tells them anything's out there past their borders!"

"Sodding Idiot Yanks -- do you ever notice that we never have to call their fucking FBI or CIA over to help *us*, but they're always asking us for help in their internal problems. They're idiots. I'm sure of it," Klaus sighed. "None of the channels here have real news."

The suggestion that they could always go downstairs and *ask* for real news died on Dorian's tongue as the kettle went off. "Tell you what. Let's take our tea and sit out on the parch, shall we? Or, better yet... kiss me," he asked prettily enough, ignoring the shrill shriek for the moment.

Klaus still hadn't worked through things enough to reply playfully and then do it; no, he had to pause a moment, before he leaned over and pressed his mouth against Dorian's soft, warm lips, a gentle kiss taken carefully. "We can watch the lake from the porch," Klaus murmured, standing up when Dorian did, as he broke the kiss.

"That sounds wonderful," Dorian agreed, almost dreamy as he sighed and smiled at the other man. Ohh, life was beyond good, he decided even as he headed towards the kitchen to pour up tea for both of them.

Klaus lingered a moment by the door between basement and kitchen, listening to the sounds of his men talking and writing things down. Hopefully they'd put what he'd told them to good use. Then he joined Dorian in the kitchen, watching the other man make the tea. "Well... we can't ruin making that," he pointed out with the edge of a smile on his lips.

"I'm very good at *this*," Dorian told him teasingly, lightly handing him the first cup and saucer before fixing his own and adding sugar to the brew even before it was done. "Shall we go outside? Isn't there a swing or something there?"

"No swing, but there's a bench right up against the railing," Klaus told him, waiting until Dorian was done before he moved through the dining room and the great room to the sliding glass door. a door which found itself pushed open in short order. From there, it was a short enough trip to the bench Klaus had mentioned, a cushioned affair that was actually fairly comfortable and which would allow them to lean against the railing and look out over the lake.

The sun was almost beneath the horizon, now, and the sky was stained pink and purple in love shades of almost-amethyst, and Dorian sighed. "Oh, incomparable..."

It was hard to believe that the peace of the place was being threatened by the men down in the basement, whose voices Klaus voice vaguely hear just then. But he focussed his eyes hard on the lake beyond them, the faint colored ripples that caught the reflection of the setting sun and the sky before it. He took a long draught of the tea, and then slid his right hand around Dorian's waist. "It is."

"I love you, Klaus," Dorian said quietly, laying his head on the other man's shoulders, cup and saucer lightly clasped in both careful hands. "I've never been happier than this moment with you, I think."

"You say that every time we're alone together, Dorian." Klaus' voice held a little amusement, and no chiding at all -- somehow, it pleased him to know he was making Dorian happy like that, and soothing himself at the same time.

"Maybe," Dorian agreed. "But it's true. Each time just gets better."

"I think you're just happy that... we're still... still," he sighed, though smiling. Still there, still touching, still comfortable with each other. "I still wish that mission hadn't been such a botch, but I don't regret anything since."

"I'm glad." He was, desperately, madly, *insanely* glad. It almost made up for all of the horror in some ways, especially since Klaus didn't... *LOOK* at him and see scars or a frightened man. No, he saw Dorian as *Dorian*, and that was a perfectly splendorous thing! "I've never regretted anything that had to do with me and you."

"I know you wouldn't," Klaus replied ruefully, pulling Dorian possessively closer to him, as close as he could without risking spilled tea.

At that moment, the sound of tires on gravel came to them; dinner had most *definitely* arrived! "Ohh, good! I'm *starving*, darling," Dorian said, smiling up at him. "Shall we go and fetch things or see if the Alphabet does?"

"Both, I suppose," Klaus murmured, holding Dorian close for a moment until he heard the garage door beneath them start to roll up. Then he rose, wallet ready to cover the costs if need be. "I'll go help -- you can stay here."

"I ordered it all, darling, I really ought to pay for it," Dorian protested, rising with him. "We'll both go, all right?"

A slightly incredulous sound, but Klaus wasn't going to protest too much -- he'd paid for all of the books they were still reading, so... "All right." Then he led the way down the wooden steps that took them beneath a pine-tree, and then across the grass to the driveway.

The woman who'd brought the food had been their waitress the morning that they'd stopped for breakfast and she was all smiles as she handed out vast amounts of food to waiting men and accepted money and tip from Dorian. "Hope you folks have a good time," she offered cheerfully, tucking the money away in a little naugahyde bag with the name of a bank on the front.

"I'm sure we will," Dorian replied cheerfully as the Alphabet trooped back into the house. "Have a nice night!"

Klaus was the one who lingered to make sure she was out of the drive before he closed the garage door again. "If anything needs to be heated up, just come into the kitchen," he told them, before heading back up the interior steps with Dorian, their own dinner finally sorted out from everyone else's and the extra.

"I'll fetch sheets and pillows and such later," Dorian offered, waving as they headed out of the basement. "And show you the bathrooms, if you need them!"

Klaus, though, was showing a definite want to *not* linger amongst them -- because he was completely torn between wanting to help more directly, and remembering that NATO didn't want him doing anything anymore. Knowing this was a familiarity, and the awkwardness of no longer being in command of those men...

"Sir?" Z asked quietly, all of the Alphabet looking up at him. "Ah... thank you. And thank you, Lord Gloria..."

"You're welcome," was the soft reply from the man who had once been their Major, their brilliant superior officer -- it was a sad tone, as Klaus pivoted sharply to walk quickly up the stairs.

With a slight wave, Dorian headed up after him, dinner balanced on a palm. /Poor Klaus. My poor darling Klaus. They'd be glad for you to help them, direct them, if only you would, and you still aren't ready for that yet, are you?/

And if he was ever ready to lead them again, what did it matter? He *wasn't* the Major anymore, couldn't give them orders...

Klaus sighed as he set the box down on the kitchen table, darted into the kitchen to get forks and knives, and then sat down again. "Did you close the door, Dorian?"

"Yes, darling," Dorian told him solemnly, poking at the 'clam chowdah'. "It's funny looking stuff. I'm not sure I really want to chance it..."

"You wanted something exotic," Klaus reminded him with a half-forced smile. "But it can't be worse than British food."

"Darling, it practically *jiggles* when I touch it," was the fascinated reply, a spoon poking at the stuff. "Kippers don't *jiggle*..."

"No -- kippers could be used to reinforce a wall. No one would ever accuse those of jiggling..."

The husky laughter that gained him helped to make him feel a bit better. "Mmm, well, you know, I suppose that's quite true, darling," Dorian chuckled, smiling at him. "I might brave a bite if you will."

"If I take a try, will you eat it?" Klaus asked, knowing at least that his *steak* was edible.

"I'll TRY to eat it," Dorian promised. If it was inedible, he'd go downstairs and steal something from the Alphabets!

"All I can expect," Klaus shrugged, darting his fork into the styrofoam bowl and taking a what clung to it.

"That just looks disgusting," came the declaration. "Really. Truly..."

The bite was swallowed, and Klaus wiped his fork neatly on the napkin. "Go get something from the extras downstairs," Dorian was told solemnly.

With a quiet chuckle, Dorian leaned across the table and kissed him as he stood, a press of lips that, thankfully, didn't gain him any of the taste of the jiggling stuff. "I'll be right back," he said lightly as he headed for the door.

Klaus nodded to that, cutting a quick piece of steak and chewing it promptly -- motions that cleaned his mouth of that odd taste, making it safe to enjoy his meal as best he could.

Downstairs, the Alphabet seemed *firmly* embroiled in something that was giving them fits, so Dorian simply placed the 'chowdah' with the other boxes and began peeking through them until he found a sandwich that looked edible. That done, he peeked over to see what they were doing. Mostly, they seemed to be hunched around papers, and so he simply shrugged and headed back up the stairs, sandwich box in hand.

Klaus had worked steadily through his steak by then, about half done before he switched to eating fried potatoes, looking over to see if Dorian had come up yet every so often.

"I found something edible, darling. It's got bacon and lettuce and all sorts of other goodies in it, and it smells MARVELOUS. And nothing jiggles," the man announced as he shut the door behind him.

"Sandwiches usually don't jiggle, Dorian," Klaus told him, taking a sip of the tea he'd retrieved from the back porch.

That gained him a smile as Dorian began to eat, shaking his head slightly. "That's very true," he agreed. "Klaus?"

"Ja?" came the lazy question, Klaus looking up from finishing the tea.

"Want to go to bed a little early?" Dorian asked. "We can take the cherries up with us..."

That got him a contemplative moment of silence, and Klaus looking at him querulously before replying, "I'd like to, but we have to show the Alphabets where to stay, and get out the blankets..."

"We can do all of that in just a moment. Show one of them, and the rest'll know where to go."

"We'll show Z, then," Klaus murmured, rising to his feet. /And I'll give him my old holster. And hopefully their mission will end quickly, and I'll be able to pretend that I don't want to be down there helping./

Dorian smiled at him, taking one more bite before laying his sandwich down for the moment and standing, as well. /Poor Klaus./ The dark-haired man's thoughts were almost visible on his face and it made Dorian feel... not sorry for him, not pity, but it did make him sad. /He ought to be able to do what he loves to do. Damn NATO./ "Come on. The linen closet's next to the bathroom. We ought to tell one of them to go fetch sleeping bags or something. I think the couch folds out, but there's a shortage of beds..."

"They can fold blankets and sleep on the floor," Klaus told Dorian; it wasn't as if the men hadn't done it before, and it was certainly better than trying to sleep in their cars. There really was nothing else in the world that could foul one's back up as much as sleeping in a car overnight... or maybe Klaus was just getting old. /One more thought not to think; that's just idiocy./ "You get blankets out, I'll show Z where the others can sleep." And with that, he turned to head down into the basement.

"Yes, Klaus!" Dorian's voice drifted down after him, followed by footsteps leading out of the kitchen.

In the basement, things were straightened and the Alphabets had set up several tables which were, by then, covered with papers and a variety of devices. A and C seemed to be completely caught up in something or other, and M was tracing out something on a map. "Sir?" Z asked, noting his presence and looking at him with a smile.

"Lord Gloria and I are going to retire for the evening -- let me show you where everything is upstairs so when all of you go to go to bed you won't be stumbling around," Klaus said slightly gruffly, with a nod as he stood at the base of the stairs.

"Yes, sir," Z answered promptly, nodding to L, who took over the work that they had been doing together. "We'll try to be quiet later tonight, then, and not disturb you any more than necessary. It was a surprise to see you here," he admitted as he followed Klaus up the stairs to the kitchen. "But not an unwelcome one."

"Lord Gloria and I didn't expect to run into any missions or operations when we came here," Klaus told Z, moving through the kitchen's side door to the next set of stairs and the living room. The implication was there that they'd chosen such an obscure place as Lanesborough to *be* away from it. "The couch there folds out, someone can sleep in the chair, and there's room on the floor for two more."

"Yes, sir," Z answered promptly, nodding. The Major was, without a doubt, someone he respected greatly. "We'll do our best not to bother you when we come up..." He supposed they could sleep in shifts, if that's all there was to be had....

The appearance of Lord Gloria caught the attention of both Germans as he hurried down the steps, sheets and blankets in hand. "There weren't really any extra pillows, much, but maybe you can make do with what's on the couch. I'm so sorry, Z..." He sounded as if the whole thing was some sort of sleep-over! That was Dorian, though, and most particularly Dorian-trying-to-set-Klaus-at ease.

And Klaus didn't even bat an eye at it. "There's more room, though -- I'll show you," he told Z, starting up the steps. "The spare rooms here both have a bed in them, so you could probably manage two in a room, and there's a room in the attic that can hold two. The bathroom is at the end of the hall here."

Z smiled at Lord Gloria as he hurried after them, sheets and blankets dumped willy nilly in a chair at the bottom of the stairs. "And we'll warn you, it might get a bit drafty, so I'll add extra blankets in those rooms. It's a nice house, but they really need to insulate the thing."

A nod of agreement from Klaus, and then he proceeded to point out each room to Z -- every room except the one near the attic's steps, which could easily be presumed to be shared by both Lord Gloria and Klaus. "And, Z... I want you to have my old holster. Hold on a moment and I'll get it."

"Yes, sir," Z answered, eyes shining in a manner that Dorian found disturbingly Klaus-like -- full of determination, glittering with a certain excitement, a certain danger. There was, however, an expression in that gaze which one did not often encounter with Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach: a deep and abiding respect.

Klaus had turned away, though, before he saw that expression in Z's eyes; strode down the hallway and into the master bedroom, to return a few moments later with his old holster. "I don't have a use for it any longer, so..." He handed it to Z with a shrug.

"So, he thought you might like it," Dorian added, watching Z take the leather contraption with near-reverent hands.

"Thank you, Major," Z said, looking at him once again the same way he had before Klaus had moved away. "Thank you." More than that was lost to him; Klaus had always been his mentor, in many ways, and he looked up to the man quite a bit. It just seemed somehow *perfect*, that unexpected gift, and had he been anyone or anything other than the German man he was, he might have teared up at that moment.

It felt, to Klaus, almost like a passing of the torch; a final signal to himself that The Major was gone from his grasp. "Enjoy it. I know you're right handed and can use it." His mouth quirked from a fairly neutral expression to a faintly sad smile.

To have said that he would treasure it would, perhaps, have seemed mocking, and so Z did not. Instead, he simply nodded, fingers lightly tracing the supple, comfortable leather of the thing. "I appreciate this, Major. Truly."

"You're welcome," was the gruff reply, one-eyed gaze watching Z touch it for a moment before he turned to go back into the bedroom.

"Good night, Z," Dorian told him gently. "Make sure you all get your rest. You really do need it, you know," he finished, heading after Klaus.

Klaus was stretching out atop the sheets, still fully dressed, hands folded behind his head. A cigarette was being smoked already, contemplatively. "Close the door," he reminded Dorian.

Quietly, Dorian obeyed, kicking his shoes off by the door and moving towards the bed. "What are you thinking about?" he asked solemnly, laying down next to Klaus for a moment. It wouldn't hurt to wait a few moments before showering and changing into pajamas.

"Hmm, not too much," Klaus murmured, flicking ash into the ashtray beside the bed, before he fit it in his lips again. "Not too much."

"How much is too much?" Dorian teased, laying a hand lightly on his belly.

"Right now, anything is," he sighed, taking a deep draw from the cigarette, still looking up at the ceiling. "Fate hates us."

Frowning slightly, the British man moved closer, wrapping his arm about Klaus's belly. "Is it really so bad, then, darling?"

"Is what so bad?" he sighed, tapping a little ash again, not moving away from Dorian's familiar-feeling touch.

"The Alphabet being here," Dorian said softly. /Being out of the loop. They'd love to have you down there working with them. Each and every one of them lit up at the sight of you. I wish you could see that.../

"I'm glad to help them," he groused, closing his eyes when he drew another breath. "I just wish I could do more than let them stay here. But I'm incompetent to lead them anymore."

"The day you're incompetent will be the day that *I'm* a bad thief," Dorian told him firmly. "You're not incompetent, Klaus. You're still capable of anything and everything you did before."

"Not in any official capacity." He turned his head a little, opening that one eye to look at Dorian for a moment -- nothing there except an odd wondering that seemed baseless.

The question that came next was solemn, serious, and very obviously important. "Is official capacity that important to you, then?"

Was it...? Was it so important...? "Yes." That ached to admit, that he wanted the very thing he was denied of. But he wanted to work on the right side of the law.

The depth of sorrow growing in those blue eyes was almost a physical pain to see, Dorian taking in a deep breath. "Then you can never be happy, contracting out, doing... doing the things we've been talking about... can you?"

"I'd rather do that than do nothing at all," Klaus said just as serious -- oh, if he could take back the truth so he wouldn't see the hurt in Dorian's eyes!

"Ahh." Keeping firmly in mind Klaus's remarks about going in circles, Dorian kept quiet instead of saying anything more, simply burying his face against Klaus's arm for a moment. /He says he might love me. I can hold onto that, can't I?/ He thought that he could, anyway...

"Maybe... the British army would take me," he murmured quietly after a moment thought, moving to lay his head on the pillow; one hand free to use for smoking, his right to pull Dorian closer to him.

/I don't want you to go back into the army, any sort of army,/ Dorian though miserably, eyes squeezed tightly shut. "Mmm." /I just want you to be with me, and that's so terribly selfish of me, isn't it? And I'm so useless to you.../

"You don't like that idea, do you?" Klaus asked in a sigh, closing his eye just as tightly as Dorian closed his. "I... I could join the tank corp..."

"I won't like you doing anything that's away from me, Klaus," was the frank reply, barely a whisper. "I'll try not to be selfish if you want to do those things, but..." But he wasn't accustomed to denying himself. He wasn't accustomed to not getting exactly what he wanted...

But was he *worthy* of getting what he wanted? Did he actually *deserve* Klaus?

"I just don't know if this idea will work," Klaus sighed, finally snubbing out his cigarette in the ash-tray, shifting a little closer to Dorian.

Unable to help himself, the blond man trembled, tears rising to spill wildly over the edges of tightly closed lids. He couldn't stop them! /I want it to work. I want it to work so badly. I can't make you happy, can I, Klaus? Oh, God. Oh, *God*.../

"Dorian...?" Klaus's voice reached him, soft with concern, before the man pulled him close again; tears that leaked free were soaked up by the material of Klaus's shirt. "I just mean the contracting, not... not *this*."

"I just..." Dorian shuddered. "I just.... I don't know. If you do those things, I don't know. I c-can't bear to be apart from you, now. I don't know..."

"We'll find something we can both do, then," Klaus told him, not letting go. "ICPO, maybe...?"

At that, Dorian gave a watery chuckle. "They'll let just anybody work for *them*, darling. Are you sure you want to brave it?"

"Are you aware most of the Alphabets were diplomatic appointments?" Klaus's voice held all of the sneer that Dorian couldn't see. "Anyone can be yelled into shape."

"Would you yell *me* into shape?" That question was really more a teasing one than serious. Klaus had done quite a lot of yelling over the course of the past decade, and Dorian had yet to be even remotely changed by any of that. It washed over him effortlessly and he went right on being Dorian -- Eroica.

"You don't count," Klaus said, tone fond, "because if you did, you'd be my one failure in that."

Dorian was smiling again, face still damp as he shifted to press his lips to Klaus's, arms wrapping tightly around him. "I love you awfully," he whispered, laying his head next to Klaus's. "Can't help myself. Must be something spectacular about you, you know."

"Don't apologize for it anymore." Because Klaus appreciated it. that someone did, that Dorian did, and that it wasn't just a game any more. No, it wasn't a game any longer, it was a desperate, painful reality that had replaced Dorian's games.

"I won't," came the quiet promise, arms hugging him closely for a moment. "Ever. You know, if I stay here like this much longer, 'm going to fall asleep here against you without benefit of bath, toothbrush, pajamas or anything," Klaus was informed via sleepy drawl. "Think I'll drag myself up and go shower quickly."

"I should let you get up then." Klaus's arms released Dorian with an aching reluctance. "And... maybe next week I'll look into applying to ICPO."

A kiss lightly settled on his lips. "Promise you won't arrest me?" he teased, cool damp lashes brushing over Klaus's cheek.

"You're applying, too," was the serious return, though Klaus was fully smiling now.

"Think they'll have me?" Dorian asked, kissing him again, that terribly ethereal caress almost not even there.

"Think of what you could do for their art recovery network in identifying things?" Klaus suggested, starting to sit up.

"I'd rather steal them for myself," was the rueful admission even as Dorian kissed him again. "I'd best go bathe now, or I'll never manage to leave you here all alone..."

"Hm-mm." The German man finally sat up, reaching for his C.S. Lewis book. "We'll both try to be quick, so we beat the Alphabet to using it."

"And get all the hot water," Dorian agreed, snatching up soft pajamas bottoms -- blue plaid of some sort, something Klaus never would have thought Dorian would own -- and a white t-shirt. "I'll be back shortly."

It would probably make, too, for a more comfortable night's sleep for both of them. For Dorian's sake, he'd dig up a pair of his sweats and a t-shirt to wear -- more comfortable than too-thin pajamas, and thick enough that middle of the-night erections might go unnoticed by both parties.

Fat chance of that with Dorian in the bed!

It didn't take the man long -- Klaus had always thought Dorian a dreadful sybarite, most likely to spend forever in the bath, probably because he once did. Fifteen minutes later, however, he was back, hair still slightly damp from not enough time spent with the hair dryer. "Done," the man declared, dropping onto the bed with a sigh.

His own clothes were at the ready -- a pair of grey sweats and a short-sleeved undershirt, since he hadn't bothered to bring any long-sleeved ones. "I won't be long." Part of the reason, Klaus guessed, for Dorian taking so little time now was because it meant separation.

"All right... Oh. I've left my book downstairs," Dorian said with a frown.

"Your book?" /Which book -- we have a lot of them... and I hope if it's one of *those* books, the Alphabets aren't in the living room yet.../

"Oh... Yes. The mystery one. I think I left it on the kitchen counter..." And he hadn't finished his sandwich, either, but he'd eaten enough of it so that he wasn't hungry...

"I'll get it after I wash up, then," Klaus said, expression relaxing instantly. That was *very* good to know, that it wasn't one of those books that Dorian was reading, that he couldn't yet bring himself to read.

His shower, too, was fast, and he dressed and then shaved before brushing his teeth, blowdrying his hair mostly dry before he stepped into the hallway, then padded down the stairs to retrieve Dorian's book.

Agent A was in the kitchen when he got downstairs, putting away the remains of the food that Dorian had ordered -- enough to feed them all through the next day, in truth -- when Klaus arrived. He jumped slightly with surprise when he looked up to see him there and then smiled. "Major!"

"Mr. A," Klaus nodded, padding barefoot over the smooth tiled floor to retrieve the book Dorian had left atop the counter. "Are the men doing all right?"

"They're fine," A informed him, nodding. "Miserable without you, sir. There was a new Major for a while, but..." The man shrugged. "He didn't last. Z and I are sort of giving directions now, but it's not the same without you. G cried for almost a week!"

"There isn't anything I can do about it," he said truthfully, glancing around the small kitchen before he finally settled his eye on A. "You're not as organized as you should be -- I'd thought I'd taught you better than to move in on a mission so ill organized."

A flushed slightly, looking a bit sheepish. "The Chief more or less tossed us on the plane. Goosed G on the way." He sighed. "I like him less and less as the weeks go by."

"That's the side of him I used to see." Klaus hook his head in disgust. "Sick fag."

That gained a single quick glance at the ceiling and a sheepish smile from A, who didn't quite know what to make of that. "Well, yes. More or less, sir. G's been pitiful lately. Not a single skirt or dress in sight!"

"Really?" He'd tried for a long time to get G to stop cross-dressing... and now, apparently, the man had stopped it in his absence. "Why?"

A shrugged. "He says it's just not as much fun without you there, sir."

Klaus gave a derisive snort, a sound gone unheard in the office for too long. "I knew he did that just to piss me off. Figures."

"More like once he'd gotten used to you talking to him about it, it just sort of made his day, I'd think. You know," A murmured, "I think... we're all very fond of you, Major. G always liked to see the newer recruits jump when you yelled... once he got over jumping himself..."

/'Fond' of me?!/ He wanted to be outraged, but... couldn't. Only tapped Dorian's novel against his hip a few times, lips thinning a little unhappily. "Well. There... isn't anything I can do to be reinstated, given the circumstances of my... retirement."

A nodded unhappily. "We had hoped that, maybe..." He paused, gnawing at his lower lip. "Well. That maybe you'd be a contractor. Like Lord Gloria..." It helped that he'd spoken a bit with Bonham, actually, when he'd run into the man in Bonn a few weeks back.

"We only contracted Lord Gloria three times, maybe four," Klaus reminded A. "He became involved more often out of chance, and we sometimes paid him for his trouble. I don't think NATO would need to contract someone who is just a commander. They have enough of those within the ranks." But from his tone of voice, it seemed he hoped desperately that they would have a use for him.

"They've got *no one* like you, Major," A disagreed. "To be honest, I think they're having problems without you -- and without us being quite as smoothly functioning as usual." He shrugged. "It's not that we CAN'T, and we're still loyal to NATO, but... we're loyal to *you*, Major. Most of us aren't very happy just now. P even resigned to go into some kind of software business."

"Hmn. I've been out of the loop since... that mission. What would you suggest as the best way to... bring up the possibility of my being a contractor?" That question, though, was phrased like a familiar order.

THAT brought a veritable grin to A's face, the man's posture visibly straightening. "Well, sir, we could use a little help just now. Say... starting in the morning? Everyone's worn out from the past several days. We were going to sleep in shifts, but..." A's exuberant baring of teeth turned into a smile. "If you're going to be there in the morning..." The words 'we should all get some sleep' hung in the air between them.

"All of you, get to sleep. You're disorganized and muddled. I'll be down there at seven tomorrow morning and I expect all of you to be awake," Klaus told him, an echoing serious grin on his own lips, before he pivoted and headed back up the stairs. He wasn't going to question the sanity of this -- not yet.

"Yes, SIR!" he heard behind him, and then A was gone, rushing down to the basement, leaving only his voice behind.

When Klaus re-entered the bedroom, it was shaking his head and chuckling softly to himself, far far too pleased with himself than was probably healthy for him. "The Alphabets could use help," he told Dorian as he moved towards the bed, book held out for the blond man. He perched on the edge of the bed, and set the alarm clock for six thirty. "So I'm getting up to be ready at seven."

"Mmmmm..." Dorian stretched, snagging his book and promptly depositing it on the nightstand. "Does that mean I get to come, too?" he asked almost mischievously, heart suddenly lightening.

"I think... we come as a set now," Klaus uttered as he pulled back the sheets on 'his' side of the bed, sliding under them; they felt different against the sweat pants and undershirt than it had against two layers of clothing. Once he was under, he promptly found Dorian pressed against him, and realized that his sweat pants were damned near the *only* thing between the two of them. Dorian's own pajama bottoms were so thin he could practically feel his skin through them as one hand shifting the covers touched the other man's knee.

"Good," the Briton said simply, snuggling himself tightly closer. "That's the way I want for it to be."

"I know," he was told with no small amount of consideration entering Klaus's voice. Well, if the Alphabets missed him, they'd certainly always very outwardly liked Dorian. "Everyone will just have to know that we come as a set now."

A little sigh that sounded like absolute happiness sounded, Dorian shifting to the point at which he was nearly laying atop the other man to kiss him. "Hmmm..."

Perhaps he should have worn both layers of pajamas, because the feel of Dorian atop him, as their mouths met slowly, the tentative explorations that followed, made him want things he knew he had no right to want. Even if Dorian said it was all right.

"I love you, Klaus," he whispered against the other man's lips, sliding so that he was almost completely over him, one knee lightly pressed against one of Klaus's, the other pressed against the right side of his leg. "Oh, I do. I do..."

"Repeating," Klaus whispered tensely, though he felt the urge to tell Dorian, over and over if need be, that he didn't have to keep trying to convince Klaus of it. That he *knew*. "I know." and Dorian was so close, warm atop him... He wrapped both arms around Dorian, eye closed lightly. "Go to sleep, Dorian."

"I'd rather kiss you a while, first," Dorian whispered, brushing his lips over Klaus's cheeks, along his jawline.

"Uhhh... that... that isn't kissing," came the shivered breath of protest, though Klaus did nothing to stop Dorian. Couldn't stop him, because it felt so innocently enjoyable.

"It's a kind of kissing," was the sighed response, a nuzzle at an earlobe teasing him, almost tickling and sending *distinct* shivers all the way down to his toes. "Sort of. More or less..."

None of the Stasi had done anything like that to Dorian, and it felt impossibly good, especially the whisper of words so close against his ear that had made every nerve in his body lurch awake. "We should sleep..." /Don't stop./

"Just a little more," Dorian whispered, hands lightly touching Klaus's sides as he moved to kiss the throbbing point of his pulse, to rub his nose against the underside of his chin, so freshly shaved. "Mmmm..."

Klaus's hands stayed mostly unmoving against his back, limp with sheer sensation. Dorian's touch there wasn't an invasion, didn't hurt... /This... must be why people want each other,/ he realized, as another kiss against his pulse point made his sigh sharply.

"Do you like that?" Dorian whispered, tongue lightly stroking over the point he'd just kissed. "I like that very much, Klaus..."

"How... uhhn..." How could Dorian like it? Or was it the same sort of pleasure Klaus had taken from touching Dorian two nights earlier -- of knowing that the other person was reacting because of you?

"Because it feels good to you," came the low, throaty murmur. "Because I know that you like it. Because I want for you to feel good, and when you do..." Dorian sighed. "It makes my heart race with wonder, Klaus."

"Huh..." That was a tightly controlled exhalation, the fingers of his left hand stroking against the material of Dorian's t-shirt. "It does... feel good."

"This..." Dorian told him softly, kissing the hollow of his throat, lightly following the winging touch of collar bone just beneath soft material with his nose. "This is what loving someone, touching someone, should be like..."

"Ja...? I've never... touched like this... [with anyone. Just you, and...]" And that Stasi who'd had no right to lay a finger on either of them.

"Shhh," Dorian whispered tenderly, moving up to kiss his lips again sweetly. "Only me," he whispered, knowing what Klaus was going to say almost be sheer intuition. "There will only be me, now. For always. And I will never do anything that feels any less wonderful than this."

Dorian's kisses were a comfort Klaus could hold as closely as Dorian himself, and the Briton found himself held still for the moment, while Klaus kissed him a little more firmly. "I trust you on that."

"I know." That trust was so sweet, so *good*, and it made his veins burn for the other man in so many ways. "I know."

"And you wouldn't ever... betray me." No question of that -- he'd done everything but that in their years as sometimes associates, often vague adversaries. even called the KGB on him once... but then, he'd called the ICPO, so that had made it even.

"No," Dorian agreed quietly. "I would never do that." His hands, now, rested lightly on Klaus's hips, eyes heavy-lidded and almost closed. The intensity of his desire was unreal, erection pressed lightly against a matching one, and he sighed when he kissed Klaus once again. "I love you too much to do that."

At least the touch of a matching desire against his made it somehow less of an evil thing for Klaus. "Dorian... the Alphabet..." Were just next door, just upstairs, just *beneath* them. A poorly insulated house would surely not hide sounds.

"I can be quiet if you can," came the whisper, along with a slight shift against him. "If you're uncomfortable, though, we can stop..." *IF* he could go to sleep this way...

Klaus, he knew, could be *dangerously* silent when he came, as he'd learned that first night when he'd caught him unawares. "Could you sleep if we stopped?" Klaus asked in a low whisper. He knew he couldn't. "We... need a... towel, or..."

Casting about for something to use, Dorian smiled wryly. "I'll run fetch one," he whispered, kissing Klaus quickly. "It'll only take a moment."

A moment in which any member of the ten Alphabets could be in the bathroom... "Ja." It was one risk or another, and he'd like to see what it felt like to wake up after that without a desperate need to *wash*.

"Be right back," Dorian whispered with one more kiss before sliding rapidly out of the bed and heading down the hall towards the bathroom. He thought, for a moment, that he'd manage to escape with a towel unscathed, but then he realized that someone was stepping out of the shower and he nearly yelled. It was only A, though, so he held it back, panting slightly as he came down off of fear, clutching his chest almost protectively. /God, if I'd yelled, Klaus would've killed him before he even knew it was A!/ he thought.

Whether that was a comforting thought, or a *dis*-comforting one... "Lord Gloria...?" A asked, peeking out of shower that he's jumped back into when he'd been startled.

"Sorry!!" Dorian declared, shaking his head. "Sorry! I hadn't heard anyone in here and I didn't think, so I just came in! I, ah, spilled some water and needed to fetch a towel..." One that he rapidly found and turned to go. "Sorry, A!"

Spilled water...? A watched Dorian go, *not* wanting to know anything. Not even if the man had spilled water!

Klaus was still laying in bed, nearly as Dorian had left him when he'd gone to get the towel. "I thought I heard something," He said, a little tense sounding.

"A was in the shower," Dorian replied, face flushed heatedly for some reason. It wasn't as if he hadn't seen naked men before in his life, God knew! Just... well... never any naked *ALPHABETS*, with Klaus waiting for him to fetch a towel!! "He nearly scared the life out of me!!"

He was getting a quizzical look for his trouble, Klaus pulling the sheets back for him. "You're fine; come back to bed?"

"Yes," Dorian agreed, rapidly obeying that request and slipping on top of Klaus again, towel clutched carefully. "Push up your shirt," he whispered, pressing his lips to the other man's. The kiss made it seem much less like the order it had been, and Klaus pulled his shirt up, out of the waist-band of his sweat-pants; at the same time, with his other hand, he drew the sheets back over Dorian. From there, it was a simple matter of settling the towel and going back to kissing, Dorian's own shirt tugged up as well before his hands moved back to lightly ply at Klaus's hips. "I'm going to pull these away, now," he whispered, lightly tugging at the jogging pants and getting some help -- a lift of Klaus's body, even with his own on top, that made it easier to tug them down.

Klaus remembered, just then, stories that the boys at boarding school had told of illicit sexual encounters, taken half-dressed. rather like what he and Dorian were doing, only... only there was no fear of 'being caught', only an unwillingness on his part to take it anyway other than creepingly slowly. The sudden feel of Dorian's hands against the bare skin of his hips was a shocking one, intimate in ways that a hand against his groin hadn't been. "Hhn."

"I love you, Klaus," Dorian whispered, kissing him lightly even as he tugged his own pajama bottoms out of the way, bringing them in contact, skin to skin, with a shift of his hips. "Love you so..."

