By Margaret Price
Why am I doing this to myself?
It’s because I’m a stupid, bloody fool that’s why.
And I love the idiot German.
And he asked me.
And…because I’m a stupid bloody fool!
Dorian looked up from the computer screen and across the room to where Klaus was quietly reading the newspaper. It had been nearly six months since the officer suddenly appeared out of nowhere in his hospital room. Six months since he had announced he was dying and asked the thunderstruck Earl to stay with him so he would not have to die alone.
The Earl had not been there the entire time, of course, he still had his own Castle to look after. Although things seemed to have been running smoothly without him. After he discovered that James had taken up with a man at the bank, on the sly, of course, Dorian had breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, his accountant had found someone who spoke the same language. Money.
While Dorian was recovering his own strength after a battle with cancer, Klaus was losing his in a battle against an inoperable brain tumor. The most striking sign of the growth was when Klaus’s long dark hair went snow-white, something that still struck the Earl every time he looked at him. The other signs were only slight at first. The occasional misstep in the officer’s precise gate, a hand reaching out to the nearest object to recover lost balance. He had also been forced to give up smoking, much to his extreme annoyance.
Despite being retired from NATO, General Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach was still being consulted on intelligence matters. He had been involved in dozens of cases all over the globe, spanning several decades. Many cases were still ongoing, and his knowledge was invaluable. Dorian remained out of sight whenever these official meetings took place, even though Klaus had never actually asked him to do so. It had been difficult enough for the officer to swallow his pride and ask him to Schloss Eberbach. The last thing that Dorian wanted was make things more difficult than they already were.
Klaus lowered the paper, seeing Dorian’s enormous blue eyes on him. “You’re doing it again,” he admonished mildly.
“I am not. I’m supposed to be watching you and that’s exactly what I’m doing,” Dorian replied innocently. “I haven’t broken our agreement, have I?”
“Not recently,” Klaus admitted grudgingly.
When the Earl agreed to stay at the Schloss on a permanent basis, the two came to a mutual agreement. Dorian would refrain from any of his usual “perverted” overtures, which included what Klaus called “inappropriate physical contact.” Klaus, in turn, would refrain from threatening, shouting or in anyway berating the Earl. He would also refrain from what Dorian called “inappropriate physical contact,” which meant he wouldn’t strike, manhandle, or attempt to shoot him. After the first few weeks, and only a few minor slips, they were eventually able to adhere to this agreement.
Klaus folded the paper and very slowly rose from his chair. “I’m going to bed,” he announced. He could no longer cross the room in the precise strides of even a few weeks ago. Instead, he moved in slow careful steps. He put a hand on the objects he passed to keep his balance as he made his way towards the door, finally vanishing into the hallway.
Dorian watched in silence, getting to his feet the moment Klaus was through the door. He followed at a distance, watching as he went up the stairs and then following suit, pausing at the top of the stairs to watch the officer’s slow progress as he made his way to his room.
Klaus had not spent decades in intelligence to forget his training overnight. He knew when he was being followed, no matter how quiet the thief was. “I still don’t need help undressing,” he said without turning as he opened his bedroom door.
“I didn’t say a word.”
“But you were thinking it.”
Dorian stiffened visibly. “Now who’s doing it again?” he said angrily, turning to go back down the stairs.
Klaus sighed heavily. Dorian was right, damn him. He was just snapping at him out of reflex. Now he would have to apologize. Another part of their agreement. “Dorian…”
“Don’t bloody bother!” Dorian snapped angrily, not even bothering to turn around.
Klaus gave a low growl, watching as the other man started to descend the stairs. He was about to turn back to his room when the corridor suddenly seemed to pull away from him, growing impossibly long and changing color before his very eyes. A moment later, the world was spinning around him. Klaus reached out a hand to the small table beside him, knocking over a vase as he did so. It rolled off the edge, shattering as it hit floor. “Dorian…” he called softly a split second before collapsing.
The sound of breaking glass caused Dorian to turn just in time to see the officer hit the floor. “Jesus, not again.” He was barely halfway down the hall when he saw this was not a simple fall. Klaus was convulsing.
Dorian swore in as many languages as he could think of until the seizure passed. Then he dashed to the house phone and started issuing orders. An ambulance—No, bugger an ambulance. It would take too long. He ordered the car brought around and someone to drive it—fast! Then he called for several others to assist him in carrying the unconscious Master of the House down the stairs. Finally, Dorian called Klaus’s current specialist, Doctor Kelkenberg, and was relieved to learn he was already at the hospital.
* * *
It was morning when Klaus finally regained his senses fully, having been oblivious to the battery of tests that were performed on him throughout the night. He looked around the room in bewilderment, wondering what had happened—again! This was becoming a habit. One minute he was feeling fine, the next he was being rushed to the hospital. Would this be the new pattern? Waking up in a hospital bed with no idea how he had gotten there?
His eyes fell on Dorian, who was dozing in a chair near the foot of his bed, looking haggard and exhausted. Not for the first time, Klaus felt a pang of guilt for having asked him to come to the Schloss. The Earl was still getting his own strength back. How could he have thought he would have the strength to withstand this?
One of the staff physicians came in at that moment, an open notebook in his hands. He was not the quietest of individuals, pushing the door open with a bang and startling Dorian awake.
Klaus closed his eyes when the man strode through the door. Another Goddamn doctor. How many did that make now? He hoped the Earl knew. He had actually lost count.
Dorian sat up, struggling to get his mind into focus. “Where’s Doctor Kelkenberg?”
“I have no idea,” came the curt reply. “I’m Doctor Heinrich. And you are…?”
“Not really interested in delays,” Dorian replied sharply. “You’re here with the test results, I presume?”
Even though this was all spoken in German, Heinrich had taken note of the Earl’s faint English accent, as well as his fine English features. “You’re not family, are you, sir?”
“What difference does that make?” Dorian replied tersely. The smug look on the physician’s face annoyed him further and he had to fight to keep his temper. “I suppose you could call me the General’s companion.”
A smirk crept onto the doctor’s face. “That’s one way of putting it, I suppose.”
Dorian was surprised to find himself incensed by this remark. Any other time he would have been delighted that someone would assume they were a couple. Perhaps it was the agreement he had made that caused it. Or perhaps it was the fact that Klaus was incapable of screaming his own denials.
“Herr Doctor,” Dorian said coldly, rising to his feet, “you’re very lucky the General is unconscious.”
“Oh? Why’s that?”
“Because if he heard you insinuate what you just did, he’d probably threaten to kill you. And if he were healthy, he probably would kill you. I’m assisting the General during his illness, nothing more.”
This adamant reply actually amazed the listening Klaus, who would not have believed it had he not heard it with his own ears. He was amazed again when Dorian demanded, “Well? You’ve obviously got the General’s test results. What are they?”
“I’m sorry…er, sir. But if you’re not a family member—” The doctor’s obvious refusal was cut off when Klaus said firmly, “Just tell him, you idiot.”
Dorian jumped, turning to look at the man in the bed. This had sounded like the Klaus he had known decades ago. The Major who was always threatening him or screaming obscenities at him. Not the man who had been growing progressively weaker as the weeks went by. A bittersweet smile came to Dorian’s face as the officer’s dark green eyes met his. The moment was gone in an instant and the Earl was mentally cursing the doctor.
“General von dem Eberbach, you’re awake,” Heinrich said in a honeyed tone, a grin coming to his face. He swept Dorian aside as if he were not even there to stand at the bedside. “Are you feeling—?”
“Don’t start fawning over me like an old woman. Just answer Lord Gloria’s question,” Klaus said in as forceful a tone as he could muster.
Dorian saw the physician blanch visibly as he looked up at him, a placating smile on his face. Oh bugger, a social climber. That’s all we need now. When the man started to stammer out his answer, the Earl lost his patience. “Stop right there,” he commanded. “I already know what you’re going to say. The tumor is pressing on another part of the General’s brain. There’s nothing you can do about it. The medications will have to be changed. Things will only get worse. Right?”
The dumbfounded doctor simply nodded his head.
“Then why the hell didn’t you just say that?” Dorian practically exploded. “When can I take the General home?”
The doctor blinked and finally found his voice. “Home?”
“Yes, home. Where he lives, fool!” Dorian waved a hand at the man in disgust. “Never mind, just get all the paperwork ready. I’m taking him home.” He did not wait for a reply, physically escorting Heinrich to the door and then shoving him through it. “Today,” he added, slamming the door. “Bloody idiot doctors!”
Dorian turned when he heard Klaus chuckling. “What’s so funny?”
“You,” came the succinct reply. “You finally sound like you have the balls of a man.”
A brilliant smile came to the Earl’s face. “Would you like to—?”
“Don’t spoil it by making some damn fool remark,” Klaus cut in, going on to ask, “When did you become so forceful?”
A smile twitched at the sides of Dorian’s mouth. “I just pretend I’m you. Then it’s easy.”
“Ah! Now you switch to flattery.” Klaus sighed, closing his eyes. Even this brief exchange was tiring. “Now that you’re so forceful, what’s next? You gonna rape me in my bed?”
“Don’t tempt me, Klaus, you still have to get dressed.”
For a brief instant, a panicked look flashed across Klaus’s face. Then he saw Dorian grinning evilly at him. “You shouldn’t joke like that to a dying man,” he chided mildly.
Dorian’s eye flickered. Finally, after all these years, you figure out my flirtations aren’t threats. Klaus also seemed to have developed a sense of humor. Perhaps they should have made their agreement years ago.
The wicked grin on Dorian’s face broadened. “You started it...”
Dorian laughed but did not reply directly. He picked up the phone, calling Doctor Kelkenberg’s office and leaving a message. Then he called the Schloss, ordering the car send down for them along with a fresh change of clothes for Klaus. Whether that wretched Doctor Heinrich liked it or not, General von dem Eberbach was leaving his care, hopefully for good.
