Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach gritted his teeth. In all his years in NATO it always amazed him how quickly an entire mission could fall apart. Like a house of cards, one wrong move and the entire thing came crashing down around you. Like tonight. What was supposed to be a simple job of reconnaissance and petty theft from a suspected terrorist group hide-out in California had turned into a full scale raid.
Eroica had been hired to perform the task of stealing the terrorist group's list of planned bombing sites. He went in, but he never came out. That was over 24 hours ago. Now he, the Major in charge of this mission, had the dubious honor of trying to rescue the obviously captured thief. He'd had a bad feeling about this mission in the first place. From the moment he'd met with the Earl four days ago to the night he disappeared, the Earl hadn't seemed quite right. Now his suspicions were being confirmed.
He gripped his trusted .44 tightly and gave the order to storm the hideout. Members of the terrorist group scattered, obviously taken unawares by the NATO troops that came crashing into their haven, and Klaus barked orders to his men.
"A, B and C! Get the bombing sites! The rest if you, arrest as many as you can catch! I'm going to find the Earl!"
With his gun held ready and the safety off, he began a quick, systematic search of the hideout, all the while cursing the Earl's clumsiness. But the Earl had never been clumsy before, in fact he had always been quite the opposite. No one could move with more grace and skill than Dorian, Earl of Gloria.
Angrily he pushed the thoughts of the lovely blond man from his mind. Eroica had tormented him with thinly veiled passes and blatant overtures over their long acquaintance, interfering with mission after mission and teasing him into rage. He nursed the anger carefully because he'd recognized years ago that he was becoming accustomed to the English fop. He did not hate the man's presence nearly so much as he used to, and in fact, he had even found himself enjoying the Earl's company on one or more occasions. That would never do.
For if there was no hate between Major Klaus von dem Eberbach and Dorian Red Gloria, Earl of Gloria, then what was left was a respected business relationship partnered with no small amount of affection, and not all of it on the Earl's side. Dorian wasted no opportunity to declare his continuing love for him, and he continued to rebuff and reject the Earl's advances.
But it had become more of a game over the years, and Klaus had to admit to himself that, while love was hardly what he felt for the man, he had no hate for him nor had he any desire to see the Earl harmed. Besides, on this mission, the Earl was under his protection, and he had failed in his duty. Honor alone dictated that he had to find the Englishman and bring him out- or at least bring his body home. He swallowed hard, trying not to entertain such morbid thoughts.
He kicked in a door with force and ran down a flight of stairs to a subterranean passageway. There did not appear to be anyone there, but he kept his gun at ready anyway. Above him, he could clearly hear the sounds of gunfire and shouts of men as his troops captured the men hiding in the building. The hallway had several doors and he began opening each one. Two were supply closets, one with weapons. He called E and F down to catalog the contents, and then reached for the third door.
The smell hit him first: blood, urine, vomit... and something else, nearly knocking him off his feet. He was still catching his breath when E and F joined him.
"Major?" E asked worriedly.
He put one hand on the cracked open door. "You two stay out. And call for an ambulance," he commanded, entering the room and shutting the door firmly behind him.
The room was pitch black dark so he turned on his flashlight and swept it around, looking for a light switch. He found one and flipped it, illuminating the space with a single dim-watt bulb. The chamber was no larger than 12 X 12 with damp stone walls. It was made up as a torture chamber or some S & M dominatrix's "playroom." Chains with manacles hung from the walls at odd heights, various whips, crops, electric cattle prods, clubs and paddles, and metal instruments lined neatly ordered shelves. An electric shock machine complete with bottle of lube-gel was stashed against a corner, and he identified the "something else" smell as a branding iron smoldering hotly in a bucket of glowing coals. In the center of this macabre scene, his wrists and ankles shackled to chains on the walls, hung the Earl of Gloria.
The Earl was naked and appeared to be unconscious. He hung in the chains, though his feet were on the ground. From where he stood at the door, Klaus could see that the man had been severely beaten. His lion's mane of golden curls had been crudely chopped off, and the concrete floor was littered with orphaned ringlets. The ringlets drew his eyes down to the stains at Eroica's feet: blood, vomit, urine. Swallowing the urge to vomit himself, he walked slowly to the body, and placed a trembling hand to the smaller man's throat. He had no words to describe his utter relief and odd joy to feel a weak but persistent pulse. The Earl was alive.
Using his gun, he shot through the chains that held the Earl and allowed the man to collapse into his arms. Now he could see the thief's back and he gasped. The terrorists had whipped Dorian, scoring his flesh all the way from his shoulders to his thighs. His buttocks were angry red and the finger bruises and bloodstains on his thighs gave testament that whipping was not all they did. Repulsed and heartsick, Klaus removed his coat and made to wrap the naked body in it. Noting the smoldering brand in the bucket, he gave Dorian a quick once over to see if the horrid thing had been used. Thankfully it had not, but his examination yielded something equally as horrifying.