Familiar words that Klaus muffled with a kiss; his hands slid down what was bared of Dorian's back, bringing their bodies closer still. /I think I do, too... if this is what it is, then I do. Need you, trust you.../ The searching kiss served, too, to muffle his own need to gasp, and the tiny whimpers Dorian couldn't help but make. Cock touched to cock was like being caressed by heated velvet, the lazy shift and press of Dorian's hips gaining a steady rhythm as he let out a shaky little breath against Klaus's lips.

"Ohhh...." he whispered.

Even with Dorian atop him, neither was in control of the situation -- just two bodies intimately close, straining towards release that was spurred on by the touch of the other. His own hips flexed up against Dorian's over and over, a needy rhythm that was hard to keep in an even pace. He wanted oblivion and to pleasure Dorian, both at once...

The soft little pants of breath and barely audible whimpers that the blond man gave certainly weren't helping him to hold back! Instead, they drove him, the sounds themselves soft and helplessly erotic in some desperate and intimate way that made him want to hold Dorian all the closer, kiss him even harder, keep him simply forever.

Maybe even that, with all of its prepared and careful show of tenderness, was as sick as the things the Stasi had done -- but it spurred him on towards want just as much, and didn't hurt Dorian. He could, even if only with that, share pleasure with Dorian in a way that didn't hurt either of them... He wouldn't hurt Dorian. He'd enjoy and savor those noises of pleasure, uncaring of his own soft sounds, memorize the feel of Dorian's body against his, soak up every second of it all just so that if it ever ended...

Ah, but it wouldn't, and Dorian gave a breathless little cry that was muffled against Klaus's shoulder, coming despite himself, shudders working their way through him at the sharp pleasure he felt, the intensity of it almost too much and yet not quite enough!

There was still a feeling of hiding to it, secrecy in the way both of them muffled thorough sounds of pleasure; Dorian against Klaus's shoulder, Klaus against bitten lips as he jerked Dorian closer to him. It wasn't the shameful thing it had been before, just pleasure at Dorian's intimate touch that left him feeling drained. "Hmnn." A muzzy musing of noise, his head lolling to rest against Dorian's on his shoulder.

"Klaus, Klaus, Klaus..." It was a breathless prayer on those lips, a litany that fairly sang of emotion. "Oh, Klaus..."

"We should..." /Put the towel to use, then go to sleep. Just like this./ Klaus shifted, one hand creeping between them.

"Hmmm?" Dorian murmured sleepily as Klaus began cleaning their bellies, their softening erections. "Ohhh..." That felt awfully good, but he was so sleepy!

The towel was dropped onto the wooden floor, and then Klaus carefully pulled up both of their pants, before he wrapped his arms around Dorian again. Their shirts were still pushed up... "Pull the bottom blanket, Dorian," Klaus instructed softly, shifting to just pull off his undershirt.

"Hmmmmm," Dorian sighed in agreement, opening heavy-lidded eyes long enough to obey. The temptation of being skin-to-skin with Klaus was too delicious and so he stripped off his own shirt before moving against the other man, sighing softly over the feel of it. /So good./ "Love you."

Another too new feeling for Klaus to process, that of skin against skin; Dorian was warmer now than he'd been with a shirt on, and that warmth made sleep a more tempting thing... "G'night," he murmured, already dropping off into comfortable slumber.

Chapter 14 by Kat and Tzigane
Morning dawned bright, early, and with a scad of beaming faces that peered up at the Major and the thief as they headed down into the basement. "We've got eggs," Dorian offered. "And Pop-Tarts!"

"Breakfast can come later," Klaus growled over his shoulder, no malice at all in his voice.

He looked, unlike the day before, like the Major -- crisp trousers and shirt sleeves, his treasured gun now holstered on the correct side. "Let's start by telling me what's going on."

"Well, sir," Z spoke up. "The Americans have reported an information leak of some sort. The Russians have been outmaneuvering them a lot lately, and so they called us for help. We've not been able to find the leak yet -- it seems to be fairly high up and there's more than one agent involved. We've managed to trace several agents who vacation in this area, though... we just need to find out when and where the next drop is. G and S have been tailing the agent we found late yesterday afternoon -- *after* the drop that you saw. C and M have gone to spell them."

That explained why he hadn't seen G yet. "What are the chances it's the same agent? Show me where they found him," he said brusquely, moving towards the map that was still laid out. "What equipment did you bring with you? Contact equipment...?" If things truly *were* as half-assed as he guessed they were...

"The usual," Z replied calmly, moving to show him. "There's a possibility that it's the same agent, but we suspect that there are at least two of them and someone else is behind the matter."

"Of course -- agents seldom do so well on their own in these matters... but the radio equipment -- G and S should have those parts *with* them so they can contact us. C and M didn't take it with them, either... A, K, go see that C and M are outfitted properly. If the man goes to make another drop, or to meet with Mischa, it would be good if they could *contact* us," he growled, looking back over the map. "First thing, we need to find where the Soviets are."

"YES, SIR!" *That* was the sound of several voices speaking simultaneously and Dorian almost laughed with sheer joy! /And Klaus thinks no one loves him! Hm!/

"We'll get right on it, sir!" A promised, everything in his hands already as he headed for the small door leading out to the garage.

"Why not fetch some breakfast while you're out?" Dorian called after K, eyes bright with mischief.

Klaus though, beyond the Alphabet's agreement to work, was paying the extra noises little attention; he was leaning over the map, looking at the remainder of the men there. "Mt. Greylock is here -- where else have there been drops made, or do we not know of any more?"

"It's the first we've found out about, sir," Z replied. "We hope surveillance will net us more information. We sent Q and R to D.C. to ferret about there."

"Idiot yanks." And with that, it was *assured* that Iron Klaus had returned to them. He snatched a pen out of D's shirt pocket, and circled Mt. Greylock, with notations as to what was seen. "Tourists -- the Yanks are passing themselves off as belonging there... Dorian, do you remember what the man was wearing?"

"Jeans. Black t-shirt, nothing descriptive on it that could be seen, but also a denim jacket. Shag haircut, very late seventies, but most of it was covered with a ballcap that said 'New York Yankees'," Dorian said firmly. "Glasses, but they were cheap off the rack things, nothing real. Oh, and some of those running shoes that they all like so... I couldn't tell what kind from where we were."

The pen was tossed back to D. "Write that down," he was instructed. "We can't pinpoint where the drops will be -- not yet; so we have to find the Soviets... Dorian, Z, come with me -- D, you're in charge. We're going to go to every hotel in the area and look around for the car with the license plate ABT-269."

Again came the rousing replies of, "Yes, SIR!" and the Alphabet went to work as the other three headed for the garage.

/Well, my Major, I think everyone is happy with this turn of events. Me, most of all,/ Dorian thought to himself with a smile as Klaus unlocked the doors.

"Dorian, run upstairs and get both phone-books," Klaus instructed after a moment's thought, already half in the driver's seat. "We'll start that way."

"Be right back," he assured, and then he was gone, leaving Z and Klaus to climb into the car together.

"Do you think we'll run into them this way, sir?" Z asked, putting on his seatbelt.

"Not really, but it's the only thing we have to go on at the moment," Klaus replied seriously, closing the door and buckling up. Then he lit a cigarette, drawing in a smoky breath. "At the moment."

Z nodded, watching for Dorian to come back as they sat there together in companionable silence. It only took the promised few moments before the other blond returned, climbing into the back seat quickly. "Got them. There're about ten hotels and motels and there seems to be an absolute bevy of bed and breakfast sorts of places..."

"Mischa wouldn't," Klaus said instantly, looking back over his shoulder at Dorian. He looked terribly pretty that morning, happy, smiling; early on Klaus had been worried that the scars themselves would interfere with that movement, but they hadn't. "We're off route 7 now -- tell me the location of the nearest hotel or motel, or whatever."

"Ahh... There's one that says it's on *this* road. From the number, I'm guessing it's probably a good eight miles, easily, since everything's so far apart through this stretch..." Dorian replied.

"There first, then," Klaus said, putting the car into reverse out the winding drive, and then pulling out onto the street, where he turned around and started off towards the main route.

The drive was quiet, all three men silent as they drove, Dorian looking out the windows at the scenery that passed. Everything was gold and crimson and even still green, a little, and he was glad they'd come. The weather was cool, everything was beautiful, and Klaus...

Klaus loved him.

Even if he wasn't sure, even if he didn't know, Dorian did, and nothing could have made the world more right than that. Nothing. /It makes up for... everything.../

Even if their lives had been turned upside down, even if Dorian had been left horribly shaken by it -- even, even if they both weren't quite right in their minds. It was worth it.

The Alphabets' arrival had lifted a desperate sadness from Klaus, too -- even if this went terribly and NATO flat out told them both that they couldn't be used as contractors, Dorian would have set in his memory the sight of Klaus so happy when he was happy, too.

He had been right, the night before. Nothing could get better than this.

"The hotel's up ahead," Z said softly, blue eyes already glancing through the cars closest to them. It was nothing fancy, nothing but outside parking available, and they could see all of the vehicles there as Klaus slowed down to turn and pulled into the lot, as alert as the other two were. All of their alertness didn't matter, though -- the plate wasn't there.

"We have to be careful -- he saw us, too, Dorian; He's probably expecting us to be coming... what's the next address?" he asked, before he pulled out of that lot.

"There's an inn on 1055 South Street," Dorian told him, a last lingering glance at the parking lot given -- just in case.

But there was nothing.

That seemed to be de facto for the day -- nothing. Three more places, and they'd looped back into Lanesbourgh on route 7 again to go to the next one.

They passed by an old cemetery on a hill, yellow grass growing high all around it. There were school children out, and teachers from the nearby elementary, making rubbings of the names on the old stones.

In the group of people there, one could almost miss the sight of the man with the baseball cap and the shaggy looking bowl-cut.

"WAIT!" Dorian cried. "It's him! He's in the cemetery!"

"And there's Mischa's car!" Z confirmed, eyeing the tag of the vehicle parked almost between two stones and nearly out of sight.

"I see," Klaus uttered, driving distinctly past it, not changing his speed until they were out of sight -- then he pulled into the driveway of a house that was for rent -- blessedly vacant -- and opened the car door. "Let's go -- we'll watch from the fringe of trees opposite where they were; we won't confront with children there."

Wordlessly, the other two got out with him, following behind 'til they reached the edge of the property and the line of gleaming oaks and aspens that resided there. In the cemetery, near a gleaming marble cross, the two men stood close to one another. Words were exchanged quickly, a packet in return for a small bag. The man took a look inside, quickly dumped the contents out into his hand and peered at them carefully.

Of course it wouldn't be cash -- jewels, little sparks, some colored, visible even from where they were standing.

The cache of children finally moved away, trotting up a well-worn path that would take them back to the school. Klaus watched carefully, until they were safely out of sight, before he stepped out of the tree-line, a shift loosening his holster's position to just where it belonged. "Hand over that packet, Mischa."

"How remarkable!" the Russian declared, smiling with what was almost joviality. "We had heard that Iron Klaus was... how do you say? Ah. Yes. *Crazy*. Discharged for instability. What a surprise to see you here, and your little pet thief... and the boy."

The fact that Mischa was so cheerful was a clue in and of itself that things weren't quite right. "Klaus..." Dorian said, voice low.

Probably a trap of some sort, but at that point, there was no way to escape it; the edgy American looked even more nervous, quickly spilling his jewels back into their little bag.

Klaus pinned Mischa with his one-eyed gaze, and the most calm smile in his repertoire. "What a surprise to see you here, in the wilds of America -- you should go back to your beloved CCCP."

"Why, when I am making such lovely progress here?" Mischa asked him, his own smile never faltering. "I even have you, your thief, and your replacement now in my hands. Don't I, boys?" he chuckled, shaking his head as several Russian agents moved in, some from behind tombstones, some from the tree line. "I will go back to Russia soon enough. You..." His smile never wavered. "You may never go anywhere again unless you give in peacefully. After all. We would not want to frighten the children still so close by, hm?"

"I should have just dropped a rock on your head at Mt. Greylock," Klaus growled, moving towards Mischa; his gun still wasn't drawn, though -- he was armed only with a familiar arrogance. /Fall back, Dorian -- god-dammit, Z, get him out of here!/ But he could only think it, as he smiled grimly at the American -- it was worth the danger to get a good look at the man's face, recognizing him clearly as CIA. "What's the matter, Yank -- your own government doesn't pay you enough?"

"Aren't you going to do something about him!?" the double agent demanded, taking a step back and scowling at Mischa.

The Soviet man shrugged lightly, stepping forward. "You will come with us, or we will shoot your pretty thief. Has he bedded you yet, hm?" Mischa asked, chuckling. He enjoyed the opportunity to mortify Klaus, truly. Only this time, Klaus didn't even seem to be mortified as he would have usually -- just an eerie silence from the German as he stared at Mischa.

"You haven't changed any, Mischa -- just like old times..." and the smile on Klaus's face turned vicious for a moment as, just like old times, he lashed out at the Soviet. The blow was different from others -- the strength was still behind it, a powerhouse punch that staggered Mischa, but it cut differently than it had other times, just the two knuckles of Klaus's right hand meeting jawbone.

Knocked back, the man reached up and rubbed his jaw. "Eh... you're missing fingers?" he asked, frowning. "Where'd they go?"

"You ought to know, you damned miserable communist," Dorian spat, no longer silent. Instead, he was furious, and insanely worried. Klaus shouldn't be abusing his hand that way! "The whole lot of you and your tormentors and *especially* those bastards from East Germany!"

"Don't pretend you haven't heard and laughed over it yet, Mischa," Klaus uttered, rubbing those two knuckles with his whole left hand. "Innocence doesn't do any good on your face. Would you like another punch? It's as good with two fingers as four."

The Russian man was scowling by then, though, and a motion of his hand brought his men closer to gather the Klaus, Dorian and Z together. "For the time being," he said, "you will be coming with me."

"Will your new Yank dog be coming with us?" Klaus asked him, still not backing down yet.

"Oh, no," Mischa replied. "I think not. No need for him, you see," he replied as his men led Z and Dorian towards a car, Klaus following along beside Mischa. "Just a pawn, really," he murmured, the CIA agent far enough away to miss it. "Little more."

"Useful pawn," Klaus said crisply enough *for* the agent to hear him. "Going to try to take us back to 'Mother Russia' with you, Mischa?" /Calm. Get him to relax, and then we'll break free./

"We will see. The last time, you stole a plane. My people were *very* unhappy with you about that," the other man noted.

The sound of Dorian's voice came from up ahead, slightly panicked. "Don't touch me!"

That got Klaus's attention immediately, for he broke away from his pace beside Mischa and rushed forwards, punching the Soviet who'd *dared* to touch Dorian. It happened in quick seconds, and Klaus didn't realize he'd done it until he was standing beside Dorian, making an almost growling noise in the back of his throat.

"Well," Mischa said slowly, holding up a hand to keep the others from moving in on them. "Things *are* strange, here. Get in the car peacefully, and no one will touch you," he murmured sternly.

Klaus gave a nod to Z, even as he moved towards the car with Dorian. It wasn't particularly expected when the younger agent broke away; the Soviets were still staring at Iron Klaus and Eroica when he sprinted quickly off into the tree line, disappearing.

"Go after him, idiots!" Mischa yelled, shaking his head as the men with him simply stood around looking stupid. Half of them broke away, heading after Z, but Klaus knew that they were too late. Z would be gone already. The Soviet sighed, shook his head. "Get in the car!"

Klaus stayed silent as the car door was opened; none of the agents dared to press either of them into it. They all watched as Klaus put a hand on Dorian's back, moving him in first, then Klaus ducked in, sitting beside the thief. It was hard to get past the scars on the famed Eroica's face, or the missing fingers and eye patch on Iron Klaus.

"Make the appropriate calls," Mischa murmured to one of his men once the car door was shut, moving towards the passenger side himself. "I want *all* of the details of this. Find them out for me."

"Details of what, sir?" the nearest man asked, looking nervously as his leader.

"Of what happened to Iron Klaus and the thief, you idiot!" the bald man growled. He wondered, for a moment, if Eberbach had to deal with the same kinds of idiots *he* had to deal with. God help them both, it was probably so! "Now, get on it!"

"Yes, sir!"

The heavy silence still held once he was inside the car; Klaus had stopped making threatening noises, but it didn't make him any less dangerous, sitting behind Mischa as he was, unrestrained.

"It is only a short ride," Mischa said lightly. "I do not want to shoot either of you, so do not tempt me to do so."

Dorian's hand, by then, had snuck over to Klaus's, clutching slightly at his fingers. It went unseen, but it was a relief just to touch him, especially after the other man had laid hands on him. /God.../ He'd never been so disgusted or disturbed by anything in his life!

"Are you afraid I'll steal your car, too?" Klaus asked in a casual drawl, squeezing Dorian's fingers lightly before pulling his hand away to light a cigarette -- which he offered first to the thief.

The shake of Dorian's head was obvious in the rear view mirror, the exchange only forcing Mischa's eyebrows up farther. "I would not be surprised," he said simply, watching them.

Klaus kept the cigarette to himself once Dorian had refused it, putting his lighter back in his pocket before, once more, letting Dorian catch his hand, out of sight. "Don't expect NATO to barter for either of us -- I'm civilian."

"Yet you were with NATO, and the boy who replaced you is doing as you tell him to do. We will see."

"You know damn well I'm civilian now, Mischa," Klaus growled, knowing he was repeating himself a little, but not caring. "If you weren't plodding around in America, I wouldn't even be involved."

The Soviet chuckled. "Still, it amuses me to have you, so I will keep you for a while. I might be able to use you -- or to use your thief, even, for something that I need."

"I don't work for NATO anymore and I won't work for you," Dorian said simply.

"We will see."

Those were the words that the Stasi had used, and now Mischa had said them twice. The sheer thrill of *fear* dancing down Dorian's spine was almost unbearable, and his hold on Klaus tightened.

"We will not be seeing," Klaus snarled in a low tone, shifting -- and infinitely glad of his leather jacket that hid so well his holster. They hadn't seen it on the left side because it just wasn't *there* anymore. When the time permitted... "Eroica and I will not aid Soviets."

Nothing came in answer, only the vaguest hint of a smile from Mischa. "Hmmm."

Klaus glared at Mischa with his monocular gaze through the rear-view mirror -- he was all too aware that the Bear Cub was watching them. "How do you like the weather here in the Berkshires, Bear Cub?"

"Pleasant," Mischa answered him. "It is not yet cool enough to be entirely comfortable, but one makes do with these things. It is necessary, and therefore, this is where we are."

"Been in this area for long?" Klaus asked. "It's nice -- minus passing CIA and KGB agents."

"Long enough. Any period of time, however, is TOO long. You sound like a tourist, Iron Klaus," Mischa snorted.

Dorian's reply was drawled. "That'd be because we *are*," he informed the man. "We just had the bad luck of running into *you* lot."

"The hike up Mt. Greylock would have been better if I hadn't seen your bald head," Klaus snorted in agreement.

"Infinitely," Dorian agreed as the Bear Cub remained silent.

Klaus, too, fell silent, appraising the other man's facial expressions until they pulled into the hotel's lot -- a hotel in North Adams, the last they'd had on their list to check. "Hmn -- I'm amazed the Soviet empire would pay for such lavish capitalism."

"It makes no sense, does it?" Mischa asked lightly. "But then, it is the last place you would have looked for me, eh?"

"This is the last place we would have expected to run into anyone from any agency," Klaus growled flatly.

"Then you have obviously come to the wrong place!" he was told. "It would seem that the hills are crawling with agents, hm? You even had one with you."

"We were *vacationing*," Dorian sighed. "Can't we vacation? Don't you?"

"Soviets don't vacation, Eroica -- their idea of fun is kidnapping civilians." Casually drawled again, while the car pulled to a halt in the parking lot. "Isn't that right, Mischa?"

"And eating them for supper, yes, yes, with mushrooms," Mischa growled. "Out of the car and behave. If you do not behave, you will not like what will happen. I will shoot Eroica first, Iron Klaus," the man said, taking a chance. "You will not misbehave."

"Fags move fast," Klaus shrugged, trying to drudge up with little success old venom as first Dorian, then he, were let out on the driver's side of the car. "You will have to shoot fast."

Dorian hated those words from Klaus, but he understood and he tossed golden hair back slightly, shrugging. "If you shoot me, it won't matter. The lot of you already ruined my face. One more scar won't make a difference, so long as I get away."

"Planning on marching us through the lobby at gunpoint, or just walking us over to the trees and shooting us?"

Mischa simply looked at them with flat expression and gestured ahead of him. Two guards already stood ready to walk slightly before them and there were several others gathering there -- perhaps as many as eight in all. At least that many more had chased Z. "Don't be stupid."

"I've lost my faith in any semblance of honor about you fucking Soviets," Klaus uttered, tossing the butt of his lazily smoked cigarette onto the parking lot gravel as they started to move.

"There are Soviets and then there are madmen," Mischa answered darkly. "Do not so disregard me or mine."

"NATO has madmen -- the KGB cannot be exceptional and claim that they don't have madmen, too," Klaus said coolly. "Polar Bear not working this mission with you?"

"Do you see him?" came the sigh. "You are very different now, Iron Klaus. Even Eroica is -- harder, if you will. Interesting..."

"Harder?" Klaus asked, still straining for casual when it was obvious he wanted to break for it. "It has only been a few months since our last clash."

The burly Russian shrugged his shoulders, accepted papers from one of his agents as they headed through the lobby and towards the elevators. "Many things can happen in the course of a few months, hm?"

"Many things." As they neared the elevators, Klaus was aware of the strategic sanity of splitting into two groups, each prisoner in a different car; to at least make it more awkward to do, he moved closer to Dorian, putting a hand on his shoulder to whisper. The tone was so low, and so quiet that the Russians couldn't hear, probably making them far more suspicious. "Trust me to get us out of this." /Even if I don't trust myself./

The expression in Dorian's eyes spoke explicitly of conviction, even when they *did* tuck them into separate elevators, Mischa stepping in behind Klaus. "So," he said as the doors closed before them. "Who messed up your pretty's face? And yours, for that matter?"

"A Soviet dog," Klaus said bluntly, standing there with his familiar arrogant posture, despite the other Russians in the elevator. "Don't pretend you don't know."

"If I knew, would I be asking?" Mischa snapped back at him, scowling. Their own attempts at finding out anything of the matter had been useless, even though there had only been a ten minute period in which to seek information. All files regarding Iron Klaus had been locked down tighter than anything he'd seen in a long while, and that bothered Mischa. /Someone somewhere isn't telling everything they know./

"You know that I've been retired," Klaus said simply enough -- it wasn't as if it were classified information. It was probably well known in the community by now, and well celebrated already. "One of your fucking Stasi men."

THAT brought both of the Bear Cub's eyebrows up, though it was hard to tell behind his sunglasses. "No, " he admitted. "We had only heard that you'd been declared unstable. No one knew the Stasi had... done anything to you. The eye, your fingers? Eroica's face?"

"Stasi dog. Go on, gloat, Bear Cub -- I can still knock you senseless with my right hand." The words weren't even a challenge, or the tone of someone trying to convince -- flatly, tiredly said, with an assurity behind them.

"No, no need for that," Mischa assured him, frowning as they came to their floor, the doors opening out into a small area which faced two others. At the same moment, the elevator beside them opened, and a rough push sent Dorian tripping out of it.

"[Don't touch him! Do you fucking understand me? Touch him again and I will pound the fucking shit out of you!]" Klaus snarled at the Soviets as he started out of the elevator.

Blue eyes turned on him, welling slightly with relief as Dorian stood up straight, frowning at the Soviet agents as Mischa growled a few quick words that he didn't understand. /We're going to have to remember to *never* get caught again,/ Dorian decided. He didn't like being apart from Klaus, and even that push had panicked him, angered the other man. It would be ill-advised to get caught again.

Klaus was still standing close to Dorian, protectively -- there were too many to draw a gun just then, but when there were less of them... /I should have in the car. I hesitated; I shouldn't have let us get this far.../

That was useless speculation, though, because they were being prompted along the hallway, a card slid into a slot in a door so that they could enter ahead of the others. The room behind it was a suite, though not a large one -- simply a business-like arrangement of chairs and coffee tables, a door leading into a bedroom. "Have a seat," Mischa ordered them. "The three of you, look into Stasi incidents recently. You four, do something about finding that NATO agent if the others haven't already. You," he finished, pointing at the last of them. "Stay here with me and watch these two." He pulled off his sunglasses to frown at Klaus. "[I'm going to get to the bottom of this for you. Such tactics should not be used, on either side.]"

There had been more done than the maiming, but there was no way that the 'else' would be mentioned; the games played on them; the way Dorian had been raped; the way he'd been petted over. Klaus was quiet for a moment, taking a chair next to the one Dorian sat in. He no longer sat in the 'manly' way that he used to -- once carelessly spread legs were now crossed arrogantly. "[Don't bother; I'll take care of it myself when we return to Europe.]"

"[But perhaps you would like a name to attach to a face, hm?]" Mischa asked him heavily. "[I will say nothing to them about it. I will find out. I will give you this. You understand? This...]" A wave of his hand encompassed Klaus and Dorian, the Russian's frown deepening. "[This is not fitting.]"

"[He was an officer -- medium height, blond, blue eyes; sick in the head,]" Klaus rattled off. "[You're right -- it isn't fitting. But we manage.]"

"[I will get his name for you," came the promise again. "This alone. You will stay until then.]"

That was certainly a way to keep them both in their place -- promise of a name to track down; even retired, Klaus had connections, could ask for things done, favors owed, to pinpoint this bastard, and then find him. At home, preferably, and kill him. Messily. "[Thank you,]" Klaus pronounced in crisp Russian.

It seemed to almost embarrass Mischa, the man frowning at him. "[It is the right thing to do,]" he declared, glancing back and forth between the two of them. Dorian was seated terribly close to Klaus, who was making no overt signs of seeking to escape him. "[I see the thief has finally managed to somehow capture you... so to speak?]"

"You know," Dorian said tiredly, "that's as impolite as whispering."

"That is none of your concern," Klaus said bluntly -- but the sheer fact that he wasn't in a sputtering rage was verification enough. "I've had enough of Soviets fucking around in my life."

"Hmm." Mischa nodded. "My apologies, on the behalf of my country, Iron Klaus. These Stasi, they do things differently than we. In some ways, they are as fanatical as the neo-Nazis, and more."

Klaus nodded, muttering something about dynamite, and then fell into a flat silence as he continued to look at Mischa occasionally, at the room. Then, finally breaking the quiet of the room, "You know, at least your men know if they're captured they'll be bartered back. NATO has too much red-tape to do anything else."

That brought something resembling a chuckle from the Soviet, the man shaking his head. "I work with idiots. I often wonder if you do, as well."

Klaus had to think for a moment -- he'd wanted to reply 'twenty-six of them', only... it wasn't official, and this 'mission' seemed to be a bomb... to a point. They knew who the CIA agent was, had witnessed the trade; once they were away, they'd be able to turn the man in. The Americans could debrief and break their own man to find out who the others were. "Not any more."

Mischa grunted and silence reigned again for a while before he nodded. "[The thief is sleeping. Obviously, we don't worry him. Is he always that way?]"

"[Always what way?]" Apparently, nothing immediately struck Klaus as wrong about Dorian's behavior.

"[Trusting.]" After all, it wasn't *every* day that Mischa had a prisoner go to sleep on him! Even with his other agent still in the room, working at a small desk in the corner, Eroica's head had nodded to the side slightly as if seeking out a support for itself.

"[No.]" In fact, Dorian was usually anything but -- Klaus put it down to his own presence there, his assurance to Dorian that they would make it out all right, unlike the last time. It probably helped that it was Mischa, to whom they were already at least partially accustomed, and that neither of them had been cuffed or chained. If they had been, Klaus would have made no promises on not hurting anyone as a result.

"Hm." The Bear Cub eyed them thoughtfully, finally shaking his head. "[It makes no sense, but so long as you seem to understand it, I suppose that's all right.]"

"[I don't understand it,]" Klaus said with a shrug, turning to look Dorian over protectively. "[We came to America to vacation; we hadn't expected to become a part of this. I was relieved of my post, I don't care what NATO does any longer.]"

"[You are like me. It will be in your blood until you die,]" he was informed quietly.

"[I've been close enough; one more run in with the Stasi, and it will certainly be out of my blood.]" They both knew he'd never defect, never ignore the cause he'd fought for, even if NATO had betrayed him through a dismissal due to harm that occurred on duty.

"[I..]" Mischa began only to be interrupted by an opened door, words quickly spoken.

"[Sir, I think we've found the record, if you would come look, quickly,]" the man said, looking nervously at Klaus and the dozing Dorian.

Klaus just met the man's eyes with a fairly emotionless gaze, wondering just *what* was in the record the man had. "We won't try to escape -- I want that name."

A nod from Mischa, and he rose, a bit stiffly. He had not been young when the game between himself and Iron Klaus had started, and he was certainly getting no younger! "[I'll be back momentarily,]" he replied, and followed the younger man who'd come to get him out into the hallway, which was thankfully empty.

"[Sir, do you want to read it to yourself, or... should I... give you the highlights?]"

"[I'll read it myself,"] Mischa answered grimly.

It was with an equally grim expression that the agent handed over the folder that bore the quickly printed out pages. "[This is the statement by the officer who interrogated Iron Klaus and Eroica.]"

Eyes scanned the pages quickly, widening every now and then, the Soviet man visibly paling despite himself. /Rape... torture... fuck.../ "[I want you to destroy this. Destroy all record of this ever happening. I don't care how you do it, but do it.]" He had the names, now, and the first page where they were listed was taken from the top. "[All of this, as well. Go.]"

"[Yes, sir!]" The first thing to be destroyed would be the lavish retelling of the gruesome events -- then the original file, the hard copies... It would take work, but it could be done. The younger agent nodded once, and then headed off down the hall.

Stepping back into the hotel suite, Mischa moved to stand before Klaus. "[These are the names.]"

Klaus's Cyrillic was good enough to interpret the page held out to him, and he reached to take it from Mischa. "[Can I keep that?]"

"[It's the only copy. It's yours,]" the Bear Cub answered grimly.

/Only copy..../ Klaus's eyebrows rose, one above a grey-green eye glittering with sudden understanding, the other above a neatly placed eye-patch. "[Thank you,]" he uttered, not for the paper, but for what he perceived that Mischa was going to do.

"[With the apologies of my state,]" Mischa said grimly. "[This should not have happened.]"

"[I'd thought this would have been well known by now,]" Klaus murmured as he slipped the piece of paper, twice folded, inside of his coat. Left handed, into the interior right pocket; Mischa got a glimpse of a shoulder holster, left untouched.

"[They were undoubtedly not stupid enough to tell the rest of the world what they had done. You and I are adversaries, but we are not dishonorable men... much,]" Mischa added, nodding to Dorian. "[Wake him, and I will escort you to the lobby.]"

"D..." The start of a real name, but he caught himself, as he leaned to shake Dorian gently awake. It was odd to see that gentleness from Klaus towards a man he'd sworn to hate, but then Mischa had stumbled across similar odd gestures before. Once, the thief had gotten himself smashingly drunk, half stripped, and Klaus had followed him to the bathroom to see if he was all right. "Eroica -- wake up."

"Mmmh?" Blond lashes lifted from sleep-fuzzed blue eyes, the thief looking at him momentarily and smiling as if his eyes had caught the face of a god.

/I see why Iron Klaus can be smitten,/ Mischa thought. Scars or no.

"We're going down to the lobby," he murmured, starting to rise to his feet, hands still on Dorian's shoulders. "No more napping."

"Are they going to shoot us now?" Dorian asked idly, yawning behind a hand before he stood again. He knew it couldn't be true, or Klaus wouldn't be so relaxed, so he smiled at him again.

"Nein." Klaus stepped back, watched Dorian for a moment more, and then turned to Mischa with a nod -- a sort of 'carry on', as he waited for the Russian to lead the way.

The trip down to the lobby was quiet, Mischa pausing at the revolving door at the bottom with the two of them. "Stay out of the way, Iron Klaus. And be careful."

It was almost a childish warning, but Klaus took it at face value -- Mischa was wishing them well. "We will be. See you around, Mischa."

With a wave of a hand, the Russian was gone.

"Well, that was easier than it should've been!" Dorian declared, blinking slightly in the afternoon sunlight. "It's been a while, hasn't it?"

"Yes -- and we're in fucking North Adams -- we might as well start walking," Klaus said a little grimly, moving to start across the parking lot.

"Maybe there's a taxi," Dorian suggested, moving after Klaus with easy, limber motions. "Or maybe there's an Alphabet somewhere about."

"Hope for the Alphabet; otherwise, we're walking." Still, to have gotten away so easily, with so *much* information left him in an oddly good mood, even if they did have a good six hours of walking ahead of them. Only once they were walking on the shoulder of the road did he speak again. "I have the names now."

"There was more than one spy?" Dorian asked him, confused. He'd been bored and slightly tired since they'd had no breakfast, so he'd fallen asleep on the couch. Mischa, at least, was more likely to punch than to cut or... or worse.

"The Stasi -- he gave me the names."

"So we're going to go after them once this is wrapped up?" Dorian asked him.

"I am," Klaus confirmed, looking over to Dorian, who was easily keeping pace today. That was always good to see. "Do you... want to?"

"Yes." The answer was grimly given and grimly meant. "I want to see it all through to the end." Even though he hated violence, even though he had never before wanted to hurt any living thing. He had to be there, him and Klaus, and it had to be together. It was just the way things *were*.

"I'm going to remove his head, put it in a box, and leave it at NATO headquarters with his papers," Klaus said with an odd dark smile.

The little sound that Dorian gave could have been horror, but it wasn't. It was just the result of the little tingle that passed down his spine at those words. "All right. Can we leave his cock, too? Cut that off, first," he said, just as viciously.

