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Story Notes:

The inspiration for this story came from this image of Klaus from PrincessGold, courtesy of the lovely Anne-Li :

A/N: Klaus and Dorian never seem to age. If K & D were truly born in the 50’s and Aioke was aging them accordingly, Klaus would be pushing 55 now, and Dorian wouldn’t be too far behind. However, neither look that old. In this story, Klaus is 50. What year it is, doesn’t really matter. Where it fits into the Eroica timeline is trickier… I’d like to say it takes place in the future, after much of the manga series has already passed.

The title is from the Snow Patrol song.


An Olive Grove Facing the Sea
by Terri Botta ã2010

Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach walked along the beach, letting the coastal breeze play with his hair. It was a beautiful day – perfect even – and he breathed in the smells of the salt water tinged with the scent of lemons and olive trees. The Earl’s blue ball cap was in his left hand, and he was gripping it tightly lest it fly away again as it had earlier in the day. Dorian had given it up for lost, but Klaus had spied the flash of blue on the sand, and he had headed down the narrow track to the beach to retrieve it. Once he was down on the shore, however, he’d stayed there to enjoy the feel of the sand between his toes as the waves licked at his bare feet.

He was content. It was an odd feeling, not one he was used to or one he experienced often, but he did have moments of peace from time to time. It made them all the more precious because they were so rare, and he welcomed them, holding on to them as long as he could before he had to let them go.

‘I could stay here forever. It’s so peaceful, I could cry,’ he thought, looking out at the blue waters of the Mediterranean.

He closed his eyes and breathed in the fresh air as he felt the warmth of the sun seeping into the pores of his skin. It was getting hot. Soon he would have to seek the shaded terrace of the villa where he and Dorian were staying to escape the worst of the mid-day sun.

Dorian. He always called the Earl “Dorian” in his mind now, although he had never called him that to his face. After the last eight weeks, he thought he owed the man that much. No, he owed him much, much more, but what it was between them, and what it was to be, was still very much a murky muddle in his head, and he’d been putting off examining it for weeks. With everything else that had happened to him, he just hadn’t felt up to dealing with it; opting instead to live in the moment and not think about the future. He had enough to handle coming to terms with his recent past.

He didn’t need to look down to see the scars left behind by multiple cigarettes being put out on the soles and bridge of his feet to know they were there. The wounds had healed nicely, but the circular marks remained, and probably always would. Scars on a young man had time to fade, but he was entering the autumn of his life – Middle Age where a man looked back and asked himself what he’d been doing the last five decades or so.

Some men answered those kinds of questions by leaving job, home, and family, buying an expensive sports car – usually red or electric blue or, god forbid, bright yellow – and running off to spend money he didn’t really have. Midlife crisis the “experts” called it. When a man turned a certain age and suddenly went insane. He’d seen it happen to more than one agent, and even a couple of accountants – though, to his dismay not Mr. James whom he thought would do just nicely if the Stingy Bug suddenly decided to take up Bungee Jumping in Australia or Jamaica or Timbuktu or anywhere but here where he and Dorian were staying, but alas his secret wishes to be rid of the annoying skinflint were left unfulfilled.

He, of course, had no intention of resigning his post from NATO, abandoning Schloss Eberbach or buying anything but a staid, reliable Benz (preferably black,) but self-examining thoughts were occupying much of his time these days, especially since he knew his little enforced respite was coming to an end. He was thinking that perhaps a little more downtime and a little less stress might be a good thing. After spending the first fifty years of his life living up to the expectations of others, maybe he had earned the right to live for himself – at least a little bit.

Duty and honor, and the need to occasionally flatten, shoot or otherwise destroy something just for the adrenaline rush, were sewn into the fabric of his soul, so he could never fully separate himself from them (nor would he want to, if he was being honest,) but if he wanted to walk along the beach and feel the sand between his toes, he should be allowed. He should be able to hang up his three-piece suit and dress in cool, white linen if he wanted. He could even unbutton the top three buttons of his shirt and forgo the tie and – gasp! – undershirt! He could don a thin, army green jacket and roll up his sleeves and just be.

‘Just let me be here. I won’t tell anyone. Just let me stay here.’

No one should be able to deny him the brief moments of happiness he wanted to steal from the power hungry politicians, bloodthirsty terrorists, enemy spies, and other sundry scum of the earth that he encountered on a regular basis. He’d earned the right to them after all he had done, and seen… and suffered.