* * *
It was late afternoon before Dorian was finally able to get Klaus released from the hospital—against medical advice. The doctors were insisting, yet again, that the General undergo chemotherapy. To which the officer refused, yet again. Everyone agreed that his condition was terminal, so why bother?
Dorian scowled as they pulled up to the front entrance of the Schloss. There was a car parked that he did not recognize. It didn’t look like any of the official government ones he was used to seeing, and he turned a puzzled glance in Klaus’s direction. “Were you expecting someone today?”
Klaus gave him an unfocused look, and then followed his gaze. “No.”
Dorian cursed under his breath. The last thing he needed was to be turning away visitors. He just wanted to get Klaus inside, which would be difficult enough as it was. The stubborn Prussian would insist on walking on his own.
Which he did.
When they finally made it to the front door, they were met by the butler. Even after six months, Dorian could not get used to the man. The butler he had known for so many years had passed away ages ago. As had the General’s father, leaving Klaus the undisputed head of the von dem Eberbach family.
“Who’s here?” Klaus demanded the instant the butler appeared. “Why did you let them in while I was away?”
“Don’t blame your butler, Klaus. I insisted,” a voice said from further down the main hall.
Klaus looked up and stiffened visibly. Dorian frowned. The man was a stranger to him, but was undeniably one of the General’s relatives. They both had the same angry lines around the eyes as they stood glaring at one another for several seconds.
“Frederik,” Klaus growled. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Before the man could answer, Dorian broke in. “Klaus, wouldn’t you be more comfortable having this conversation in the study rather standing in the entryway?”
Klaus shot him a quick sideways glance. “Fine.” He gave a low growl when he saw the look his cousin gave him as he was assisted into the study. Bloody vulture. You can’t even wait until I’m dead before you come looking over the Schloss. Why don’t you just bring your Goddamn decorator with you?
Dorian helped the General into a chair and then remained protectively at his side. He suspected who this individual was, and was not about to allow Klaus to further wear himself out with a confrontation. Or so he hoped.
“You can’t even wait until I’m dead, can you?” Klaus said bitterly as he sank into the chair.
Frederik smiled thinly. “My dear Klaus, I had no idea you were in the hospital until I arrived,” he said placatingly.
Fucking liar. You’re paying someone to keep tabs on me. “Why’re you here?”
“Oh, just making a social call.”
“I’m sure my butler told you I wasn’t here.”
“Yes, he did.”
“So why didn’t you clear off?”
Again, Frederik smiled with effort. “I wanted a look at the Eberbach collection,” he said calmly, holding out a hand to take in all the artworks in the room. “They do fill up the place, don’t they?”
Klaus heard Dorian give a small growl and shot him a quick sideways glance. “I don’t bother with them, myself. But they are our cultural heritage.”
“Cultural heritage?” Frederik snorted, waving a hand in the air. “They’re relics of a bygone age. They should be in some musty museum, not cluttering up a fine room like this one.”
Klaus heard another growl rising in Dorian’s throat and knew his cousin’s remarks would set him off. He was not disappointed.
“Relics of a bygone age!” the Earl snapped angrily. “These are masterpieces. Works of the most exquisite beauty.”
“What are you, an art critic?” came the sarcastic reply.
“Lord Gloria is an art expert,” Klaus informed calmly. “He has a very extensive art collection of his own.”
Frederik’s eyes narrowed. “Lord Gloria?” He looked from Dorian to Klaus and back, his bewilderment clear. He had assumed the Earl to be a servant. A male nurse assigned by Klaus’s doctor.
“I’m a friend,” Dorian said calmly.
“A friend?” Frederik said suspiciously.
“Lord Gloria…assisted in some of my missions when I was with NATO.”
Dorian gave Klaus a knowing look but could not prevent a small smile from coming to his face. I’ll bet that hurt. Assisted, did I?
“You’ll probably have one of your ex-wives redecorate the whole Schloss, won’t you?” Klaus was saying. “I think one was a decorator, wasn’t she?”
Frederik snorted. “At least I took the time to get married,” he said derisively. “I have an heir. Unlike you.”
Ouch, Dorian thought. And I thought my relatives were bad.
“You made up for it for me. Which wife are you on now? Fifth? Sixth?”
Klaus gave a small nod, turning to Dorian. “She doesn’t appreciate art, either.”
“Does anyone in your family?” Dorian wanted to know. “Or am I the only one who appreciates how exquisite these works are?”
Frederik caught his breath. “Klaus, you’re not selling him the collection, are you?”
Klaus saw a panicked look come to his cousin’s face. Obviously, Frederik wrongly assumed the reason Dorian was there was to purchase some artwork. An evil smile crept onto Klaus’s face. “Why? Better for him to have them than for you sell them to pay your ex-wives?”
“What!” this was Dorian, who was beginning to wonder what else this Philistine was planning.
“Now, Klaus, I really don’t think this is the time…” Frederik said slowly.
Klaus closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair, drawing a deep breath. “You’re right, it isn’t. I’m tired.” He waved a hand. “I’m sure you can see yourself out.”
Dorian gave the General a worried look before turning an angry glare at the man across the room. He strode to the door and practically shoved him out into the hallway before slamming the door behind him. “Swine!” He turned when he heard Klaus chuckling. My God, twice in one day! “Now what’s so funny?”
“You’re getting very good at being forceful,” Klaus observed. “I forgot how well you can imitate me.”
Dorian gave him a bright smile. “A compliment, Klaus?”
“I think you’re having a relapse.”
Klaus gave an amused snort. “No. But I have changed my mind. I will take that cane you’ve been nagging me to start using.”
Dorian’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”
“So I can brain that fucking asshole the next time he shows his face.”
* * *
Several days later, Klaus announced that he had to go into town. Since this wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, Dorian thought nothing about it. It wasn’t until Klaus told him that he would not be able to accompany him that the Earl became suspicious.
“Klaus, I’m not letting you go anywhere alone,” Dorian said firmly, barring the front door. “Not after what happened the other day.”
“One of the staff is coming with me,” Klaus replied calmly.
“Why don’t you want me along this time?”
Klaus met the Earl’s challenging gaze steadily. “Because I have to finalize all the papers pertaining to the estate.” And my funeral arrangements, but I’m sure as hell not telling you that! He paused. “And sign my new will.”
A hand went to Dorian’s mouth, his eyes growing wide. “Oh, Klaus,” he whispered and found he had to fight back tears.
“Despite our agreement, I didn’t think you could handle it.”
Dorian closed his eyes and nodded. This was true enough.
Klaus started for the door, giving a small smile when Dorian pulled it open for him. He had started using the cane the Earl had been fighting with him about, and found it was much easier to maintain his balance, although he never would have admitted it. “I’ll be back this afternoon.”
* * *
When Klaus returned to the Schloss, he found Dorian in the study staring at The Man In Purple. The painting that had captivated the Earl’s imagination from the day they first met. The painting that had been his heart’s desire to possess no matter what. The painting that had caused no end of headaches for Klaus. The painting the Earl had agreed to leave right where it was as long as Klaus was still alive.
“I still don’t see what you find so fascinating in that…pumpkin,” Klaus remarked as he slowly entered the room.
“No more than I see what you find so fascinating in a mass of polished steel,” Dorian replied, not even turning to face him.
An odd look passed over the General’s face. He leaned on his cane and stood watching the Earl a moment. Then he was himself again and continued to his chair.
“You look exhausted,” Dorian observed.
“Good. Because I am exhausted.”
Dorian gave him a disapproving look. “I knew I should’ve come with you. You’ve overdone it.”
A small smile came to Klaus’s face. “You’re turning into an old woman, Eroica.”
Dorian blinked. He hadn’t heard that name in months. “What’ve you been up to?” he asked suspiciously. He was all the more suspicious when Klaus smiled. It was the same smile he had seen on the officer’s face just before he threatened to kill someone.
Klaus held up a manila envelope. “I finalized all the paperwork on the estate.”
“I know. You told me.”
“There’s a paper in here that will help you avoid another incident like the one in the hospital.”
“I thought were signing your will?”
Klaus gave the Earl a sly grin. “I did.”
Dorian’s eyes narrowed. “What have you done?” he asked, taking a seat and studying the face of the man across from him. “You’re giving off conspiracy in waves.”
Klaus held out the envelope and waited until Dorian had taken it before announcing startlingly, “I’m leaving you everything.”
Dorian dropped the envelope. “What?”
“You heard me.”
“And they let you sign this as being of sound mind?”
Klaus could not help but laugh at this. “Yes. And I made sure witnesses signed documents attesting to the fact that you weren’t with me at the time.”
“I’m not letting that idiot Frederik turn the Schloss into a Bed and Breakfast Getaway for the Rich and Moronic.”
“Now you are joking. I know I poke fun at your ‘mountain location,’ Klaus, but you’re only on a hillside. Hardly an exotic location.”
Klaus shook his head. “I have my spies in the family, too,” he said coolly. “They’ve been telling me for years what that dolt plans for the Schloss once it’s properly his.” He gave a disgusted snort. “My father would turn over in his grave if I allowed that to happen.”
Dorian sat staring, his eyes wide, not quite able to take it in. “You know he’ll fight this.”
Klaus nodded. “Of course. I’ve taken the precaution of setting up a trust for you to use for the legal fees. The family attorney was more than happy to agree to my terms when he saw how much was in it.” Again, the evil smile came to his face. “The will is iron clad, but Frederik will go bankrupt trying to fight it in probate.”
Dorian sat back, a hand going to his head. “You are a very evil man, Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach.”
Klaus gave him a knowing look. “I just pretend I’m you.”
Dorian could not help but laugh at this mental image. “Touché.”
“There’s an escape clause, should you decide not to go through with all this,” Klaus informed calmly.