"We're going to do a number on him," Klaus agreed, the vicious smile turning to a more light of heart expression. He *knew* that to hear such things from *Dorian*, from *himself*, meant there was something still wrong. Especially from Dorian. Perhaps... in time they could get proper help. Until then, they had each other, and their small pleasures... and revenge was going to be a good pleasure. "Do you want to jog for a little bit?"

"That sounds just marvelous," Dorian agreed, smiling back at him.

"If we jog in parts, it should only take us five hours," Klaus said happily enough, as they started off.

Chapter 15 by Kat and Tzigane
G sighed and shifted in the car. "No sign of anything. Z said they were all driving black cars. No black cars here."

"That," S admitted, "was the first thing I noticed." They were back on surveillance duty, but *this* go round, it meant checking all of the local hotels that Z, Dorian and Klaus hadn't gotten to in an attempt to locate the two missing men.

"Wait!" G gasped, pointing. "Look! Over there!"

'Over there' were two men, approaching at the pace of a leisurely walk. Not approaching, though -- just walking on the side of the road, talking casually. Klaus and Dorian, striding on the grass that ran along side the narrow road, apparently oblivious to the search.

"SIR!!" G realized that his window wasn't open and rapidly went about letting it down. "MAJOR!! LORD GLORIA!"

Klaus's head twitched up first, and he stopped walking, glancing across the street; a hand on Dorian's arm stopped the Briton from going any further. "I think that's G screaming at us!"

"I do believe you're right," Dorian agreed, one blond brow rising. "I guess that cuts short our little walk. Sorry, darling."

"You don't sound sorry," Klaus told him in an amused tone. He looked for traffic going either way, and with none in sight, started to cross to the parking lot where G sat. "You're hungry, anyway."

"The truth," Dorian admitted, "is the truth. I'm starving. I didn't get any breakfast and I didn't finish supper last night, either. I think I require sustenance, love."

A quick glance to his watch confirmed it. "It's nearly supper time, anyway -- G will drive us back to the house, and there's food left over. I'll tell Z everything, he can handle the CIA; the Bear Cub's had more than enough time to get away."

"THAT means we can finish our vacation in peace and then take care of business," Dorian finished with a sigh. Hm, that was a pleasant thought! "You know, I feel a little better for our foray, Klaus."

"I do, too," he said, starting up the sloped driveway towards G and S's car. "But we need more time to rest."

"And you haven't gotten to go swimming, yet," Dorian added.

"YOOHOO! Major!" G cried, stepping out of the car. He was dressed, heaven help him, in a suit, but it was *pink*. "Lord Gloria!! Oh, we're so glad to see you!"

"G," Klaus sighed with a nod to the approaching... man.

"Are you all right?" G said simultaneously with S's, "We'll take you back to the house!!"

"Take me where there's *FOOD*," Dorian prompted, smiling and brushing past them to climb into the back of the car.

"We're fine -- but we've been walking for a few hours now, so..." 'So let us in the car, shut up, and drive' was implied.

"Yes, Major!" G cried, slipping back into the car even as Klaus climbed into it. "We haven't found anyone yet, but C and M are out, too. The others... Z has already called the CIA to let them know what was discovered, and so everything should be taken care of by the time we're back!"

"There's more -- I can give a name to that agent, and the hotel where the KGB was staying should be investigated; the owners are at least sympathizers," the German muttered, as Dorian got into the car and sat beside him.

"For now, though, *feed* me. I don't care if we have to drive through somewhere or something," Dorian said, reaching for Klaus's hand. "THEN we can go back to espionage."

"Hmn, we're not too far, driving, from the house now," Klaus uttered, rubbing his fingers against the back of Dorian's hand. "Drive, S."

"Yes, sir!" the agent replied promptly, sending the car out of the hotel parking lot.

Once they were on their way, it wasn't so bad, and Dorian couldn't help but keep smiling. /We have names. Klaus will be able to close this off, and so will I./ He'd never wanted to hurt anyone before. He really didn't want to hurt anyone *now*, but killing the man would prevent anyone else from ever suffering at his hands the way that they had, and that was what was important to Dorian. /Good.../

"Which agents are still out?" Klaus suspected that they'd probably gone out scurrying aimlessly again, though hopefully not in a drove. "When we get back, I want them recalled. The KGB is pulling out now, or is already in the process of doing so; we've put them on edge already, and we don't need fatalities."

"Just C and M, sir. The others are still back at the house. Z said he didn't want us all scrambling around like idiots trying to get ourselves killed when what we needed to do was find you, Major!" G announced with some cheer.

THAT made Dorian chuckle. "Hm. Z. Eberbach in the making," he teased.

"A kinder one, perhaps," Klaus granted with a shrug -- he was glad that some of his better senses had worn off on the younger agent, just as they'd done on A. "Good -- now, what's this I hear about you've finally stopped wearing dresses, G?"

Agent G smiled back at him, face lighting up at the question. "It's just not as much fun without you, sir!" he said, nodding. "Besides. Without you there, the Chief feels me up."

Everyone in the car heard a muttering in response to that, and Dorian was quite sure it was both nasty, and uttered in Russian. "Tell him to keep his nasty hands off of you -- because I'm not planning on staying in America for much more than a couple more weeks."

"Yes, *SIR*!!" Oh, the Alphabets were so rigorous in their replies sometimes! S and G both had spoken that phrase and they were beaming fit to be tied! "So you're coming home to Germany soon?" G asked, unable to help himself.

"When the month is over," Klaus told them, shifting a little the clasp of Dorian's hand within his. He wanted to pull the other man close and apologize for getting them caught because of his rash quickness, but that would wait.

"After all," Dorian said, "I'd just as soon not work with the Americans. They're a strange lot, and it'd be better to work in Europe..." And there were better museums to rob in Europe, too!

"Idiot yanks couldn't even solve their own mole problems," Klaus growled, shaking his head. That was the last thing said, as the car began to roll over familiar ground -- turned left onto Bull Hill, and then another left onto Sunrise Street, all the way down to the end, and over the gravel driveway.

"Now you can have food, Dorian."

"Oh, *thank* you!" Dorian told him effusively, smiling. It was a little bit of fun-making, but it wasn't meant badly.

It was agreeing with Klaus's good mood, though, and he took it the right way, opening the door for Dorian to run him out of the car first. "Come on! Get out, you idiot!!"

The man folded up out of the car, long legs stretching, arms reaching upward. "Mmmmm, that feels good!" he declared even as his stomach rumbled hungrily and G giggled.

Klaus pushed at Dorian, a hand on either side of his waist as he laughed wolfishly. "Walk. Up the steps, into the house."

THAT was a delight, and Dorian sighed with pleasure as he headed in the indicated direction, shivering slightly. G and S, on the other hand... Both mouths were wide open as they watched their Major, their *Major*, laughing with *Eroica*.

S shivered violently. "All's not right with the world," he whispered hoarsely to G once they were out of range.

"What... do you think is going on?" G asked in a tense breath. Lord, maybe Klaus had been rightfully dismissed for insanity!!

"I think," S gulped, "that Eroica must have *finally* gotten *laid*!"

"No!" G said in shock, starting to go in through the garage. "No that couldn't... I mean, it's the *MAJOR*!!"

"Did you see him SMILING!?" S hissed, stopping almost dead as he saw that the Major and Eroica had paused to talk with Z. "Really!" he whispered. "I mean... YOU know..."

"I... guess..."

"The hotel is in North Adams -- the 'Towne' Inn or some such foppery. It was crawling with Soviets. Mischa was... kind enough to let us just leave," Klaus was telling Z just then.

Z's blue eyes widened, all of the Alphabets looking at one another. "He... just let you go?" he asked, blinking almost audibly.

"He just let us go," Klaus confirmed. No need to tell Z about what had passed, or the information given to them. "Who knows his reasoning -- I won't question it. We walked here from North Adams, though -- until G and S spotted us. He's had enough time that he's gone, with the information he got from the Yank -- but I know that Yank's name, and the CIA can find him on their own." Of course, he and Dorian would have to talk to the CIA when they arrived, but probably not be for several hours yet.

"Yes, sir," Z answered, nodding, a smile settling on his face. "It only took you a day, Major. I think that ought to be enough to convince anyone you're a marvelous contractor!"

That got a slightly brighter smile from Klaus than the steady, casual one he was already wearing. "Old experience shouldn't be let waste -- keep the CIA from getting near Lord Gloria and I for a bit. I don't want to be debriefed yet." Which meant that something, some conversation had happened with Mischa, and they needed to collaborate on what had happened. "Come on, Dorian -- let's head into the house."

"And if I don't get something to eat soon, my stomach will gnaw through my backbone," Dorian said by way of agreement, waving as the two of them took off up the stairs, Klaus's hand at the small of his back along the way.

Behind them, silence reigned for a few long moments as the Alphabets stared after them, the lot of them shocked as much by the smile as the touch. Finally, S swallowed hard and said just loudly enough for the rest of them to hear, "Oh, yeah. Eroica finally got laid..."

"Shhhh!" A almost startled, shaking his head. "I... I don't know about that, so don't...!"

"NO idle gossip!" Z said firmly. "We don't know and it's none of our business, so!"

"We all want the Major back, don't we?" A asked the gathered agents. A chorus of affirmative answers came back to him, a fair babble of them. "Then don't start gossip," he finished. "It's none of our business whatever they do."

"Well," S said solemnly, "it's not so much gossip as..." He groped momentarily for the right words. "Wanting to see him remain this *happy*," he finally said decisively. Generally, the Major was scary, and if he ever caught them having THIS conversation, it'd be straight to Alaska with them all! Still, they wanted him to be happy. Everyone was terrified of the Major, true, but they were also very fond of him. If Eroica made him happy, all the better. They liked Eroica, too, even if he WAS trouble from the word go!

"I think he'd be happier if he didn't hear us talking about this," was Z's observation. "Now, start the reports so there'll be less to do when the CIA comes around..."

"Yes, sir," several of them answered at once, and then they went to work.


Upstairs, Dorian was delving firmly into the refrigerator. He'd found another of the sandwiches he'd been munching on last night and several other good things and with a satisfied sigh, he placed them all on the table. "There!" he nearly purred. "Ohh, I'm *starving*!"

"Then stop fussing, and start eating," Klaus said, grabbing the loaf of italian bread they'd bought a few days before; he broke off a piece and started to munch on that.

"I got out enough for you," he was informed around Dorian's mouthful of sandwich. "Mmmmmmmm!"

"It's been a good day," Klaus sighed, moving to sit down. God, how his body ached, the stumps of his fingers, still healing muscles of his chest; but it was a good ache, long missed. "Better relax now."

"Hmmm?" That sound was a questioning one, Dorian's mouth still full.

"We're on American soil, Dorian -- which means a CIA debrief once they get here. We'll be hauled to the nearest facility and questioned thoroughly," Klaus shrugged, not looking *happy* about it, but tolerant of the idea. "You going to be okay with that?"

The blond thief swallowed, shrugged slightly. "So long as they don't touch me," he decided. "If one of them touches me, I might hit them, but other than that." He wouldn't like going without Klaus, but there wasn't much to be done about that!

"Each of us will be done separately, so... so don't tell them the details of what's on the paper, why, or any of that. Save us both trouble," Klaus smiled.

"I'll tell them I slept through most of it," Dorian said. "It's true, so it's not like I actually saw anything, anyway."

"Good." Klaus finished the heel of thick crunchy bread, and then went back to get a drink of water. "Do you want a nap...? Otherwise we won't be able to sleep for another day."

That gained him a nod as Dorian finished off the first half of his sandwich and started on the second. "In that case, yes." Yes because he wasn't about to give up the opportunity to lay down with Klaus, CIA or no CIA!!

Klaus also wanted a moment to relax with Dorian, make sure he really was okay, that they were both still... "All right". He finished his drink of water and then sat down to watch the elegant thief eat in a fast, inelegant way.

"Done," Dorian declared, wiping his mouth quickly. "C'mon."

It didn't take the two of them long to head up to the next floor, and close the door behind them. Klaus finally took off his leather jacket, the piece of paper tucked carefully into his suitcase. Then he toed off his shoes. "Stay mostly dressed," he ordered, though he undid his shirt-cuffs, and unbuttoned his collar a few buttons.

The British man followed suit, only kicking off his shoes before climbing into the bed still wearing his clothes, watching as Klaus came closer. "I love you," he said almost helplessly, smiling at the other man.

"I know," Klaus granted, expression still a pleased one as he laid down on the bed, lean form stretched out on it -- and Dorian was soon pressed against him. "Hmn. We did well today."

"We'll do better next time," was the answer. Dorian wasn't particularly sleepy, but he enjoyed laying there next to Klaus. It was marvelous.

Klaus, however, fully understood the sense of sleeping before the CIA arrived. Allies' agencies were nearly as brutal as the enemies, sometimes. /Never as bad as... mmm./ "Ja." Klaus was already closing his eye, and Dorian soon felt him nod off.

For a while, Dorian laid there awake, hand lightly stroking over Klaus's shoulder, his head cradled on the one opposite it. Finally, sleep took him, as well, and rest was a very good idea.


It was perhaps five hours later when the CIA van rolled up, and Lt. Col Bernard stepped out of the vehicle, marched up the steps of the sleepy-seeming house, and rang the doorbell. It was answered by a tall blond man, obviously German, who eyed them solemnly. "Come in," he said quietly, nodding his hello. "The contractors are asleep. They and I will require debriefing."

"Wake the both of them up, then -- we have a van to take you to the facility in," Bernard said, showing his ID clearly to the German as he stepped into the front hall. "You are...?"

"Z," was the clear answer. "A, go fetch Eroica and the Major."

Agent A moved out of the great room with a nod to the Lt. Col, and moved up the stairs to awake the two by knocking heavily on the door.

"Major?" Bernard asked in curiosity. "I was told they were both civilians."

"Eberbach was formerly of NATO," Z informed him. "The other was one of our contractors." Now, they both were, but there was no reason to talk about that yet.

"Eberbach... hmn. Name's familiar," Bernard shrugged, thinking for a moment. "Oh, yes -- the NATO man who fronted the intelligence agencies when our president and the Prime minster were nearly assassinated?"

"Right. The contractor's the one that helped him get the code and get the device out on time." That was a little bit of a stretch of the truth, but not TOO much.

"Then they must be a tight team," Bernard approved, while he heard footsteps coming down the stairs.

"They're the best," Z said simply, turning his head to watch as Eroica and the Major made their way down. The blond man was yawning and stretching, shoes in his hand, Klaus and A right behind him. Dorian wore neat, if close-fitting, tan slacks, and a brilliant pale blue poet's shirt, sandals for shoes; while Klaus looked semi-professional in crisp brown trousers and a white button down shirt, of which he was buttoning the cuffs, no tie. A plain leather jacket was tossed over one arm. They seemed normal enough, until Bernard got a look at their faces. The blond's scars struck him as particularly revolting, and the half-recognizable face of Iron Klaus was drastically altered by the patch over his eye.

"Get your coat, Eroica," Klaus told Dorian pleasantly enough

"'ll be right back," Dorian promised, moving to the kitchen to fetch it.

"Major," Bernard greeted with a nod.

A glance at the man's suit told Klaus nothing, so he just nodded in turn -- not recognizing this Yank. "Retired; do you foresee any hitches in this debriefing...?" He let that dangle, wanting to also be supplied with the man's name.

"Bernard." It was given him and the CIA agent shook his head. "We're curious as to why the KGB let you go so easily. It's the only foreseeable hitch."

"It's understandable, though the explanation of 'why' is very simple," Klaus told him, drawing back his right hand, and pocketing it almost immediately -- the shake had been brief, and *odd* feeling, too quick to register why. "I will request now that Eroica be treated carefully."

That brought a raise of eyebrows, the American looking at him. "Why?" he asked simply, needing the answer.

"Due to unfortunate circumstances of trauma he doesn't react well to strangers touching or threatening him in even the vaguest of manners," Klaus warned in a crisp, detached tone.

"We'll keep that in mind." That was the closest thing Klaus would get to a promise, and Dorian was coming back now, jacket on, so it was time to be quiet about the matter.

"Ready," the thief said promptly, slipping hands into his pockets.

Klaus looked to Z for a moment, nodded, and then started out ahead of Bernard, slipping on and zipping up his leather jacket.

It was a two hour drive ahead of them, at least.


Nervously, Dorian shifted upon the chair in which he sat. The room was lit by a single lamp. The pool of light didn't spill very far because of the shade over it despite its fluorescent bulb. The thing had a bad tendency to flicker, the sound of it buzzing. It was enough to drive him crazy, but the chair in which he sat was uncomfortable, to boot, and the battered gray table upon which his elbows rested was grimy. /Disgusting,/ he thought, trying not to sigh or shift nervously.

"Let's start by you telling us how you got involved in this?" The investigator, Agent Williams, began -- though Bernard was sitting in on it, note-pad ready. Dorian could hear, too, the hum of a running tape recorder.

"We've been on holiday," Dorian said. "So we went hiking up Mt. Greylock. It'd been a beautiful day, and the weather was nice, so the hike wasn't bad. We got to the top without seeing anyone else and headed up the observation tower to look out, because the view's incredible. Klaus -- Major Eberbach -- happened to look down and see someone we recognized. Mischa the Bear Cub was exchanging information with a man in jeans and black t-shirt. I couldn't see anything descriptive on it, but he also had a denim jacket and a shaggy haircut, very late seventies, but most of it was covered with a 'New York Yankees' ballcap," Dorian told them, repeating what he'd told the Alphabet. "Cheap off the rack glasses and running shoes. They made the exchange and the man headed down the trail while Mischa went towards a parked car. From there, we ran down and caught the license plate. He saw us, but we hoped that it wouldn't matter. From there, we hiked back down, not seeing the agent, and went to dinner at a local diner, where we ran into the NATO agents who were here."

"How did you recognize the Soviet was 'Mischa'?" Williams requested of him, "And why, if you're on vacation, did you run to get that plate number?"

"Habit," Dorian replied. "Old ones die hard, and when Klaus ran out, I followed. It's pure habit. We recognized Mischa because we've run into him several times before -- it's one of the hazards of working for NATO, I think."

"Why has Major Eberbach stepped down from his position, only to do contractor work for the same place he left? Pardon me asking, but it seems a bit suspicious to *me*," the yank drawled. "And just why do you work for NATO?"

Dorian's mouth trembling slightly. "I work for NATO because Major Eberbach works for NATO," he said simply. "We were captured by the East Germans and tortured. Pardon me for saying so," he turned the man's words back on him, "but it was a highly unpleasant experience and I'd just as soon not tell you about it as it has no bearing on this matter."

"All right, all right," Williams said, putting his hands up into the air in a sort of 'surrender' position, though it seemed more flippant than truthful. "Tell me what happened at the restaurant, right up to when Major Eberbach reassumed control of his ex-unit?"

"When we ran into the agents, they'd just stopped for a quick bite before finding somewhere to stay, I'd assume. We offered to allow them to use the house at which we were staying and gave them the tag number of Mischa's car, they accepted and followed us home. After some amount of conversation that evening for which I was not present, the offer to contract the Major's services in helping find Mischa and the other KGB agents was made and accepted. After that, everyone got a good night's sleep to start the next morning fresh. Eberbach can be a demon of a slave driver when he wants to be." Oh, that was deliciously true sometimes, too!

"Why weren't you present for the conversation, and when were you told of the decision?"

"I'd already showered and dressed for bed. I'd left my book downstairs, and I asked the Major to fetch it for me, as he was still dressed. The conversation passed at that point, and I was informed when he brought the book upstairs to me."

Williams gave him a questioning look at that. "Does he inform you of everything, you think?"

"Yes." There was no hesitation in that, no pause. "I believe he does."

"So I can take it that you trust each other's ideas. All right. What happened the next day?"

Dorian wished for a cigarette. He wasn't as much of a smoker as Klaus, but it might help settle his nerves a bit. "We got up and checked on the surveillance teams before going out with Z to search the local inns and hotels to see if we could find Mischa's car. We had checked several of them and it was nearing lunch, I think, when we spotted Mischa himself by luck in a cemetery. He was making an exchange with the man of before, so we pulled into a driveway farther down and made our way to see what we could see. Once we'd seen enough -- the packet in exchange for jewels -- Klaus stepped forward to try and get the documents back from him. That was when they caught us."

"And after that?" Williams prompted of him, sitting on the edge of the table near Dorian, just perched there lightly. "The Soviets caught you, but why were you so easily released?"

"I can't say for certain," Dorian replied, "but I think that Mischa discovered what had been done in East Germany and felt... guilty."

"You were released from the Soviets out of... guilt?" Williams asked with heavy incredulism in his voice. "I can't believe that."

A shrug came in reply. "You asked me, I told you what I thought. Mischa didn't *say*, 'Golly, gentlemen, I certainly feel bad for you! I do believe I'll let you go!'. He just *did*. There wasn't an explanation. That's why *I* think he did it, but he could just as well have done it to give them an opportunity to get away. They're a bit nervous about us. We've been known to steal planes, art and anything else we can get from them. Maybe they didn't feel like having anything stolen this week."

"How long were you held, and then what happened once you were released?"

"Maybe as long as four or five hours. I fell asleep where they were keeping us, and when I woke, Mischa was saying they were going to let us go. He walked us down to the lobby and set us to walking, which we did for nearly three hours before we ran into two of the NATO agents who picked us up and returned us home."

"And what then?" Williams, it seemed, was intent on squeezing him dry of information, even when he had so little to take from him.

"And then Z called you while we ate and we had a nap before you came," Dorian answered primly.

"A nap? You sleep an awful lot," he observed. "Why did you have a nap, if you already slept when the KGB had you?"

"Because I was tired," the interrogator was informed. "Have YOU ever been tortured for information? It doesn't exactly leave you in the best state of being, physically. The Major and I are both still recovering. We sleep when we can." Which was together and often, much more so than ever before.

"All right -- you might be brought back again. Don't go anywhere until we're done with all of you -- tell the retired major to come in when you get into the hall," Williams uttered, moving back from the table to flip through Bernard's notes.

With a sigh, Dorian gladly stood and abandoned the room, heading out to the hallway again. "They're ready for you," Dorian told him, giving him a faintly relieved smile.

Klaus flicked his cigarette into the ashtray, rising to his feet. "That was quick."

"They seemed happy with a synopsis," Dorian told him, shrugging. "I don't know how they'll be with you, though. You weren't sleeping, and I was."

"Ignorance is bliss," Klaus sighed, handing Dorian what was left of his cigarette pack, and the lighter. "Otherwise I'll just get ash everywhere." And then he entered the little room. It was gray, dingy, lit by a single lamp -- about what he had expected.

"Have a seat, Major Eberbach," the interrogator said. "I'm Williams. I'll be conducting this debriefing."

"I hope this will be short, Agent Williams; I've missed two doses of medication, and don't care to miss a third," he said seriously, moving abruptly to sit down in the empty chair. Iron Klaus was not the sort of man to be scared by a dingy trick with a cheap light.

"I doubt it should take too long. There are only a few things we need to go over. I'd like you to begin by telling me how you first became involved in this matter." It was more or less the same question first asked to Dorian.

"Eroica and I had hiked Mt. Greylock that day, and we'd entered the observation tower to see the view; I happened to look down and see the Bear Cub being given an envelope by a yank dressed up as a bad tourist," Klaus replied simply. The briefer the better, so he could get home sooner. "When I realized who it was, in *America*, consorting with a Yank, I went down the stairs -- and caught sight of his license plate number. After that, Eroica and I hiked back down, and decided to get dinner."

"Did the Russian see you?"

"Yes; the hike back down was a wary one. I was aware Mischa could have circled back and ambushed us then."

"What happened when you finished hiking down?"

"We got into the rental car and I drove us to a restaurant," Klaus said, just as crisply as everything else -- omitting completely the revelation he'd had when they'd *been* driving, the way he'd pulled off to the side of the road for a moment or five.

"And when you got there?"

"Ten members of the Alphabet were there, hunched over a map. the imbecile of a Chief sent them over here without accommodations set up, so I offered the spare rooms and basement to them, and Eroica ordered food to be sent to the house. Once we were there, Eroica and I kept away from the Alphabet and let them set up in the basement without interference."

"Tell me what happened from then until you were captured," Williams asked him. The steady scritch of Bernard's pencil continued to sound, though he remained silent.

"When I went downstairs that evening to get Eroica's book, I met agent A -- A told me how the men missed me, and how they needed help to better organize themselves. He asked, and I agreed to aid them -- told them all to go to sleep, and that in the morning I would head their investigation. In the morning, Eroica, Z and I went out, after I was filled in on the mission, with a phone book. Hotel to hotel to find the car with he tag we'd seen; we passed a cemetery on the way, spotted Mischa and his man. There were children there, though, so we drove past, and then doubled back on foot. The three of us waited in the bushes until the schoolchildren were gone, and then I moved in. Not long after that, we were captured."

"Why?"

"Why were we captured?"

"Yes."

Klaus finally made a movement -- a shift, recrossing long legs. "I failed to notice the KGB agents in the opposite tree-line. We were outnumbered, and I didn't want to risk either of my allies being shot. On the way to being walked into the Bear Cub's car, Eroica inadvertently provided a distraction, which I aided in -- during that, I gave the signal to Z and he ran for the car."

"What did the KGB do then?"

"I had... snarled at them, I suppose, after one of them pushed Eroica; they just herded us into the car carefully, and then Mischa watched us the entire drive to the hotel."

"So there was no use of overt force?"

"No, unless you count the obvious unspoken firearm as overt force."

"What happened when you reached the hotel?"

"We were told to get out of the car. Mischa told me that if I ran, Eroica would be shot; after that order, I assumed all guns were trained on him, so I didn't make any stray moves. In the hotel, we split into two groups at the elevator, and went up; Mischa questioned me about my... missing fingers -- oh, I'd punched him with my right hand at the cemetery. I forgot to mention that."

"Why did you punch him?" was the next question, skipping back to that action.

"He mentioned why I was dismissed from my position -- not dismissed. 'Retired'." Klaus made another shift, folding his arms in a manner that shielded that right hand.

"And why was that?"

"It doesn't apply to these circumstances," was the cold response.

"It does as the Bear Cub saw them," the interrogator said firmly.

"Mental instability." It stung his pride to admit that to the *fucking* idiotic Yanks, but he managed.

"What happened when you got out of the elevator?"

"One of the Soviets pushed Eroica out of the elevator. I saw him trip, and... yelled at them. I told them I'd kill every one of them if he was touched again. After that, they just herded us to a suite, where Mischa told us to sit down. He ordered half of his men to do something I can't remember, the other half to look through any recent Stasi reports for mention of myself or Eroica. We talked a little until the report arrived, he stepped into the hall, and Eroica fell asleep in there somewhere. When the Bear Cub came back in, he told me to wake Eroica up, and that he was going to escort us to the lobby."

"Why did he do that?"

"He felt he owed us for prior treatment committed in the name of the communist cause."

"So you believe he let you go out of some form of guilt." That sounded sarcastically spoken, and not at all as if he'd been believed.

"Not guilt -- honor, which right now I'd believe you idiots Yanks don't know shit about," Klaus uttered in a low tone of disgust.

"Why do you say that, Mr. Eberbach?" Mister, and not Major.

"It doesn't pertain to this mission, Agent Williams." That was flat, amused a little, and Klaus wished he hadn't given his cigarettes to Dorian.

"Let's go over what Mischa might have said to you while you were captured..."

"What do you mean?" Klaus asked, glaring at the agent. "'Go over' how?"

"What did he say to you while you were at the hotel?"

"We talked about the run-in with the Stasi -- how hard it is to learn how to shoot left handed after so many years of doing it the other way; how Eroica could fall asleep at the drop of hat; honor; the Geneva Convention, and then he left the room. Then he came back, he told me the report was going to be removed from KGB records, because it was a mark of shame for the Soviets." Some of it was added in to save himself embarrassment, some paraphrased, and some left out. The paper... /Too important to let the Yanks know about./

"And then he just let you go."

"Then he just let us leave, yes; It wasn't as stupid of him as it seemed. He knew I had a weapons on me and that I could use it before he could get it away from me. By releasing us and having us walk back, he bought himself hours of time to leave," Klaus drawled.

THAT made more sense than their being let go out of guilt, so the interrogator nodded. "And after that?"

"We walked and jogged some back towards Pittsfield; then we ran into G and S -- they drove us back to the house."

"And the rest of it? Until we arrived."

"We told Z what happened, I told him to contact your agency, and then Eroica and I left the Alphabet in the basement and went to rest for a while, until you arrived." Which clearly gave them time to collaborate on their stories, if they weren't supposedly resting. Klaus nearly winced as he realized that.

The CIA agent snorted. "There's a lot of resting going on in this story. I wonder why that is?"

"Because both of us have injuries that are still healing," Klaus snapped at the man. Very similar to what Dorian had said, so it could have been another collaboration... it was an explanation that could be checked on, though so the interrogator went forward.

"Let's go back to the conversation with the Bear Cub..."

Chapter 16 by Kat and Tzigane
When they finally let Klaus go, he walked back into the hallway to find Dorian curled in a chair, half leaning against the back of it, one leg sprawled under him as he listed to the left, head lolling against the back of the chair beside him.

Klaus sat down in the chair Dorian was listing into, waking him gently, with a careful shake. "We can't go yet, but you should wake up."

"Mmmm," Dorian answered, sighing and laying his head on Klaus's shoulder, eyes still closed. "When?" When could they go, he meant, though he wasn't quite capable of more coherent questioning. It had been a busy few days and there had been nothing to do but sit and be bored while waiting for Klaus, so he had slept, again.

"Once they've verified our stories as best they can," Klaus murmured, shifting his aching body closer to Dorian's. "Hopefully soon; I need to take my medications..." Dorian's questioning had lasted half of an hour, if that -- Klaus's had stretched to four straight, his voice aided by lukewarm soda. They'd kept trying to find out every last thing Mischa had said to him, and believed at last that they had.

Believed.

"Mmmm." That still sounded sleepy, Dorian's head cradled on his shoulder. "Took a long time," he noted. "I thought they weren't ever going to let you out. Missed you."

"Yeah. But we did a good job today," Klaus told him, moving his arm to snag Dorian's leanly muscled body closer to him. "Enjoy the rest of this vacation, then take care of business, and..." He shrugged, but it as a calm, easy gesture. "We'll manage. You just keep resting here, and I'll wake you up when it's time to go."

"Hmm." Still, now that Klaus was back, he was a bit more awake. "And then after that, we can see what we might like to do," he said almost dreamily. "I think contracting will be good for us, Klaus..."

"It will for me... would you be happy with that?" Now they had a foot in the door through this mission, and Agents A-Z could convince the chief to get them for missions that would suit them -- less work than he faced before, but God, it was something!

"Yes." That was said as if there was no other way for it to be, nothing else more perfect. "Once you're happy and I can stay with you, always... yes."

"You'd live with me at the Schloss?" /If I can still live there.../

"Wherever you are," Dorian answered him, eyes still closed. "I don't want to be away from you." /I can't bear to be apart.../

"Where do *you* want to live, though?" Klaus pressed. "I don't want to make all the decisions..."

That golden head lifted off of his shoulder, clear aquamarine gaze looking at him solemnly. "If you left it up to me, we'd travel all over Europe. I actually think that'd be much nicer than staying in one place all the time. I wouldn't mind living with you at the schloss, though, Klaus. That and the castle at North Downs... it's always right to have somewhere to call home."

"All over, then," Klaus uttered -- he liked that idea, since he was so used to moving constantly, place to place. "Hmnn, we'll decide more when we get back to the house."

"I'll get James to send a listing of the houses I've got. They're *dreadfully* expensive and he complains awfully when I want to open one of them up, but there's more than one," Dorian told him, smiling slightly. "All over."

"Just remember that I have a pension we can use," Klaus told him, settling closer to Dorian. A chance glance down the hall brought him back to himself, as he saw Agent Williams approaching -- probably with more questions to ask. Klaus didn't bother to pull back from Dorian, keeping his arm around the thief's narrow, muscular waist.

It was something that brought the CIA agent's eyebrows to rise, seeking his hairline as he stepped forward, clearing his throat. "Ah... Major. Eroica..."

"Yes?" Dorian drawled, one of his own eyebrows rising in response to the man's expression.

"I want each of you to make a written statement of the events, and then you'll be driven back, along with Agent Z," Williams told them.

The thief shrugged slightly. "Not a problem, I don't think," he said, glancing at Klaus to be sure that was so.

"I'll have to dictate mine," Klaus told the agent, without bothering to explain why.

A glance at the man's ruined right hand was enough to convince the man that it would be necessary, though his lips thinned slightly, a sigh held back just barely. "I'll get someone to do it," he simply said. "Both of you, come with me. I'll settle you in a room so you can write."

Klaus rose to his feet, tugging at Dorian only a little since the thief was to his feet just as quickly; then Klaus let his grasp loosen, to a hold at Dorian's elbow with his better left hand. "And this will be the last time we have to tell this?"

"For now," Williams said simply. "There might be more questions later, if anything doesn't check out, but quite possibly."

"Of course," Klaus murmured, nodding. "You have the number to contact us at for the remainder of our stay in America; beyond that, NATO can find me." /Because I don't know where I'm going to be living./

With a nod, the agent turned to head back in the direction of the interrogation room, and Klaus and Dorian followed him. Dorian stretched as they walked, back popping slightly with the motion. They were soon settled in a room with a table and two chairs, Williams pausing as he watched them. "I'll bring in someone," he said, giving Dorian a pen and a notebook. "You go ahead and start writing."

The urge to snap out a quick affirmative 'yes, sir!' was difficult to resist, but Dorian managed, only poking out his tongue at the man's back in disgust as Williams turned around to walk out of the room.