He turned into the wind and let it blow across his face, his right hand coming up to finger through his hair. The cast had come off two days ago and the wrist was still weak, but the Earl was shoving different sized things into his hands five times a day for him to squeeze as “physical therapy.” This morning at breakfast, he’d been handed two oranges and a pink grapefruit.

“Roll those around a bit for me, my dear Major, will you please? It’ll help release the juice so they’ll squeeze better. Oh, I do so love fresh orange juice, don’t you?” the Earl had said brightly as they sat on the terrace that overlooked the sea.

He’d grumbled, mostly because he thought it was expected of him, but obeyed. He knew what Dorian was doing, surreptitiously sneaking in exercises that disguised themselves as simple tasks. It seemed that the Earl was as determined as Klaus to regain the ability to fire his Magnum one-handed again (the Magnum he hadn’t seen since… don’t go there…), perhaps even moreso, although exactly why had so far escaped him. He was too busy focusing on his own motivations to figure out the Earl’s. He’d worry about Dorian once he’d sorted out himself.

He didn’t remember much of the last three months. He remembered his capture and the early tortures. He remembered them breaking his right wrist and him trying to chew through his left thumb to escape the shackles they’d clasped him in. When they’d discovered him, they’d just tied his arms above his head so he couldn’t reach anymore and didn’t treat the wound. He remembered them yanking the tooth with its precious cyanide capsule out of his mouth so he couldn’t kill himself. He was surprised that they hadn’t cut off his hair, but they seemed to enjoy using it as a… handhold. He remembered the beatings, the humiliations, the gang rapes.

But much of that was a blur once starvation, dehydration and infection had set in. His moments of lucidity found him chained in a dank cellar, naked, filthy, and quietly waiting for death. His mission had been top secret, and no one – not even his Chief – knew where he’d been sent, and he was alone with very little hope for rescue, until one day the door opened and a blond thief had stolen in. How the Earl had found him, he still didn’t know, but he knew without a doubt that Eroica had saved his life.

Memories came back to him in flashes. A head of blond hair, a beam of light in the darkness, a gentle touch.

“Major. Major, I need you to open your eyes and look at me.”

The left eye had been swollen shut, but he’d cracked open the right, the blurry face of the thief coming slowly into focus.

“Do you know who I am?”

He’d been unable to speak – the left side of his face battered, his throat sore and his tongue parched – but he’d nodded even though the movement hurt.

“I’m going to get you out of here. I need to touch you. Don’t fight me. I don’t want to hurt you.”

The shackles had come loose, but it mattered little. Both of his hands were useless – the right wrist broken – half healed and crooked, the left swollen with infection from his own teeth. Clothes, soft athletic pants and sweatshirt, were gently pulled over his bruised and bloody body; shoes were slipped onto his ravaged feet – covered with weeping, infected sores and burns.

“Oh, your poor feet. Can you stand, my brave Major? Can you walk for me?”

He didn’t know how he did it, but he’d made his legs obey and rose to his feet, unsteady, dizzy, weak as a kitten, but upright. The Earl’s arm braced him, providing the support he’d needed to stagger from his cell, and they’d shuffled their way out to freedom.

“Yes, you an do this. You are Iron Klaus. Not much farther now. Just a few more steps. Oh, you are the still the strongest man I know!”

Once out of the compound and inside the underground garage, the Earl had bundled him into the backseat of a car and covered him up under blankets and shopping bags to conceal him, but not before a wet cloth had been placed across his nose and mouth.

“You are in excruciating pain, and the road ahead of us is long. It’s best for you to sleep through this, my dear Major. Breathe deep, Klaus, and leave your pain behind.”

The soporific had been a kindness, and when he woke he was in Switzerland, being gently called back to life by Dorian’s voice. Into a house. Into a bath. Tenderly cleaned by careful hands that gently scrubbed away a month of accumulated dirt, blood and other bodily fluids. Held in a tub full of hot water with the Earl behind him so he wouldn’t drown to soak away the worst of the muscle knots, then clothed in pajamas that suited his tastes (undershirt included.)

“I know I am pathetic, Major, but I always have a complete set of clothes and night things for you at all of my houses, just in case, you know…” the Earl had explained as nimble fingers buttoned up the conservative, striped pajama top.