Apparently the raid had interrupted the terrorists in their fun and they had left behind a souvenir, shoved into the Earl's rectum. The handle of something hard and black was sticking out of the bruised and bloody opening. This time it took all of Iron Klaus' will not to throw up everything he'd eaten over the past twenty-four hours. Shakily, he lifted his wireless radio to his lips.
"This is the Major. I have found Eroica. He is in need of medical assistance. Agent G please report to me in the subterranean chambers. E and F will show you the way. Eberbach out."
While he waited, he drew Dorian's limp body over his lap and tried to staunch the still seeping lash wounds with his coat. Guilt assaulted him. This was entirely his fault. Eroica was his responsibility and he had been uncertain about the Earl's ability to perform in the first place. Now this had happened. Would the Earl ever forgive him? Would he ever forgive himself?
A knock at the door interrupted his thoughts. "Who is it?"
"Agent G, sir!"
"Come in, but prepare yourself and shut the door tightly behind you!"
The small transvestite slipped into the room. Agent G was the only person Klaus knew who might have an inkling on how to get that monstrosity out of Dorian's ass without causing the Earl permanent damage.
"Come here. I need your help. But be warned, it's not pretty."
He heard G creep closer, then the strangled cry as he saw the crumpled body of the Earl.
"Oh my God!"
"It gets worse," Klaus warned, slowly pulling back his coat, exposing Eroica's bottom half.
"Oh my God!" G cried again, sobbing. "Lord Gloria! Oh my God, what have they done to Lord Gloria!"
"Stop blathering and help me, damn you! We have to get that thing out of him!"
"What? Oh! Oh, yes!"
G knelt down and gripped the handle, giving the object an experimental tug.
"It looks like one of those sand-filled night sticks you see bodyguards carrying. Hopefully it's not one with spikes. I need some kind of lubricant," G said, trembling.
"Use that stuff," Klaus ordered, indicating the lube-gel sitting on the electric shock machine.
G ran to grab the gel and returned, squeezing a generous amount of the lubricant on his hands and spreading it on the object and the Earl. While G worked, Klaus slid his arms around Eroica and held him firmly. He tried to block out what was happening just out of his view, he tried not to hear the sounds of the gel, and the smell of the blood. Damn he needed a cigarette. He heard G curse softly.
"What is it?"
"It's stuck, sir."
G went back to work. Klaus tightened his hold on the Earl and tried to stare straight ahead. Then the Earl made a choked sound.
"no... more... please..."
"Damn it. He's coming around. Can't you work any faster?"
"I'm trying sir!"
Eroica was weakly scrabbling at the concrete, moaning. "I... don't know... where he is.... I...told... you. please..."
"Hurry up!" Klaus growled.
Dorian's back arched and he let out a thin scream that grew in intensity. "I don't know! I told you I don't know!"
The Earl's scream echoed off the stone walls as G pulled the club free. Klaus wrapped his arms around Dorian's head, pressing him down.
"Shhh... Shhh. It's all right. It's over. You're safe now. You're safe."
The wails died down more from hoarseness than anything else, and the Earl's ragged voice whispered. "Major?"
"'S me. You're safe now," he confirmed.
Eroica let out a deep sigh and went limp, passing out again. Klaus took a moment to catch his own breath before uncurling himself from around the thief. He looked up to see G kneeling beside him, pale and shaken, a grotesque black object in his hands.
"Good work G."
"Thank you, sir."
Quelling his own trembling limbs, he gathered the light body of the Earl into his arms and stood. G opened the door for him and he stepped into the hall, thankful that his burden was unconscious for the journey. He ignored the stares of his troops as he passed, the shocked gasps, the murmurs.
"Oh God, they cut his hair!"
"Oh, Lord Gloria!"
"Oh my god, look what they've done to Lord Gloria!"
Some of the Earl's own men were among his troops. Dorian's men were as loyal as his own, and to think that he could have kept them out of the rescue attempt was unrealistic. He saw Bonham first, holding the door at the top of the stairs open for him. The older, moustached man was unabashedly crying at the sight of his Lord's battered form.
"My Llllooooorrrddd! Nooooooo!!" came a shrieking voice just as Mr. James cleared the spectators.
"Don't touch him," the Major warned, not stopping as the accountant reached for the Earl.
"This is all your fault! I told him not to do this for you! I told him!"
"Shut him up," Klaus growled, keeping his eyes straight ahead.
The ambulance was just arriving as he made it outside the building. He placed the Earl on the stretcher as gently as he could and briefed the EMTs on the man's injuries. Bonham, James and Agent G went with the Earl in the ambulance while he stayed behind to supervise the clean up and search if the hideout. It would be another hour before he would get to the hospital to check on the Earl's condition. He found a good number of his and the Earl's men huddled in a waiting room on the third floor.