"Don't do that," Klaus chided him, as he sat down at the other chair and relaxed into it, knocking a cigarette free of his pack. Last one -- a pity. He'd have to do without until they could get to the store the next day. /I'll manage./ "We'll have to run a load of laundry once the Alphabet leave."

"Towels," Dorian agreed, beginning to scrawl out the details he'd already given the interrogator. "There're probably not any left. Besides," he noted, looking across the table at Klaus. "He deserved it!"

"You only had him asking you idiotic question for half an hour -- if must have asked me what Mischa told me forty times!" Another sigh, as he watched Dorian write. "I'm glad we've finally started to figure things out between us. I know this isn't the place at all to talk like this, but I don't give a fuck. Idiot Yanks."

That gained him a smile, a tilt of Dorian's head as his fingers paused momentarily in their writing. "I'm glad," he said simply, eyes conveying so much that words did not. "And he deserved it from both of us, since I had to sit alone without you while he asked you forty times what Mischa told you!"

"'s why I don't like Yanks," Klaus sighed, looking to the door. He'd have to tell it all over again, and his voice would go! He *knew* it!

"Well," Dorian told him, scrawling out a few more lines, "if it makes you feel at all better, I think most of 'em are scared clean to death of you, darling. I mean, I heard two of them as they passed in the hall speaking in glowing terms of sheer terror. You'd have been proud."

"Sheer terror?" Klaus asked in an amused term. "Why -- I haven't yelled but so much today."

"*Reputation*," he was informed with a nod as the door opened and a mousy secretary peeked around it. The woman looked nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs and she was clutching her steno pad to her chest, dark curly hair frizzed slightly, brown eyes wide.

"Erm," she began timidly. "Major Eberbach?"

"Ja -- let's begin," he told her, and then began to tell his story for what had to be at least one time too many.


"We'll see you when you arrive back in Europe, sir," Z said firmly, nodding at them both as he offered his hand first to Klaus and then to Dorian. "Thank you for your help. Lord Gloria, I'm sure your accountant will be sending an itemized statement...?"

"Of course," Dorian replied, more than a little amused. "Knowing Jamesie, he'll manage to recoup the cost of the house and all sorts of things!"

"The chief will be the one he has to deal with," A told him with no small amount of glee in his voice. "Sir... Major, we'll be looking forward to you coming back and helping NATO whenever possible."

"Thank you, Mr. A -- I'm looking forward to that, too," Klaus told the small agent as they shook hands.

"We'll see you soon," Z said again, and then the two Alphabets headed into the yard to slip into the last of the cars remaining.

Dorian smiled up at Klaus, slightly relieved. "Well. It's just you and me again, darling."

"It's still morning -- the sun is out, and after sleeping the past day.." And evening, but that had been lounging in bed a lot. He felt tired and lazy for having done *that*, so... "Let me go put on my trunks and then you can watch me freeze to death in the lake."

THAT gained him what was almost a wicked smirk, and the other man wrapped his arms about Klaus's neck, pushing him slightly to make him go into the house. "I'll pull you out when you turn to ice, so long as you aren't *too* far out. I wouldn't want to turn to ice with you," he teased, prodding.

"You know, it's hard to go up these steps with your arms around my neck like this," Klaus murmured, back-stepping up the last of the cement steps, and then from the platform into the house itself, dragging Dorian with him. "I won't go far. And if I haven't turned to ice that needs to be thawed out, we're going to hike around in the woods here -- the trees are beautiful..."

"And I'll have you all to myself," came the appropriately appreciative murmur, Dorian pressing his lips to Klaus's lightly.

A kiss carefully returned; Klaus was still adjusting to their more intimate touches, still accustoming himself to their feel and his comfort, to his personal control. Holding, hugging, touching was more familiar and more harmless, too, than some of the kisses that Dorian gave him. "Yes -- just you and I for the rest of this month."

"I can't wait," was the whisper, one that brushed his ear as Dorian momentarily held him close, hugging him tightly.

Warm arms around his neck, Dorian's now familiar body pressed close to his... Klaus sighed warmly, chest tightening as he ducked his head forward to rest on Dorian's shoulder. "I'd thought everything was over for both of us when I woke up in the hospital."

"Never." The sound of that was softly spoken, but it was uncompromising. There was no doubt in Dorian at that moment. "It will never be over for us."

"Hmn, I hope you're right." Klaus's voice was a thick murmur as he gave Dorian's torso a squeeze of pressure, not wanting to let go. "Those first days you were..."

"So sorry," Dorian said softly. "I couldn't sleep. I kept seeing everything in my dreams and when I looked at you, all I could see was... that it was all my fault."

"You don't still think that, do you?"

"...sometimes," Dorian admitted quietly. "Mostly, I think it was neither of our faults. It's not that I feel as if I'm responsible. It's more that I feel... guilty. Even if it's not my fault."

"Guilty... I feel that sometimes," Klaus murmured, starting to pull back -- but it was only to guide Dorian upstairs with him, crossing through the kitchen to mount the stairs. "We... couldn't do anything, it's just..."

"It's just that the human mind wants to come up with a reason for things that happen to a person. If something terrible happened, then there must be a reason why, and it must be with you, somehow," Dorian reasoned.

"Well it wasn't *you*, so..." Klaus shrugged as he entered the bedroom with Dorian, and moved to the suitcase to pull out a pair of swim trunks. Bonham packing for him was as bad as his butler packing for him. "I'm just glad we're better than we were before. I... couldn't have managed if you didn't ever get better."

Dorian's voice was soft when he answered. "I'm sorry to have been such a burden on you. I hope I won't be again."

"You weren't a burden, Dorian," Klaus told him, shaking the black, elastic waist-banded things out. "I was just as bad. You needed me to sit by your bed, and I wouldn't be anywhere else." Even now, they did the same, though it was less awkward now that they just outwardly *slept* with each other... and possibly more.

"Mmmm," came the murmured agreement, Dorian dropping onto the bed to watch him begin to undress. Klaus was still shy, but... there wasn't so much point in it, now. "Things will stay better," he said solemnly.

Still, point or no, Klaus wasn't going to be blatant like Dorian was. He ducked behind the little screen that separated the currently vacant computer desk from the rest of the room, and slid off his trousers, and on his trunks, behind it. "I really hope they do."

"They will," Dorian said again. "We have two more weeks here, Klaus. What do you think we had ought to do with them? And where should we go when we're ready to do so?"

"With the rest of our time here, I want to relax -- this area has a beautiful countryside, and I think we can both enjoy it... and I want to go into the downtown again and look at a few of those odd shops. I think I saw one that had antiques and things like you like."

"And you're willing to suffer through them for me?" came the teasing response as Klaus came back towards the bed. "Now that's..." Love, he would have said, but he wasn't sure he wanted to push that envelope just yet. "...truly magnificent of you!"

"If I go with you, you might decide to buy something, instead of just tracking it down for a later theft," Klaus told him good naturedly, striding towards Dorian; he wasn't conscious of the way he looked so much as he was of Dorian watching him. "I need to put a bandage over my eye so the spacer will stay in; I'll be back in a moment." What Dorian could see, in the clear light of day, was the dancing line-work of scars the Stasi officer had left on his chest and upper stomach; the symmetrical cuts that had gone through his pectorals and were still healing; each nipple sliced clean through and scarred that way.

/My poor, darling Klaus,/ he thought to himself, desperately sad for a moment. It hurt him, not because Klaus wasn't beautiful; after all, to him, Klaus would have been beautiful even had he been scarred much worse than he was! No, it hurt him because no one should ever have been allowed to hurt Klaus that way -- or to hurt *him*. /I'll find a way to make it up with you. When we go, when we find that man.../ Violence made him sick, but to make this up to Klaus...

He could live with it.

"All right, darling. Then, you can go and try the water. It's cool out today. I hope you don't get frost nipped toes!"

"If I do, I can just have you sit on them to warm them up," Klaus said in parting, as he moved down to the bathroom to tend to his eye. That was something, too, he didn't want to do with Dorian around -- it was a bit disgusting, having to blot up tears and secretions from the corners, clean there, and then tape a simple gauze square tightly in place all around the eye. It would get wet, but this way it couldn't fall out. That done, he stepped back into the hall and called, "Let's go!"

"Coming, Klaus!" THAT brought a few images to mind which were probably best not contemplated as Dorian smiled at him, moving close. "Let's go, then!"

/I have a sick, sick mind,/ Klaus thought mournfully as he started down the stairs ahead of Dorian, and then out the front hall. He knew he probably wouldn't get more than a few strokes in before he deemed the water too cold, but he wanted to give it a shot!

The walk to the pier was fairly brisk beneath the clouding-over sky, Dorian chuckling as he watched a few chill bumps raise up on Klaus's flesh. "Darling, I hope the water's warmer than the air," he said with what was almost enjoyment. "Truly, I do!"

"We'll see," Klaus said bravely, standing at the end of the pier and looking down into the lake's beauty. Oh, he was going to freeze... A moment of brief hesitation, and he dove in.

It was *just* as cold as he had thought it was going to be and maybe even colder! Out of pride alone, he didn't burst to the surface right away -- instead, he started to swim, down along the cement wall's line, towards the set of steps that lead into the water, a few hundred feet down.

"Is it cold?" Dorian called mischievously from the pier, seated on one of the pilings near the shore to watch him.

"Fuck... Yes!" Klaus called back between gasped breaths of air, still swimming, further and further, until the water was shallow and he stood, walking towards the steps. "No worse than when you dropped me in the lake in Alaska!"

"You had on more clothes, then!" came the amused yell, Dorian laughing softly. "I've got a towel for you!" He had one and it was waved about madly, the smile on his face one of pure delight.

"Good." Klaus didn't bother shouting -- just shivered that word, as he mounted the rough cement steps back onto the lawn again, nearly into the woods. Then he began to walk, shivering with every step, back towards Dorian and the house.

"That was an exercise in futility."

He was met halfway, and the other man smiled at those words. "Well, at least you got into the water. Maybe from here we can go somewhere warm, Greece or someplace, and then you can swim all you like," Dorian offered.

"Yes... we can do that -- after here." It meant more resting, of course, but he was getting accustomed to that idea, to Dorian still... "And after that we can go back to Europe." No harm in delaying the inevitable!

"Thank you, darling." And that was meant from the bottom of Dorian's heart, how his face lifted, almost begging for a kiss!

Klaus was wrapping the towel around his shoulders just then, though he was looking clearly at Dorian. "Want to help warm me up?"

"I'd love to," was the soft answer, Dorian's lips parting just the way Klaus loved for them to!

His sweater got wet from Klaus's dripping hair and from his still water chilled body when Klaus pulled him close to steal a kiss. "Inside the house," he shivered, "so I won't be cold anymore."

"I'll start a fire while you get dry," Dorian whispered against his lips, nose rubbing lightly at one high, cold cheekbone. "We can change into pajamas and lounge in front of it for the evening. You think?"

"I think I need to keep you away from romance novels," Klaus sighed, but nodded. Even the worst cliches sometimes made for good real-life moments, he decided as they started across the near part of the line, and then the driveway, to the steps.

The objection that gained him was light, only teasing. "Romance novels occasionally have fine notions," was the protest. "The only way that could be better were if we were both naked in front of the fire, Klaus, and I didn't suggest *that*, you know." He rather figured Klaus would have a massive internal hemorrhage and die of a nose bleed if he'd actually MEANT a suggestion like that, regardless of what went on between the two of them late at night!!

Somehow what they did under the covers was so greatly different from what they did out from under them. "I'm glad you didn't," Klaus uttered. /Because if you did, I might take you up on it, and then... then we could both end up hurt. I don't know./ He was glad Dorian seemed to understand his limits now, even if he teased at them.

"I love you," was the solemn answer as they slipped into the warmth of the house. "I wouldn't want to make you unhappy. Go upstairs and shower. I'll slip into the living room and check the wood box."

"I'll bring some of what's behind the house in tomorrow," the German told him, heading up the stairs. The towel around his shoulder could only absorb -- it didn't help with warmth much.

"Go get warm!" Dorian told him again, parting ways and heading for the other room to make the promised fire.

It was twenty minutes later that Klaus returned, already dressed in warm pajamas that helped to add to his chilled body's warmth. The shower had helped, but not *quite* enough -- somehow the lake's chill had seeped into his bones, it felt. Still, there was hope that Dorian's fire would help to finish thawing him out, and if not, Dorian himself would.

There was only a single lamp on in the living room, but that was typical of Dorian, somehow. It helped to instill that sense of romance that the other man liked, and Klaus wasn't going to yell at him about it. How could he, when he was laying on a blanket in front of the fireplace in the white silk pajamas that absolutely made his heart flutter with a tray of sandwiches and coffee next to him? *Waiting* for Klaus to be beside him.

"Hi."

"You're not cold in that?" Klaus asked him as he padded across the wooden floor, onto the living-room rug. Coffee? Dorian could be painfully thoughtful at times, though Klaus suspected Dorian did things like this as much for his own comfort as for Klaus's. He sat down beside the earl, and patted the reclining man's stomach with a smile. "Hello. Been waiting long?"

"Forever." It was said teasingly, but the double meaning was unmistakable even as Dorian smiled at him. "I was hungry, and I figured coffee and sandwiches wouldn't be a bad idea. Watched the weather. They say it's going to rain..."

"If I thought you could control the weather, I'd suspect you've orchestrated it all from the cold water to the rain," Klaus murmured as he picked up a cup of the coffee -- the one that was nearly black, assuming the pale brown colored cup was Dorian's, half cream, half coffee.

Those blue eyes became wide, innocent, remarkably, startlingly gorgeous. "Would I do a thing like that?" Dorian murmured.

"Maybe -- if it rains, there would be no way to even bother doing anything else today but sit here," Klaus said, as if Dorian needed reminding of that wonderful fact. "The Alphabet have been gone long enough that we won't have to worry about them turning around for any reason."

The smile that gained him was positively wanton as Dorian laid back, gaze gleaming up at him from beneath golden lashes. "Mmmhmmmmmm..." Klaus's hand was still on his belly and he felt almost as if he should be purring in response.

Klaus seemed only half aware of his touching Dorian there, as he took a sip of the coffee, letting it settle warmly into his system. "Have... you read any of those books?"

"Started some of them," Dorian admitted. "I haven't learned anything I didn't know already, but I've only just started..." He'd begun with the rape trauma books, and those were things both of them had already been dealing with since they'd left Germany. Guilt wasn't new, the feelings of just being disgusting and dirty that had been contended with... nothing new, really. But apparently it was normal, and there was something vaguely reassuring about that.

"Hmn. If you learn anything interesting, tell me," Klaus mused.

"I will." It was a promise, spoken solemnly, Dorian looking at him with serious expression. "Klaus. Are you pleased to be here, this way, now? With me?" It was a question meant solely for reassurance for both of them, and in some ways it was meant as an overture.

"You mean here in American with you... like this?" 'This' being the way they were about everything and about each other. "I... yeah. I am."

"I'm glad." The way those words parted his lips, the look of them as they curved upward, the expression of cat-that-ate-the-canary on Dorian's face... "Kiss me, Klaus." It was a whisper, an invitation, a need.

A kiss wasn't so hard for him to grant, though he first moved the coffee cups aside, and the plate Dorian had made up. Then he leaned in and over Dorian, pressing his mouth against the earl's inviting lips.

"Klaus..." It was a prayer barely heard and mostly felt as Dorian yielded to him beautifully, back arching slightly to press them together, his hands moving to lightly tug the German man closer. It was a delicious touch, the way his arms wrapped around broad shoulders, caresses stealing down Klaus's spine. "Mmmm..."

"I won't ever hurt you again, Dorian," Klaus murmured when he pulled back from the kiss. His body was fairly screaming at him to do more than just kiss the blond man, while his mind was screaming at him to stop. "You... you're beautiful, and I swear I won't ever hurt you again..."

"I love you." Those words were meant as much as they had ever been, Dorian's fingers lightly caressing over him. "I know. You... wouldn't hurt me by touching me, Klaus. I promise. If you could, I'd tell you..."

"Tell me what?" Klaus pressed softly, leaning down again to take another kiss.

"If you were... ohhhhh...." That was little more than a sigh, Dorian shifting to squirm slightly beneath him, fingers working up into Klaus's hair. "If you were hurting me," he managed to say, shivering. "I would tell you if you were hurting me..."

"I don't want to know -- I mean, I wouldn't want to find out if I were, I don't want to even get that close..." Klaus shuddered as he shifted closer to Dorian.

"I want you to touch me," Dorian told him tenderly, hands stroking down his side. "I want... I want to feel you against me, close, hot... I love you so..."

Klaus was terribly glad for warm pajamas just then, shivering at the touch for a moment. /'You see, it begins this way. It is always best to show a little of what you may do, do you not think, Eroica?'... No, no, he's not Stasi, he's Dorian, he's.../ Perhaps it was too blatantly sexual for Klaus just then, not as secure as their shared bed -- but for whatever reason, Klaus was assailed with thoughts and flickers of the humiliations pressed onto them.

The shiver went unnoticed, Dorian offering himself up to Klaus's hands, his kisses. "I love you," he whispered. "I love you. I love you..."

What to do? To... to give into memories of things that Dorian had told him were wrong, that shouldn't be the way they had been, or to give in to Dorian...? "I know," he whispered, seeing in his mind's eye the fear and pain that had been on Dorian's face when they were cutting his fingers off. With another shudder he just closed his eye and settled against Dorian, grasp a crushing one.

"...Klaus?" The sound of his name was questioning, worried. Dorian was still touching him, but the feel of those hands were now simply rubbing his back, slowly, carefully. "Are... you all right?"

"I..." God, Dorian had just been touching him, and now... "I'll be fine," he said quietly, a denial of what was wrong. "Just... wait..."

"Are you sure?" That sounded hesitant, and he hated to hear Dorian sounding that way!

"No." Harder still to say that *back* in the face of Dorian's hesitance; but Klaus at least wasn't letting him go, even as he shook again. "'m not sure of anything, just... you wouldn't hurt me like that, would you?"

The little hiccoughing gasp of breath that he heard accompanied by the slight stiffening of Dorian's body was inevitable. "Never." It was a defeated little sound, Dorian's grasp on him loosening, the feel of him withdrawing almost physical as he lay beneath Klaus, eyes shut tightly in an attempt to keep a sudden wash of tears from flooding over, escaping. "Never. Never. Never. Never..."

"Dorian, I didn't mean that you would! I meant... I don't know what hurts or not, if it's supposed to, or..." He was still unsteady as he pulled back enough to press a kiss to Dorian's mouth, a gentle brush of lips. "I'm sorry, I'm so fucking sorry, Dorian..."

"I would die before I'd hurt you, and be glad of it," Dorian told him, brow remaining tightly knit, eyes closed. "Just die. I couldn't bear it if I knew I'd hurt you..."

"I wasn't thinking -- I'm sorry. I just remembered..." Remembered what the Stasi had said, and just asked to be *sure*. "I need you -- you wouldn't hurt me, and I wouldn't hurt you..."

"I'd die first," Dorian whispered to him again, damp eyes opening to look up at him. "You do believe me, don't you?"

"I believe you," Klaus said tightly, taking another brushing buss of a kiss. /You wouldn't hurt me willingly... / "It's just so hard to believe it wouldn't hurt... but I know you wouldn't."

"It doesn't, you know." Dorian's hands were on his face, lightly tracing his features. The conversation was absurd, speaking of sex as 'it', as if they couldn't say that word between them. "At least, not that way. It..." How could he make Klaus understood that it hurt in a *good* way? He didn't think he could. "It's just different. It's not like that."

"Sometime... we will," Klaus murmured, still not sure of *that*, as he finally started to relax again. "Sometime. But for now... what we do is all right." The awkwardness, Klaus knew, probably stemmed from himself more than Dorian -- but at least he sensed it and knew it wasn't normal to skirt the topic the way he did.

The whisper that responded was soft, quietly spoken. "I know. I'm sorry if you thought I was pushing you, Klaus..."

"I didn't just... sometimes I remember things." It was lame to say that, Klaus knew, but it was the truth, given sincerely as he laid down beside Dorian completely.

"What happened," Dorian said, turning on his side slightly and reaching for his coffee cup. "We... I don't want to think about it or talk about it or deal with it but I know that we have to, at least with one another..."

"I know... I know," Klaus sighed shakily, watching Dorian's movements. "Just... I don't know what we need to do, or how..."

A finger lightly traced his jawline. "Talk about it. Just... I don't know, either. In your arms, it might not be as terrible. It will never be good."

"Never...?" Klaus was tracking Dorian's face and expressions with his careful gaze, frowning intensely. "I don't... want something if you wouldn't enjoy it."

Blue eyes widened slightly. "I'm sorry, darling. I meant that talking about what had happened would never be good. Not... *that*." The slight flush on his face and his sheepish expression said it all. "No, I think *that*, with you, would have to be absolutely miraculous," he finished in a whisper. "Nothing at all like the other."

"I don't think I could ever do... that unless I... had things figured out more..." Which he obviously still didn't.

"Would you like... for me to tell you about it?" Dorian murmured, looking at him thoughtfully.

"I..." That thought made him more on edge, more nervous, but he nodded, sitting up on his elbows to look at the screened in fireplace. "Just.... yes."

Laying back, Dorian watched him, head turned to the side. "Mmm. How to start?" he murmured to himself, expression thoughtful. "D'you know, I think I was only fourteen the first time I did it. Just a boy, really. I didn't know what you were supposed to do then, and that hurt, but not...." His voice trailed off momentarily into silence. "Not like what you saw. Even that was more of just a discomfort, of not knowing, not of consciously trying to hurt someone..." He paused, looking at Klaus. "Touching a man is so different from touching a woman, or so I'm told. You don't have to worry about a man breaking, somehow. I've never worried about that, one way and another. It starts the way we start, the way we touch, the way we kiss. It goes on from there, an infinite number of ways..."

"It could go wrong an infinite number of ways," Klaus said almost mournfully. "Will everything we do feel as good as what... we already do?" Naive, idiotic questions to ask, but Dorian wouldn't laugh at him -- he knew Klaus well enough to know the wondering was true and *real*, not just a game of some sort. Klaus simply didn't know.

"Sometimes," Dorian told him truthfully. "Everything feels different from one person to the next, so something I like that feels good to me may feel uncomfortable to you, and you might not want to do that. So, you would do whatever it was to me, if you wanted, but I would do something different, something you liked better, for you. Making love is a lot of learning, give and take. Experiment."

"Experiment," Klaus murmured to himself. "We... should experiment, as far as we can get, before..." Before one of them just couldn't anymore.

That gained him a smile, Dorian looking at him solemnly. "Whenever you're ready. I enjoy being touched, when it isn't meant to be a cruelty..."

"Touched like... you liked the last time we were upstairs?" He meant when they were in bed together, doing things, not the last time they slept... though that was enjoyable in its own way. Safety and a feeling of protecting, being protected, needed and needing.

"Yes," the other man replied simply.

"That did feel good," Klaus agreed, turning to his side, weight on his better left arm, so he was facing Dorian. "Do we do that... the way it's normal to?"

Dorian smiled at him, nodding his head in its nest of curls. "We did it the way it felt good. That's always the right way."

"It... it's morally wrong, what we do," Klaus said -- his last, wavering line of defense... that he shot down himself. "But we've never fit in, have we?"

"No." It was said gently, easily, Dorian's head shaking at him slightly as the other man smiled up at him. "But we aren't hurting anyone. How wrong can that be?"

"We're... helping each other." Klaus's took Dorian's thought a step further -- a necessary step to be taken. "It... helps you, doesn't it?" /It helps me./

"Yes."

"Then it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks," Klaus murmured, leaning slowly towards Dorian -- he wanted to touch the other man, but didn't want to disturb his drinking the coffee.

The way that Dorian's lips curled upward, inviting him, made it impossible to resist the draw. Coffee was abandoned in favor of tasting that mouth, warm and pliant, tasting of coffee and cream. "Mmm..."

"'s good," Klaus breathed against Dorian's hum of air, putting his right hand down on the other side of Dorian as he settled in to 'explore' properly. Dorian's mouth was a warm cavern that invited him in, clean-tasting and heatedly slick, and the other man was infinitely willing when it came to Klaus touching him. It was easy, then, to kiss him, taste him, to contemplate touching him and the possibility that he would enjoy it immensely.

And maybe after a little exploring of Dorian, he could get himself to relax enough and let Dorian do the same to him. The thief would *never* turn on him, or hurt him... Klaus pulled back from the kiss to meet Dorian's gaze with his own half-gaze, hands going to pull up the tunic of Dorian's pajamas. "Can I?"

The answer was husky, blue eyes half-lidded in the growing gloom of the evening, a little smile chasing the Briton's mouth. "Yes."

It was pulled up easily, with Dorian's help, and Klaus set it aside; and then moved the coffee further out of reach. No spills of breaks were needed. "You're beautiful."

Dorian had never thought that two words such as that would ever be anything that he would do more than take for granted. He trembled slightly, a hand stroking up his belly to run lightly across puckered nipples, teasing at them for Klaus's enjoyment. "Thank you," he whispered, tongue darting out to moisten lips gone dry.

"Why thank me?" Klaus asked him, setting his hand atop Dorian's, shifting to simply be closer.

Lightly, his fingers were taken in the other man's hand, cupped to brush them over tiny hard bits of flesh, drawing a little sound of pure pleasure from Dorian. "B...because... I'm glad you... Oh, Klaus, I'm glad you think so!"

Klaus let himself be guided so, finally moving his maimed hand of its own volition to rub those two fingers with a careful tenderness over Dorian's nipples. First one, then the other, and then he circled them a bit -- they perked up even more, if it was possible. "You are."

"I love you." The words seemed so important for Dorian to say, and they just seemed to come out of him completely naturally. His eyes were closed by then, body writhing up beneath Klaus's touch as he sighed softly. "Oh, God, that feels so good..."

He remembered some of the things the Stasi had done to Dorian, and instantly decided to not do more than just rub those nubs; at least, until the thought struck to lean down and kiss the nearest one lightly. "Feels good?"

The reaction that gained him was a cry, given quietly, and a rock of Dorian's body. "Yes!" he moaned, shivering. "Oh, yes! Klaus!!!" He was so sensitive. He always had been, but now it seemed somehow even worse, perhaps because Klaus was touching him and it felt so good and was so very different from some of what had been done to him. Another kiss like that followed, and then over on the other one, two slow, lingering kisses, before Klaus began to trace up. Over collarbone and the dip of Dorian's neck, he moved slowly, exploring relentlessly. "Please, Klaus..." It was prettily said and just as prettily meant. "Please, Klaus, *please*..."

"Please what?" Klaus asked, lifting his head from the warm skin of Dorian's neck.

"Kiss me," Dorian sighed. "Touch me... *more*..."

"More... Dorian, I don't know..." How to do *more* or what was okay yet.... His voice trailed off in a bewildered tone until he pressed a little closer and felt Dorian's erection against his thigh. /More./

"Anywhere," Dorian told him, leaning to steal Klaus's lips, to kiss him ravenously. "You can touch me anywhere. I'm..." He sighed, shivering. "Very sensitive today. Anywhere will feel good to me, Klaus..."

"Just pleasure?" he pressed, tone minutely worried as he shifted to kiss Dorian again, hand creeping slowly down Dorian's lean belly, to the inside of his waistband. The sound of Dorian whimpering, the feel of a nod, was enough to reassure him when accompanied by the hand that moved to lightly touch his elbow, seeming to direct him to go farther.

He did, hand meeting slick flesh. Dorian was hard, a little slick, and wanting... He let his hand slip down more to stroke the length once, at the same time he kissed Dorian's nipple. That gained him a cry, an arching of Dorian's body, one that was distinctly pleasure, completely and totally enjoyable. "KLAUS! OH! God, *yes*!!"

It was an assailing of pleasure that didn't let up. Klaus stroked again, and then wrapped his hand around Dorian's cock, pumping his awkward grasp over it the best he could. /He feels good. So damn good... and he's enjoying it as much as I am -- this can work, we can *make* this work..../

"Please, Klaus... please, Klaus, please, Klaus, *please*, *please*!!" The pleading was sweet to him, Dorian's arms reaching for him, caressing over chest and shoulders, upper arms, the blond man's moans and rocking motions unbearably erotic. "Yes...!" answering Dorian's cries, Klaus picked up the pace of the stroking, rubbing his thumb of the slick head as he kissed more at Dorian's chest. He *wanted* so badly to bring Dorian to pleasure...

It seemed almost too easy, the steady rock and thrust of hips shifting up to his touch sending his slim lover closer to the edge with every motion, and when Dorian's arms wrapped around him, face pressed tightly to his neck, he knew it was close. It didn't stop him in the least; except, he wanted to see Dorian's face in that pleasure again, not to have it hidden against his neck, where he could barely feel it and not see it at all. /Another time... not... not now.../ Positioned like that, he couldn't do more than kiss at Dorian's temple and stroke still, barely a thought spared to him having to add those pajamas to the wash of the next day.

The sound of Dorian's breath hitching, little mewls of absolute bliss coming from him, were almost enough for Klaus. Seconds later, the other man came, hips rocking wildly to that two-fingered touch, hands clutching him closely. "U...unh!!"

It took perhaps another few minutes for Klaus to pull his hand free, the semen drying on his fingers wiped on the edge of their shared blanket. "That felt good."

"Mmmmm," Dorian managed to get out in agreement, smiling at him drowsily. "Shall I do it for you? See if you like it...?"

"Yeah," Klaus agreed, but he didn't pull back to lay down until he took another kiss from Dorian with almost desperate force. It didn't seem to bother the other man, though; Dorian only yielded to him before moving closer to him, fingers lightly plucking at the buttons of his pajama top.

"May I?" he asked politely, just to be certain.

"Please." Klaus laid on his back, hands holding Dorian's waist lightly. Just to give them something to do, he supposed, and to take comfort from a little sense of control.

"I want to kiss you everywhere," Dorian murmured, nuzzling the buttons open slightly, following words with action, smatterings of kisses following his fingers. "I want to taste your skin. I want to please you..."

"Ohhh... if it doesn't hurt, then it's good... you're so good," Klaus sighed, arching a little against those sweet touches.

"Love you..." Those words always came to Klaus, always, and the steady nuzzle of Dorian searching across his scarred pectorals was somehow delicious in conjunction with them.

"'s good, too." A sigh of air, and he let his eye close in relaxation as he let out a pleasured huff of breath. His better hand slid up from Dorian's waist to press at the back of his shoulder.

"Darling..." Mouth latched onto those scarred bits of nipples, the reaction there not as prominent as Dorian's, but no less a sign of pleasure as he nuzzled, suckling slightly at the first of them. "Mmm.."

"Ahh, yes... feels odd, but..." But he arched again, pressing Dorian closer -- but it felt perfect, sending an odd spark from the spot, down to his groin. THAT gained the blond man a little noise, one he recognized as approval, and he nearly purred, fingers plucking at the waistband of Klaus's pajamas even as he kissed lightly at the other man's diaphragm.

/Oh, Klaus.../

He could feel the sharp breath Klaus drew, and then feel it let out by slow degrees. "Ah, God... Dorian, you don't have to if you don't... "

"Shhh," Dorian soothed him, fingers already at work on the buttons. "Tell me if I do something that makes you uncomfortable or hurts you..." That was the last thing he said, mouth leaving a warm, damp trail behind, the caress of tongue and lips infinitely delicious as they made their way down to his navel and just below it.

"What're you..." He slitted open his eye, and lifted his head a little, and then closed his eye, putting his head back down just as quickly as he'd peeked at the earl. Lips there tickled slickly, close to... No, Dorian didn't mean to do that, did he?!

The slow tug to remove underwear and pajama bottoms seemed to indicate that he *did*, though, and when those lips trailed down to the pubic hair cradling his heavy erection, it was almost enough to send Klaus into a paroxysm of nervousness. "It's all right," Dorian told him soothingly, feeling him tense slightly. "You'll like this, darling," he whispered, lightly kissing the shaft.

Like it?! Klaus drew a sharp breath, gasping loudly from the intensity of feeling that shot through him from that simple kiss. "Oh, God, ohhh, Christ..."

The feel of that soft mouth taking him in, heated, wet, was nearly enough to kill him, much less the image of it in his mind. Pink lips, soft, suckling at him, and it felt so damned *good*... *SO* good, incredible, and trying to remain still was simply impossible, especially given the soft sounds of pleasure that were spilling from Dorian. Those, accompanied by the resumption of the erection so lately tended to, said much about his lover's own enjoyment.

This was just what the Stasi officer had felt when he'd been in Dorian's mouth -- had to be, such a dragging heat and tender suckling... but it wasn't hurting Dorian like the Stasi had. Was there so much difference...? Klaus didn't think on it long -- just let the thought flick through his mind, in and back out again, as he tried hard to not move his hips up to the tight pleasure. All the while, he bit back at his own sounds of pleasure, but there was enough to hear that Dorian knew it was right. The feel of Dorian's hand moved up his side, seeking out his own and twining them together even as his left took up stroking behind the dampness of his mouth, and that somehow made things even better, more difficult to resist.

Hand clutched in hand let Klaus free some of his body's tension in a clenching tight grasp, lips parting as he quietly choked back noises of need until he couldn't manage it anymore. Halfway through a tentative rocking up to Dorian's lips, he felt the tightening of his groin that told him he was done for, and an increase in suction seemed to be timed perfectly to meet that need. He came in a wash of exhilaration, unable to stop himself, and Dorian swallowed most of it, lapping up the few drops that had spilled a moment later before shifting to cradle himself against Klaus's side.

"Not so bad?" he whispered.