Then into bed to sleep… and sleep and sleep… broken only by the doctor the Earl had called or the attempts to feed him liquids to soothe his parched throat. Dorian slept beside him, guarding him with an arsenal of knives at the ready, snarling like a territorial Doberman if they were unexpectedly disturbed. He didn’t question the presence of the thief in his bed. The other man had not touched him in any way that could be considered sexual, and he had made Klaus feel safe. Unable to speak or use his hands, all he had to do was nudge the body next to him, and the Earl would instantly wake to see what was needed.

At some point he was taken to a private medical clinic where his wrist was re-broken and properly set, his broken ribs wrapped, and stitches were sewn into… down there to repair the damage done by the rapes. His feet and hand were bandaged, and an IV port was put in for his medications and fluids. He’d lost over 34kg, he was told. He was emaciated, dangerously dehydrated and wracked with infection. He’d been perilously close to death.

The Earl would not let anyone but himself tend him. No nurses. No strangers. No prying eyes or loose lips to spread the word of Iron Klaus’s capture and violation, so he was taken back to the house in Zurich after the surgeries to recover hidden from view, from scrutiny.

Days passed, with him fading in and out of consciousness as the infections coursed through his body and the fevers made him delirious. The pain was dulled by medicine that muddled his mind, but he knew he was safe, and Dorian was always there, no further away than a nudge or a moan. Dorian became the rock that supported him and shielded him from the world.

Agent A had found them a few days after his rescue, capable man that he was. A might not have been able to find his superior, but he knew enough to watch the thief and track his movements. When Eroica had stopped looking for Iron Klaus, A knew the Earl had found him, and he had come calling. Klaus had been asleep when the agent knocked on the door, but he’d been told about it afterwards. The Major had still looked a fright, but from all reports A had taken it well. Except…. Except A had wanted to alert NATO. A had wanted to follow protocol and have Klaus moved to a military hospital. A had wanted Dorian to surrender him over to NATO’s care. A had severely underestimated a protective and territorial English thief.

Had he been conscious, Klaus didn’t know who he would have sided with. A was a good man, a good agent, and he’d wanted to protect Klaus as much as Dorian did. But Dorian knew Klaus wouldn’t want anyone touching him, wouldn’t want anyone knowing what had happened to him, wouldn’t want anyone to see him when he was so weak and wounded, wouldn’t want any of his enemies knowing of his… injuries.

So the same man who had once stolen a photograph of Klaus dancing – a photograph that would have severely damaged his reputation if it were to be made public – had then drugged his agent with sleeping gas and whisked his patient away to a tiny village along the Amalfi coast, to a rented villa under an assumed name where no one but Bonham, Mr. James and the villa staff (who had no idea of their true identities) knew they were there.

He had no memory of the trip south, having been drugged himself because Dorian thought it would be better to move him while he was unconscious, and he had now spent the last six weeks convalescing in the villa, healing, resting, and coming to terms with what had happened to him. Slowly, the infections ran their course and his wounds healed. The bandages came off his hand and feet, his broken ribs ceased to cause him pain, and he could see, and talk and eat again. The stitches were removed from… down there and the internal damage healed as well as could be expected, although he was warned that there was some… scarring. Future surgeries could, possibly, correct the problem should he experience any negative effects; thankfully, he couldn’t say that he was having any particular difficulties.

He’d gained back about half of the weight he’d lost, and he was slowly returning to the physical condition he’d been in before he was captured. Dorian provided him with all the free weights and exercise equipment he wanted, he took long runs on the beach, and he had even played a bit of soccer with the younger members of the villa’s staff. He was feeling himself again by increments, and the cast coming off his broken wrist had been the last publically displayed evidence of his “accident.”

The Earl had told the villa staff that Klaus had been badly injured in a motorcycle crash, which had earned him many clucking lectures from the villa matrons on the dangers of driving too fast on a two-wheeled death trap. Thankfully, his Italian wasn’t that great – or at least he could pretend his Italian wasn’t that great – and the women would just tsk at him and give him an extra helping of pasta to “put some meat on his thin bones.”

Physically, he was doing well, scars notwithstanding, and he even thought that he was handling the psychological effects of his ordeal within acceptable parameters. He wasn’t having any panic attacks or flashbacks, nor was he afraid of the dark like the Earl had become when he was traumatized by a stupid statue that had “supposedly” come to life.

