Dorian's body still ached, but the air he breathed was fresh and pure and came easily into his lungs. He tried to move his right hand.  It wouldn't budge. When he opened his eyes, he discovered why.

He was in a darkened hospital room. Hospital rooms all looked the same. Klaus was sitting in a chair beside the bed, his head on the edge of the mattress. He was tightly clutching Dorian's hand and snoring softly. Love felt tender now and Dorian welcomed it. Cupid's arrows need never hurt again. Klaus loved him. The sex was trivial. Klaus loved him and it was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to him. Maybe lovemaking would follow when Klaus had time to heal. Even if it didn't, Dorian would live and die happy.

The door opened and a nurse came in. She seemed surprised to see Dorian awake and came over to peer down at him,

"Good morning, Earl," she said in English thick with a Swiss accent.

Klaus stirred and looked up. "Dorian!" he said, smiling.

"Visiting hours are over, Major," the nurse said, "but since he's been sleeping so long, I'll give you a few minutes."

"Thank you," said Klaus.

"The doctor will want to see you," she said to Dorian. "Stay awake."

Dorian tried to reply, but no sound came.

Once she was gone, Klaus sat up on the edge of the bed, clasping Dorian's hand between his. "You've got to quit sleeping for such long spells. I get lonely."

"Sorry," he croaked and gave Klaus' hand a squeeze.

They gazed at each other silently. Dorian melted into the oceans of Klaus' eyes. Though their gaze was affectionate, those eyes still held power and strength and willfulness. And Dorian rejoiced. Klaus' machismo was part of his charm. He didn't want to weaken or soften Klaus. Just get past the armor. Just to be loved by the man of iron.

At last Klaus reached down and stroked Dorian's cheek. "We made it."

"Made it," Dorian echoed. He became aware that there were tubes up his nose. How embarrassing. But then, Klaus had seen him looking far worse, he figured. What were a couple of tubes between friends? Between lovers?

"You better hurry up and get better," Klaus grinned. "They're putting on 'Aida' next week. We don't want to miss that, do we?" He made a face that indicated he would indeed prefer to miss it.

Dorian chuckled.  "I'm taking you to see 'Les Miserables'. In England."

Klaus kissed Dorian's hand.  "Whatever.  You're the expert."

"But first, I have a promise to keep."

"A promise?"

"Tomorrow.  I'll tell you about it tomorrow.  Now, before the doctor comes, tell me you love me.  I will never hear it enough."

"I love you.  I might have said it sooner had I known what it was.  I have loved you for a long time, I think.  I know I love you now."

Dorian just beamed.  No opera lyrics had ever been written that were sweeter to the ear than that confession of love.  We'll sing together yet, he thought.

The doctor entered, ending the communion, Klaus stood up abruptly, dropping Dorian's hand like a hot potato.

"Well, Earl," Klaus said, "I will check in on you tomorrow morning."

"Thank you. Major.  Good-night."

"Guten Nacht."  The demeanor was casual and business-like, but the eyes were sparkling.  Sparkling like stars.