"It felt so good," he shuddered, turning minutely to curl against Dorian in turn, only absently pulling his pajama bottoms back in place. "You... didn't have to do that... But... thank you." /And I didn't hurt you, did I?/

Fingers caressed over Klaus's face, those blue eyes watching him warmly. "You taste delicious," he whispered, breathing in deeply. "I've always wanted to do that, with you. It was... perfect."

"It wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be," Klaus murmured, moving nearer to kiss Dorian properly for such sheer pleasure.

The taste of what they'd just done was on the other man's lips, but it never occurred to Dorian *not* to kiss Klaus in return. It was salty, slightly musky, and strangely mixed with the taste that was purely Dorian and coffee, somehow a good thing. "Mmmm..." THAT Noise was definitely a good one!

Tasting Dorian and coffee with it somehow diluted it; Klaus knew he wasn't ready to taste *just* that. Not yet. For a few lazy moments, he let his mouth twine warmly with Dorian's, before breaking the kiss. "I suppose we'll be lazy and lay here all day."

"Might be nice if we ate our sandwiches," Dorian told him, obviously satisfied with himself. "I can heat up our coffee. We can lay here and just... play. Talk. Whatever."

"Talk. We... we should talk more; it helps," Klaus said, half-reminding him of that reality -- that the talking helped a little more every time. Even if it wasn't about what had happened, just *talking* often cleared things up.

"What should we talk about?" Dorian asked him, propping himself up on an elbow. "Where should we start?" It was an opportunity purely to see what Klaus would say, and curiosity was certainly there.

"That's the problem. I don't know where." Dorian could *feel* Klaus's sigh, even if he couldn't hear it. "Do you?"

"Do you...think we can talk about what happened? Yet?" came the hesitant suggestion.

"I... could." Klaus was contemplative as he murmured that quietly after a moment's hesitation. "I just... don't know where to start."

A little release of breath, not quite a laugh, spilled from Dorian. "Yeah. That's the trouble, isn't it? Where to start. D'you know..." He tried to pick any one moment. "I really thought we were going to die when that door shut and the gas came on, though. I did. And I had to tell you, then, that I loved you. I knew we weren't getting out of there somehow."

"I kept shooting at the window until I passed out," Klaus murmured -- perhaps Dorian hadn't know it. "I didn't even think that we were... going to die; I just couldn't get us out."

"Maybe it was scarier to think that we *wouldn't* die than that we would," the other man said softly, looking into the flickering of the fire. "There wasn't any way to get out, once we were in. That was nobody's fault. They'd planned very well."

"Hmn, I know," Klaus sighed, "which makes me question the orders I was given to carry out the strikes in such a... traceable manner. I'd almost think... someone higher up wanted us to get burned in this."

Blue eyes looked at him seriously. "You think we were set up."

The German man shifted to lay back, nodding. "I thought the orders were idiotic from the start; if one facility gets broken into, won't the others up their security? Each night we were closer and closer to getting caught... I should have aborted it before we reached the point we did."

"I suppose there are lots of things we *should* have done," Dorian said quietly. "We didn't, though. We did just what we're known for -- charged right in with full intentions of finishing it all and damn the consequences."

"And now the consequences are damning us." He hadn't meant to say it aloud -- only meant to think it, but the words left him anyway, much to his chagrin. "But 's all right. We manage."

The slight tremor of Dorian's lips said much about his reaction to those words. "Yes."

A shift, and Klaus pulled Dorian against him, sitting up a little more. There was always comfort in the other's warmth, the feel of skin against skin. "So it isn't either of our faults that we got caught."

"Do you really think we're damned?" Dorian asked him softly, uncertainly. "We're neither one of us anything but atheists. We'd be damned for that alone if we could be, so what would this matter?"

"I didn't mean it literally," Klaus murmured, stroking a hand along Dorian's side. "I just meant that for once the consequences actually amounted to something."

"Mmm." That was true, and Dorian smiled at him slightly. "I'm glad." He glanced up at the ceiling, hidden now in shadows. "I don't think I've ever felt anything that hurt so much. You?"

"Never." Nothing had ever hurt more than his fingers being removed, the humiliation of being touched in such a way by a stranger and enemy, and the pain of his eye being ruined, which had passed him right out. "I never thought something could hurt so much."

Carefully, Dorian shifted himself more firmly into Klaus's grasp, pressed tightly to him. "I used to think about it sometimes. About what it would be like to be... not hurt, but to be *forced*. Held down and... and..." He shuddered, hard, clinging. "I never really thought it would happen. I didn't really ever want it. But I thought about it. And sometimes, I wonder, if thinking about it was why it happened. If I made it happen..."

"That's not why things happen." Klaus kept his voice even as he said those words, even though he closed his eye. Against the high half-window a few feet away, he could hear the reverberation of rain bouncing.

"I know." It was barely whispered, but he could feel Dorian against him, trembling. "I know. It's one of those things I can't help but think, though... that maybe it all really *is* my fault. I know it isn't, intellectually, but..." He sighed, nuzzling against Klaus. "Knowing it isn't and feeling as if it *is*... that's hard."

"Ja." He understood that just as well as Dorian did, the need/urge to put all the blame on yourself. "I just keep thinking... I... *we* did what we were supposed to, but..." But it hadn't gotten him anything but discharged for it. All that suffering to protect NATO, and nothing in return but a kick in the balls. "You didn't know anything to tell them."

Dorian gave a little sound, soft. "I wouldn't have told them anything even if I had..."

"I know you wouldn't have -- but it... it wasn't even your fight," Klaus decided at last -- yes, that was why it bothered him so much. "You were a civilian."

"A contractor," Dorian corrected gently. "*Your* contractor. And they knew it."

"You shouldn't have come with me -- if you hadn't come with me..." Then it would only be *him* suffering the risks of his job.

"You couldn't have gone without me." He felt more than saw the smile that Dorian gave him; a brave one, really, against his throat. "I would've chased after you, anyway. Besides, if I hadn't..." If he hadn't been there, they might have done to Klaus what they'd done to *him*, and he wasn't sure he could've borne that terrible knowledge. It would have been his fault if that had happened, simply for *not* being there.

Or they simply might have killed Klaus -- and no one would have been wiser, because no thieves would have been there to alert the Alphabet.

"I know. But then you... you'd be fine," Klaus told him.

"Not without you," Dorian replied almost sadly. "I'd never be fine without you."

"It isn't... like anything can be changed. I'm not going to leave you, you wouldn't leave me, not now." He turned his head a little, brushing his lips against Dorian's soft curls. "I'm much warmer now." /Than I was before everything happened./ But if Dorian wanted to reference back to the lake, that was all right, too.

"I still love you," Dorian told him softly. "I love you even more now than I did before. I really didn't think that was possible."

"Why more?"

How to explain it? "Because now, you're... you care for me. You don't revile me or not want me. It makes it better," he murmured quietly.

Perhaps it was a skirting explanation, but it seemed to work for Klaus. "I'm glad you do. It's helped a lot."

"Klaus..." His voice was deliciously deep, almost rumbling against Klaus's throat. "When we go after him... what will we do?"

"Sneak into his house, catch him and tie him up," Klaus replied slowly, pleased thoroughly by that idea. "And then take care of him."

The sound of that was ominous, but it didn't make Dorian so much as flinch. "I want to go in first. He won't be expecting you now that you aren't NATO. He doesn't know we're going to be contracting together..."

"Go in first...? What do you mean?"

Dorian shifted, moving his head away from Klaus to look him in the eye. "I'll go in before you and distract him. That way, you can come in a different way and surprise him."

"I don't want you alone with that sicko for even a minute!" Klaus's voice rose in level as he held Dorian still, expression bewildered. "No!"

"It would be easier for you then," Dorian told him, his own face earnest. "He wouldn't be expecting you, would he? If I was there and he thought I was alone. Klaus. I trust you to keep me safe..."

"Dorian, I don't want you in that kind of risk!" How could he get the Englishman to understand *that*, the urge to protect as much as possible. "I want you to come with me, but what if something goes wrong? We shouldn't separate when doing something like that..."

"I trust you," Dorian told him again quietly, holding Klaus's right hand with his left, pressed against his heart. "Nothing will go wrong. No one will be expecting us now. *HE* won't be expecting us now...."

Klaus's expression was miserable when he finally nodded to that. "Fine. We'll do it that way. but we won't charge into this one -- I'll get detailed layouts, we'll stake out his activities for a few nights..."

"It will work," Dorian told him softly. "I know it will."

"We'll do it, then." Klaus pulled Dorian closer again, and laid back down on the blanket. "Let's just... go back to relaxing."

A deep sigh sounded, acquiescent. "I feel a little better, I think," Dorian decided.

"You do?" Klaus wanted to be sure he hadn't just riled things up -- that Dorian truly did feel better for the talk.

"Yeah." A deep sigh came from him. "I guess because I was worried, because I'd thought about it and it had happened..."

"I never thought about having my fingers cut off," Klaus mused grimly, holding Dorian close. "Or what it would be like to be interrogated by the Stasi."

"...I know," Dorian said, head cradled against Klaus's shoulder. "I know. It will get better. It has to. It already *has*, some, mostly because of you. When you touch me, I don't have to think... about the other."

"Don't think about that -- not... I'm just worried that what we do isn't really so different from what happened." Klaus peered at the fire, resting his cheek atop Dorian's curls. "Hmn. I think I need to add wood to the fire... and maybe put a record on? We can rifle through the records that're in the cabinet and see if there's anything worth playing."

A deep sigh sounded. "That would be lovely," Dorian told him a little sleepily. "You know, what we do's nothing at all like that. Not in the remotest. You wouldn't ever hurt me. I know. I have faith in you." It didn't matter that Klaus had done so before; that didn't come into the situation anymore, and it wouldn't ever again.

"Faith... I've never had faith in someone as much as I have in you," Klaus breathed as he started to pull away to tend to the fire. "Never. Even... when we were at odds, I trusted that you'd come through."

That gained him a chuckle. "And I always knew just what you'd say when we were done, too. I never really believed you meant any of it, though."

"I got angry," Klaus shrugged. He *still* did, but now it was more often at himself. "So, what did we decide we were doing next?"

"A record," Dorian answered him teasingly. "But from here, we're going to Greece, darling."

"Mm -- I should book our flight, then," Klaus told him as he got up to his knees and moved to tend the fire. "And figure out a place to stay there."

"Tell you what. Why not take a boat? I can have James make the reservations when he figures out what to do in Greece. I'm sure he'll get the best price. You know how he is," Dorian said.

"Not someone I want to deal with," Klaus agreed as he put a new log carefully atop the already burning ones, keeping it just so that air could circle through. "Why a boat, though?"

A shrug and a smile answered him. "It's romantic, relaxing. Knowing James, we'll end up taking one from here down to Florida and then across to Greece. I'd imagine it's cheaper that way," Dorian said contemplatively.

"The more connections, the cheaper it is," Klaus agreed with a curling smile that Dorian couldn't see. He checked that the flue was open with a set of the prongs, and then closed the metal screen. "I think I'm actually happy. I mean really contented and happy."

"I'm glad that I make you that way," Dorian drawled, smiling up at him even as he sat up to reach for a sandwich half. "I'll go warm up our coffee while you look through the records..."

"Sounds perfect. The way the rain's falling, I wouldn't be surprised if the lake rose up and ate the garage," Klaus uttered, standing fully. Only then was he really aware of the fact that his pajama top was open, parted still from when Dorian had kissed him so. /Want. This... this is what everyone says is so great about sex./

"Hmmm..." His lover rose with him, kissing his collarbone lightly before gathering their cups. "Be right back."

That teasing kiss more than made him shudder -- Klaus was desperately glad that *he* wasn't the one with the cups. /Music. Find music..../ Klaus walked towards the cabinet he'd been told about, and opened the two doors. Record player, and... a cardboard box of records to dig through. By the time Dorian had gotten back, Klaus had been through most of them and picked out a pile. "What's hiding there, love?" he asked lightly, kneeling down with coffee in both hands.

"Not a lot -- some classical -- Vivaldi's four seasons, Beethoven's ninth, 'Jethro Tull' and a lot of Burl Ives. I pulled out the better classical and Jethro Tull." Four records total, shown to Dorian. 'Songs of the Woods' was at top, a smallish man with a flute on the front.

"Take your pick, then. I'm familiar enough with the classical stuff..."

It shouldn't have been too hard to guess what he'd put on, given the record that was on the top. "All right. Do you want me to bring a couple of books down...? We could fold out the sofa and lay there..."

"That sounds marvelous. I'll pull it out while you get the books, then," Dorian said firmly.

/If the Alphabet ever knew that *I* had suggested something so decadent as laying around for the day.../ The record was already playing, though, so he started up the stairs, and snagged a book for each of them. The Dragon and the George for himself, and the thriller novel for Dorian. By the time he got back downstairs, the bed was out, blanket on it, and Dorian was finishing off the sandwich half he'd started on before, drinking his coffee and still seated before the fire.

"Oh, thank you!" he said, smiling. "That was just the book I wanted!"

"I think you would have said that if I'd brought you a dictionary!" Klaus chuckled softly, holding the book out to Dorian as he moved to pick up his own coffee.

"Probably, but that'd just mean that *I* got to nap while *you* read," Dorian pointed out to him.

"Hmn -- perhaps you're right. Then again... perhaps I wouldn't mind, cat-man," Klaus teased as he moved to stretch out his long legs on the pulled out sofa bed.

Laughing, Dorian moved to join him, flicking on a second lamp before curling up on his side near Klaus, enjoying the feel of being close to him. "This is perfect," he sighed. "Just perfect."

"Ja."

God help him, it was perfect -- a joy, and sickeningly domestic to lay there with Dorian, reading and warmed by both burning logs and his companion's presence.

It was a comfortable road that he thought he'd never come across in his life.

Chapter 17 by Kat and Tzigane
"It's BEAUTIFUL," Dorian declared in a rush, peeking out of the porthole in their cabin. James, God love him, had been glad about their taking a boat back until he'd realized that Dorian hadn't meant stowing away on one. Then, he'd gone to work finding the best accommodations for the cheapest price. THAT meant quite a few stops down the Eastern seaboard and in the tropics before heading towards Greece, but that was all right. It just meant more time spent with Klaus!!

"*And* you can't steal it," Klaus observed smugly as he moved to pull Dorian away from the porthole. "Let's go up on the deck? You say the same thing every time you look out the porthole."

"Well," Dorian laughed. "Every time I look out the porthole, there's something beautiful there!"

"You nearly blew out my eardrum when you saw the dolphin," Klaus agreed, tugging at his shoulders. "You can see more up *top*."

"Coming, Klaus," Dorian said with mocking obedience, teasing at him. Being on board ship had been marvelous fun. There was something about travelling on water that leant to excellent sleep, and he had enjoyed that!

His hand was snatched up in Klaus's, and the German led him out of their comfortable cabin. It wasn't one of the best, but it was still *FAR* better than Klaus had expected of James -- perhaps he was still concerned for Dorian's mental health. The best part of being led out of the cabin by Klaus was the other man's shorts. Hot weather made them a necessity, and Klaus was actually wearing shorts and a t-shirt. "You know," Dorian told him conversationally, "you're AWFULLY cute that way."

"Cute what way?" Klaus asked, looking over his shoulder a tiny bit to Dorian.

"In those shorts," was the nearly besotted reply. "You've got the cutest bu..."

"Dorian!!" But he still ended up with what he'd wanted -- Klaus's cheeks glowing to life, and a scowl.

"It's *true*," came the amused response. "Very cute."

"I don't see how that can be *cute*," the German scowled pridefully, even as he started up the narrow stairwell, then thought twice of it -- and let Dorian go up first.

"Trust me," Dorian told him, heading up in front of him, his own khaki shorts clinging just *so*. "I know cute when I see it, and *that's* definitely *cute*."

"Since I can't see it, I can't agree with you," Klaus told him, following close behind. Dorian's bottom wasn't cute -- it was sultry, begging for touch... which meant it wasn't cute.

Once they got to the top, Dorian paused, *smiling* rather wickedly at him. "Maybe we'll have to show you sometime then. I'm sure we can find a mirror that'll make it easy, darling..."

It was hard to tell if he was serious about it or not, so Klaus only thinned his lips and spared Dorian a shrug as they moved onto the deck. "Maybe sometime."

"Maybe soon?" Dorian teased, glancing back at him.

"You're terrible," he chuckled, picking up his pace to drag Dorian towards the back of the ship to look out over the rail.

"I know." It was purely agreement, amusement, in fact. Dorian loved being terrible and he loved being terrible when Klaus least expected it. That had always been one of his favorite hobbies. "I'm glad we're almost to the last port. I can't wait to get to Greece!"

"You'd better not be heading there just to steal something," Klaus scowled as he leaned against the railing. Dorian was kept neatly at his side as Klaus let go of the earl's hand and slid his arm around Dorian's waist.

"Would I do that to you, darling?" came the arch response, Dorian pleasantly surprised as always by Klaus's lack of fear over public touch. He loved it, it made him disgustingly happy. /Life can't get better than this.../

"If the painting caught your interest or the sculpture was rare enough, yes," Klaus reminded him agreeably. It didn't bother him so much as it did before -- stealing was just a part of Dorian. If he wanted the man's company, he had to deal with the man's stealing, just as Dorian dealt with Klaus's personality flaws.

"Sorry, Klaus," came the sheepish yet not *truly* apologetic reply. "You're right. I confess!"

"I hate to say it, but I never thought I wouldn't be right about that." Getting Dorian to stop stealing would be like stopping the sun from rising. It just wasn't worth the effort, in the end, because why bother when all you'd end up with was darkness?

"Mmmmm," was what passed for agreement, Dorian leaning forward against the railing. "It's beautiful today," he sighed, grateful for the fact that they were mostly alone where they were. No one to look at them or point or anything like that...

"It's calm out," Klaus agreed, smiling just a little as he peered around over the boat's wake. "Hopefully we won't end up hijacked somehow. It hasn't been a bad trip so far."

That brought one of Dorian's blond brows up sharply, his smile at Klaus brilliant. "Don't say things like that, darling, you'll jinx us. Knock on wood or something when you do!"

"I don't think we have to worry, Dorian," Klaus drawled, "Because with our luck, we're already jinxed."

"Thank you for that bright outlook," Dorian replied dryly, shaking his head. "Who knows? It could get better!

"The Pope could become a Satanist, the Americans could become intelligent, the Soviets could decide to become capitalists..."

"That concludes our lesson in optimism for today!" Dorian chuckled, shaking his head. "Really, Klaus..."

"Am I wrong?" the German demanded, while still smiling. "Tell me I'm wrong, and be truthful, and I'll be optimistic for you."

"You're not wrong," the thief admitted, tossing his head slightly. "I'm still going to be optimistic, though!"

"If you started to see the world the way I do, Dorian, I would be deeply worried," Klaus murmured, stroking his hand against Dorian's side. "Hmn, this was a very good idea. Very relaxing after that mess with the CIA."

"Mmmmmmm," Dorian said by way of agreement. "I love the way you touch me," he said softly. "Seems like a miracle, some days."

"Why's that?"

Dorian shrugged. "I never really thought you would," he said softly. "I hoped. But I didn't think you would."

"We've talked about this before," Klaus reminded him, gently -- it was the tone he used to warn Dorian when they were starting to repeat things. "I like doing it; it helps me know that you're there, and everything is as it should be."

"Let's go back, Klaus." He wanted to kiss the other man; kiss him, hold him naked against his own skin... "I want..." /You./

"Want...?" Klaus *always* made sure he wasn't taking something the wrong way, so Dorian nearly always got asked that.

"You," Dorian whispered, leaning close to him. "I want *you*." They were docking, but that didn't matter. Dorian had no urge to rush off the ship and buy things at the little shops that always seemed clustered in the port for just such things. He'd much rather feel Klaus, naked and sweaty against him....

"We'll head back down to our room, then, until the docking's over." He didn't have any wish to see the bustle of people get on, or the insane little shoppers. A day there, departure later that evening, and then, to Greece!

"And you'll let me..." Dorian was looking at him through those thick golden lashes, the corners of his lips tilting upward in what was a distinctly sensuous expression. "Please?"

Klaus lifted his other hand to brush Dorian's cheek, nodding; moments like that, he was glad of how things had turned out... "We just got up here, but yeah."

"Wonderful," Dorian whispered, smiling at him so brilliantly it was damned near enough to blind him.

Only a moment more like that, and Klaus nodded, moving his hand to grasp Dorian's. Then the German led them both below deck. "We'll lock the door and no one will bother us..." Though they always locked the door. Always.

Silently, they moved through crowds heading off of the boat, down to their own cabin. Inside, safely locked away, Dorian wrapped his arms around Klaus's neck, tilting his head to the side to kiss him.

Whether it was spontaneous or insane, Klaus couldn't tell -- but the need Dorian blossomed inside of him when he made those movements was undeniable. So he caught the earl's mouth in his, trying to guide the other man into a slow, exploring kiss. It worked, and well, for Dorian gave into him so easily, just the way he'd always secretly imagined that he would. The strength in those arms, that body, was undeniable, and it was his, all his, always...

"Making up for lost time...?" Klaus asked in a husky half-teasing accusation as he pulled back from Dorian's soft lips. The feeling of pressure against his mouth lingered, and he knew he'd be taking another kiss as soon as possible.

"You could touch me forever and I'd never want it to stop," was the reply, one barely managed before Dorian was kissing him again, all soft mouth and tongue and touch.

"Won't ever stop," he shivered. With careful prodding, he backed Dorian towards the ship's bed even while he pulled the blond's lean body closer to his own. The nearly two month hiatus they were taking from the realities of their world hadn't effected the thief's ability to squirm against him in the most alluring manners, or his ability to wriggle *out* of his clothing on a moment's notice!

"Love you..." It was a whisper, a frantic sort of breath, deeply meant, impossibly needy. "Klaus..."

When Klaus had become able to admit physical needs at times other than the dark of night, he didn't know. There was more than simple comfort to be found in the light of day, when it was convenient, though there were certain boundaries of privacy and limits kept solidly in mind. "Hmm-mm." His hands crept up beneath Dorian's shirt, up along his back, while the thief took off his t-shirt for him.

The feel of those warm palms against the small of his back, lightly pressing against the waistband of white pants, made Dorian shiver. He gave a moan of encouragement to let Klaus know that he liked it, pulling away only long enough to get that shirt over Klaus's shoulders and head and then to slip himself back into the other man's arms. Somehow, the skin seemed so much hotter, then, touches nearly flaming with sheer pleasure...

Being with Dorian, alone and comfortable, made Klaus feel like the proverbial teenager who just couldn't get enough to satisfy. He wanted, and wanted... A thought skittered through his mind, flickers of less comfortable, but not less intense, feelings shoved down quickly where they couldn't harm he or Dorian.

Dorian's shirt soon followed his, pants starting to be tugged off of the blond. "Need you."

There was no question of his belonging to Klaus, even as the other man moved him backwards towards the bed. "Yes," he whispered, hands going to quickly work at belt buckle, button, zipper, stripping Klaus clean of them and his underwear with them, pushing them to the floor even as they tumbled backwards. "Yes, Klaus..."

A need that wouldn't be denied, personified and eager, all for him. Klaus had wondered, back at the house, if Dorian had been so eager for his other lovers, so... But he never let himself wonder for too long. It would simply be pointless jealousy, and why waste energy on that, when he had Dorian, warm and nude, in his arms? "Slower, Dorian..."

Once they were naked together, it was easier, somehow, to go slow. He had all of that delicious, warm skin to worship, and a tangle of mouths and hands and erections to explore between the two of them. "Nnnn..."

There were ways, he was learning, that it would be bad to touch Klaus -- things that drew too much of a reaction, or memories. But Klaus was careful to hide those things, sometimes, so if in their need something was triggered, he wouldn't always say. A hand drifting too far, or a kiss too hard... "Nmm?" It was good then, though, and the boat-ride had been nothing but *good* -- so Klaus's mimicry of Dorian's noise was pleasant, chuckled.

"Mmnn*hmmmn*," came the sound of agreement, Dorian bringing his knees up to lightly clasp Klaus's hips with them, shifting upward.

"I don't think I've ever seen you so happy as this trip has made you," Klaus murmured, levering back a bit to better look at the length of Dorian's beautiful body, that was every bit as useful as his own frame.

Curls feathered across Dorian's face as he canted his head to the side, blue eyes gleaming up at Klaus. "I love being with you. I love feeling this way -- like everything is going to be right in the world if I can just keep hold of you and me. There's something spectacular about everything lately, Klaus..."

"Ja." He couldn't do anything but agree -- they'd reached an enjoyable crossroads where, if they could just *stay* there, safe, without pushing in any directions, they'd be okay... "You're beautiful..." And then, slowly, Klaus lowered his head to kiss Dorian's chest.

"Yesss..." It was nearly hissed, a sign of Dorian's pleasure, just as the upward rock of his hips was. "Ye~ess, Klaus..."

Klaus had only managed once to take Dorian in his mouth, and only for a brief moment; it wasn't the taste that bothered him, it had just been him pushing himself too far, too fast. He'd probably only tease the earl a little, before letting his hands take care of it lovingly. "Yes?"

"Feels so good when you do that," Dorian managed, whining slightly. "Ohhh..."

"Everything feels good?" he murmured against Dorian's diaphragm and the soft, ticklish skin just below it.

The sound of laughter was rich, delicious in his ears, and obviously full of immense enjoyment. "Everything," came the velvety groan, hands tracing over his shoulders, lightly stroking through his hair. "*Everything*..."

Klaus nipped gently at taut skin, then kissed over top of it, smiling to himself. "'m glad to hear it..."

A little gasp came in response to that, the steady shift and writhe of Dorian's body beneath him intensely erotic. "Klaus," he whispered, the name magical on his lips. "Klaus, Klaus, Klaus..."

His lover slid down carefully, tracing the line of lean muscles that led him right down the middle of Dorian's body towards his center. /I can do this... just for a moment.../ Bolstered by that thought, Klaus lowered his head just enough to brush lips along the side of Dorian's erection, silken strands of hair dragging over it with perhaps more pressure.

The whimper that gained him was almost silent, Dorian's hands barely feathering over his head, tangling lightly in black strands of hair. "Klaus... oh, yes, Klaus, you don't have to if you don't want to, but oh, I..." He wanted it, without a doubt, and that was always a good thing to let Klaus know.

Being sure -- completely and without a doubt sure -- of Dorian's want was something Klaus needed before he could even continue, let alone progress any. Another brush, a slight suckle against the soft skin of the underside, and then Klaus brushed his mouth over the hooded head, tasting salty-slick fluid when he darted his tongue out for a moment. /This is his taste, just his taste.../

Oh, and it was *good*, somehow just what he would have expected Dorian to taste like if he'd truly had any expectations at all! The hands that clung so lightly to his skull said as much as the pants of breath escaping the tall, slim blond beneath him. "Unhh... God... *YES*..."

It wasn't anything near the deep, knowledgeable sucking that Dorian had shown him a few times, but Klaus was tender and more than eager. When Dorian felt pleasure, there was pleasure to be found in it for him, just from giving. careful to just keep it a shallow play of lips and tongue, Klaus clasped a hand around it, thumb pulling down on the sensitive foreskin. /Only I will ever touch him like this.../

"Klaus..." It was a shaky sound, the way he was trembling contributing to it. "Oh, Klaus..." Just the way he said the other man's name was a benediction, a litany urging him onward as he rocked upward slightly. One hand left Klaus's head to come up and cover his own eyes as if he could enjoy it better without the sunlight spilling into the room to distract him from the feel of those lips *there*, kissing him *there*, Klaus touching him *there*... "Klaus...!"

That husky English voice, moaning his name like that, drew a soft shuddery sound from Klaus as he kept up his careful ministrations. It kept him grounded in the sensation, in the pressure of his hips canting against the end of the mattress, in the reality of the two of them safe on a boat with no Stasi in sight to hurt them. Just pleasure, and Eroica...

*His* Eroica...

The sound of Dorian whining softly to himself in pleasure, the way his thighs shifted together and then apart as his cock fairly shook with the force of the blood pumping through it, these were signs that he wanted it, and wanted it from *Klaus*. Heated, wanton little noises were more than enough reassurance, and when Dorian cried out in a rough moan, Klaus knew that what he was doing was right. Maybe not right in the eyes of God and society, but for them, it was *right*. It was everything Klaus needed, to know that Eroica wanted and needed him, to know he could make the man happy again, to know that beautiful body responded just for him...

If he thought too hard on it, it sounded like sick possession. So Klaus didn't think anymore -- he just sucked, taking a bit more into his mouth.

"Klaus, please...!" The sound of it broke, Dorian's hips rocking helplessly. "Please, *please*, it feels so good!"

Please...? The German knew he couldn't manage any *more* than what he was already doing -- couldn't take in any more, not without scraping his teeth along that beautiful skin, or gagging. Only... only, he could add his other hand... It was a half-completed thought, at best, that urged him to take his maimed hand and palm soft balls that were coated in fine golden curls.

"AHHH!!!" Oh, that sound said so much, good as announcing the immense amount of pleasure Klaus was giving to him. He whined, shaking his head from side to side, second hand moving to clutch at Klaus's shoulder. "Oh, oh, I'm... going... to...!"

He couldn't help his first reaction of jerking back when he tasted the first short pulse against his tongue; it left Dorian's cock, released, to spill over his belly, while Klaus laid his head Dorian's thigh, rubbing his hips against the side of the bed as he watched Dorian.

The sounds of Dorian's gratification continued for several seconds as he lay limp upon the bed, the reverberation of residual bliss spilling through him. "Oh, God," he whispered, finally beginning to pull himself together. "That was so..." He shivered. "Oh, Klaus."

Movements slowly stopped once release was gained short moments after Dorian had spoken. Then Klaus kissed against the inside of Dorian's thigh before moving silently up onto the bed with him. Arms slid around him, Dorian's nose brushing at his face as he moved close to him. They were slightly sticky, definitely in need of a bath, but everything seemed so *perfect* in that moment, particularly when Dorian kissed him tenderly.

Especially when Dorian kissed him that way.

Skin to skin, Klaus let Dorian hold him -- or was he holding Dorian? -- locked in a sensual assault of mouth to mouth with the other man. "That was perfect," Dorian whispered. "Felt so good, Klaus. You make me feel..." Wonderful, exquisite, *alive*, treasured...

"Wasn't half so bad... as I thought it had to be." He gave Dorian another kiss, lazy, relaxed, and shifted to pillow his head on Dorian's shoulder. Sleep... no, he shouldn't give in to being drowsy, but if they slept *then*, he and Dorian would be wide awake to walk the deck later that night, when it was mostly empty, and look at the stars. /Romantic gibberish. It's infective./

"Mmmm," Dorian agreed lazily. "I love to do it to you. I love for you to touch me, and me to touch you, and everything between us," he whispered, stroking a hand down Klaus's spine. "I'll keep you close, always, and safe..."

"We'll keep each other safe. Always." Tiredly mumbled against his shoulder, as he closed one green-grey eye and relaxed atop Dorian, not really caring that they weren't covered. When he got a little energy in a few minutes, he'd pull a blanket up, and perhaps in an hour or so take a shower...

"Always," Dorian whispered, kissing the top of his head. "Forever."

Chapter 18 by Kat and Tzigane
He was now living the decadent sort of life-style that he'd shunned for all of his life. Only it didn't *feel* disgustingly decadent; it felt relaxing to rest with Dorian, to concentrate on holding the man. It let him assure himself, over and over, that Dorian was better, that they were fine, that they'd manage...

Klaus guessed, since he spent so much effort on that, that he probably wasn't okay. Not really, but the alternatives to the way he tended to Dorian and cared for him were simply unthinkable. Better to lov...

"Are you done dressing?" Klaus asked with a sigh in his voice, as he rested his elbows atop his knees, a bit restlessly as he worked at a fresh cigarette.

"Done!" Dorian agreed, stepping out of the bathroom. Since they'd left the hospital, he'd kept almost solely to dark, plain clothes, so seeing him in a black catsuit like the one he used for thievery with a bright blue silky shawl tossed back over his shoulders was almost enough to send Klaus into shock. "Do I look all right?" he asked worriedly. He fretted more about the scars on his face during the day, but during the dimly lit nights as they walked on the decks, it didn't bother him as much. He could be himself again, and not think about people staring at him for any reason other than his sheer exuberance and -- yes -- beauty.

"Perfect." Klaus stood to take his arm, to guide him towards the door. "I think the ship will be just pulling out now, so we'll get to see the back of whatever cheap port we've pulled into."

"And on to Greece!" came the excited laugh in return. "I can't wait, darling. Greece is beautiful this time of year, really."

"I'll be glad as long as I don't have to flip any skirts while we're there," he snorted mildly, taking a draw of smoke and letting it dissipate. "More resting planned?"

"And museums," Dorian informed him. "I want to show you some of the things that I so love, and show you why."

"'Why' is going to be hard," Klaus mused as they went up the stairs. "Though, I did read that book you gave me."

That got him a glance and a distinct smile. "Did you like it?"

"Well, I was convalesced, and I read it." That was half-dismissive, but Dorian knew better -- if it had been read at all, it said a lot.

"Then it won't be as hard as you think," Dorian murmured. "That's a start."

"I'm aware it was a *children's* book, Dorian." Which meant it was made for short attention spans and low interest.

"That's how *I* got started," he was informed, sparkling blue eyes peering at him once they reached the upper deck. "And you see where I am today."

"Then you mean it's not too late to reform how you think about guns?" Klaus asked him in a light tease, as he, too, took a brief glance around for a moment, then led Dorian towards an uncrowded part of the railing that was nearly on the other side.

"Darling," Dorian said firmly, "I sincerely doubt *that* will ever change. There's something utterly horrid about the things once they're in my hands, somehow," he murmured wryly.

"Same with art and me," Klaus murmured. "Other things are just more useful."