NATO and military officers were trained in the possibility of what could happen to them should they be captured by an enemy. Tortures were described and illustrated, types of pain were discussed, and, yes, rape was covered for both men and women. He knew when he was taken what was likely to happen to him, and he knew there had been nothing he could do to prevent them from brutalizing him once they had assured that he could not escape or kill himself.

He’d always been exceptionally good at compartmentalizing the bad things that had happened to him in the line of duty, and he’d been able to block out or selectively forget any number of unpleasant situations he’d had to endure. He was treating this latest ordeal the same way: there was nothing he could have done to prevent them from hurting him, and he’d done everything he could do to escape and not give them what they had wanted.

He didn’t think he had talked, but there were significant gaps in his memory so he couldn’t be sure. Dorian had assured him, however, that anything they had gotten out of him had been destroyed when Eroica had sent in a crew of his men to “clean up.” The Earl told him that he should not worry about such things, only that he should concentrate on the fact that he had survived intact and whole, and that he would soon be able to go back to work. He wasn’t so sure how he felt about that.

After he’d almost been killed by a grenade in Turkey, he’d been itching to return to work. His leg had taken a very long time to heal, and the period of rehabilitation had seemed to stretch on forever. Three members of his house staff had quit over his short temper and his pacing around the Schloss like a caged tiger. When he’d finally been cleared for duty, the whole household had cheered, glad to be rid of him.

But now… after this…

It had been different… before. Back then he had almost died to retrieve a black box that supposedly held the secrets to disabling Soviet computer systems, but in the end it turned out to be all for naught because the damn thing would have shut itself off in a few months anyway. He’d risked his life for nothing, but he hadn’t known that. He’d done his duty the best he could, and even took out the ship he’d thought the black box was on with a rocket launcher. The Earl had been beside him then, too, and he’d seen to it that Klaus got to a military hospital after Klaus had collapsed.

This time he’d almost died trying to get back a flash drive with sensitive intelligence information that someone had been careless enough to allow to be stolen by an extreme anti-government militia group. Or so he’d been told. Eroica was the one who had informed him that the “sensitive intelligence information” on the flash drive he’d found was actually a “little black book” for a well-known, high-class Madam, and it listed the names of all of her clientele, including a number of married men in powerful and influential positions – a prominent NATO General being among the regular customers.

So he’d been imprisoned, tortured, and gang raped so a bunch of rich bastards could keep their wives from finding out that they were fucking prostitutes. Expensive prostitutes no less. And then his superiors wondered why he was becoming disillusioned with his job. He never thought there would be a day when he missed the KGB, but he was coming to it.

He stopped walking and looked down the beach, then up the hill where the villa was perched like a tan and red feathered bird with its stucco walls and tiled roof. White curtains billowed out of the room he shared with Dorian on the second floor, the glass doors open to the private balcony that overlooked the ocean. The villa had been his sanctuary, the place where the Earl had hidden him so he could heal, and he’d felt safe amid its solid walls and olive grove facing the sea. It pained him to know it would all be ending soon.

He flexed his right hand, feeling the sinews bend and pop in the stiff fingers. It was paler than the left, having been encased in the cast and shielded from the sun, but it was already losing its fish-belly white tone. There were scars where the surgeon had cut into him in order to reset the bone properly, but no other outward signs of his injury. He itched to clench it into a fist and punch out the ones who had hurt him, to break their bones and debase them as he had been debased. He owed them pain for pain, and he vowed to mete it out the same way he had met out retribution on anyone who had dared to raise a hand to Iron Klaus. He would make it his first mission to hunt them down and bring them to justice.

Except… Except he wasn’t so certain justice hadn’t already been served.

He paused in his imaginings of tying the one bastard up and breaking his jaw just to wipe the smug look off his face, because a memory was coming into focus. It had begun creeping into his vision whenever he thought of revenge on his captors, as if his subconscious mind was trying to make him recall what had happened now that he was well enough to face it.

His vision was blurred, and he felt as if he would fall over at any moment from the pain and weakness, so he knew it was the day that Dorian had rescued him; only instead of taking him directly to the car, the Earl had brought him to a mid-size room set up with a small kitchen and a couple of tables. In the room were six unconscious men – knocked out cold by Eroica’s soporifics.