“Escape clause?” Dorian’s eyes narrowed. “I’m almost afraid to ask…”
“Should you decide you don’t want to be the new Master of Schloss Eberbach, I’ve made a provision that you can sign it over to Frederik’s eldest son, Leopold. I’m designating him to succeed me as head of the family.”
“Leopold…? Jesus, he saddled his son with a horrible name like that? The man really is a Philistine.”
A small smile curled the edges of Klaus’s mouth as he said, “Leo owns a portion of a rather lucrative art gallery in Berlin. If I know you, you’re probably already familiar with it.”
Dorian could not help but laugh at this irony.
“You’ll be relieved of the Schloss, retain the trust, and—” Klaus drew a deep breath. “—have ownership of The Man In Purple.” He didn’t think it was possible, but he saw Dorian’s already enormous eyes grow even wider. He was clearly speechless, a hand going to his mouth.
After a long pause, Klaus said, “Don’t you have anything to say?”
“You’re giving me The Man In Purple?” Dorian gasped, his eyes going to the painting.
“I might as well. You’ll just steal it as soon as I’m dead anyway.”
“Don’t say things like that.”
“It’s true, isn’t it?”
“I’m not going to discuss it.”
Klaus’s eyes flickered. “Fine.” He paused, adding evilly, “Of course, you could always bankrupt Frederik and then sign the Schloss over to Leo.”
Dorian turned to look at him, and evil smile coming to his face, too. “If that’s an order, General, I think I’ll be more than happy to carry it out.”
* * *
The Doctor had been staring at the object that had materialized out of thin air for what seemed like forever. While he was the same man whom Dorian and Klaus had met on several other occasions, he was yet another version of the same man. This was the Doctor’s sixth incarnation, and quite possibly the most eccentric. He was tall, slightly overweight—although he tended to argue this point—with a riot of blond curls surrounding his bright, jovial face. He also wore a brightly colored patchwork coat that even Eroica would think twice about putting on.
He was watched by his current traveling companion, Mel, a petite red-head whose mass of curls rivaled Dorian’s. She had let out an alarmed squeak when the object appeared on the console beside her. It looked like a metal football, each octagonal patch having a different symbol on it. The Doctor had said that it was a special kind of container that could only be opened by the person for whom it was intended. After that, he fell into his current contemplative silence.
“Doctor, are you going to stare at that thing forever?” Mel asked finally.
The Doctor looked up. “The last time I received one of these, the TARDIS dematerialized on her own,” he said mildly.
“No. Which leads me to believe the recipient of this…container, is here on Earth.”
Mel scowled. “Doctor, we’re hardly likely to find them standing around in the TARDIS, are we?” she said logically.
The Doctor finally seemed to return to reality and gave her a bright smile. “No. You’re right, Mel.” He picked up the container and immediately let out an involuntarily cry as it shifted in his hands, the panels hinging open. “Bless my soul!” he gasped. “It’s for me!”
Mel had to fight not to laugh at the stunned expression on the Time Lord’s face. “Well? What’s in it?”
The Doctor pulled out a small gold plate with an elaborate seal on it and a piece of paper. He gave the plate a cursory glace, handing it to Mel before concentrating on the paper. “Ah! I should’ve known!” he exclaimed, before going to the navigational computer and punching in a new set of coordinates. “He can’t resist being dramatic.”
The Doctor looked up and grinned.
Mel rolled her eyes. “What’s he done now?”
“Done? What makes you think he’s done anything?”
“Because the last time I saw him, he was running from everyone in the cosmos, including you.”
“Ah!” The Doctor grinned, hitting the dematerialization switch. “Nothing like that. He’s invited me—us—to his Half-Century Jubilee.”
“That’s how Alterran measure things. In centuries. They are a long lived race, you know.”
“Yes.” Mel looked at the plate in her hand and back at the Doctor. “And this Jubilee in honor of what, exactly?”
The Doctor gave her a broad smile. “Jason’s coronation.”
Mel blinked. The last time she had seen Jason, he was Crown Prince of his home planet. “How much time has past since we saw him last?”
The Doctor cleared his throat. “I have no idea,” he admitted. “And, apparently, neither has he.” He held up the paper that had accompanied the plate and read it aloud. “Enclosed please find the space/time coordinates necessary for Tel-Shye during King Jason’s Half-Century Jubilee. His majesty cordially invites the Doctor, with whatever face he may be wearing at the time, and his traveling companion(s) to this celebration.”
Mel giggled and the Doctor looked up. “Cheek.”
* * *
It seemed to Dorian that plotting against his cousin Frederik had done Klaus a world of good. He was in excellent spirits for weeks afterward. Frederik had visited a few times in the interim, and only seemed to reinforce the General’s buoyant attitude, much to his cousin’s bewilderment. Then next thing Dorian knew, a year had passed since he moved into the Schloss.
The signs of Klaus’s illness continued to manifest themselves, becoming more and more pronounced. He started to lose his concentration during a conversation, or switch from English to German because he could no longer recall the correct words. Eventually, he stayed exclusively with German. Even with a cane to assist him, he would still occasionally lose his balance. In addition to this, as if things weren’t bad enough, his newest medications were causing fainting spells.
Then one morning came a turning point. A day Dorian would remember for the rest of his life. He was just about to descend the stairs when he heard a crash from within Klaus’s bedroom. It was followed by a thud that could only be a body hitting the floor. He was at the door, only to find it locked. “Klaus!” he called, pulling unsuccessfully at the doorknob. “Klaus! Answer me or I’m coming in!”
Dorian reached up a fist to pound on the door, reconsidered and picked the lock. He was through the door in seconds, looking around the empty bedroom. This meant there was only one other place for Klaus to be and he strode to the bathroom door. He was surprised to find it unlocked and had it partially open before he froze. What if he’s naked in there? Oh God, all these years and I hesitate. Bloody hell. Am I getting a conscience in my old age?
Dorian squared his shoulders, pushed open the door, and stopped dead. Klaus was face down on the floor, obviously having fallen. He was also naked, his robe on the floor beside him. Various objects from the counter were also on the floor and were undoubtedly what had caused the initial crash.
Pull yourself together. This is no time to be lecherous, Dorian told himself as it suddenly occurred to him that the officer wasn’t moving. Has he fallen or fainted again? “Klaus…?” he said tentatively as he knelt down beside him. “Klaus, answer me.”
Klaus gave a low moan and stirred weakly. Dorian took the robe from the floor and was about to cover him when Klaus came to his senses all at once. His eyes snapped open and he drew a sharp breath. He tried to rise, but lacked the strength to even get to his elbows.
“Klaus…?” Dorian said gently, causing the other man to jump.
“Yes, I’m glad you’re alright, too. Let me help you get your robe on.”
Klaus closed his eyes, biting back all the comments and curses that sprang to mind. “Fine.” It wasn’t until he rolled onto his back that he saw the Earl actually looked embarrassed. Possibly even more embarrassed than he was himself.
“Do you think you can stand?”
Klaus was silent a long time, staring up into Dorian’s face. “Help me sit up,” he said at last.
“Alright.” Dorian did as requested, silently wondering why Klaus hadn’t accused him of wanting to molest him six ways to Sunday yet. Their agreement notwithstanding, this was definitely an exception he could live with.
“Now get me my gun,” Klaus said suddenly.
“You heard me.”
“Klaus, you had me hide all your guns,” Dorian reminded.
“Why do you think I’m asking you to get me one, you idiot?”
Dorian stared at Klaus for several seconds. “No. I’m not giving you a gun so you can take the soldier’s way out.”
“Fucking bastard! You’re supposed to be helping me,” Klaus snarled.
“I’m not helping you kill yourself.”
“Dorian, I’m dying! What the hell difference does it make if I do it myself or let this thing in my head—” Klaus broke off and turned away. The bathtub was beside him and he leaned against it, putting a hand to his head. “I can’t take this anymore,” he said in a small voice.
Dorian’s mouth dropped open in amazement when Iron Klaus started to cry. He was clearly overwhelmed, probably for the first time in his life. Every other time he had been able to recover from a physical trauma, coming back just as strong as ever. But not now. As hard as he was fighting, Klaus was just growing steadily weaker.
“Dammit!” As if things aren’t bad enough, now I’m crying like a woman! Klaus thought angrily, thumping a fist on the tub. “God fucking dammit!”
Dorian moved closer and pulled Klaus away from the tub. He turned him around but had no idea what he was going to say. Instead, he found himself beyond words when the other man actually leaned against him and wrapped his arms around him, clearly seeking comfort. All he could do was put his arms around him and sit in a stunned silence until Klaus was able to pull himself together.
“It’s all falling apart, isn’t it?” Dorian said at last.
Klaus did not move. He didn’t even realize what he had done until he had done it. Then it was too late. He had crossed that line he had sworn to himself he would never cross. There would be no going back now. “What?”
“Iron Klaus is a human being.”
Klaus drew a deep breath and sat up, looking Dorian in the eye. “Yes. Iron Klaus is a human being.”
It was the quietest voice Dorian had ever heard the officer use. He was so unnerved by it, he heard himself saying, “Klaus, agreement or not, if you keep looking at me like that, I’m going to have to kiss you.”
Then it happened. Dorian saw it happen, but didn’t realize what it was at the time. A look. A flicker in those dark green eyes. A moment later, Klaus was reaching out a hand and touching it to his cheek. A gentle, caressing touch that was so unlike the officer he had known for decades. Then the hand that had once knocked him across a room reached behind his neck and pulled him close.
Just a simple kiss. But there was nothing simple about it. And there was certainly nothing simple about the person who was initiating it. Dorian never expected Klaus to be so gentle. Tentative, perhaps. But never like this! A second incredibly tender kiss followed. Despite his physical weakness, it was as though Klaus was afraid that the Earl would break.