"Well, darling..." That was shortly interrupted by familiar voices, speaking in another language.

"[Are you sure this is a good idea?]" Mischa drawled, leaning against the deck wall. "[I am not so sure about that.]"

"[Through the Mediterranean it will be easier to get these documents back to headquarters...]"

Polar Bear, Klaus recognized easily enough.

"Klaus," Dorian whispered almost silently, tugging his shawl up over his bright golden tresses. "What do we do?"

"When they get closer, walk away. Evasive maneuvers." Klaus's voice was barely a whisper as he turned more towards Dorian, tightening the gap between their bodies to make them seem all the more natural for wanting privacy on the deck.

With care, Dorian obeyed, half-listening to the conversation despite the fact that he didn't understand it.

"[We have already run into Iron Klaus here in the land of capitalists. I have no desire to run into anyone else like that while we are here, and going so slowly makes it risky,]" Mischa growled, obviously unhappy with the matter.

"[You've run into Iron Klaus? *Here*? What was that capitalist bastard doing in the Northern Americas?]" Polar Bear demanded to know.

"[Vacationing with the queer thief. NATO retired him,]" Mischa answered grimly, "[after the Stasi tortured them both.]"

"[Retired?]" Polar Bear laughed roughly at that thought. "[With Eroica...? I would have expected him to kill himself before he let himself be retired.]"

The reply was almost bleak. "[He's missing two fingers and an eye,]" Mischa said. "[It wasn't honorable in the least. The thief's been raped and had his face cut up.]"

"[Hmn... a pity, but there are risks when coming against the Stasi,]" Polar Bear dismissed. "[Did he interfere with your mission?]"

"[NATO was also there,]" Mischa answered dismissively, shrugging. "[I captured Iron Klaus and the thief for a while, but they were on the level, so.]"

"['On the level'?]"

"[Honestly there for the reason they claimed,]" Mischa muttered, resisting the urge to shake his head. "[It's a euphemism.]"

"[You need to spend less time in the west, Mischa,]" Polar Bear scowled, starting to walk towards Klaus and Dorian. Klaus heard approaching footsteps, and leaned closer to Dorian, still listening to the pair's conversation, even as he pressed his face against Dorian's neck to kiss gently above the collar of the catsuit Dorian wore. "[Iron Klaus, vacationing -- I still think it's a crock.]"

"[It's truth. I saw the eye for myself and we hacked NATO's databases,]" Mischa drawled. "[They discharged him.]"

"[Hmn... idiots. You should have captured him, Mischa -- the man is still a walking database, even discharged. He knows more classified things than we know exist. A few weeks of working him over, and our cause would be furthered greatly.]"

"[Cause or no cause, I will not do it.]" That was a flat refusal. "[There should be some courtesies, even among spies. He would give you no information, anyway. The Stasi got none from either of them.]"

Dorian shivered, tucking his head against Klaus's. /I want to go.../

"[None? I'm amazed...]" Their voices faded slowly as they moved past, turning a corner.

"Back to the room," Klaus whispered, lifting his head a little.

Grateful, Dorian moved with Klaus as they slipped to the stairs and hurried down them and into their room. The moment the door closed, the blond thief was in his arms and clutching him tight, shivering violently. "Oh, *God*!"

"Dorian... Dorian, we're *fine*," Klaus murmured near his ear, holding the earl tightly. "All right? We're fine."

"But what if..." he began.

"No." He pulled back just enough to look Dorian in the eye. "No -- we won't do that."

Tears welled up in those brilliant blue eyes, Dorian's forehead dropping to rest on his chin. "I love you, Klaus. I'm sorry for panicking so..."

"We did okay... No one panicked," Klaus sighed, holding Dorian still and close for the comfort. A few beats of silence passed, and Klaus let his own body relax back against the bulkhead. "Okay?"

"Yes," Dorian whispered, wrapping his arms tightly about Klaus's neck. "I'll be okay. You?"

/Even years from now, the KGB will still want me, for what I know.../ They'd never *really* be safe, even if they decided not to do contract work. They could go live in a cave somewhere, completely reclusive, and the KGB would still want to pick his mind... "Ja," he lied. "Let's read for a while. I'm sorry we couldn't stay above deck..." /You look so beautiful, and I want you to feel relaxed about that again.../

"Maybe tomorrow," Dorian whispered. "I'll cover my hair, wear glasses..."

"Mischa will recognize me," Klaus murmured with a shrug. "But, tomorrow. We'll be all right. The boat-trip isn't so long..." Only a week and a half.

"We'll think of something?" Dorian suggested, reaching up to kiss him on the mouth, a motion meant for comfort, to feel better.

Light, the familiar bus of lips to lips that drew a sigh from Klaus. "Ja. Something. But not right now. For now... we'll read." The way they'd done once before, after a bad nightmare that *he* had been struck with -- Dorian had grabbed the Wooster and Jeeves book, and read a chapter aloud to him. Perhaps, time to return the favor.

"That sounds not so bad," the other man agreed quietly. "Change into pajamas and read a little..." He liked to sleep naked, but it was better not to upset or shock Klaus that way any more than he had to do so.

There seemed to be, clearly laid out in Klaus's mind, a difference between falling into a doze after making love, and *sleeping*. One required a modicum of clothing, though some nights Klaus forswore shirts. "Yes; to get breakfast tomorrow, one of us will go up disguised; past that, I'm still thinking."

"I'll do it," Dorian told him, beginning to undress, the white satin pajama shorts and sleeveless shirt dropped on the bed. "They won't recognize me, I don't think. I can use make-up..." To cover the scars...

"Only if you want to." Klaus never pressed the issue very far. If he ever did, Dorian might think he cared about those scars; and he did, but only how they affected the way Dorian felt in public. He didn't care if they were there, weren't there, whatever. Dorian was his, drew up emotions from him that nothing else could, was beautiful and wanted him. Everything he could want in a partner.

Everything...

"I don't mind," Dorian said simply, smiling at him even as he slipped into his pajamas. "I'm accustomed to pretending to be someone other than who I am." He was also VERY good at disguises, and so it shouldn't be too difficult to slip into the dining room and fetch breakfast... "We could always just have room service, darling..."

"With the luck I have," Klaus murmured as he moved around the partition that kept the bathroom separate, pajamas in hand, "Mischa will be parading as room service."

A snort left Dorian, not quite amusement. "No. With our luck, the *other* one will be."

"Polar Bear." Mischa, he respected; his co-agent, a man with a personality to match Klaus's own, without the same honor and bit of childishness behind it... "I would rather tangle with the Cub."

"He's less likely to run off with us to do..." THOSE sorts of things to them. Dorian shivered, crawling under the sheets of their bed. "Me, too."

"At least if Mischa takes it into his head to kill someone, he does just that." Which would be far preferable to being tortured, captured in any form... Klaus came back out dressed in an undershirt and sweat pants, set his clothes in the suitcase, and then he, too, slid under the covers. Nowhere near tired, but it would be good to feel Dorian close.

The moment he was in the bed, Dorian was snuggled up against him, arm across his chest, knee drawn up over his thighs. "Maybe it'll be all right," he suggested. "Not as much fun as we'd hoped it would be, but..."

Dorian's position left Klaus how he most liked to lay -- on his back, and able to curl an arm up behind Dorian, to keep him close. "Do you want to read?" /I'll see you relax if I have to push them both overboard./

"Why don't you read to me?" Dorian asked, closing his eyes, cheek resting against Klaus's shoulder. "I'd like that..."

"Which book?" he asked.

"What you're reading is fine," Dorian answered quietly, hand lightly rubbing over Klaus's flat stomach.

That movement got him a pleased sigh, and Klaus half-heartedly batted at that hand as he leaned away for a moment to snag _The Dragon and the George_. "It won't make sense."

"Doesn't matter," he was reassured, Dorian sighing quietly. "Just read to me."

That was because Dorian didn't want to *hear* the story... he just wanted to hear Klaus's voice, and to be reassured by it. "All right," he murmured, and then began to read.


Sun was spilling in through the porthole come morning, nothing but bright blue water all around the boat and bouncing that dazzling light directly at him. Dorian, miraculously, was still asleep when Klaus woke -- asleep and firmly, uncomfortably, pressed against the German man. The blond thief shifted, sighing in his sleep as he pushed his rear into the cradle of Klaus's hips, rubbing at the morning erection that was found there with a motion that was nearly enough to send Klaus screaming from the bed. If he hadn't heard a wanton little sound coming from his beautiful companion, even asleep, he probably would have.

Not that it was unenjoyable -- but it shot white-hot pokers of fear through him that *more* than overshot the heaviness of a morning hardon. Damn the silky white material and damn his sweat pants, both! The two materials, conspiring against him, let the sway of their bodies drive his erection right up along the cleft formed by two firm globes.

It took everything in his power to start to untangle himself slowly.

"Mmmmnnn, Klaus..." It was said sleepily, Dorian squirming closer to him again, whining softly as he pressed himself back against that hardness. "Ohhh..."

/Is he doing this consciously?/ Klaus wondered, shuddering when his own hips canted forwards against Dorian's firmly muscled bottom. Felt so good... /No, no, no, no, nonono.../ He did jerk back, stumbling back out of the bed and taking the covers with him.

That made Dorian jerk awake, blue eyes going wide. "Klaus!? Did..." As he looked at the dark-haired man on the floor, his mouth curled up at the edges. It was difficult to fight off amusement in that moment, even as his hand came up to cover his mouth and (with little hope) stifle the sound of his laughter. "Oh, Klaus..."

"'s not funny," Klaus growled, still breathing hard, shaking a little. Dorian had been asleep, or had he been faking it...?

"Of course not." The chuckles were cut off automatically, Dorian's face going serious. "How'd you end up on the floor? I've never woke up to *that* before..."

/Woke up to someone probably half a minute from just ripping both our pants and fucking you then and there, or me on the floor...?/ "I just panicked. 'S nothing." He started, slowly, to stand up, blankets wadded up in one hand and still partly wrapped around him; it well hid his still throbbing erection. /I'm an idiot and an asshole./

"...panicked?" Dorian asked, frowning. "Did you have a bad dream or something?"

"Ja, something," he drawled, cheeks flushing a little as he moved back to the bed and tossed the blankets back atop Dorian, before he moved to start morning pushups.

Dorian smiled at him, leaning over the edge of the bed. "You know, I love to watch you do that," he sighed, watching Klaus's rear appreciatively. "What's wrong, Klaus?"

"Why do you think something's wrong?" Klaus asked between his pushups. Perhaps it hadn't been the best choice of exercise, because with every time his body dipped downwards, there was just one thought in his mind.

"Do you truly think I don't know when something's upsetting you?" The reply was murmured, and Dorian didn't *look* upset, but he did seem somehow quietly worried. "Whatever it is, Klaus, you can tell me. Is it the Soviets being on the ship?" That was certainly enough reason to be worried, but... Dorian didn't think that it was quite *that* bothering him. No, it was something else....

Now that Dorian was *pressing* the issue, it seemed more and more idiotic to Klaus. /Yes, something's wrong -- I want to fuck you, I want to have sex with you, I'll hurt you if I do that, because no matter what you say, I can't believe it doesn't hurt.../ "It's nothing, Dorian."

The sheer sorrow in those blue eyes made him ache to see. "All right," the Briton murmured in agreement, laying back on the pillows and closing his eyes. "But if you decide later that you want to talk about it... I love you. Whatever it is, I'll listen."

"I just don't want to run in the same rut I fall into often enough," Klaus told him, as he turned over and started to do sit-ups. The pushups hadn't done his arousal a lick of good.

"All right, Klaus." Obviously offers of help weren't going to go too far. "Shall I call for breakfast?" he asked, a leg propping up with foot flat on the mattress so that Klaus got a view of one long pale gold leg, the sight of it distinctly erotic.

As if he needed anything else erotic in that moment! "Yes; you make the call," Klaus agreed, doing his sit-ups faster now.

Rolling over so that he laid on his belly, Dorian made the call, fingers wrapping in the phone cord as he ordered orange juice, scrambled eggs, bacon and english muffins, a last minute thought adding strawberries and powdered sugar to go with coffee before he hung up the phone. "Klaus. We really should talk about whatever's bothering you, rut or no rut," he said firmly. "If we can talk it out, we won't have to visit that rut again."

"Don't... bet on it..." He reached two hundred, and then laid back, stretching out his muscles, heels still against his bottom, knees still bent, erection still present. Dorian was right, though -- talking always helped somehow, and wasn't *HE* usually the one trying to get the ruts filled in? "I woke up differently than we usually do."

"Obviously," Dorian told him dryly. "You were on the floor with the covers when *I* woke. What brought that on?"

/Just tell him -- and then he can laugh, I'll pretend it was just an overreaction, and it's done with until we wake up like that again./ "You were... grinding back against me."

"...you mean...?" A slight wriggle of his rear came in imitation. "That? Against...? Oh, Klaus. I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable..."

Dorian's calm, almost pity-filled reaction, made Klaus feel all the worse. /Nothing. Nothing at all to him. I'm such an idiot.../ "It was just a shock," he excused.

A hand reached out, nimble fingers caressing his face. "Klaus. Darling..." He bit his lip, looking at the other man. "I really won't mind if you do it. I know you wouldn't ever hurt me. I know you're afraid of that, but it wouldn't be painful or humiliating or any of those things. Not with you." Not to mention the fact that Dorian *himself* would feel better knowing he could still do it. If he couldn't, if he panicked, he knew that it would make Klaus feel terrible and himself feel worse, but... "I need to know if we *can*. If *I* can. If I can get past... all of that..."

Klaus sat up fully, still on the floor while Dorian lazed and partly dangled off of the bed. It made the fingers on his face brush a little harder, with a little more of that comforting contact. "But what if you can't? Then it would hurt you."

"If I can't, then I'll tell you to stop. I trust you," Dorian told him with excruciating solemnity.

Klaus was quiet as he mulled it over, and over again, moving his right hand to cup the fingers against his cheek. "Tonight, then. We'll... try it."

The softening of Dorian's face was impossibly sweet as he leaned further off the bed, supporting himself on his left palm as he lightly pressed his lips to Klaus's. "It will be all right," he whispered, a promise to himself as much as it was to Klaus.

"You probably thought you'd never hear that from me," Klaus whispered, taking that sweet kiss and returning it just as a knock sounded on the door. "I'll get the food." Since he was on the floor anyway.

"Never," Dorian agreed, stealing one more kiss before laying back in the bed to look at the ceiling, heart beating frantically from that simple promise. /Oh, Klaus,/ he thought, smiling as the other man brought their breakfast in and sat on the edge of the bed. "It's going to be a perfect day today," he decided.

"It will be if I push Polar Bear overboard," Klaus uttered, looking seriously at Dorian. "Is... do you really want to do that... with... Do *that*?"

"With you? Yes," Dorian told him, turning on his side. "I want to do *everything* with you. I trust you, Klaus. No one else..." Not even James anymore, his poor cranky boy. He just couldn't. Not anymore...

"I trust you, too." But, Dorian already knew that, and more. He offered the other man a plate, and then picked up his own. "I'm sorry if everything is... going slowly because of me."

Sitting up, the blond man took one of Klaus's hands in between both of his own. "No. Whatever you want, it's fine. I..." He tilted his head to the side and smiled. "I want us both to be comfortable, though."

/Tolerant beyond a fault,/ Klaus thought to himself, as he looked at Dorian's expression. /If I hurt him.../ He wouldn't ever forgive himself. Ever. "Better circumstances for all of this would have made it easier."

"If wishes were horses, we'd all be racing at Ascot, sweet. Shall we have breakfast?" Dorian asked with a smile.

"I suppose so..."


The sun was nearly finished setting, casting a golden glow across the water as Klaus and Dorian strolled along the deck, a breeze wafting in off of the cool ocean. They weren't quite out of the islands yet -- a slight engine problem had, apparently, kept them from leaving when they should have. Since they'd been in their room most of the day, neither man had really noticed, though they probably should have.

"It's beautiful," Dorian sighed, leaning against the railing. "It's almost a shame to *leave*."

"Leave America?" Klaus snorted as he leaned forwards a bit more, standing shoulder to shoulder with Dorian. "It's been a good trip, good for both of us, but this 'new world' can't hold a candle to home."

"Not a doubt," Dorian replied. "We've been happy here, though. Maybe that's what it is."

"We'll be happy in Germany, or England, or wherever we live," he shrugged. "Ja?"

"Ja," came the teasing reply, the thief tilting his face upward to smile.

"You're mocking me, aren't you?" Klaus asked, narrowing his eye as he turned his head to look straight at Dorian -- it was good-natured expression, though, and he leaned close as if to kiss Dorian before he jabbed him lightly in the stomach with a chuckle.

That gained him soft laughter and a kiss in return, lips lingering against his own before a whispered breath came to his ears, still filled with utter amusement. "Ja~a..."

"Hmn, hmn, you're incorrigible," came the warm decision, before Klaus turned his head and caught the earl's lips in his, a slow, tender kiss that more than showed his delight with Dorian's playfulness.

"Mmmmhmmmmmm." That agreement was given under Klaus's lips, accompanied by the curve of a smile as Dorian shivered. He liked this little spot, mostly abandoned, and no one had caught them kissing yet on their trip, though why either of them felt there was a 'being caught' to worry about... Klaus wasn't so conscious of that factor as he had been once; perhaps it was just that he no longer cared if people saw, and recognized them. Those people who'd judge... What were they to him and his desperate hold on life? Nothing!

A hand settled on Dorian's back, tugging him a bit closer now, the kiss sliding minutely deeper by the moment. It drew a pleasured sound from the tall blond man, his arms wrapping tightly about Klaus's neck for a moment before they parted, Dorian whispering, "Let's go back to our room, darling?"

"Not yet," the German murmured, looking warmly into his lover's eyes with his own monocular gaze. Yes, life was good...

"What have we here?" a Russian-tinted voice broke in, striding up beside them.

The way that Dorian stiffened was felt more than seen, his blue eyes darting to the side as Klaus shifted him momentarily closer to him.

"Polar Bear," Klaus nearly sneered, as he turned to look at the Soviet agent, slowly. The missing eye and a certain... differentness in his expression were both easy to spot. "Having a good cruise?"

"I do hope you're enjoying it as much as we are," Dorian said lightly, hand on Klaus's chest. "Sunset was delightful."

"Mischa told me you two were vacationing, but truly... this sodden love-bird cover does not suit you, Iron Klaus," Polar-bear laughed.

"And here I thought the entire Soviet *regime* was just *waiting* for the day when I'd finally seduce him so they could shoot me," Dorian drawled, almost painfully aware of the Russian man and the way in which he looked at them.

"You're not welcome here, Polar Bear -- so go away, unless you want us dragged into another mission."

The man snorted, raising both eyebrows. "*I* am not Mischa. I don't believe you're not on a mission, Iron Klaus. I warn you -- don't interfere with me."

"Wouldn't dream of it," Dorian drawled. "We're *on* *holiday*."

"Twice now, you've vacationed to cross our paths. Do not think such a weak cover can last for long," Polar Bear warned them.

"We have shitty luck. I don't want to keep running into you fools," Klaus scoffed. "Let's go back to our cabin..."

Wordlessly, Dorian shifted a foot, moving away with Klaus still close beside him. /I don't trust that man. Damn. And with no way for us to get off of the boat, either.../

Klaus's thoughts, too, were along that line... and then again, he wanted to hear more. So when, as they walked forwards and Mischa came into view, he decided that it would be best to circle back around the deck, and eavesdrop as they had the last time.

"What are we *doing*?" Dorian asked him in a whisper, frowning.

"A favor for NATO," Klaus uttered just as softly, not changing their pace or their closeness.

"You mad, mad man!" was the sighed response, but Dorian didn't resist. His natural curiosity was quite enough to drive him along with Klaus to find out what was going on! "There was a lifeboat near them. Perhaps if we slid under its cover, we could hear them without being seen..."

"Yes," Klaus decided. Yes, unseen and close enough to them... He picked up his speed a bit more, perhaps rushing to get there in good time and start listening. Oh, to have a good bug and recorder!

It was easier than it *should* have been to slip into the lifeboat, and they were lucky they had done so when they did! Polar Bear and Mischa were coming along the deck towards them, and still talking!

Klaus settled in close to Dorian, their heads nearly touching as they listened to the approaching conversation.

"[Iron Klaus is here -- with his pet thief, Mischa.]"

"[Here??]" Mischa asked, sounding surprised.

"[On this boat, yes! I came across he and that British man making out like two teenagers.]" The distaste and lingering bits of shock were very evident in his voice.

The shrug was almost audible in Mischa's voice. "[So long as they are together, they seem able to survive. After what the Stasi did to them, I am not surprised. And now that they are only civilians... Eh. What does it matter if they are faggots?]"

"[I don't think they're civilian -- I think this is a cover, and that they are following us!]"

"[I don't agree, but you'll continue thinking as you like,]" Mischa grumbled.

"[Why don't you agree, Mischa? It's so damned suspicious!!]" Polar Bear was obviously agitated.

"[I don't agree because I've seen them and seen the records of what was done to them! ANY agency would dismiss someone for half of what happened to them. And what use is Iron Klaus without a right hand to fire? Hm? Did you notice his hand? The eye?]"

"[I noticed the eye, but I thought that patch was an affectation,]" Polar Bear growled lowly, taking a look around. "[All right -- never mind them, then. As long as we do not find them acting suspicious, I suppose we can leave them be. The mission, now...]"

"[Agreed,]" Mischa sighed. "[We still have Clark in our pocket. It should be no serious problem that NATO has caught the agent Howell was stupid enough to send. They won't know we still have other men bought and paid for.]"

Dorian could feel Klaus tense beside him, the German leaning closer. /Clark,/ he thought, /is too common a name -- give us more, just a bit more detail.../

"[What if the one caught speaks?]"

"[It won't matter,]" Mischa replied. "[He doesn't know we have the director's secretary in our pocket.]"

/But I know... The secretary of a director... he or she is called 'Clarke' or 'clark', one of those spellings.../ Klaus was tensely still as he continued to listen.

"[Then nothing has been disrupted other than a minor cog.]"

"[More or less,]" Mischa agreed.

It was then that the urge overtook Dorian. He tried to resist it. He *did*, terribly, burying his face against Klaus's shoulder, holding his breath. It didn't work, however.

He sneezed.

/Fucking shit./

"[What was that?!]" Polar Bear snapped, looking around.

Ohhh, this was bad! Dorian clapped his hands over his mouth and shuddered. /No, no, no!!/

"[It was nothing,]" Mischa said, and Polar Bear did not resist. The footsteps approaching the little life-boat seemed to belie that -- yet Klaus stayed still, keeping Dorian nearly smothered against him, so close he was. "[I'm sure it must have been our imaginations. After all...]"

"[After all, why would a sneeze com from a life raft?]"

"[Perhaps it has a cold,]" was the polite response as Dorian squirmed slightly, another sneeze coming on rather quickly.

/Can't sneeze!! CAN'T sneeze!!/

"[Why don't we air it out first, to see if it really has a cold, or...]" The cover came up in a snap, to find Klaus and Dorian huddled together. Klaus's first reaction was to spring to his feet, to get out of the life-boat. Sadly, he wasn't expecting the butt of the gun that whacked him upside the head the moment he began to move.

"Klau-!"

Neither was Dorian.

"[Well?]" Mischa asked, scowling. Such busybodies! /Making my job difficult is so like the two of you!/

"[They must have heard what we said. Let us kill them, put the tarp back down, and let someone else stumble across them,]" was Polar Bear's suggestion.

"[I have a better idea...]"

Chapter 19 by Kat and Tzigane
Hours later, Dorian woke with a throbbing headache, whimpering. /Ohh, it hurts.../ A hand snuck up to touch the side of his head, finding a knot there that had bled a bit, making his hair sticky. "Ooow..."

"Don't sit up," came the soft words, Klaus's voice dry and exhausted sounding from right beside him.

"I think I'm going to throw up," Dorian whispered to him. "Shit. I couldn't help it. Sorry."

"'s all right." Though, from something in Klaus's voice, it didn't *sound* like things were all right. "Just stay still. 's a small boat, and if we move a lot, it'll only rock more."

"*ROCK*!?" Dorian asked, blue eyes flying open wide. "What do you mean, *rock*!?"

"After they knocked us out, they fastened down the tarp and lowered us in. It's nearly dawn now." Which meant that the cruise ship was long gone.

"Oh, *shit*," Dorian declared again, groaning. "Dammit. We're going to *have* to sit up and see where we are, Klaus. Drifting along in the Atlantic Ocean in a lifeboat's not my idea of fun."

"No, and neither is being concussed," Klaus agreed in that same even tone; he stayed where he was, still laying down, even as he reached an arm to dip down and unfasten the tarp.

It was, at least, a lifeboat built for eight, and not the two that they were, so there was a little more room, and (Klaus assumed) supplies if the Soviets hadn't removed them first.

"At least we shouldn't be *too* far from land, should we? We took off late, and we could still see some of the islands when we were watching at sunset..." Dorian sighed, reaching up to hold his head.

Light crept in slowly, and when Klaus had unfastened a bit of the tarp, he sagged back down to cover his eyes for a moment, feeling his pulse throb loud in in skull with every breath he drew.

"You see where we are."

Peering up, Dorian groaned, the intense feeling of nausea rising further as he squinted against the bright light beginning to fill the world with its glow. "I... I think I see an island...!"

"Oh, 's good," Klaus sighed, still laying prone on the sloped bottom of the boat.

"It would probably be a good idea if we found some paddles or something. Do these things come with oars?" Dorian asked, laying back down and swallowing, hard.

"I n' know." Klaus didn't shift for a moment, and when he did it was with complete grogginess. "Check 't the back...?"

"I don't think they'd fit," Dorian muttered, squinting. A look to the side proved that the things were strapped on either side of the boat -- four oars, so that would be all right, if they could just handle them. "They're on the sides."

"'n kay..." Klaus groaned tightly as he finally did sit up -- and it was for Dorian to see his pale face streaked with blood in the rising morning light.

He couldn't help the horrified whisper that escaped him at the sight. "Oh, *Klaus*..."

"Was...?" Klaus steadied himself with a hand against the bottom of the boat, drawing his legs up beneath him for a moment before he repositioned to rest back on both hands, only partly sitting up. "'m okay..."

"Your head..." Dorian whispered. "You've got blood all over you. Oh..."

He shifted the tarp so it was in the boat with them, too, and drew a breath of crisp, slightly humid air. "Scalp wounds... 's just a lot of blood. 'm all right."

Shivering, Dorian reached for an oar, popping it loose from the tight strictures holding it to the side of the boat. "We might as well row. We can take care of it when we reach the island, see if we can find fresh water..." If they couldn't...

Klaus looked hazy enough that he could have gone to sleep again; Dorian had a suspicion that Polar Bear had been the one to knock Klaus out, and Mischa had likely put the aching knot on his own blond head. Still, the German man hung on, and nodded to Dorian's suggestion, prying an oar from his side loose, too.

"If you aren't up to this, darling..." Dorian began.

"'ll try." That he didn't get an instantly snapped affirmation as Klaus blinked for a moment, trying to sight the land, and then dipped his oar into the mostly calm water, said a lot.

With some care, Dorian set his own oar into the slot for it and began to row as well, remaining silent as they moved slowly towards land. /With any luck, it'll have some form of population,/ he thought to himself, glancing over to check on Klaus every so often.

Klaus was barely keeping up with Dorian's slow, even strokes; though, once he was aware of the blond man watching him, he pushed onwards, rowing harder. "Sooner we get to shore, sooner we can rest..."

"Don't outdo yourself," Dorian warned with a frown as they kept on. The water was beginning to push them towards land, itself, the tide coming in and sending them towards the beach a little better.

"I shouldn't 've... made you come with me, we should've... just gone back to the cabin..." And they'd be sleeping, peacefully, comfortably, *safely*.

"It'll be all right," Dorian told him firmly. "I *wanted* to." He *had*, natural curiosity unbearable for him.

"Now we're..." Now they were *somewhere*, paddling a life-boat towards unknown shore, and he felt as if he'd pass out if he stopped rowing.

"Who knows?" Dorian asked. "Maybe behind that fringe of trees is a bustling city somewhere!" Though God knows it didn't look like there was a bustling *anything* there...

"Maybe." The grim tone to that word sounded doubtful. "'n we get to shore, we can use the boat for shelter..."

"If there's no one there," Dorian agreed. /And if there's no one there, we'll have to set something else up for shelter that'll be sturdier. We've got the tarp, at least..../

"'t leas' 'til 've got more... energy..." Klaus closed his mouth, swallowed, and then returned his attention to the tug and push of the rowing -- as long as he could keep his muscles moving smoothly...

They finally reached the beach, both pushing themselves to do it, and Dorian jumped out to tug it farther out of the water. "We're here, Klaus. We're..." Once the boat was safely there, he couldn't hold it back any longer. He leaned over and threw up -- mostly water, a bit of whatever remained of a late lunch from the day before. What was worse was that he knew Klaus must be feeling even more horrible than *he* did!

Klaus, though, stumbled to his feet, one hand cradled up against the side of his head once he was sure his oar was inside the boat, and he began to pull it even further up onto the shore -- each slow, methodical step made to carry it beyond the reach of the tide.

Swallowing hard, Dorian trudged to help him until they had the thing quite beyond the water for the moment. "You can rest now," he whispered to Klaus. "I'll take care of the rest."

"All right." And Klaus sat down on the sand with a heavy thump.

Silently, Dorian climbed into the boat and began rustling through compartments. There, he found blankets, medicine, food, and even gallons of water, all of which he promptly tossed into the tarp and lowered to the ground. "Klaus, can you move far enough to get out of the sun?"

Slow to react, but he did, rising with a slight stagger from sand that refused to grant firm traction, before he backed up towards the tree-line. "We c'n use the boat for shade..."

"Yeah," Dorian agreed, wondering how in the hell he was going to get the boat up there by himself. "For now..." He walked to the treeline, dropping the tarp there before going to help Klaus to it. "Come on."

"'re we getting the boat...?" He asked hazily.

"I'll get it in a minute," Dorian promised, though he was damned near ready to drop.

"Wish 's was Greece... less heat, l's fucking bugs..." Klaus sat down on the slightly grassy ground, cross legged, leaning forwards a little to control the ache of his skull.

"Hold on," Dorian said, quickly spreading out the tarp. "Can you move over? I'll cover you with a blanket and you can use the other for a pillow..." Later, he'd get Klaus's hair clean. Now, though, he needed to get him comfortable and to move the boat...

"Move over...?" Klaus got up again, but looked confused as to where he was supposed to move.

"Onto the tarp, darling," he was prompted, Dorian helping him to move. "Lay back, now. I'm going to cover you up..."

The easy acquiescence was worrying, as was the fact that Klaus did lay down and let Dorian cover him. "'n't sleep... 'ren't.... not supposed to sleep?"

"No," Dorian agreed. "But for now, rest. Doze. I'll wake you once I take care of the boat..." God, that worried him! Klaus was much worse off than he was, and if Klaus died....

"N... 'n right." Klaus closed his eye, carefully, dilated gaze focused on Dorian as the lids closed around it.

"Be right back," he promised again, heading to drag the boat farther up. It took some work -- a lot of it, in fact, and he was sick again, though it was no more than a dry heave. By the time he got back to Klaus again, he nearly fell down beside him, panting. "Wake up," he muttered, shuddering.

It was the shudder more than the mutter that stirred him back, and Klaus looked a little more alert when he started to prop himself up with a protesting noise. "Hn?"

"Don't sleep," Dorian sighed, closing his own eyes.

"Hmn...?" /But you.../ But Dorian wanted to sleep. "C'n you?"

"Hm-mm," Dorian replied, voice negative. "It'd be a bad idea..."

"'n we 'n't sleep," Klaus decided, sitting up a little more. "Food...?"

"And medicine," Dorian declared, eyes still closed. "And water. Ought to take a look at the knots on both of our heads..."

"Open y'r eyes."

"I'm awake," he was informed, aquamarine seeming to peer out from under golden lashes. "'m just not functioning. Don't wanna."

"Sit up," he instructed slowly, doing so himself, just a bit more.

"Bossy," Dorian muttered, obeying slowly.

"Ja." His own head was still reeling. "'ll lay here. F'r a bit."

"Sounds good," Dorian agreed, stomach seeming to dance wildly as he reached over to pluck through the things he'd gotten out. "We've got antibiotic ointment, water, all sorts of meds, and some food. Probably oughta take care of your head now..."

"Hurts less now," Klaus uttered, shifting again to share the blanket with Dorian. Though, it didn't help much, since he was starting to feel unhappily warm again.

"I feel like my brains are squishing out," Dorian muttered, sighing as he reached for the water. "Here..." He began tearing a strip off of his shirt, since the fabric was fairly fragile.

"Don't use fr'sh water... " Klaus scolded. "'s for drink'n."

"And for *wounds*," Dorian chided back. "If you get an infection and die on me, I'll have to use sea shells to slash my own wrists, and I'd just as soon not."

"But 's water out there," Klaus gestured to the ocean.

"Yes," the blond man replied. "Dirty nasty salty stuff that's got God knows what in it. I'm not using it," he told Klaus firmly, opening the bottled water with one hand.

Klaus looked reluctant abut that idea, but he started to move off of the tarp a little so that Dorian could wash the wound.

"There..." That said, Dorian went to work, gently cleaning the thing with fingers that only lightly explored, washing out blood and getting down to the goose-egg that seemed huge when compared to his own. "Oh, darling. It's *nasty*," he sighed.

"'n press so hard," Klaus winced, trying to not jerk back.