“Sit here, Major. I need you to do something for me. I know you are tired, but this is vitally important,” the Earl had said to him, lowering him into a cheap, plastic chair.

He’d been too weak to protest so he’d obeyed and sat down, uncertain if he’d ever muster the strength to stand again, then he’d watched, feeling very detached, as the Earl took the one man by the hair and lifted his head so Klaus could see his face.

“Now Major, I want you to take a good look at this man. Tell me, is he one of the ones who violated you?” Eroica had asked, a very disturbing expression on his face.

Still feeling out of body, he’d managed a small nod and watched as the Earl released the man and did the same with the next one, asking the same question. Four nods and two shakes of his head later, he’d indicated four of the six men who had gang raped him repeatedly over the course of many agonizing days, weeks?

“Now you’re sure these are the men who raped you?” the Earl had pressed. “You’re absolutely certain?”

He’d glared at the man as much as his swollen face would allow, and he saw the thief back off.

“Yes, well, of course you are. Forget I asked. Thank you, Major.”

He was left wondering what the hell the man was doing playing twenty-questions instead of getting them out of there, when he saw the Earl take out a long knife and slit the throat of each of the men he’d identified as his rapist. He did it so fast, and with such a cold expression on his face, that Klaus couldn’t be certain it wasn’t a hallucination and not a real memory. In all the years he’d known Dorian, the thief had never killed, and he certainly had never killed in cold blood.

But it didn’t seem like a false memory. If anything, recalling the Earl killing his assailants brought him a sense of peace. The ones responsible were dead, therefore they could not hurt him again, and there was no need for him to waste his energy on planning his revenge. He knew the Earl would know for sure, and he’d been gathering the courage to ask the thief about it when he’d spied the ball cap on the beach. Going down to get it had given him a chance to order his thoughts, but now he was ready to go back. Besides, it was almost lunchtime, and he was hungry. No doubt the villa’s staff was waiting on his return to serve the noon meal, and Dorian was probably fretting about where he’d wandered off to. The Earl was being very good about giving a healing Klaus his freedom, but the Major knew he got nervous the moment his “patient” was out of his sight.

He sighed and began his climb back up to the house. His body ached. It felt like it was wearing him instead of the other way around. After lunch, he might have a nap in the shade of the olive trees. He liked to sleep there under the fragrant boughs, listening to the rush of the sea. Dorian would no doubt lie down with him, and he would lie in the thief’s arms until he fell asleep.

The Earl was waiting for him when he crested the top of the bluff, and Klaus saw him quickly erase the anxious, worried expression from his face in lieu of a brilliant smile when Klaus raised his left hand to show the hat.

“Oh! Major, you found it!” Dorian exclaimed as Klaus presented the cap to him on the main terrace off the first level of the house. “And here I thought it was lost forever.”

Bright blue eyes sparkled merrily from a pale face, but the expression held a hint of sadness. It had been that way since Klaus had awakened from his fevers. Dorian smiled, but the smile hardly ever reached his eyes, and Klaus did not know why. At first he thought it was because of his hair – Dorian had sheared off his long locks for the flight to Italy, explaining that his curls were too distinctive and he did not want to have to constantly wear a wig in the hot Italian sun – but then he remembered that the expression had been on the Earl’s face before they’d had to leave Switzerland.

From his point of view, the thief ought to be ecstatic, not borderline morose. After so many years of chasing him, the Earl had finally managed to get Klaus all to himself – regardless of how horrible the circumstances had been, but the other man didn’t seem to appreciate the significance of Klaus’s capitulation. Or maybe, Dorian simply didn’t recognize Klaus’s surrender for what it was. Lord knew the Earl was being almost piously chaste and careful around him. He hadn’t even tried to kiss him even once, although Klaus didn’t know what he would do if he had. He was willing to accept the man as a good friend, but anything beyond that…

He pushed the thought away. Soon they would be leaving this place, this cocoon of peace and safety, and he had no idea what it would mean for either of them. He had to return to Bonn and face NATO, no doubt to suffer an examination and psychological review. He’d probably be put on medical leave pending the results of his evaluation, where he would go home to Schloss Eberbach, and be hovered over by his butler and nagged by his aging father, and he’d be ready to go on a killing spree within four days.

God knew where Dorian would go or what he would do…

No, he didn’t want to think about leaving this place.
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