My God, was he always this gentle and I never noticed? It wasn’t until Dorian felt himself starting to let go that he realized what was happening and he pulled back, drawing a sharp breath. “No!” he gasped.
Klaus looked as if he’d been physically struck. “No?”
“No,” Dorian repeated. “Not like this.”
“I did it wrong.”
“No, you idiot German! You did it perfect.”
Klaus had several things collide into one another in his brain all at once. He sat back and looked at the Earl’s expression. He looked horrified. “Then what the hell’s the matter?”
“What’s the matter?” Dorian was actually asking himself this very question. “I am not going to take advantage of you. You’re obviously overwrought. And as much as I would love to ravage you right here and now, I’m not going to have you accusing me of taking advantage of you when you’re already suicidal.”
After a long silence, Klaus drew a deep breath. “Now you get a conscience.”
“I know. I’m amazed myself.”
This remark actually brought a small smile to Klaus’s face. “Alright. If you’re not gonna rape me, will you at least help me put some clothes on?”
“Alright,” Dorian sighed. He made to help the officer from the floor and stopped, looking him in the eye. “And before you start ranting in an hour, I’ll agree right now that this never happened.”
Klaus gave him a look of wide-eyed astonishment. “You will?”
Klaus studied the Earl’s set expression a moment, argued with himself for nearly a minute and finally sighed heavily. “Fine,” he said calmly and saw disappointment flash across Dorian’s features. “And what happens in an hour, if I ask you to…?”
Dorian’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “To what? To rape you?” he said sharply.
“No. To…” Klaus sighed heavily. “You’re gonna make me say it, aren’t you?”
“Klaus, if you haven’t changed your mind in an hour, then I’ll make you say it.”
Changed my mind! Klaus thought. I don’t even know what the hell I’m doing. Nor did he have any idea what he wanted. One minute he was ready to blow his own brains out, the next he was kissing Dorian, of all people. Christ, on top of everything else, now I’m going insane. “Fine, whatever,” he snapped impatiently. “Just help me up off this Goddamn floor. It’s freezing.”
* * *
TEMPLE OF ASCENSION
The Temple of Ascension was situated part way up a mountainside, the lush forest surrounding it in an almost loving embrace. No one could quite recall just how old the structure was, although archeologists and historians alike agreed that it had been there for millennia.
They also agreed that the Temple was not really temple. At least, not in the traditional sense of the word. It was more a cross between a throne room, a memorial, and an amphitheater. It was circular in shape, but the stone wall at the back was only a half circle, leaving the front open. At each end of the wall were doors that led to the interior behind the structure. A large stone throne was at the apex of the curve, resting at the top of a short flight of steps. From this position, one could see over the forest and into the valley where the city of Krystos, the capital city on the planet Tel-Shye, sprawled out in all directions.
On this particular morning, the occupant of the throne was a man dressed in hiking clothes. He had been sitting motionless for a long time, contemplating the view as the sun rose over the mountains. He suddenly seemed to come back to reality and drew a deep breath, running a hand through a tangle of black curls. Beside him was a backpack and he leaned down, pulling out a canister of hot coffee. Before he even opened it, a woman’s disapproving voice said, “Not you again.”
The hiker looked up. “Yes, me again. Clarissa, isn’t it?”
Clarissa scowled. “Look, I told you to clear off yesterday.” She was standing at the base of the steps, clipboard in hand.
“Yes, you did,” came the unrepentant reply. As he spoke, the hiker finished opening his coffee and took a sip. “Thing is, there’re nothing to back up your claims that this Temple is off limits while the rehearsals for your little…er, show are going on. Only during Jubilee week.” With a grin, he added, “I checked.”
Clarissa’s face darkened. Unfortunately, this annoying interloper was absolutely right. She had been hoping to just scare him off with her official sounding warnings. Obviously, this had not worked. “Look, could you at least stay out from under our feet, then?” she requested finally.
At that moment, a man dressed in royal finally immerged from one of the doors at the end of the stone wall. He was still adjusting his clothes when he looked up. “Damnation, not again!” he exclaimed.
The hiker grinned, pulling the hood of his sweatshirt up over his head. “Is it just me, or is it suddenly very cold here?” He stood up, picking up his backpack and moving several feet from the throne.
“Look, you,” the actor snapped. “Just clear off!”
“What? And miss your performance? I’m dying to see it again.”
“Don’t let him get to you, Greg,” Clarissa soothed. “Remember, there might be someone like him in the audience when you have to do this live.”
Greg sighed heavily, throwing an annoyed look in the trespasser’s direction. “Just stay out of my way,” he said as he climbed the stairs to the throne.
Suddenly a voice could be heard approaching from the pathway leading to the Temple. “…and before any of that can happen,” the Doctor was saying, “the coronation party comes to the Temple of Ascension. And the whole thing is—” He broke off when he and Mel stepped out of the forest, seeing the others already within the Temple. “Good grief,” he said under his breath.
“Sir, please,” Clarissa said sternly. “The public is prohibited from entering until—”
“Don’t listen to her,” the hiker called out. “That doesn’t go into effect until the day of the Jubilee.”
Clarissa turned an angry look in his direction. “That’s quite enough from you.”
“I had rather assumed the Temple would be empty this time of day,” the Doctor said as he drew nearer. “Have we interrupted something?”
“Yes, you have!” Greg snapped. “I’m never going to get this characterization down with all these interruptions.”
“Characterization?” Mel repeated.
“Ah!” The Doctor’s face cleared. “They’re doing a characterization of King Jason in honor of the Half-Century Jubilee. How very fortuitous, Mel.” Looking up, he called, “Don’t mind us. You carry on.”
“I can’t work under these conditions!” Greg protested pompously.
“Oh, give it a rest,” the interloper groaned, sitting down on the top step. “It’s hardly King Lear, is it?”
Greg turned and glared at him. Clarissa groaned and wondered how long until she could take an early retirement. Mel heard the Doctor catch his breath and gave him a quizzical look. “What’s up?” she asked.
“I’m not sure,” he replied quietly.
Collecting herself, Clarissa cleared her throat loudly. “Greg, please! Can we just get on?”
The actor turned back to face her, seeing she was in no mood for tantrums of any kind. He repositioned his costume and sat down on the throne. He took a moment to compose himself and drew a deep breath. “Ready,” he said finally.
Clarissa turned to the Doctor and Mel and smiled. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” she began sweetly, “his Most Royal Majesty King Jason of Tel-Shye thanks you for coming to celebrate this, his Half-Century Jubilee.” She paused, turning to the throne. “Your majesty…”
Taking his cue, Greg looked from side to side, as though taking in a large crowd. He rose to his feet and began his welcoming address. While he was doing this, Mel leaned close to the Doctor and whispered, “If he’s supposed to be King Jason, why doesn’t he look exactly like him? I thought Alterran’s could look like whoever they wanted.”
“Not allowed,” the Doctor whispered back. “They can look mostly like those in power, but not exactly. At least, that’s what Jason told me.”
When the speech was finished, the pseudo-monarch sat down again and Clarissa said, “Thank you, your majesty.” She turned to where the audience was to stand and hesitated before asking, “Does anyone have any questions they wish to ask his majesty?”
The Doctor met her gaze. “I assume you have a list of standard questions?”
“Then let’s hear those first.”
Clarissa breathed a sigh of relief. She looked at her clipboard and read the first few questions. It wasn’t until she asked the name of the King’s mother that the Doctor could stay quiet no longer.
“Oh, for pity’s sake, man,” the Time Lord said wearily. “If you’re going to do a living characterization, you could at least learn the proper pronunciation of people’s names. Leah-Donna, indeed! Her name was LiaDonna, called Lee by her family.”
“And you know this for a fact?” Greg snorted.
“As do I,” the hiker injected. He had been silent for so long that the actor had actually forgotten he was only a few feet away from him.
Greg was now on his feet. “Alright, you! I’ve had quite enough! You think you can do better?”
The hiker sat back. “Very probably.”
“Oh, this should be interesting,” the Doctor said under his breath.
Mel looked at him, and frowned. “What do you know you’re not telling me?”
The Time Lord gave her a sideways glance. “Just watch,” he said mysteriously.
During the course of this exchange, the interloper had taken his place on the throne. “I take it I’m to answer these questions in the first person, correct?”
“That’s the general idea,” Greg replied smugly.
Clarissa turned to the Doctor and Mel, “Perhaps you would like to ask—” She cleared her throat. “—his majesty a question?”
“Certainly.” The Doctor took a step forward and Mel tugged at his sleeve. “Doctor, this isn’t the time to be showing off.”
“Nonsense, Mel,” he replied airily. “This is the perfect time to be showing off.”
“Hear, hear,” said the newest monarch on the throne.
“Your majesty, what was your profession before becoming Crown Prince?” the Doctor asked.
“Healer, surgeon, herbalist and chemist,” came the immediate reply.
Clarissa blinked. “Is that right?”
“It is,” the Doctor replied. “And how long did you practice medicine?”
“I never stopped.”
The Time Lord laughed at this reply and took another step forward. Before he could ask another question, Clarissa blurted out, “Your majesty, whom do you most admire?”
“Living or dead?”
Clarissa blinked. “That’s not a part of the question,” she said in bewilderment.
“Then perhaps it should be,” the Doctor and the man on the throne replied in unison.
The Doctor grinned and looked back up the stairs, taking another step forward. “I can guess the answer to this one, but I’ll ask anyway. Your majesty, of those persons no longer living, whom do you most admire?”
“What do you mean you can guess the answer?” This was Greg, who was also wondering about an early retirement.
“Well, if you’d done any research, you’d’ve learned that King Jason admired his father above anyone else,” the Doctor informed tersely. “Isn’t that correct, your majesty?”
“Spot on, Doctor.”