"How is he?" he asked Z.
"We don't know. No one will tell us. None of us are next of kin."
Z shrugged. "That's the way it is here, sir."
Klaus ground his teeth. "Damn Yanks."
As he fumed, an orderly approached him. "Excuse me?"
"What do you want?"
"Are you Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach?" the orderly said, reading from a clipboard and totally massacring his name.
"Yes, I am Herr Eberbach."
"I need you to sign some forms."
"Dorian Red Gloria listed you as his next of kin. You have power of medical attorney.
"You have medical power of attorney..."
"Let me see that!"
He whipped the clipboard out of the orderly's hands and read the document for himself. 'Damn that son-of-a-bitch queer! Now everyone will think we are lovers!'
"Where did you get this?"
"It was in the stack of documents we received containing Mr. Gloria's medical information."
"Lord Gloria," he corrected sharply.
"We've already done all the necessary things to save his life, but we can't do anything more without his or his chosen representative's consent. Since Lord Gloria is in no condition to make decisions for himself, I need you to sign off your consent for us to work on him."
He stood in the waiting room, trying to see anything other than the red haze of his fury. The date on the power of medical attorney document was dated two days ago, the Earl had just done it. 'But why damn him! Just to embarrass me?! I'll kill him myself for this! Or... or did he get caught on purpose?!' He tossed that thought aside almost immediately. Dorian might be a fool and a klutz, but he would never willingly allow himself to be captured by anyone.
"Sir? Your signature?"
He was brought out of his thoughts by the impatient orderly.
"Exactly what needs to be done to Lord Gloria?" he asked, pulling himself away from his anger in order to deal with the situation at hand.
The orderly looked uncomfortable. "I don't know..."
"Get me someone who does," he demanded.
As he waited for the orderly to procure him someone who knew what was going on, he let his anger stew. 'Just like that Ero bugger to do this to me. Go and make me his next of kin in this godforsaken, ass-backwards country! Make me have to make the decisions! Drop it in my lap and make me have to deal with it!'
Then a realization struck him and brought him up short. Here he was, standing in a hospital preparing to make medical decisions for someone whom he once thought of as an enemy, knowing that he would make the choices necessary in order to fulfill the duty. And he was suddenly humbled by the magnitude of what Dorian had done. Dorian knew how Klaus felt about him, but he also knew that Klaus would make the right choices. With this document he was saying: "I know you hate me, but I trust you with my life."
Dorian knew him well enough to know that he was capable of detaching himself from his personal feelings long enough to deal with the matter at hand, and he wondered if he could ever live up to a show of such faith. He trembled a bit. Not only was he responsible for the Earl getting hurt in the first place, now he was responsible for his recovery as well. For a moment he thought Dorian might use it as a clandestine way of making a pass, or of getting Klaus to take care of him, that the Earl might find this amusing, then he remembered the Earl's bloody body and knew that no one would find that amusing.
"Mr. Eberbok?" a doctor asked, claiming his attention.
"Herr Eberbach," he corrected.
"Yes, of course. I'm Dr. Coltesta. I'm one of the surgeons on call tonight..."
"Tell me about Lord Gloria."
The doctor drew a deep breath and took his arm. "Perhaps you may want to come with me."
He pulled his arm from the elderly gentleman's grasp, but followed him into the hall.
"The patient in question was brutalized..."
"I saw the wounds, Doctor, I was the one who found him."
"Then you know we are dealing not only with the injuries suffered from the whipping, but also from the sexual assault."
He swallowed hard and nodded.
"There is quite an amount of internal damage and he's lost a great deal of blood. But all in all, it's not as bad as it could have been. We've managed to stop the internal bleeding and repair some of the rectal wall. He's out if danger now. We need your approval to perform some more advanced and invasive procedures..."
He listened intently, taking in all the information regarding what the doctors wished to do to the Earl. In the end, he signed off on the surgeries, provided a list of approved visitors, and joined the rest of those waiting to hear word.
"The doctors say Lord Gloria will live. He should be out of surgery in five hours." There was a collective sigh throughout the room. "In the meantime, I suggest you all go back to hotel. There is nothing any of us can do here. We have to process the arrests we made tonight and go through the evidence. Agent A, were all the terrorists accounted for?"
"No, sir. Lash and Brunell, the ringleaders were not among the group members we captured tonight," A answered.
"Very well then, I want Lord Gloria guarded. He might be able to identify them so they may come back for him. Agents B and C, you will take first duty as soon as the Earl is out of surgery. I will leave orders for your relief."
"Yes, sir," Agents B and C said in unison.
"The rest of you, come with me. We need to sort through this mess."
With that he tromped out of the hospital knowing his agents would follow.