"I'm almost done. You can press on me in a moment," came the promise. Dorian's own wound had bled little, but just enough to matt the hair down beneath the top of his curls. "Hold on." A quick rummage through the small amount of medical supplies revealed a tube of bacitracin which was promptly put to use. "There. All better."

Klaus looked a bit silly, hair half-wet, eyes still barely focused, but he took the tube from Dorian, and the water. "Soon... 'll go find civilization." God willing, civilization would find them first.

"After... ow... after we rest. *Out* of the sun," Dorian muttered, letting Klaus take care of him. "I'm really going to do something to make both of them miserable next time we see them!"

"'re doing it? 'n even think of what 'm going to do." That was almost growled, and it was a comfort to hear Klaus growl anything, while he worked on Dorian's wound.

"Ouch," Dorian declared again, wincing. "Almost done yet??"

"'m I hurting you?" The rich voice was thick with concern as he dabbed on the antibiotic ointment, backing off from touching almost immediately.

"Not really," Dorian sighed. "It hurts enough all on its own, darling. Ouch," he declared again with another release of breath.

"'m kay," Klaus uttered as he moved to sit closer to Dorian, closing the container of water. "Food?"

"Yeah. Storable stuff. Here," Dorian sighed, reaching for it and handing it over. He DEFINITELY didn't want any. Not yet...

It was some sort of foil-covered vacuum-sealed grain-bar, a box of them. He opened one, broke it in half, and offered half to Dorian. "You eat first."

"Nn-nn." That was flat denial, the British man looking at it as if it was a snake. "If I eat it, I'll throw it up."

"You f'l sick?" Klaus asked, looking at him worriedly. "'s probably 'cause we haven't eaten since supper."

"Puked twice already," was the reply. "Sort of. I'll be all right.."

Being told that, though, didn't soothe Klaus's nerves an ounce -- he settled down right beside Dorian, hip against hip, and reached for the bottle of water. "Drink."

"I don't want to," Dorian almost pleaded, but he took it all the same and swallowed a bit, closing his eyes. It wanted to come right back up, and he shivered. "Unh..."

Klaus put one clammy, too warm hand on the back of Dorian's neck, trying to comfort. "Can't get dehydrated. Want to try to move into deeper shade...?"

"I think... here's fine," Dorian sighed, laying back. "I just need to lay down. Probably shouldn't sleep, either of us, but..."

"We won't sleep," Klaus sighed, laying down with Dorian, and taking a deep drink of the water. "We won't sleep."

"Just for a minute," was the whispered promise. "We'll only lay here for a minute..."

Just a moment.


When Klaus was next conscious, it was a hazy red-blue darkness that was descending on them, and it was chilly outside.

The sun he'd seen rising was setting now.

"Dorian..." His head hurt less, though it made him not less worried about the other concussed man -- neither of them should have slept!

"Hmmm?" It was a sleepy sort of answer, Dorian giving a soft sigh. "Klaus?"

Fingers touched at his cheeks, and slightly reddened skin. "Oh, you're sunburnt..."

"Ahhh..." Oh, that little sound wasn't so good. "Ouch. That hurts..." The British thief opened his eyes, blinking. "God, did we sleep all day?"

"Yeah -- looks like the shade ran from us, too, at some point... Let me see if there's anything for burns in the aid kit," Klaus murmured, moving away a little to get the box.

His skin felt awfully tight and hot to the touch, forcing him to give a little impatient sound of pain. "Did it get you, too?" he asked Klaus, trying not to frown. He had a feeling that would hurt!

"My face feels warm, so I'd guess so -- does it hurt so badly...?" He fumbled open the box, and started to search through what they had.

"Feels as if I've been fried. If I were fried potatoes, I'd be dubbed done," was the wry response.

"That's not good," Klaus uttered, picking up a small tube of aloe -- enough for one of them to use for a couple of days... /I don't need it,/ he decided, tossing it to Dorian. "Here."

Dorian *would* have smiled at him, but that would've been unpleasant. "Could you do it? You can see better than I can where the burns are..."

/I don't want to hurt you..../ But he moved close, smearing some of the warm clear-green goo onto his fingers, and then began to smooth it lightly over Dorian's cheeks, chin, and spots on his forehead. "Are you feeling better?"

"Yeah," Dorian admitted. "My head's not pounding so badly and I'm a little hungry. Not so queasy. Oh, that feels good," he sighed. "How are you?"

"My head aches, my eye's bothering me a little, but other'n that, I'm fine." His fingers rubbed gently for a moment more. "Tilt your head back -- your neck's burnt."

A little gasp sounded as Dorian obeyed, lip bitten between white teeth. "Damn, things that hurt that way shouldn't feel so blessedly *good*," he muttered. "I'm all ashiver. Nerves ought to differentiate better than that..."

"If it hurts, how can it feel good?" He kept his two fingers moving, smoothing the aloe gel over the reddened skin, too warm beneath his touch.

"I don't know," Dorian admitted. "Probably because I feel oversensitive, I guess."

"Oversensitive how...?" he pressed, wondering. Pain couldn't feel good, could it...? And if it did, would that mean some of the things he and Dorian had done had really hurt...?

"Like when you're sick and someone touches you and it almost feels good even though you're too sick to enjoy it," Dorian sighed. "Oh, it feels so much better now that you've got something on it. I'll do you, now, Klaus?"

"I don't think I'm really badly burnt," he told Dorian, even though he held still for the other man to inspect. "I can't think of any real examples that I've felt of that, except..." When they were in the hospital, and Dorian let him hold his hand.

"Except?" Dorian asked, dabbing a little of the gooey aloe onto his face tenderly.

"It felt good in the hospital to hold your hand."

With those words, the blond thief almost visibly softened. "Oh, Klaus. I love you so."

"Ja, I know," he said, and Dorian's fingers could feel his smile. It still didn't explain why telling Dorian that had gotten such a reaction, but... but he supposed from Dorian's words that it'd been all right.

Lightly burnt lips pressed to his own, then, before Dorian spoke. "I suppose we should do something about somewhere to stay for the night, even if we've already slept. I doubt we'll find civilization in the dark, darling..."

"Let's see what we can rig with the boat and this tarp," Klaus suggested.

"All right," Dorian agreed, rising slowly. "It's a clear night, Klaus. We could always just sleep on the tarp and blankets 'til morning..."

"And wake up late and sunburnt again," Klaus shoot his head 'no'. "If we rig a shelter now, while it's dark, Dorian... we can sleep through the day, and explore when the sun isn't out, or early or late..."

Ahh, Klaus was so perfect that way! He nodded, shaking out their blankets. "All right," he agreed, glancing towards the wild vegetation where forest met beach. "Do we want to move nearer all of the bushes, there?"

"Yes," Klaus told him, starting to stand up. A mostly empty stomach caught up to him fast, and he sat back down again. "We're going to eat first.... and I'll see what I can do about finding us food."

"We have enough here to last at least several days. Tomorrow, we'll look for something else. Who knows?" Dorian drawled. "Maybe they'll have fishing line hidden in the boat."

"That's an idea, actually..." And even if all they caught was one or two fish, it'd be enough for both of them to eat! But for now, he moved to snag the box of food-bars.

A quick search revealed that one box was some form of fruit bar, and one of those was quickly given to Dorian, another opened for himself. They ate them slowly, careful not to eat too much at once and make themselves ill. "Mmm," Dorian declared around a chewy mouthful. "Not bad. Could be much worse..."

"MRE," Klaus nodded solemnly, swallowing. "These will keep us alive, though, so who cares. Tomorrow, we'll have to see where we are, if we're near anything else..." If there were people, and he hoped they wouldn't be there *long*.

"You know, I don't see even the faintest glow of electric light in the sky, Klaus. If there was a city here, there would be, wouldn't there?" Dorian asked.

"Probably. Even a town would do me right now, though."

Golden curls shivered as a warm wind blew past. "I'd think even a village would cast off *some* sort of light..."

"Maybe," Klaus sighed, looking out and over towards the tree-line. Common sense told him Dorian was right, but hope and stubbornness...

"At any rate, let's rig the boat and tarp together against one of the trees for now? Tomorrow, we can search for civilization and fresh water..."

Klaus finished chewing his bar, and moved to his feet again -- feeling much, much better to have something in his stomach. "Pick a sturdy-looking tree."

It only took a moment to determine which one of the palm trees seemed sturdiest and Dorian nodded to it, moving to tug at the boat. "Shall we lean this up against it and then wrap the tarp to provide a sort of shelter?"

"Lean the boat against it on its side," Klaus murmured, already dragging the heavy thing up the beach further. It would be good protection from evening winds... "Tack the tarp down against the side and use something to prop the tarp up at the other side..."

"Like a tent," Dorian noted, grunting slightly as they tugged the boat into place. "We can tie the tarp the way it was originally..."

"On just one side," Klaus clarified. Now, the fun part would be getting it up on its side...

Dorian seemed to agree, for he paused, frowning at it as they stood near the tree. "Well..." A moment of pause, and Klaus sighed, moving to get his grasp on the side farthest from the tree, using a heel to lever down the near side. With care, Dorian began pushing as well, until they very shortly had the thing toppled over on its side, despite its hefty size. Thank God it was aluminum! "There!"

"Not so bad," the German mused, pulling it back so that it rested on the tree more. "That will make a good shelter for us!"

"Good!" Dorian declared with a sigh. "Now, the tarp..." Would be less trouble...

They moved it in place easily by each of them holding a side, and then fastening it in place. "You know, as a team, we only get better and better..."

The urge to say 'I told you so' was swallowed as Dorian smiled at him, moonlight spilling down on the beach as the silvery round glow of it made itself known. "Now, then. Shall we get our blankets?"

"And all the other supplies." Dorian carried over the blankets, and Klaus took the food and first aid. "We'll manage here, just as well as we do anywhere."

"Good. Then there's no reason to put off what we were planning for tonight... is there?" was the husky question given in response. He was feeling *much* better, and Klaus looked as if he felt better, too. That combined with the sheer *romance* of where they were would be enough for Dorian to forgo the worry of getting sand in odd places or... or worse ones about where they might be...

"What...?" Klaus looked at him in complete confusion -- had he agreed to something, while freshly concussed, that he didn't remember?

"Making love?" Dorian asked him softly.

Technically, he'd agreed for that to have happened the night they were left unconscious in the boat. Technically... /I want to, there's no one here.../ "You still want to?"

"Yes." The reply was given quietly, Dorian standing close to him, the blankets only scant feet away, waiting to be moved inside of their little tent. "Very much so." Even though his heart was beating as if it would burst with what was either excitement or fear, he *did* want it with every part of him. "Though I might want to wait at least until my skin doesn't feel as though it's going to fall off of my face," he sighed a bit sheepishly. "It does hurt awfully, all tight and hot and unpleasant."

"Then we'll wait," Klaus soothed, snagging the blankets. "We'll sleep for a bit tonight, and then we'll explore a little. In the morning we can see just how bad the burn is."

The thief couldn't help but smile a little at that, even if it pulled his face a bit tight. "How we can even think of sleeping..." he began.

"Rest then -- I still have a headache," Klaus shrugged, tossing the towels under their little shelter. "I'd like to go out and look around in a couple of hours, while it's still dark."

"That sounds acceptable," Dorian agreed solemnly. "Until then, we can just lay together..." That sounded like such a beautiful idea!

"You know I'd never pass on a chance to hold you," Klaus purred a bit softly, waiting for Dorian to duck in first.

Obediently, the blond man slipped into the makeshift tent and they spread out the blankets carefully before Dorian laid down, waiting for Klaus to come in after him. Once he did, and once they were both side by side with Klaus's arms around him, he relaxed, sighing slightly with pure pleasure. "Oh, Klaus..."

"Hmn?"

"Do you think there's anyone on the island besides us?" Dorian asked.

"I hope there is." Though the lack of evening glow that Dorian had pointed out to him seemed to be a hard truth -- that they were alone on the island, except, probably, for a few animals.

"Mmmmm." For a while, silence reigned, and they laid there quietly together, but Dorian finally shifted, his back to Klaus's chest, rear pressed to him lightly. "I think I like laying this way. Do you mind?"

Through the lean muscles of his back, he could feel Klaus's body freeze for a moment; then, the exhalation of a tense breath. "You don't mind?" he finally asked when he drew in air again.

"It's just how I want to be with you," Dorian sighed quietly.

"Be with... when...?" He couldn't even form it into a full and proper sentence -- just vague questioning that he hoped Dorian would understand.

"Always." That answer was a bit vague, Dorian's arm moving back to rest against his own. "As soon as my skin doesn't feel so tight, though. If that's what you mean..." It made him nervous, but oh how he wanted Klaus!

Shifting just a little, Klaus slid an arm beneath Dorian's head, fingers resting lightly against Dorian's chest. "It... it's no rush. We're... I mean, we're stranded here right now, and I... 'm not sure either of us are ready for this."

"If you're not, then tell me," Dorian said quietly, nuzzling back to him. "I don't want to push you just because I'm ready for something. I... I've wanted you that way a long time, and I think -- no, I KNOW -- you can make everything right again somehow."

"I want to make things right for you again," Klaus murmured softly, right into Dorian's ear as they pressed closer to each other. Once settled in, it took every thought in Klaus's mind to keep from getting hard, with Dorian's ass pressed back against the cradle of his hips. "You're so much to me."

THAT admission sent an outright tremor through the British man, sinuses tingling. "I know," he whispered, and he did, always had, or had at least HOPED. "I love you so, Klaus."

"I know." Love, though... it was intangible, and though Klaus suspected he did love Dorian, there was no surety. And he couldn't say it unless he was sure, not unless he was sure and knew that saying it wouldn't hurt Dorian.

With a sigh, Dorian closed his eyes. He wasn't sleepy, but resting wasn't out of the question, and he was safe in Klaus's arms. There was no reason *not* to do so. /One day, I hope.../

The German man laid there, holding Dorian so close, trying to not concentrate on any of the myriad of thoughts in his mind. If he spoke, it would only drive them both into a rut again. One of many, though the one of need and want didn't hurt them so badly -- it just hurt him to realize and know there was so much wrong, still. /Take it one day at a time, Eberbach, and this will never change. Every day is one more day ignoring that there's something wrong with us, something more wrong than what we do when we're alone together./

"Klaus?" It was a whisper, inquisitive, willing to be still if no answer came in return.

"Ja?" the slow, bare answer he got in return came as a tickling breath against his tightly curled hair.

"What are you thinking about?" Dorian asked softly.

To tell him, to not answer at all, or to lie...? /I can't lie to him, not ever.../ "About how I wish things were different. Not different... I mean, if everything was still the same, and you and I were together." If they were both 'normal' and un-hurt, if he still worked for NATO, if Dorian was still laughing, flirting, wildly daring...

"Like this, then? Except..." The thief paused momentarily. "Except like we were before. But this way." /Like I wished for so long.../

"Yes," Klaus murmured quietly, still not moving -- somehow, it was easier to say without the weight of Dorian's eyes on him. "I wish we were." Because he was nearly always aware that they weren't the way they should have been, that circumstances had twisted each of them.

"Can you be happy since we aren't?" The question was spoken so quietly, and meant to the depths of him. Without Klaus, there was no happiness. Without Klaus, there was no safety. Without Klaus...

He wasn't sure there was a Dorian anymore.

"I'm happy now, Dorian." As if to assure the other man, he nuzzled a soft, tentative kiss behind Dorian's ear, pushing aside strands of thick curls. "I just worry about you. And me. If we can really... function."

"Mmmm." It was a sound full of understanding, and he wriggled back more closely against Klaus, sighing. "I think we can. We don't seem to do too badly," he noted.

"Not too badly, but..." Klaus's rich voice trailed off into a sigh. "I worry."

"Because we aren't like we used to be. We... can't be that anymore, though. Not now. Maybe not ever, so we just have to go forward as best we can, don't you think?"

"I know -- but sometimes I..." Just got stuck in his thoughts. Like now -- dwelling on the past when he sanely knew he should be resting, relaxing, trying to conserve energy, before he went out to explore a bit of the area.

"Get caught in a rut, so to speak," Dorian said for him.

"Ja." He pressed a little closer, burying his face against Dorian's hair. "I think if we weren't making such an effort to not let that happen, we'd... not be able to do what we do."

The reply was firmly spoken. "Then we just have to keep it in mind, then, darling. That's all."

"I'm glad... that you're doing so much better than you were at first." Doing so well, that Klaus was able to take long moments to work on both their problems, and occasionally just his own -- while still keeping a keen eye on Dorian. "I really..." /Just say it, oh, *dammit*.../ How hard to say, words that he'd just balked minutes before at saying. He didn't know, he wasn't sure, he was afraid... /Trust him to not abuse it, trust him to help the way you help him, trust him to always be there.../ "Love you."

He could feel the stiffening of the other man's spine, the dreadful *stillness* as Dorian's breath seemed to stop coming for just a moment. "K Klaus...." Klaus. *KLAUS* had said... and he...

"That... that's all right, isn't it? If you don't... I mean, I won't, if..." Oh, *shit*, why had the other man gone so stiff and still in his arms? "Dorian?"

"*Klaus*!!!" His name was spoken so sharply, the other man turning in his arms rapidly enough to almost bump their noses together. "Oh, Klaus, Klaus, *yes*, Klaus!"

From stillness that had made him worry, to this, ecstatic joy...! Klaus held him in return, twice as tight, shaking a little. "I didn't mean to say... it, but I'm worried... and if something happened and you didn't know..." It would have killed him, to have felt such love given to him, and been unable to return it to Dorian.

The feel of wet tears against his throat was probably almost enough to scare him clean to death, but Dorian couldn't help himself, and it didn't matter that it hurt his face to be tucked there. "I love you," he whispered. "Oh, I love you so much. Klaus. Oh, *Klaus*!"

Dorian could feel Klaus rocking him a little, so very gently. The other man was always trying to reassure or calm him, watching over him even when he didn't need it... "Don't cry, Dorian -- I didn't mean to make you cry..." Tears... tears meant pain, unhappiness.

"I'm just so terribly happy," Dorian managed to say softly, arms wrapping tightly around Klaus's middle. "I never... and to hear it... I'm just so happy!" he finished almost incoherently.

Had it been really so important? Had him finally giving those simple words meant so much to Dorian...? "I meant it -- I really think I do, because... you're so much of me."

"Nothing. *Nothing* could ever mean so much to me," the British man murmured, deep voice husky with emotion. "Klaus, I love you so. I've loved you *always*..."

A soft chuckle reached his ears then, Klaus's odd sense of humor perking up for a moment. "We would choose to... to say this when we're stranded in the middle of fucking nowhere, laying on a blanket on cold sand."

That gained him a little laugh. "Well, you know, it's really rather romantic, isn't it? Stranded together on a beautiful tropical island. Not many people get the opportunity, now do they?"

"It's not safe or sane to romp naked on the sands, no matter *what* shitty American commercials gave you that idea," he scoffed softly, before pressing a kiss to the edge of Dorian's mouth. "I think I've had enough rest for one day."

"What would you like to do instead?" Dorian whispered breathlessly. The hell with the pain in his face!

"You should rest," Klaus told him, lips still at the edge of his mouth. The taste of aloe was enough to remind him to pull back and to not do it again -- because sunburns hurt.

"And what will you do?" the other man asked.

"Maybe... see if I can find fish...?"

The urge to laugh was fought back, blue eyes dry now and sparkling slightly in the moonlight fighting its way inside. "That sounds just marvelous. May I come, also?"

After a moment of thought, he was told, "Ja. If the water's cooler than before, maybe you can put a little on your face."

Salt water would probably be just awful for it, but he smiled all the same. "Sounds wonderful," he sighed, lightly touching Klaus's arm. "Let's go."

Klaus sat up slowly, still holding Dorian, and kissed the side of his neck very, very gently before moving them out of the 'tent', as he was thinking of it. "If I can find a sharp stick, we might be able to manage."

"We should've checked the boat for fishing line before turning on its side in the dark," Dorian admitted wryly.

"We can do that in the morning -- but you're going to stay in the shade when the sun's out, understand?" Dorian was all but ordered by his companion.

"Yes, Klaus." He might even obey.

Maybe.

Chapter 20 by Kat and Tzigane

Four days later, their routine hadn't changed much -- the rations were holding, and Klaus had forged into the woods some -- but mostly he'd stayed nearer the shore, not wanting to have Dorian too far from his sight.

So, he'd taken some line that *had* been inside of the boat, rigged a hook, and had begun to fish -- good nutrition for them both, and better than those bars. Their life-boat didn't have a skillet, but it did have a metal dish, so the cooking and eating was done in that.

Life was simple, lazy, and a bit dull.

It was all right, in Klaus's opinion.

"I caught two today," he smiled as he approached their shelter -- which Dorian only came out of now that the sun was setting, golden hair fairly shining with fire as the crimson rays reflected back off of those golden curls.

"*I* found little packets of salt hidden away in one of those compartments," Dorian told him proudly, smiling. "That ought to be a treat for the fish, hm?" His face wasn't nearly as red anymore, barely a pale pink, only lightly sun tinged.

"Good -- a little flavor on our food won't kill us," he uttered, sitting down cross-legged in the sands as he reached for the knife they had and started to gut and clean the fish.

"That's REMARKABLY disgusting, darling," Dorian noted with a sigh, wrinkling up his prettily pink nose.

"You've watched me do this the past three nights," he was reminded.

"I thought it was disgusting then, too," Klaus was informed.

The German man smiled as he looked over at Dorian. "Would you rather eat these two fish with everything still inside of them? Nein, so, don't complain about a little fish blood."

"Yes, Klaus," was the most obedient answer. "Though I'm sure it would be easier to eat them if I didn't see their guts first," Dorian teased.

"Hmn, then turn around," Klaus warned him, as he started to carefully de-bone it. "Why don't you start the fire?"

"That sounds like a perfect suggestion," Dorian agreed, moving to their small pile of driftwood. Gathering it had been fun and effortless, and the economy sized book of matches they'd found in the boat had made starting a fire even easier than that. "Hmmm, they'll be delicious! The last ones were. You catch the best kinds of fish, Klaus."

"They're certainly cleaner than the animals running around here." He'd seen a few crashing through the underbrush, smaller animals -- rats, a smattering of other mammals and lizards, some kind of pig. "The salt will help."

Dorian's agreement was quietly given, the other man concentrating on their fire. It was small to accommodate their modest metal dish, but it was more than enough considering they didn't need a fire for their own warmth. It had been freezing some mornings in the Berkshires, but this small tropical island had certainly been pleasant, weather-wise. He hoped they continued to be lucky -- it was still hurricane season, after all.

With their luck, something Klaus considered a major victim of Murphy's law and bad karma at some point in his life, one would probably end up perching right over their current island home.

It didn't take long for Klaus to finish with the first fish, putting one side of its body on the dish with a little of the fresh water. "That should be just fine," Dorian sighed, taking one of the little salt packets and sprinkling it over the thing. "It looks delicious. Especially since you got rid of its guts, darling."

"We could eat them, but it's just not worth the trouble." And it would probably only make them both sick, and what was the sense of that?

"I'll forget you even made that suggestion," he was told firmly. "Because caviar is one thing, but random fish guts is entirely something else altogether."

"I've never liked caviar, either," the German shrugged. "Eating that instead of meat makes as much sense as substituting wine with dog-piss."

The way that Dorian's nose wrinkled was absolutely adorable. "Thank you for that enlightening comment," he declared, sighing as Klaus placed another slice of fish into the little pan to be salted.

"Can you say I'm wrong?" Klaus challenged, smiling a little grimly at him as he started on the next fish.

"Not with a straight face," Dorian admitted. "One *should* like caviar, I suppose, but in the end, I simply can't get past the fact that it's fish eggs. Rotten fish eggs," he decided. "Elegant, I suppose, but lacking beauty and *taste*. Cheese and fruit is better."

"And I'm sure you've found ways to make that very elegant." That was wryly said -- how funny that they were talking about food while they prepared their measly meal of fish.

"Darling, anything's more elegant than rotten fish eggs," Dorian informed him. "Truly. This, for example, is purely gourmet in comparison. Well... maybe not, but it *tastes* a lot better. What's that saying? Hunger's the best sauce."

"Those ration bars are certainly starting to taste good," was the returning agreement as he started to de-bone the next fish just as carefully as the first. "Tomorrow I'm going to start a fire burning and leave it burning -- a signal in case anyone passes by."

"It's a good idea," Dorian agreed. "D'you think anyone'll notice? That we're gone, I mean. Jamesie'll just *die* if we aren't where we should be..."

"He'll suspect I've done something horrible to you."

That gained Klaus a sigh. "Oh, dear..."

Looking up at his companion, Klaus tried to crack a comforting smile for Dorian. "It means, though, that at least he'll put more effort into trying to find us."

"With any luck, they'll have noticed the boat was missing and have some idea of where to start looking," Dorian decided.

"What 'they'?" Klaus asked after a moment, slicing that fish neatly and carefully laying the half on the dish that was now sizzling.

"The ship crew. I'd think they'd keep an eye on their lifeboats and such, wouldn't you?"

"I'd hope they do." Because *they*, personally, had made no friends on the ship who'd notice them being missing. They kept to themselves, so hopefully the missing life-boat would be realized...

Dorian nodded. "Well, if they don't, you'll shortly get to see me looking rather *odd*. I'll bet you have a *lovely* dark beard, but mine comes in all straggly and *curly*, and if you laugh, I shall simply be required to scruff you with it or something."

Klaus snorted unhappily AT that -- he was already starting to feel a little scruffy along his chin. "I hope you didn't try to grow it out on purpose."

"God forbid, no, darling! Well, it *was* for a purpose, but it wasn't something I liked, so I've decided it doesn't count. Can you imagine? It was just awful." Dorian sighed. "I rather hope we get rescued before we're more than scruffy. Four days is an awfully long time to go, you know. You actually look enchantingly *shadowed*, however."

"Only you would say that," he was told with gentle confidence and a shake of Klaus's head. "What were you growing a beard for?"

Dorian grinned. "For one of those things you don't like to talk about, darling. Generally, I prefer to do things romantically, but sometimes, practicality works just as well." If not better... but he wasn't going to admit to that!

"Oh." Klaus dusted a bit of sand off the last half's scales, and looked at the fire for a moment. "Ja, don't tell me about things you've stolen."

"I've stolen at least one thing you hadn't ought to mind hearing about too much," came a teasing offer.

It certainly caught Klaus's attention. "What's that?"

"Your heart." It was pure kitsch, sappily romantic, and Dorian looked so damned pleased with himself that it was almost laughable. "I love you awfully, Klaus."

The edges of Klaus's lips curled upwards just enough to make Dorian completely delighted with the reaction, and Klaus tossed the last part of their soon to be dinner onto the plate. "It wasn't stealing, I don't think. I noticed, and just let you take it."

"Oh, well... it's mine now, stolen or not," Dorian told him cheerfully. "You know, Klaus," he continued, face becoming serious as he seasoned the last of the fish, "my face doesn't hurt anymore..."

"It doesn't?" It actually took him a moment to register what that meant, or could mean, but when it had been placed in his mind, Dorian could *feel* the intensity of his gaze. "I'm glad... it doesn't hurt anymore. I hate to see you hurting..." The knife was cleaned quickly with a splash of water that he'd boiled earlier in their dish, and wiped dry, set aside. Then he moved back beside Dorian and the fire just a bit away from their shelter. "That's good." /Can I kiss you?/

"Tonight," Dorian whispered, leaning closer. "Can we...?"

"Ja." He wanted to add his own 'please' to it, but there was no need to vocalize it, not as he pressed his lips against Dorian's cheek for a light kiss. "As long as you think you can...." /I just hope I can./

The blond man seemed almost shy as they sat there side by side, a stick they had sharpened and burned being used to move their fish around in the little pan. "Good," he whispered, already thinking about it. "Oh, good..."

"It won't hurt you, will it?" Klaus asked after long moments of sitting shoulder to shoulder in silence with Dorian. "If we... I know how badly you were hurt when..."

A finger came up, lightly placed upon his lips. "No," Dorian said solemnly. "It won't. That... we won't think about that. It was wrong, not like things will be with you and me. So it won't hurt. I promise." They'd found tubes of various medical creams and other things among the small first-aid box, and one of those would do for lubricant, he was sure. If they wouldn't, there was always the aloe, though Klaus would surely protest the use of the aloe since one of them could get burned again. Still...

The German man swallowed, looking down for a moment, and kissed the finger Dorian pressed against his lips. Then he moved closer, an arm sliding behind Dorian's back. "But will it feel good?"

"It will feel *very* good," Dorian whispered, thumb rubbing across Klaus's lower lip. "I know it will."

Another kiss, softly placed against the pad of his thumb. "I've never done this before."

"We'll explore it, then. Go slow," Dorian promised solemnly. "It's not really that much different than what we do already. Just... pleasing one another, Klaus. Making things right. Making things good. That's all."

"I've never understood it, and I still don't." And he still had, in his mind, the rough pain of having a finger twisting about within his body -- and that was just a finger -- his cock could do so much more damage, so much more pain to his dear companion... "Is... there a way for you to control what... what's going on?"

Smiling, Dorian nodded. "Yes. I... if you're comfortable with it. I can... we can... I can sit atop you," he fumbled out finally.

"Sit..." Klaus couldn't echo the rest, just looked as Dorian for a moment. Dorian had been over him before, laying warmly on top of him, a comforting presence... "I can't see why I'd be... uncomfortable with it."

"We'll be naked. Sometimes, that changes things. Before, we always had on at least a few items of clothing," Dorian offered.

Pants and shirts, even if pushed to where they wouldn't be a bother, or a heavy blanket, all of which were used as a floor... "I'm comfortable with you against me. More than... more than ever."

"Good," was the soft reply. "I love you. It will all be just fine," he declared. "Our fish is done, darling."

"And salted -- it'll be a good change." With a stick that was more blunted, he speared the smaller of the two pieces that had already been cooked, and took a bite.

Chuckling, Dorian poked its other half and nodded agreeably before taking a bite. "Should be. How is it?"

"Salted fish," Klaus shrugged. "It's good -- just enough water in the dish this time, and the salt helps. Tastes better every day."

With a visible grin, Dorian bit into his own. "Mmmmmm," he declared, chewing and swallowing. "You know, by the time we leave, we'll be able to cook fish like nobody's business."

"Fruit would be nice with it -- later tonight I'll look for fruit." Plus, they both needed it -- something citrusy so they wouldn't end up with scurvy or something like that.

"Before," was the reply. "We'll look together. Maybe there'll be pineapple or something near the spring?" They'd found running water the day before, a clear stream that gathered in a pool at the foot of a small waterfall. "We could go swimming, maybe."

"Swimming..." Definitely a safe thing to do together, safer than swimming in the ocean with its salt and snagging creatures, its strong currents. "Yes. After we eat then -- are you sure you face is all right?" It still looked red.

Dorian shrugged. "It's stopped hurting. It should be *fine*, darling."

"Good. As long as it's stopped hurting..." It couldn't be any worse than those horrible cuts had been at first, the worry that they'd gone clean through his companion's cheek...

The scars had been the worst of the burning, most sensitive, but even they felt better now, his face not so tight, the pink cheeks no more than just that -- pink. "Eat your fish," he prompted teasingly.

"Hmn -- if you start to eat your nutrition bars in the mornings," Klaus teased back, taking another bite of his piece.

Dorian's nose wrinkled, lips pursing slightly. "If only they didn't taste like cardboard," he sighed.

"Cardboard that's good for you -- if we just eat fish, we'll probably become fish, at this rate." More teasing, to keep Dorian happy and smiling, while he worked mentally through his fears of hurting the man in what they were going to do.

"I'd make an *awful* fish," he admitted. "Probably something totally ridiculous, too. You'd be a shark," he decided. "A very marvelous shark."

"Hmn, a stereotypical one eyed shark with one messed up fin," Klaus scoffed, taking another bite of the fish -- the fourth would finish it off, and there was one more piece for him.

"All right, so a pirate, then. The Dread Pirate Klaus, king of the seas!" Dorian declared extravagantly. "And I could be your arch-nemesis. That's better than cabin boy, I think," he said. "We could secretly be lovers and rule the oceans together!"

"Hmn, I don't take well to being compared to an disreputable ancestor." That, too, was smiled, so Dorian could tell that Klaus was relaxed and enjoying their banter as he took the last bite and chewed slowly. "You'd make a better pirate."

Blue eyes fairly sparkled in the firelight. "Raiding, thieving and all around having a marvelous time?"

"While wearing tight pants and a blousey shirt," Klaus agreed, stretching for a moment. "It's going to be a nice, calm night again. I wonder if it ever rains here."

"It must," Dorian decided, "for it to be so lush. Maybe it just isn't the season for it?"

"Don't tell me things like that. If you do, that means the next season we'll probably be flooded right out." If they were still there, which he hoped, despite the beauty of the area, that they weren't.

"I suppose we'll just have to go building a hut or something. Sort of a modern Robinson Crusoe, you think? Or... mmmm, Swiss Family Robinson!"

"Swiss Family Robinson...? You mean those people from the book who built their own semi-modern house... Dorian, I doubt it's possible." He was still intensely proud of their shelter, which was fairly comfortable.

"Probably not, but we can still probably do a lot to keep us high and dry, darling," Dorian pointed out.

"Soon -- once I've figured out a steady source of food, because we're not getting enough right now." Otherwise, food wouldn't have been such a factor in their minds.

"There's bound to be something other than fish, you know. All of those pigs running about and such," the blond man murmured.

"Then we need to work on weapons to get them with -- we can sharpen sticks and harden their tips in the fire..."

Wryly, Dorian said, "I'm not sure I want to get very close, Klaus!"

"Then I can hunt those, and you can fish," he suggested next.

Dorian *definitely* didn't want him hunting alone! On the other hand, he really didn't want to watch pigs bleed, either... "Well, with any luck, someone'll find us soon," he declared, starting on his second piece of fish.