“Ha!” the Time Lord laughed, pointing up at the throne. “And you’ve lost the game. You just called me by name.”
“Lost, sir?” the man on the throne replied innocently. “The young lady called you Doctor when you began your questioning. And you called her Mel.”
“He’s got you there, Doctor,” Mel chided.
“Okay, then. I have a question for the answer man,” Greg injected. “Who among the living do you most admire?”
“Your majesty,” the Doctor prompted.
“Don’t encourage him,” Greg growled.
“Well, I know the official answer on that paper Clarissa is holding is the Lord Emperor,” the answer man replied, rising to his feet. “But I’m afraid that’s not the answer that I’d give.” He turned his gaze to the Time Lord who was now at the bottom of the steps. “The man I most admire is the one standing right there.” So saying, he started down the stairs.
“Modesty dictates that I protest, our majesty,” the Doctor replied mildly.
By this time, the Doctor had an enormous smile on his face. He held out a hand and his friend took hold of it, and then hugged him. “Jason, you scoundrel!” he scolded.
“What gave me away?” the disguised monarch asked.
Jason groaned, rolling his eyes. “Leave it to you to pick up a reference to Shakespeare.”
“I knew it!” Greg announced from the top of the steps. “You two were in this together the whole time.”
“My Lord, the man’s obtuse,” Jason sighed heavily. He turned back to face the actor. “If you want your characterization to be accurate, Greg, might I suggest that you lighten up!”
“How dare you!”
Suddenly the backpack the disguised King had left at the top of the stairs started buzzing nosily. He scrambled up to it, pulling out a phone and looking around to make sure nothing would interfere with the signal. He was actually surprised that the unit still worked this far from the city. “Yes?” He listened a minute, nodding. “I’m at the Temple of Ascension. You can pick me up there. Oh! And have someone get my camping gear. It’s at cave twenty-eight. Yes, twenty-eight. I’ll be waiting.”
Jason returned the phone to his backpack before picking it up and slinging it over one shoulder. “Duty calls,” he announced.
“So we’ll no longer have the pleasure of your company? What a shame,” Clarissa injected in a tone that clearly conveyed her delight.
The Doctor turned to her, his eyes wide. “You still have no idea who this is, do you?” he asked in a disbelieving tone.
“I think they’ll figure it out in a minute,” Jason said as he quickly descended the stairs. “My transport is on its way from the Palace.” He looked in the direction of the city, seeing an object rise above the Royal Palace and then turn in the direction of the Temple.
“Oh, Goddess,” Greg moaned. “You’re a spy from court, aren’t you?” He turned to Clarissa. “That’s why he knows all the answers.”
Jason turned back to look at the actor. “Spy, not exactly. From court, yes.”
“Why don’t you just tell them who you are and have done with it?” the Doctor asked.
“I would’ve. But they never asked.”
At that moment, the monarch’s transport arrived, landing at the base of the Temple. The pilot, a smallish man with sandy blond hair got out and grinned. “Your majesty, your chariot awaits!” he announced grandly, holding out a hand.
“Sully!” Jason cried delightedly, going on to give the pilot a hug. “When did you get back?”
“Goddess! He’s the King!” Greg exclaimed.
Sully looked at the actor in amazement. “Was there any doubt?”
“Not with me,” the Doctor said.
Jason waved the Time Lord and his companion over and quickly introduced them to Sully, his friend and former personal pilot, before they all got into the transport. Sully threw a quick glance over at the still thunderstruck Greg and Clarissa, grinned and then got in himself. A few seconds later, the transport was lifting off.
“After this is over,” Greg said quietly, “I’m firing my agent.”
* * *
DREAMS OF MIRACLES
“Jason, this has to be the strangest request you have ever made of me,” the Doctor said as he led the way into the TARDIS console room.
“Don’t blame me,” Jason replied defensively. “It’s Shadra’s doing.”
The Doctor turned to the Alterran, his eyes narrowing. It wasn’t like Jason to blame his wife for anything. “How?”
Jason sighed heavily. “I get rather maudlin at this time of year,” he began slowly. “And I end up dreaming all kinds of things.”
“And I had a dream about Dorian. When she asked me about him, I mentioned how I sort of promised to remember him when I became King.”
The Doctor groaned, his eyes rolling to the ceiling. “It must’ve been some dream.”
Mel frowned, looking from one to the other. “I sorry, but I’m completely lost,” she said mildly.
“Jason and Shadra have a telepathic bond,” the Doctor informed. “She can see his dreams.”
“Yes,” Jason said with a sigh. “And she wants to meet Dorian.”
Mel was none the wiser. “Why is this a problem?”
“Have you ever heard of Eroica, Mel?” the Doctor asked.
“Well, Dorian is Eroica.”
Mel blinked, looking from one to the other. She was sure they were pulling her leg. But the serious expressions on both men’s faces was confirmation enough that this was no joke. “I don’t know why I’m surprised that you know an art thief, Doctor,” she remarked. “So where…er, when do we find him?”
“God knows,” Jason sighed helplessly. “The dream I had was when we dropped him off in the North Downs of England in 1987.”
“Well, that’s a good place to start,” the Doctor said happily as he set the coordinates.
* * *
Dorian looked around himself in confusion. What am I doing in the study? I don’t remember coming here. He heard a noise and turned to see Klaus glaring at him from the door. Wait a minute… The man standing in the doorway wasn’t the man now fighting a losing battle with a brain tumor. He was the young Major von dem Eberbach he had met decades before.
Klaus was having similar thoughts as he looked at the twenty-something man standing in his study wearing that ridiculous red shirt. What the hell is going on?
“Is this a dream?” Dorian asked suddenly.
Klaus gave him a steady look. He didn’t usually think about whether or not he was dreaming. But then, it seemed the most logical explanation. “With you here, I’d have to say it’s a nightmare.”
Dorian gave him a quizzical. “Really? Why’s that?”
“You know damn well why, you pervert!”
“You should talk,” Dorian replied archly, fluttering his eyelashes. “Shall I strip that lovely uniform off you now?”
“You leave my uniform alone!”
“Good Lord, are you two still at it?” came a voice from across the room.
Dorian and Klaus turned as one to see Jason shaking his head at them. He was dressed in the same royal finery as the last time they’d seen him, but looked older. Why he looked older while they looked younger was a mystery.
“Now I know I’m having a nightmare,” Klaus groaned, rolling his eyes heavenward.
“Nice to see you too, Major,” Jason replied with a grin.
“General,” the officer corrected sharply.
Jason’s eyebrows went up. “Really? Not according to the insignia on your uniform.”
Klaus look down at himself and scowled. A split second later, he was wearing the correct uniform with the correct insignia.
Jason’s eyebrows went up. Impressive, he thought as he looked at the medals adorning the uniform. “So. They finally gave you a proper promotion, or two. About time.”
Dorian sighed heavily. “Is this my dream? Or are we all in some kind of weird astral projection?”
Klaus gave a derisive snort. “I’m hallucinating and you want to analyze it.”
Jason’s eyes narrowed. “Hallucinating? Why do you say that?” He looked the officer up and down. He seemed so much younger than the last time he’d seen him. Then Klaus suddenly started to age before his very eyes, his hair turning snow-white. He became thinner, frailer, his strength draining away in a matter of seconds.
Dorian was immediately beside Klaus as he collapsed, no longer able to stand on his own.
“What’s happening?” Jason gasped.
“Can’t you see?” Dorian exploded. “He’s dying! And they can’t do a damn thing about it.”
Jason’s mouth dropped open. “Dying…” he said in a small voice. He got down beside the officer, looking into unfocused eyes.
Suddenly there was a sound across the room and Jason looked up, his eyes widening as the far wall vanished and he saw a replay of the first time he had saved Klaus’s life. The then Major von dem Eberbach had taken a bullet that was meant for Dorian. A bullet that should have killed him. A bullet Jason had removed from his chest.
Then the scene changed, and the Major was plummeting to an ice shelf after being shot by the KGB. Again, Jason was there to save his life.
Finally, there was the time Jason had seen him during an encounter with a bizarre alien entity. Then his conversation with the severely injured Klaus suddenly played out before him…
“I will do everything in my power to keep you alive. No matter what.” Jason heard himself saying.
“I believe you’ll try to work another miracle. I’m just not sure that you’ll succeed,” came Klaus’s replied.
“Damnation, Klaus!” the spectral Jason snapped angrily. “This is not the time for your fatalistic attitude. If you give up, I can’t save you, miracle or not.” He paused. “Don’t stop fighting now. Please, don’t give up on me.”
“I won’t give up if you won’t.”
Disembodied voices followed, drifting through the air.
The Doctor’s voice. “What happened?” he asked sharply.
“I don’t know,” came Jason’s bewildered reply. “It’s as if...time went out of joint for a second.”
“I’m not asking for a miracle,” came the Doctor’s voice again. “But you do have a knack for producing them.
This was overlapped with the Alterran’s own voice saying, “People call me a miracle worker. But I like to think I just pass on the miracles I’m given.”
Suddenly, this vision ended, and Jason looked down at the gravely ill General von dem Eberbach.
“I haven’t given up,” Klaus said firmly before closing his eyes.
Jason caught his breath.
Dorian let out a small sob and pulled the officer close. To the amazement of the watching Alterran, Klaus put an arm around the Earl’s waist. Dorian looked straight at Jason, a stray tear rolling down his cheek. “He needs another miracle,” he said quietly. “Do you have any left?”
* * *
Jason woke with a start, a small cry escaping him. He sat up in his chair and looked around, relaxing when he saw he was still in the console room.
“Are you alright?” the Doctor asked as he crossed the room.
The Alterran rubbed his eyes, looking around. “Bad dream,” he replied. “Very, very bad dream.” He shuddered, pulling himself together at the same time. “Don’t look at me like that, Doctor, I’m fine. I…tend to have bad dreams around this time of year. See friends dying.”
This only made the frown on the Doctor’s face deepen further. “Indeed. It was a dream that prompted this journey.”
Jason sighed heavily, running a hand through his hair. “I told you, I get maudlin while all those wrenched celebrations are going on. I’m supposed to be celebrating the fact that my father died.”
The Doctor nodded. “Have you ever given yourself time to mourn properly?”
The Alterran got to his feet and wished he could ignore the subject altogether, but knew the Doctor would not let it go. “I’m never going to have enough time, Doctor. Now, can we drop it? Please.”
“Only if you tell me about your dream.”
“You just can’t let go, can you?”
“Jason, the telepathy circuits activated while you were dreaming,” the Doctor informed startlingly.
“Yes. And there was a time spike.”
“Then that means…” Time is still out of joint. Jason caught his breath, his eyes widening. “Doctor, we have to change course.”
The Time Lord was taken aback by his friend’s sudden change in mood. “What?”
“Dorian isn’t in England. He’s in Germany.”
“Jason, you can’t possibly know that.”
The Alterran gave his friend a steady look. “Doctor, I just had a dream that the Major was dying. Dorian was with him and they were at Schloss Eberbach.” He paused, adding forcefully, “I’ve never been to Schloss Eberbach. But I knew that’s where I was. How do you explain that?”
The Doctor was stuck for an answer and went to the navigational computer. “It’ll take a bit to get the exact space/time coordinates…” He looked up. “Unless you happen to know those, too.”
Jason scowled, thinking the Time Lord was being sarcastic. Then, to the amazement of them both, the coordinates came unbidden from his memory.
“Jason, I apologize,” the Doctor said as he stepped aside to allow the Alterran to enter the coordinates. “It appears you did have more than a normal dream.”
Jason nodded, drawing a deep breath. “If what I saw is reality, then we’re on our way to a living nightmare.”
* * *
ARRIVAL OF HOPE
The TARDIS materialized in the study of Schloss Eberbach with its usual cacophony of wheezes and groans, a final thump announcing its arrival back into the realm of real time. The door opened and Jason peeked his head out, his eyes growing wide. “This is the room,” he said in amazement. He stepped out into the study, the Doctor following. Mel peeked out but was uncertain as to whether she should follow or wait until the final verdict.
Jason looked around the room in some awe. “Well, it’s not 1987, that’s certain,” he remarked. He turned to the Doctor and then pointed to the open laptop computer on a desk. The Time Lord crossed to it and gave it a quick once over.
“Twenty-first century technology,” the Doctor confirmed. He looked up. “Early Twenty-first century.”
“So we could be in the right time zone?”
“Very probably.” The Doctor looked around the room. “You’re sure this is the room you saw in your…er, dream?”
“Yes.” Jason turned, his eyes falling on The Man In Purple. “And if that isn’t one of the Major’s ancestors, I’ll eat my shirt.”
Mel giggled as she stepped into the room. “This is the Twenty-first century?” she said disbelievingly.
The Doctor and Jason exchanged an amused look.
“Mel, this computer is from the Twenty-first century, not the castle,” the Doctor said amusedly.
“Nor this room. It looks like one of those time capsules.”
“We probably should see if we can find someone,” Jason said as he cautiously opened the door. There was no one outside the room as far as he could see and he stepped into the front foyer, jumping when a lightning flash lit up the windows. It was only then that he realized there was a driving thunderstorm going on outside. The Doctor came up beside him, Mel at his heels.
“Now what?” Jason asked practically. “How do we attract attention without getting thrown out?”
“I do beg your pardon,” a polite voice said from further in the house. “With all this thunder, I didn’t hear the bell.”
The Doctor turned to see a man who could only be the butler striding towards them. “We let ourselves in,” he said calmly. “The rain, you know.”
The butler stopped dead, looking the unlikely group up and down. “Doctor Kelkenberg said he was sending another nurse,” he said mildly, eyeing Mel suspiciously. She was not dressed like any of the other nurses who had been attending the General. In fact, this young woman looked like she was about to go jogging. “But I thought he said his colleagues had been detained.”
“Ah, yes, Doctor Kelkenberg,” the Doctor said happily. “We were at a fundraiser when he called…”
The butler’s face cleared. This seemed to explain everything. Obviously, Doctor Kelkenberg had assumed the fundraiser would detain his associates. “You’re the specialist?”
“Doctor Krystovan is the specialist,” the Doctor said, holding out a hand in Jason’s direction.
Before the butler could ask any further questions, Jason said sharply, “If we could see the patient, please?”
“Certainly, sir.” The butler bowed slightly, turning on his heel. “The General is just this way.” He then led the way down the hall.
The butler threw a quick glance over his shoulder. “The General hasn’t been able to manage the stairs for quite some time.”
Jason felt his heart turn over. Dear God, he is dying. “I’m afraid we came rather quickly. I wasn’t given all of the details of the case.”
“Lord Gloria has everything you’ll need, sir.”
Jason heard the Doctor catch his breath and threw him a knowing look. Too many things from his dream—Or should he think of it as a vision?—were being verified. His worst fears were confirmed when the journey ended at a room that had been converted into Klaus’s hospital room.
To the Doctor and Jason’s mutual astonishment, Dorian was curled up on the bed, snuggled up against Klaus, an arm wrapped around him. He started awake when the group came in and sat up, rubbing his eyes.
The room seemed to distort momentarily and Jason grabbed the Doctor’s arm.
“Yes, I felt that, too,” the Time Lord replied quietly. “It seems you were right about Time still being out of joint.”
“Lord Gloria,” the butler said politely, “these are the people Doctor Kelkenberg sent.”
Dorian struggling to get his thoughts together as he got to his feet. “I thought the rain had washed out the road…” he said muzzily. He shook his head to clear it and then looked at the unlikely group at the door, his eyes widening. “Was there a costume party and I wasn’t invited?” he asked archly.
“The Doctors tell me they were called away from a fundraiser, sir,” the butler informed.
“Yes, thank you,” the Doctor said sharply, “but we’re quite capable of speaking for ourselves.”
The Earl’s eyes flickered before he dismissed the butler. Then he turned his attention to the others. “When I asked for another nurse to help look after the General,” he said in a disapproving tone, “I had hoped they would send someone…larger.”
“I take it that comment was directed at me,” Mel said astringently.
Dorian blinked. Up until this point, the entire conversation had been in German. When Mel spoke, it was in English. English English, and the Earl’s mouth dropped open. It had been so long since he’d spoken English and it took him a moment to switch back. “You’re English,” he said in an amazed tone.
Mel failed to see why this was important. “Yes. And so are you.”
Dorian shook his head. “What’s an English girl doing out in the middle of Nowhere, Germany?”
Mel blinked. “Is that your way of asking, ‘What’s a nice girl like me doing in a place like this?’”
“I supposed it did sound like that, didn’t it?” Damn, I must be groggy!
Mel’s eyes grew wide and she threw an incredulous look back at the Doctor before addressing the Earl again. “Is this really the appropriate place for a pick up line?”
Before the Earl could reply, the Doctor and Jason burst out laughing. They received an annoyed scowl from Mel. “And just what is so funny?”
“You’re the wrong gender for his pick up lines,” Jason said as he came forward. “Lord Gloria is gay.”
Mel turned sharply to the Earl, who gave her a dazzling smile. “I’m also a homosexual,” he said mischievously.
“And a smartass,” Jason rejoined.
“Now steady on—!”
“Dorian,” Jason said firmly as he came closer, “before you get all bent out of shape, I wasn’t sent by Doctor Kelkenberg. I’m Jason Krystovan, and this is the Doctor.” He held out a hand in the Time Lord’s direction. “This young lady is Melanie Bush, the Doctor’s traveling companion.”
Dorian’s mouth dropped open and he stood staring, unable to take it in. This wasn’t the first time that the Doctor and Jason had reappeared in his life liked ghosts from the past. A hand went to his mouth as he looked at the “ghost” standing before him. “My God…it was real!” he gasped.
Jason scowled, throwing a quick glance back in the Doctor’s direction, seeing he too was surprised. “What was real?” the Alterran asked, although he had a good idea what the Earl was referring to.
Dorian did not seem to hear him. “Klaus kept insisting… But I thought he was hallucinating.”
Jason went to the bedside and was stunned by the officer’s appearance, his mind flashing back to the dream. From behind him, he heard the Earl give a small sob.
“He sleeps most of the time now.”
Jason gave a small nod and pulled the blanket back slightly, turning the sleeping man onto his back. He brushed back his snow-white hair, feeling his own heart in his mouth. He didn’t even have to scan Klaus to know his condition was terminal. He did anyway, confirming what his experienced eyes were telling him. No medical equipment necessary, just a single touch that told him everything.
At that moment, Klaus stirred, a low moan rising in his throat. He opened his eyes and looked at the man standing over him. “What took you so long?” he asked accusingly.
“You were expecting me?” came the amazed reply.
“Yes. Can’t you feel it? Time is still out of joint.” Klaus closed his eyes and was asleep again within seconds.
Jason stood staring, not really seeing anything. He was startled out of his daze by Dorian. “Jason…” he said tentatively. “Is there…anything you can do?”
The Alterran turned to look at him but did not reply. His mind flashed back to each time Klaus was his patient and it appeared there was no hope. That only a miracle would save him and his own promise to do everything in his power to keep him alive. No matter what.
“Oh, God,” Dorian moaned as he sank into a chair. “I don’t know if I can bear much more of this. I promised him I’d stay…but…” He could not go on and broke down into tears. Jason was beside him in a blink, holding him.
“If you can’t work a miracle, no one can,” the Earl moaned.
Jason drew a deep breath and threw a helpless look in the Doctor’s direction. He then looked back at the Earl and wondered how long this ordeal had been going on to bring him to this point of utter hopelessness. “Dorian,” he said softly, “I can but try.”