Klaus followed suit, too, though he took Dorian's piece from him, and gave Dorian his own, larger, piece. "That's what I'm hoping most, but a backup plan has never hurt."

"Klaus," Dorian began with a frown.

"What?"

"Give me back my fish. This is *your* fish. I don't want your fish, I want my fish," he was informed firmly.

"You didn't finish breakfast," Klaus reminded him, "so you need it more than I do."

"Klaus..."

"Dorian." Said back to him in the same tone Dorian had used on him.

Still frowning, blue eyes fairly gleamed at him. "I'll eat it," he declared with a sigh. "But only because you want me to."

"I won't do that again if you eat everything you're supposed to. We've been fine with four days, but we might be here a lot longer, and you need to be healthy." It didn't really matter if his own health suffered, as long as Dorian was all right.

"And *so* do you," he was told firmly. "We'll go scavenging for fruits and such, though, and it'll get better." Dorian was such an optimist!

Such brightness was hard to deny -- to denounce Dorian's better temperament would harm them both permanently. So Klaus nodded and gave a bit of an agreeing grin as he quickly ate his second piece.

By the time he'd finished, Dorian was working on the last of his own, and was smiling. "Come on. We'll leave the fire and light part of the driftwood to light our way there. Maybe it'll help to find fruit, and we can go swimming. We should probably take..." He'd have flushed, if his cheeks weren't already so pink. "Something with us."

"Take something with us...?" Klaus asked, while he moved to grab a piece that would suit as a torch.

"The aloe, or maybe one of the other tubes..." Dorian offered a little shyly. It wasn't that he wasn't accustomed to sex; he was, it was just... well, it was Klaus, and with everything that had gone before... "For lubricant."

"Swimming?!"

"No!" Dorian groaned, and he *did* flush, then, face lighting up with heat. "For... for... YOU know!"

"I... I guessed -- there, though...? It's so..." Open, he wanted to say. So many directions that needed to be watched!

"On the rocks just above. It'll be beautiful and the moon will be bright," Dorian offered quietly. "And it will be all right, there..." It wouldn't seem furtive or quick, just... open. Just them.

An elevated position was always safer than a low-lying one... "Will you be able to relax there?" In the end *he* didn't matter -- Dorian did.

"Yes," Dorian replied solemnly. "I will. Will you?"

"If you can," was the predictable answer.

"I don't really think it'll be a problem for me," came the tentative response. "I think I could relax with you most anywhere..."

They were still seated near each other, so Klaus pressed a kiss to the edge of Dorian's lips. "Just with you."

"Let's go, darling," Dorian whispered. "Let's go swim, and... I'll stop in the tent. Come on..."

"Before we come up with a reason to not," Klaus agreed with a soft smile, tentative and hard to give when paired with his too true comment. Standing up, he pulled Dorian with him -- so they were together and closer than ever.

"Kiss me again?" The question was a little husky, softly spoken, and arms wrapped around him slowly. "It will be all right, Klaus. I promise you."

Familiar touch, well-known, calming voice; both washed into his mind and comforted more than Dorian could know. But he felt it, Klaus relaxing and then moving his lips to press them against his companion's... no, lover's mouth. Dorian was a lover, just as possessive as he could be, at times. /We promise each other so much.../

Promised it and would die to fulfill it. "Love you," Dorian whispered, hands sliding down to his hips, touching, light, *good*. "Adore you. Klaus... It will be all right. Come on." Carefully, he took the other man's hand, smiling at him bravely. "Fetch fire with your wood here and we'll go..."

To the little spring, where they would... and he wouldn't hurt Dorian. Not ever again, not ever!

Funny how they could relax together, no matter where or how, and how Dorian always seemed to keep him focused when they started something together. He caught Dorian's eyes out of the corner of his eye, and smiled as he led Dorian over to the driftwood and grabbed a piece. "I'll light this, and you... get the other."

It only took a moment; less than that, really, and then it was in his hand and he was with Klaus again, walking towards the underbrush. The tropical jungle was wild, but they'd beaten through a small path the bushes and trees days before, so it wasn't difficult to head towards their source of fresh water, hand in hand, the tube tucked carefully into Dorian's pocket. "A bath will be nice," he declared inanely, smiling at Klaus, trying to set him at ease.

"Bath -- soap would make it a bath. We're just planning on splashing around in our drinking water source," Klaus snorted gently.

"I suppose we could try scouring off with sand as we do with our dish," Dorian offered a bit dryly, "but I rather think it'd be horridly unpleasant."

"I was just going to say it might work," Klaus laughed, shaking his head again. "As long as we avoid anything sunburnt, it shouldn't be too unpleasant."

"You do me and I'll do you," Dorian offered mischievously as they strolled into the clearing where the pool of fresh water lay.

The waterfall wasn't much -- just a short spill over into the little pool, perhaps as much as six feet, perfect to serve as a shower. It *was* beautiful in the silver moonlight, however, the pool itself reflecting light from its perfectly clear water, the heady scent of tropical flowers heavy on the air.

His comment got the desired reaction from Klaus -- a blush that warmed the German's cheeks. Yes, soon they would be 'doing' each other....

"We're lucky to have found this place," he tried to comment off-handedly as he started to remove his shirt.

"Mmmm." It was a quiet noise of agreement as Dorian began to strip as well, blue eyes trained on the other man. "Klaus, if you want to stop at any point, all you have to do is tell me so..."

"I remember," Klaus murmured, watching Dorian a bit more than absently. "But I'm... are you sure you'll be okay...?" He was hoping beyond hope that Dorian was right and that it wouldn't be like what the Stasi had done.

"Mostly certain," Dorian replied, shoving at his pants. They came down with an unexpected ease, dropping to the grassy floor of the little glen, shirt dropped atop them. "I think I'll be fine."

"So, if you need to stop, just do -- I'll know to back off," Klaus said agreeably, staring at his lover's body while he finished shucking off his own clothes. He was still a divestmentphobe, unless it was for a clear purpose... and the purpose now was *very* clear.

Dorian nodded. "I'll tell you. Perhaps I'll say..." His lips curved up in a smile. "Hm, why not... Achilles."

Stepping out of his trousers, Klaus nodded to that suggestion -- even as he quickly made his way into the small pool of water. "So, you'll say it to... stop everything?"

"Yes," Dorian replied quietly, watching the other man slip into the cool, clean liquid, following after him slowly. "That's just exactly what I'll do."

The water was *crisp*, and it felt almost like what he assumed stepping into glass would feel like -- enveloping and chilly -- but the chill was a nice reprieve from dry, sweltering heat. "If you need to. And... you'll be on top." Twice the protection, Klaus though, from something going wrong.

Dorian's agreement was that soft word again. "Yes. Klaus..." Carefully, he moved closer to him, an arm wrapping around the other man's waist, legs moving lazily to keep him afloat. "I love you." It threatened to melt the man, being told that again and again like Dorian did -- weakened him to the core, and he didn't care at all that it did. The strength it took to keep afloat was little, though Klaus made sure Dorian's grip was just a loose one. "Kiss me," was the demand, given with an absolute surety that it would be granted. "Kiss me and kiss me and kiss me..."

"Would it be better to do that on land?" Klaus asked, before he took a brush of a kiss, careful.

"For now," Dorian told him, "we can do just as we like right here. I doubt we'll drown, darling. When we do that... then, we can slip to shore."

It seemed reasonable that way -- once Dorian had even gently insisted. "Kissing you... is a pleasure I can't do without now." The earl's lips were warm, even when chapped from too much sun, and they parted just enough for his tongue to slip between them, caressing within. From there, it was a tangle of mouth and tongue mingled with hands that stroked over the width of Klaus's shoulders, touching him with an obvious want. Response came by way of gently nibbling teeth, nudging legs pressing lightly to Klaus's as they remained there, treading water easily together.

A few days without touching with such intent had put Klaus a bit down from where he'd been in his ability to take easily those heady touches. Dorian's teeth catching onto his bottom lip got a soft moan in response, and Klaus sliding one hand firmly along Dorian's spine to better mould their bodies together. His free hand went out, into the water, to better keep them afloat. Swimming... was something perhaps that they shouldn't have even bothered with -- he wanted to be on stable ground then and there, to be able to see how he touched Dorian.

It seemed that Dorian understood that need, for he pulled back slightly, mouth swollen from the sheer force of those kisses, a little breathless. "Let's move that way," he murmured, pointing in a direction where the clear pool of water was a bit more shallow, more likely to allow them to stand than not.

At least it would allow them an easier time of touching each other again. The sheer need that lurked in the back of Klaus's mind, to do those things, was frightening at times. To know that, given the option, he would probably spend all hours of the day, all days of the week, doing that...

"This is better," he decided, as they reached a point where he could put feet down and not be under the water, footing firm enough on silt and rocks.

"Much," Dorian purred, his own toes finding a proper footing. "Now, then, I believe we were right about... here?" He leaned forward and kissed Klaus again, bringing his knees up to clutch at Klaus's thighs. His arms still wrapped carefully around those broad shoulders kept him stable, and it felt so *good* to press himself completely against the lean length of the other man's body!!

It almost completely unbalanced Klaus, but he was more than grateful for that pressing contact -- Dorian might as well have not bothered to find footing, for all that his feet weren't touching the bottom of their little pond anymore. Klaus was pleased where the thief's knees were, though, where his arms were, where his lips were pressing, again and again...

"Love you." It was a fair litany, singing in his ears, the feel of Dorian's mouth fluttering kisses over his face unspeakably delicious. "Love you. My Klaus..."

Overwhelmed by those kisses, he could only drudge up the effort to reply, "Ja, yours." As if Dorian needed to be told -- the teasing comment about having stolen his heart was true, the utterances of having him... yes, all true. Otherwise they would never have gotten further than that night in the bathroom, where Dorian had caught him touching himself.

Slowly, as he wrapped his arms around the small of Dorian's back to hold him up, Klaus started to back up -- towards the shore.

"And I'm yours," Dorian told him, moving to nibble lightly where throat met jaw, mouth caressing past there to his ear. "Always, Klaus. Forever, and I'll never, ever leave you..."

Would it have been the same between them if they'd been lovers before the Stasi had brought about changes? Would it have been the same if Klaus had been able to deny an overwhelming need to protect, to *have* Dorian just for himself? Probably not, but what they had, the way they were... "Ohhhh, ah, Dorian..." He kept backing up, until there were water-smoothed rocks against his back.

The taste of Dorian was pure hunger, the steady rock of hip to pelvis unmistakably desirous of more. One slim thief's hand reached out, finding a hold on one of the rocks to hold them still as he moaned against Klaus's lips, sighing against them a moment later. "Up on the rocks," he whispered to his lover, parting from him. "I'll be back in just a moment."

"Where are you going?" Klaus asked hazily, not yet moving as Dorian pulled back.

A smile that was purely born of adoration and need crossed the other man's lips. "To fetch something from shore, darling. I'll be right back. Promise."

Something... *that* something. Klaus watched, still breathing a little hard, as Dorian moved out over the water; once he was near the shore, Klaus turned, and climbed easily up the sloped rocks, up to the flat area atop the rise. He seemed almost a silvered god there in the moonlight, water spilling so close to him, the occasional splash making its way over the rock in a chill little wash. It was nothing but purely appreciated as Dorian turned back, a small, slim tube in hand, and looked at him for just a moment before slipping back into the water and silently swimming over to the rocks.

He pulled himself up beside Klaus, looking at him steadily. "It's almost difficult to believe you're actually human, love. You're so beautiful here this way..."

"Beautiful? Me...?" Klaus smiled slight at him, already pulling his gold-and milk-hued lover near. One hand cupping the side of Dorian's face, the other lightly at his waist. "Nein -- you're the one who might as well be a part of the water."

"Beautiful," Dorian informed him again lightly. "A living work of art, almost. A divinely made water god come to life to take a mate..."

Sometimes it was better to just let Dorian flatter him -- because how could he be *that* and be missing an eye? How could he be *that* and be missing a hand, bear so many scars... But arguing would have ruined the mood, and his own need to make Dorian entirely happy. Usually when they were both naked there was a sheet, or something, but not now -- not it was just the stone beneath his back, slightly cool, and Dorian kneeling beside him. "Why look for a mate, when all I want is here in you?"

The slow curve of Dorian's lips said much, the spark of his eyes undeniable even in the flat pale light. "Because I *am* your mate, darling. And I'll always be," he purred, leaning in to kiss the other man delicately.

The hand at his waist, Klaus's right hand, pulled Dorian's body nearer -- but not yet touching his. Without water between their naked bodies, it was somehow a thousand times more overwhelming to have his lover that close. "Always," came the aching whisper of agreement against Dorian's mouth.

Easily, Dorian allowed that kiss, opening to it, his arms wrapping tightly about Klaus's neck, the entirety of him yearning to be held snugly against the other man's body. He could resist only so much and so he slid forward slightly, pressing them chest to chest, wanting so badly for more. When Klaus next tried for more contact, it was the unexpected meeting of their hips, sliding together almost like two puzzle pieces -- and how much Klaus wanted to join with Dorian! He gasped at the rub of erections, slicked with water more than anything else. "Dorian..." It wasn't a request for him to stop -- it was a request for something coherent.

"Yes," Dorian promised him in a single breath. "Yes, *Klaus*..." His hand slid down, caressing over the stiff, slick, heated length of him, slowly but surely coming from root to tip. "Is this what you want?" he whispered, trembling a little with the strength of his emotions. "Is this what you *need*?"

"Uhn, gott, yes!" He tried to not move his hips at all, but they twitched upwards a little, into Dorian's grasp. "I want to do that to -- *with* you so badly..."

"Then we will," his lover almost groaned, reaching for the tube. "Klaus... you need to touch me. There... if you can..."

"Touch.... t-touch you where?" Klaus asked, wanting desperately, clarification.

Taking the other man's hand, Dorian gently guided it between his thighs and farther back, touching fingers between his own cheeks. "Here. With this..." He indicated the tube. "To make sure that I... I'm able to take you in. To make me slick. And I'll do you, here..." His second hand lightly caressed over the length of Klaus's erection, trembling only slightly.

Klaus could feel his own hand shake a little as he coated two fingers on his good left hand with the slick stuff -- probably something they shouldn't be wasting, but it wasn't a real waste if it felt so good as it did. Of course fingers would ease the way, but just one finger had hurt so much for *him*....! "I love you," he murmured, sliding those two fingers up along the crevice between firm muscles.

"Oh, Klaus..." The way that affected Dorian was so *obvious*, the entirety of him seeming to melt with the sound of those words. "Beyond knowing, yes... yes, yes, yes, Klaus, *please*..." His own fingers were still stroking slowly over the blood-filled throbbing jut of flesh so blatantly needy between Klaus's thighs, tenderly moving upon him. "Please, I need you so much... so many ways..." His wet head dropped forward upon the stone, water-damp corkscrew curls spilling around him. "Please..."

If Dorian's pace had been just a bit faster, Klaus would have been worried about reaching completion -- with his lover writhing and moaning just kneeling partly over him, so blatantly beautiful... Hard to resist. "You... okay?" he asked as he slid one slicked finger in to the second knuckle.

The little mewled sound that he gave seemed as if it was meant to be agreement, and the slight shift of his hips was an obvious one. "Yes!" he finally managed to groan, eyes slitting open to watch Klaus. "Oh, *yes*... Only you, Klaus," he whimpered. "Only you, ever. Ever..."

"Only you." He meant it just as much as Dorian's words, as he slipped that finger in a little, moving it very carefully -- with no idea of what he was supposed to look for, if anything at all, or what he was supposed to do.

"Just a little more!" It was a whimper, pleading. "Just a little... little... AHHHH!! OH, *GOD*!! Yes, Klaus!!!"

Obviously, he had found whatever he was supposed to look for, and equally obviously, it must be *good*.

Though in particular, nothing felt too different from anything else -- it was all hot, all clenching around his slicked finger. But he didn't stop, because obviously he was doing something right. "Can I... add my other finger...?"

"Yes..." It was a raw little sound, Dorian looking at him, hand moving to the tube to squeeze some of the slick ointment out onto his fingers. "Yes... you can, please, Klaus. I'd... unnnnh..... Oh, I'd love it if you did!!"

At first Klaus didn't think a second one would fit in -- but he tried, pressing it close against both the tiny hole and his other finger. When it slid in, his blond lover gave a sound that was purely pleasure, entire body arching with the feel of it. "Hah!!"

"It isn't too much?" Klaus asked, desperate for the reassurance that Dorian was all right with having that done to him.

"So good," Dorian whined softly, shivering. "So *good*... Klaus... Oh, *GOD*, how I want you, need you... love you..."

"You're amazing," he whispered tensely, watching the blond's face flicker with expressions. Now that Dorian was so intensely distracted he'd stopped touching Klaus, which was just as well. There was enough visual stimulation to keep him hard for weeks.

"Now... Klaus?" Dorian panted out, wanting more. He knew it would be all he could do to get his legs beneath him, to get himself atop Klaus and settled there, but he wanted Klaus so *much*...

"What... what do I do?" It sounded pathetic, but he *needed* to be told exactly what Dorian wanted him to do....

"On your back, darling," the British man murmured, lightly pushing at him so that he laid flat. His brains felt utterly scrambled with desire, but he pulled himself together enough to only let out a little moan of loss when Klaus removed his fingers. "Huunh..."

"If it hurts," Klaus reminded him shakily.

Moving over him, Dorian paused, kneeling up. *He* seemed the God in that moment, blond and ravishing and silver in the moonlight, shimmering with cool moisture, a thing made up of exquisite purity. "I'll tell you," he promised in a whisper, reaching for Klaus's heated erection and taking it in hand before settling down slowly so that it met his own flesh, lightly placing it between his cheeks. "Tell me the same, Klaus..."

Klaus was barely resting his weight back on one elbow, caught in looking up at Dorian's pleasure-caught frame. Just beautiful to have that kneeling atop him, to have that... He shuddered visibly, a tensing of muscles, when Dorian guided his cock towards its destination. "I will." Though he couldn't see how it could hurt *him*.

Momentarily, Dorian paused there atop him, thoughts scattered with sudden panic. /It's Klaus,/ he thought taking in a deep breath. /It's Klaus, and he'd die before he'd hurt me.../ With that, he slowly moved downward, pressure opening him up, making him gasp as the soft tip of that stiff erection sank past the scarred ring of resisting muscle meant to hold him out! "Ohhh!"

"Nnng!" Klaus's voice caught between a gasp and a choke as he froze, keeping himself unmoving. Such a tight, tight clutch around him as Dorian controlled the actions.

The other man's name was a shaky sound on Dorian's lips as the blond moaned, sliding slowly down that hard flesh until Klaus was deep inside of him -- so impossibly deep that he felt as if he was going to simply tear apart with the tension and the want and... yes, the fear. "Klaus," he whispered, leaning down and pillowing his head on Eberbach's scarred chest. "Hold me, Klaus. I'm afraid I'm going to fly apart!"

Fly apart... Klaus understood that, since he was nearly going to shatter from the *amount* of sensation that came from Dorian's bottom resting against his hips, the shuddering heat that clutched at him. The plea in Dorian's voice un-paralyzed him enough to get his arms to work for him, sliding around Dorian's shoulders to do just that. "It.... it's all right. It's just me, Dorian."

"Yes..." The whisper was shivering agreement, Dorian trembling against him. "Just you. Just.. oh, *GOD*, Klaus! So... so hot, so *much*, so much of you... so deep... ohhh..."

"It, it isn't too.... ah, too much?" Klaus asked disjointedly. It took hard concentration to keep his voice working, to speak when he wanted to move his body against Dorian's.

A shift proved that it wasn't too much at all, breath shuddering loose from the man straddling him. "Nnnnn, *Klaus*, God, *yes*!"

Klaus's hands, unsteady, stroked against Dorian's back, over the smooth skin as he stopped hugging the man quite so tightly near him. "How... are you?"

"Feels so good," Dorian groaned out, shuddering. It hurt a little, too, but he would never, ever tell Klaus that! Besides, the wonder of it more than made up for the small amount of pain, and the little shivers working through him could certainly be put off to pleasure!

"Can I.... m-move yet? Christ, you feel so hot, Dorian!" He couldn't help that it felt so good, that he wanted to grasp Dorian's hips and grind up into him.

"Y...es, please *GOD*, do it, Klaus!" That reply was barely moaned out, the slim blond man writhing atop him. "I... need you so..."

"It's... so..." Powerful, he wanted to say, as he arched his hips minutely so that their bodies pressed closer still, and then parted. He needed to kiss the other man, needed badly to do that, and yet he needed to watch Dorian's face, to make sure everything was okay...

It gained him the softest sound of pure pleasure, Dorian shifting above him. "Kiss me," he whispered, shivering. "Kiss me and touch me... here..." A nimble-fingered hand took Klaus's own, lightly placing it on Dorian's cock, the flesh desperately hard and needy. "God... *yes*..."

That was familiar, though it was hard to work on stroking Dorian where the man liked it best -- around the head and beneath, he always remembered that -- while he rocked minutely into the man kneeling over his groin. "Lean... lean down, so..." So he could take Dorian's mouth in his.

It seemed so easy for Dorian to obey, and for a moment, he honestly thought he'd melt into the German man with the sheer bliss of being kissed that way. "Nnnnnmmmm!"

Linked completely to each other, groins melted completely, mouth against mouth... It was more than Klaus had ever felt in his life, more pleasure in one complicated act than he'd ever thought possible. Each straining shift brought new pleasure, a quickening of pace; and all the while he stroked at Dorian's fluid-slick cock while his mouth ate at Dorian's. It wasn't like every sick fear he'd had -- it didn't feel all powering to indulge in the act, and Dorian wasn't being hurt, and that made it so much better!

Panting slightly, Dorian pulled back from him, mouth swollen, and smiled. "Do you... like it?" he managed to ask, a steady writhe of hip and thigh continuing to build pleasure between them. "Do you want more of it? Do you want more of *me*...?"

"Yes, yes, more of you, Dorian, it's..." It was beyond the ken of coherence for him, and it showed in the way he tried to form more words, but ended up just smiling breathlessly at his lover.

Returning it, Dorian shifted up, sitting on him fully. He shook his hair back over his shoulders, hands lightly placed on Klaus's abdomen as he nearly *purred* with satisfaction. It was so *good* to feel Klaus in him, to feel it not hurting, the way that everything rubbed so perfectly. "Good," he cooed quietly. "Ohhh, so *goood*..."

"I could... oh, do this for hours," Klaus moaned disjointedly, shuddering at the race of feeling he got from Dorian's hands on his stomach. He finally rested a hand on Dorian's hip, other still stroking firmly, shakily at the earl's hard cock.

The purely luscious sounds he dragged from Dorian were so good for him, freeing him of his worry as the other man rose and fell on the stiffness of his erection, shuddering steadily. "Please... please, please, please, *yes*, God, more...!"

He couldn't think of anything else to do for Dorian -- other than rock his hips up firmer, and stroke faster, matching the two paces -- oh, he wanted to give in to his nearing release, but not unless Dorian went first!

It wasn't much of a stretch for Dorian to do just that. The feel of Klaus deep in him, nudging at the all-too delicious nub of his prostate; the realization that he *could* do this after all; the sheer *freedom* of who and what they were together... It all combined, mixing in him until he was nearly incoherent with joy, and when he came, it was with a cry that echoed back over the water and into the trees, the entirety of him going stiff.

If he were ever to black-out during sex, then would have been the time. But he didn't; the release, a sudden rush of need that had to be let loose, hit him hard, and left him drifting when Dorian rolled forwards a little, resting entirely atop him. "Ach, da.... darling..." It was awkward for him to say, but it was something, as he stroked gently with heavy-feeling fingers.

"Perfect," Dorian whispered, rubbing his cheek against Klaus's shoulder. "'S just so perfect..."

"Felt.. feel so good," he sighed, voice nearly slurring the words right together.

"Garrison," a voice said clearly from the other side of the brush, "I'm utterly *certain* that I just heard a *howl*."

Klaus tensed immediately -- shit, there *were* other people there, and their clothes were on the other side of the little pool!

"I can't imagine that it would be a *human*, Jackson," came the assurance. "We're probably going to be eaten by some ridiculous tropical animal or something!"

Not only were they together, and naked, but the were still *together* -- his cock, softening, was still within Dorian' tight clench... He had to do something.

"Don't come into the clearing!" he called out to them. "Wait a moment!"

"Well," a third voice declared, deep and calm, "it looks as if Jackson was right. How remarkable. You'll have to eat your words about the animal, Garrison."

"Shut up, Orville. Who are you?" the voice who seemed to be Garrison called.

Klaus started to sit up, Dorian still a motionless blanket of body atop him. "Civilians -- we were stranded here a little while ago -- hold on a moment, we've been... swimming." /Come on, Dorian, get up, help me here.../

"This is either very good or very bad," Dorian whispered, shifting slowly off of him. "Back into the water?"

"Ja, and over to our clothes," Klaus finished, barely a whisper.

"Civilians, eh? Hm, odd, that." That one was Jackson. "Well, odd that you'd say it, all the same. Decent yet, are you?"

"Not yet..." Both he and Dorian slid quietly into the water, and he swam forward quickly, over to the other side of the pool and then out of it, trying to sort out their clothing.

"Here, those are my pants," Dorian whispered. It was going to be *hellacious* to dress like that when they were both wet!!!

They were handed over as Klaus stood and struggled first into his underwear, and then his pants. Somehow, if the pants had been wet, too, it might have been easier. But at least it was something, and he jerked his shirt on quickly, absently pulling up his eyepatch to dry the skin beneath. Trying to not watch Dorian in his rush to dress, too -- why was it that everything they tried ended up interrupted somehow?

"Are you finished dressing yet?" came the call from one of those voices.

"Er... yes!" Dorian declared, buttoning up his shirt. "We're mostly decent now!"

"Oh, *GOOD*," was the proclamation, a rustle of leaves sounding before three men revealed themselves from the surrounding vegetation.

Klaus took a stance between over relaxed and ready to attack, edging himself nearer his lover. But the three men coming out of the bushes didn't *look* threatening at all -- rather, they looked like doddering old scientists or professors.

"How remarkable," the second voice said, squinting at them. *He* was obviously Jackson, as declared by the stitchwork on his white lab coat. "This is the first time we've gone for a walk and found people on the island."

"We were in a lifeboat, and we ended up here," Klaus said warily. "What government do you work for?" /Please don't let this be Cuba.../

"Oh, no government, dear boy, no government," the one with Garrison on his coat declared. "It's a private island, and our lab's well tucked away in the brush. Come along and we'll feed you and let you take a bath and perhaps contact someone to fetch you?" he offered.

"That sounds all right," Dorian agreed, glancing to Klaus.

"Who do you work for?" Klaus asked, still intensely suspicious -- there would be nothing worse than walking right into a trap!

"Oh, for ourselves," the one named Orville declared. "Governments are too corrupt to bother working for them."

The German eyed the three men for a moment, and then nodded once. "Thank you, then, for the offer of aid."

Dorian nearly sighed with Klaus's expression. "I'm dying for a hot bath," he told them, smiling.

"This, you may have," Orville replied, nodding. "We have much of the commodity of hot water."

"We need to make a call to Europe," Klaus uttered, grasping Dorian's hand between them to keep him close when they followed after the man. This was a good turn of events, it seemed!

"That would certainly be acceptable," Garrison informed them. "We have the proper equipment to do such a thing..."

"And then some," Jackson muttered.

"...and so we'll be glad to help you in any way it may be possible for us to do so!" the little man with the bowl-cut hair and large nose finished, glancing at his comrade.

"Thank you," Klaus said again, "Lets go now...?" Because he and Dorian were standing in wet clothing, and he wanted to be able to get back to Germany soon, now that the option was there.

"Of course," Orville agreed, turning to begin their journey.

Klaus gave the hand he held a firm squeeze, and looked over his shoulder to make sure that Dorian was okay with how things were going -- did he sense anything wrong with those three? Other than odd appearance, of whom Klaus knew they should be no judge, they seemed... all right.

Dorian seemed to think so, too, as they tromped through thick foliage and grasses on a path that was nearly impossible to see. Big leaves whacked their faces every now and then as they followed the men in their white coats silently, listening to their babble.

"Remarkable..."

"Can't imagine..."

"But there you have it, all the same!"

"Excuse me, but what are you fellows having such trouble imagining?" Klaus asked politely.

Glancing back, Jackson peered at him dimly. "Oh, that anyone could be stranded on our island. It's an oddity. One rarely finds people stranded on deserted islands anymore outside of classic novels."

It was hard to not sigh, as he continued to follow the men. Yes, it was unlikely, but... but he and Dorian *lived* the unlikely life! "Shit luck, I think of it as. And since you're here, it isn't really stranded."

"Excellent point, my boy. Bright," Garrison told the others, nodding. "It isn't deserted after all."

"Just seems like it," Dorian agreed.

"We didn't explore too far in from the beach since we couldn't see a glow from your compound when the sun set," Klaus told them. "More shit luck, since we've been eating fish and ration bars since we ended up here."

"The fish really weren't so bad," the blond pointed out to Klaus. "Especially once we found the salt..."

"Which was only this evening," Klaus pointed out, stroking his thumb over the back of Dorian's hand. "It hasn't been all bad." The pool, the talking, the *respite* from worry, the sex, oh god, they'd finally done it, hadn't they? Yes...

They'd DEFINITELY done it.

"Good, good. It's an abundant sort of island," Jackson told them, nodding at the silent Orville. "Isn't it? That's why we chose it!"

"What do you do?" he asked absently, still stroking his hand over the back of Dorian's. When they got a chance alone, he had so much to thank Dorian for, so much...

"Research," Orville rumbled, nodding his bald head. "We do private research."

Vague. Vague, but Klaus wasn't about to press it too far. "We won't disturb your work for long, then -- just until we can get out of here."

"Yes," Dorian agreed. "My accountant will come running when I call..."

"That's all right," Garrison told them. "We've got a few extra quarters for when family comes to visit." There was nothing at all suspicious about that until the lot of them stopped in the middle of what appeared to be an empty clearing.

The empty clearing put Klaus on edge, and it was more than obvious that the German *was* tense, as he verged closer to the trees and underbrush again. "So, where is your base...?"

"Right here," Garrison said, hitting a red button on a small contraption drawn out of his pocket. The grass lifted up, revealing a mechanical door -- obviously an elevator. "As I said. We work for no government. They're too corrupt. And they'd like too much to get their hands on things we choose to do."

"Wise to keep it hidden, then," Klaus said, edging forwards only after one of them started to go in. There was no way he was going to let himself and Dorian end up boxed into a fort that he couldn't see...

"WE thought so," Jackson agreed, even as Dorian's hand clutched Klaus's more tightly.

/This is so odd. Not threatening, really, but... FRIGHTENING, nonetheless,/ he decided, shivering.

As the other two moved into the doorway before them Klaus could only try to soothe Dorian's nerves with his touch from one hand, mulling things over. Perhaps it had been better when they'd thought the island stranded...

Still, it was a chance they'd have to take, and so they stepped into the elevator and Dorian shivered only a little as it began to take them down. /What an odd place,/ he thought, staying very close to Klaus. /So strange../

"We will show you to your quarters, and then send the message you wish when we arrive below," Orville told them politely.

"We only need one room," Klaus said as he made sure that Dorian was still comfortably close to him, almost protected in that small space.

That didn't seem to faze any of the old men, one of them just nodding slowly. "We expected as much," Garrison replied solemnly. After all, it wasn't as if what the two of them had been doing was in much question...

Dorian flushed slightly and glanced up at Klaus. "We'll be off your hands before you know it," he promised.

"Hopefully James won't charter some tug-boat to come get us," Klaus sighed. It would be *cheap*, if slow as hell, and he wasn't in a mood to put up with shitty thrift.

"Well..." Dorian said thoughtfully. "I'm sure he won't. After all, we'll have been missing for at least a few days. Poor Jamesie is probably frantic..."

"Good." Then they might be something better, faster -- a plane would be good, the faster they could get *home*.

"We hope our hospitality will be enough," Jackson said as the elevator came to a stop. "We aren't accustomed to having company."

"I'm sure everything will be just fine," Dorian replied with a smiled nod. "Thank you."

Hopefully they *were* just scientists, hopefully they weren't luring Klaus and Dorian into a trap, hopefully...

"Yes, thank you -- anything you can do for us will be more than enough."

"Just don't wander down the third hall to the left and everything should be just fine," Garrison told him. "That's where the research labs are."

"We won't leave our room," Klaus assured him. "We're not here to look around -- we just want to get home."

Jackson chortled at that. "Excellent. Just excellent!"

Smiling, Dorian hid his shivers. Creepy old men!

Shortly the two of them were escorted to a fairly comfortable, if stark room by the three old scientists, and Klaus wasn't going to any issue of question in his mind. No, he wanted a bath, and to sleep in a bed, call James, or Bonham, or someone, and to get back *home*! "Thank you, again, for helping us," he murmured graciously.

"No problem," Orville told them with calm inflection. "Would you like to send your message now?"

"Yes, please!" Dorian sighed, smiling charmingly at the lot of them. "We would appreciate that terribly much if you don't mind. Urm... 's there a phone, or...?"

"We'll just.... send a message for you," The one with the big nose said cryptically. "If you'll give us a number and a name to call, we'll set up transmission for you..."

"That's more than fine," was the agreement from the Briton, Dorian stepping close to Klaus. "Please, call Mr. James. You may reach him at 00-44-0845-773 3377... perhaps I should write that down..." Dorian muttered.

"I won't forget it," Orville promised with a nod of his head, and then the scientists left them alone! Blessedly!

Klaus made sure the door was locked, and then turned his attention back to Dorian. "You'r