His only reply was to be hugged so tightly he thought he was going to be crushed.
“Jason…” the Doctor said cautiously as he crossed the room, “what do you—?” He did not complete his sentence. As soon as he was within an arms length of the Alterran, the room seemed to distort again. He gave Jason a horrified look and then turned to the peacefully sleeping Klaus.
“Jason,” he said in an amazed voice, “I think the Ma—the General is the cause.”
* * *
Klaus couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a coherent thought. Just the fact that he actually realized this made him frown and he concluded that he was either dreaming or hallucinating. He could hear movement in the room with him, the sounds of medical equipment, the faint beeps of a monitor somewhere. That explained it. He must be in the hospital again. What for this time? he wondered. Can’t they just let me die in peace?
The voice was very far away, but familiar. Klaus heard it again, calling his name. Asking him to speak to him. Him? Who is that? Klaus struggled to concentrate, this time listening to the voice. Lord Gloria. No, not Lord Gloria anymore. Nor Eroica. Dorian. His Dorian. So, you didn’t go after all. Even though I told you to, you’re still here. Dorian, you kept your promise. I never would’ve believed it of the shallow bugger you used to be.
Dammit, Dorian, can’t you let me die in peace?
“It’s not working.” Klaus heard Dorian say. Then another voice replied. “Yes, it is. He’s just not fully conscious yet.”
Klaus had finally had enough of this babbling and struggled to open his eyes. “Piss off, both of you,” he growled.
Dorian let out a delighted squeak and to Jason’s amazement, leaned down and kissed Klaus on the cheek. “Wake up, my sleeping beauty,” he whispered.
Klaus put his arm around Dorian automatically. He wished he had the strength to do more than just run his fingers through his mop of blond curls. “You know I hate when you say that crap,” he grumbled, accepting another quick kiss, this time on the mouth.
“I know,” came the playful reply. “That’s why I say it.”
“My gosh, but things have changed between you two,” Jason remarked aridly as he drew nearer to the bedside. He looked down at the astonished Klaus and smiled. “Welcome back.”
Klaus blinked, not quite able to take it in. “You’re…”
“I saw you.”
“Yes. I saw you, too.”
“I’m not entirely sure,” Jason said mildly. “I think Time is still out of joint, and the Doctor agrees.”
“The Doctor…?” Klaus put a hand to his head. It was only then that he discovered his head was clamped in an odd helmet affair.
Jason put a hand on the officer’s shoulder before he could even begin to fight the equipment. “It’s not what you think,” he said gently. “That’s the reason you can think clearly.”
Klaus struggled to understand. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard. He had dozens of questions flying through his head, but was uncertain as to whether he wanted to hear the answers. Finally, he asked the one that was most important. “Can you get this thing out of my head?”
Jason drew a deep breath. This was the tricky part. “If you’re asking if I can operate and remove the tumor, the answer is no,” came the succinct reply. He watched as the officer closed his eyes, accepting defeat. “Don’t give up on me, Klaus,” Jason said calmly. “I do have one idea, but I need you to understand exactly what it entails.”
“If you’re gonna tell me whatever you’re planning will kill me, then don’t bother,” Klaus said coldly. “I’m already dying. What difference does it make if it’s today or tomorrow?”
“Tell him what it will do to you,” came the Doctor’s disapproving voice from the door.
Jason spun around. “Doctor!” he snapped.
“No. Tell him.”
Klaus turned in the direction of the voice and frowned. “I’m hallucinating again,” he said as he took in the Time Lord’s colorful appearance.
“No, he always looks like that,” Jason said knowingly.
Then Klaus realized the Time Lord had a different face than the last time he’d seen him. “Verdammt, I’m going mad, too.”
The Doctor gave the officer a dark look before turning to the Alterran. “Jason, if you don’t, I will.”
“Look,” the Earl broke in, “will one of you tell us?”
Jason sighed heavily before explaining to the astonished Dorian and Klaus that while he was not able to operate to remove the tumor, he would be able to physically reach into the officer’s brain and remove it that way. The reasons he was able to do this were extremely complicated. The long and the short of it was, he would utilize his scanning ability to sever the individual connections and then isolate the mass before removing it permanently.
“And how long with this take?” the Doctor wanted to know.
“I have no idea,” Jason replied truthfully.
“Doctor,” the Earl broke in, “why are you so upset about this?”
The Doctor opened his mouth and Jason snapped, “Doctor! Not. Another. Word!”
This was stated with such authority that the Time Lord actually jumped, his mouth snapping shut. Jason was in Healer Mode and only now did the Doctor realize that he was trampling on his jurisdiction. What the Doctor already knew was, while he was performing the procedure, Jason would be in considerable pain. This was something he knew first hand, as the Alterran had once been forced to extract a device from within the Time Lord’s chest using this procedure. It had been an unpleasant experience for both of them.
“Will it hurt him?” Dorian asked fearfully, throwing a quick glance back at Klaus.
The Earl saw a dark cloud pass over the Doctor’s face and frowned, looking Jason in the eye. “What about you?”
Jason met his steady gaze, but remained silent. The look sent a chill down the Earl’s spine. “I have to get the operating room ready,” the Alterran said at last and left the room.
* * *
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Dorian wondered if this was how expectant fathers felt as he paced the impossibly large interior of the TARDIS. Jason had banned him, not just from the observation room, but from the sickbay entirely. He had gone to the console room, but could not stay still for a moment. He was actually surprised when Mel volunteered to accompany him so he would not get lost.
After walking for some time, Dorian turned to Mel. “You haven’t asked me a single question,” he observed mildly.
Mel gave him a surprised look. “I didn’t want to pry. You seem to have enough on your mind.”
“Yes. If Klaus weren’t so ill, I’d blame it on Jason.”
“Jason? What did he do to you?”
Dorian gave a quiet laugh. “You’ve got it the wrong way round. It’s what I did to him. I used to torment him rather mercilessly.” He looked off in the distance. “For some reason, I get very serious when he’s around.”
Mel did not reply, stopping in front of a door. “Look can we stop a bit. I’m parched.”
“I must confess, I’m spitting feathers myself.”
Mel grinned and entered what turned out to be a kitchen.
“Oh!” the Earl gasped, looking around the room. “It’s changed.”
Mel gave him a sideways glance. “I’m guessing you’ve been in the TARDIS more than once.”
“Bang on,” Dorian grinned. “I rather like the wardrobe, actually.”
“You and me both!”
Dorian gave her a dazzling smile. “Well, then. Since Jason has banished me from the sickbay, what say you and I go play dress up in the wardrobe?”
Mel gave him a suspicious look. “So long as you don’t try anything funny.”
Dorian gave an exaggerated sigh. “My dear Ms Bush, I’m gay.”
“I know.” Mel grinned back. “You’re also Eroica.”
“Don’t go pinching anything I want.”
* * *
The Doctor was also wondering about pacing expectant fathers as he prowled the observation room in the sickbay. Not that he could see anything. Jason had had the audacity to cover the observation window.
The Doctor had argued until he was blue in the face but was unable to dissuade Jason from carrying out the surgery. The Alterran had assured him that he was considerable stronger than the last time he had preformed a similar feat, but the Doctor was unconvinced. There were too many variables involved that endangered patient and physician alike.
After nearly an hour, the Doctor could stand it no longer and was about to demand entry to the operating room when he heard a blood curdling scream from within. He threw open the door, seeing Klaus on the operating table under a sterile field, the monitors on the wall verifying that he was still among the living. Jason, however, was on his knees on the floor, in tears and trembling. The Doctor was beside him in an instant.
“Oh, Jason…” he said quietly.
Jason jumped, a sharp cry of pain escaping him when the Doctor touched him. He did not respond further and remained in a tight ball.
The Doctor closed his eyes, drawing a deep breath. “Jason, let me help you up.”
“It…hurts…” Jason moaned. He was unable to stop crying or shaking and finally gave up trying. “Dear God, Doctor, it hurts.”
“Let me help you up,” the Doctor repeated.
“No! Don’t touch me! It…hurts!”
The Doctor shook his head as the Alterran gave a wail of pain. “Oh, Jason…”
The Doctor gave a resigned sigh when the Alterran finally passed out, clearly exhausted by his efforts. He turned him over, intending to lift him from the floor, his eyes falling on the large, bloody mass in his hands. Obviously, the operation had been a success. Jason had performed yet another miracle, but at what cost to himself?
“This miracle did not come cheap, did it, my friend?” the Doctor said mildly as he looked down at the unconscious Alterran Healer.
The room suddenly distorted for a split second and the mass in Jason’s hands glowed briefly before the Doctor’s very eyes. “Time out of joint,” he whispered. “So that’s what happened.”
At one point in their encounter in 1987, both Jason and Klaus become aware of Time being out of joint, each having remarked on it. At the time, the Doctor had wondered if this were an indication of other things to come, despite Jason’s assurances that all was as it should be. Since neither were Time Sensitives, the Doctor stored the incident away in his memory. Now it was all too clear to him that whatever had caused the pair to be aware of the disjointed timeline had eventually triggered the abnormality that Jason now held in his hands.
* * *
“Klaus, open your eyes, please.”
The only response this got was a low growl.
“I’m not going away. Now, open your eyes.”
God fucking dammit, can’t they just leave me alone? Klaus thought in annoyance. “Just let me die in peace, will you?” he said aloud, not even bothering to open his eyes.
Jason was beside him, an enormous grin on his face. He himself had recovered hours ago, much to the Doctor’s amazement.
“Fine. But that will take a few years,” the Alterran replied calmly. “Do you want to lie around that whole time?”
This was enough to bring Klaus to full consciousness and he opened his eyes, looking around in bewilderment. “You’re…” He blinked, looking around the room. “What the hell…?”
“You don’t remember what happened, do you?”
“I had…a dream…” the officer replied hesitantly.
Jason nodded. “So did I.”
“And then…the TARDIS…” Klaus closed his eyes. “I’m hallucinating.”
“No. You’re quite lucid. And you’ll stay that way. I removed the tumor.”
Klaus stared up at him in amazement, unable to take it in. “How? It was inoperable.”
“I didn’t operate.”
“You just said you removed it.”
“I did. Literally.”
“So…what are you telling me? That you just reached in and pulled it out?” came the sarcastic reply.
Jason could not help but smile. “Yes, actually. That’s just what I did.” His smiled widened at the astonished look this produced. “You should rest. I’ll fill you in on the full details when you’re stronger.”
Klaus thought this over a moment. Then he asked the question he was afraid to hear the answer to. “Where’s Dorian?”
Jason threw a quick glance over to the door. “Out wandering the corridors,” he replied. “I wouldn’t let him in until I knew you’d be okay.”
“Yes. You sound surprised.”
The officer nodded. “I told him to leave if it got to be too much for him.”
“Klaus, he loves you.”
“So he keeps telling me. But before all this, I thought…” Klaus’s words trailed off and he sighed heavily. “Once he got what he wanted, he’d lose interest. And I don’t do anything half way.”
“Ah.” Jason gave him a knowing look. “We were supposed to be coming to 1987. The Dorian I knew then might’ve lost interest,” he replied. “But not the man I found standing vigil at Schloss Eberbach. He’s totally devoted to you. He’s a rock.”
Klaus closed his eyes. “No. He’s a butterfly,” he said quietly. “If you hold them too tightly, they die. So, I let him go…”
Jason’s mouth dropped open. Wow. I never would’ve imagined that coming from the Iron Klaus I knew in 1987, either. Then he realized that Klaus was already asleep. I should talk to you more often when you’re groggy. He watched the officer for several minutes before he finally turned on his heel and went to find Dorian.
* * *
“Only a few minutes,” Jason said as he held the door open. “He’s still very weak.”
Dorian peeked into the darkened room and nodded. “I promise I won’t tire him,” he whispered. “Is he asleep?”
“I think so.”
“Oh. I’ll let him sleep, then.”
Jason was taken aback by this. “You’re not going in?”
Dorian straightened, drawing a deep breath. “I’ll go in when he’s awake.”
“Last time around I couldn’t keep you out, asleep or awake.”
“I’ve watched him sleep enough for one lifetime.”
“And you’ve got quite a few more years ahead of you to watch him sleep.”
Jason frowned. “Yes.” On top of making certain that the tumor had been completely removed, Jason had gone on to make certain that Dorian was completely cancer free. Did he doubt his word on this? “Dorian, I wouldn’t lie to you about something this important.”
Dorian looked at the peacefully sleeping Klaus and closed his eyes. “He’s everything I thought he would be. And then some,” he said softly. With that, he turned and walked down the corridor.
There was a bittersweet quality to the Earl’s words caused the frown on Jason’s face to deepen. Dorian was upset about something, and the Alterran suddenly realized what it must be.
* * *
“You’re going to have a long recovery ahead of you,” Jason said as he helped Klaus to sit up.
The officer groaned as a wave of dizziness washed over him. He clung to the Alterran’s arm to keep from falling over, even though he knew Jason would never allow this to happen. “I feel…ill,” he said in a low voice. To his relief, Jason stopped moving him.
“Very.” Klaus did not even attempt to hold his head up.
“Let me know when it passes,” Jason said gently, “and we’ll finish getting you upright.”
Klaus responded with a low moan. Moving his head was definitely out of the question. He allowed Jason to support him as he waited for the world to stop spinning and was surprised with himself for being so cooperative. I supposed this is was what happens when you’re unable to do anything for yourself for God knows how many months.
After several minutes, the officer was sitting up in bed for the first time in weeks. “I feel like I’ve died already,” he grumbled, closing his eyes.
Jason gave him a sympathetic look. “One step at a time.”
“I know that. You don’t have to tell me,” the officer growled back.
Jason’s eyebrows went up and he could not help but smile. Good. Now all I need is for you to swear at me and I can pronounce you completely cured. “Did I answer all your questions, General?” he asked playfully. He had already spent the better part of two hours answering a battery of questions. It seemed more like a military debriefing than a simple question and answer session.
Klaus gave him a sideways look. “So far.”
Again, Jason smiled. “Well, I have a few for you.”
“Oh?” Klaus’s eyes narrowed. “Such as?”
“Such as, what are you going to do about Dorian?”
“None of your fucking business!”
The Alterran burst out laughing and Klaus glared at him. “What’s so bloody funny?” he demanded.
“You,” Jason said happily. “You sound like your old self again.”
“I would rather feel like my old self again.”
“What about Dorian?”
Klaus sighed heavily. “What about him?”
Jason crossed his arms, cocking his head to one side as he studied the man in the bed. “Klaus, I’m no fool. Nor am I blind. If the only reason you finally took up with him is because you were dying—” He broke off when he received another cold, angry glare. “Tell me I’m mistaken.”
Klaus opened his mouth only to close it again. “I can’t.”
“I thought not.” The Alterran received another angry look. “Do you even know why yourself?”
A deafening silence followed. After several minutes, Klaus looked away, admitting, “I was weak.”
Jason blinked. “Weak?” You!
“I swore I would never—” Klaus broke off, giving the Alterran an irritated look. “Why the hell am I telling you this?”
“Because I asked.”
“And because, as your doctor, you know I’ll keep it in confidence.”
Klaus gave an indignant snort. “Not that difficult for you. You’re not even from this planet, for Christ’s sake.”
Jason gave him a sideways glance but did not reply directly. You don’t even know the real reason I’m here yet. “You’re going to have to make some very difficult decisions when you’re finally get back on your feet again.” He paused. “Do you want people to think Dorian took advantage of you when you were unable too—?”
“He didn’t take advantage!” Klaus snapped angrily. “He refused to take advantage!”
Jason gave a small smile at this vehement reply. He also found himself marveling at Dorian’s restraint. “You can say that to me because you know I won’t be around. But what about the rest of the world? Your friends? Your family?”
“I don’t know. I stopped thinking ahead months ago.” Klaus closed his eyes, a hand going to his head. Then another thought struck him and he caught his breath. “Sod Dorian, how am I going to explain this?”
“Not being on death’s door, you mean?”
Klaus gave him a steady look. “My cousins are already fighting over who will be the next Master of the Schloss.”
Jason’s eyebrows went up. “They’re going to have a long battle, then.”
“Bloody vultures.” An evil look crept onto the officer’s face. “They don’t know I’ve already taken care of all that.”
Jason gave him a sideways look and wondered if he dared contemplate what Klaus had done. “Well, even though we’re technically on Earth, you can tell them you underwent an experimental treatment on Tel-Shye.”
“The TARDIS is in the middle of your study.”
Klaus gave an amused grunt. “Tel-Shye sounds like somewhere in the Middle East.”
“Will they believe that?”
“They will if I tell them.”
Jason gave another small smile. Klaus was sounding more and more like his old self again. “Is it okay if Dorian comes to see you?” came the tentative inquiry.
Klaus looked up sharply. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
“Because I recall a time when you were rather adamant about his not coming in.”
“I had good reason, bloody pervert,” the officer grumbled.
This time, Jason laughed. “Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach, you are without a doubt the most inscrutable man I have ever met.”
Klaus could not prevent a smile from twitching at the edges of his mouth. “I’m told that’s one of my more endearing qualities.”
* * *
One of the nice things about being in the TARDIS is that one does not have to worry about the passage of time. It was several weeks before Klaus was strong enough to walk on his own, even with the assistance of a cane. To aid in the officer’s convalescence, and to keep everyone from being bored in the interim, the Doctor moved the TARDIS to a “vacation” planet. Mel and Dorian took advantage of the extensive Resort facilities, the Doctor vanished into a library, while Jason utilized the spa to get Klaus’s weakened muscles back into shape. After nearly two months, Jason finally announced that they could go on to Tel-Shye and his Jubilee celebration.
Mel, along with the Earl, had found appropriate festive clothing for the occasion. In fact, they had found appropriate clothing several times over. Klaus had refused anything more elaborate than a suit and tie, refusing even to don his uniform. He did, however, allow Dorian to pin a flower in his buttonhole as a dash of color. The Doctor, of course, was colorful enough on his own.
During the weeklong celebration, King Jason was unable to spend more than a few hours with his friends before being whisked away for one thing or another. He had assigned a member of the Palace staff to personally look after his guests, as well as someone to look after the still recovering Klaus.
The Doctor was amused when the celebration ended back where his adventure began. The Temple of Ascension. This time, however, Jason was not in disguise, climbing the steps in full regalia. He sat on the throne and nodded regally at the select individuals present. He made a small speech and then sat back as a group of small children came forward to perform a traditional dance in his honor.
The Doctor saw an odd look pass over the monarch’s face and turned to follow his gaze. Behind the group of courtiers and dignitaries, were Dorian and Klaus. They had moved back into the trees to sit down in the grass. Then the Time Lord realized it wasn’t an odd look at all. Jason had switched from King into Healer Mode. His mind flashed back to their playful question and answer session at the expense of the pompous actor and Jason’s statement that he had never given up practicing medicine. Lucky for Klaus. It was obvious that the Healer was still worried about the officer, even in the face of all the nonsense swirling around him.
The group began clapping politely and the Doctor turned back as the children continued their performance.
* * *
Klaus leaned back against a tree, the hand with his cane in it resting on an upraised knee. He closed his eyes and sighed heavily. He still did not have the stamina he once did and had to admit to being tired. He also had to admit to feeling somewhat elated. Never in his wildest dreams did he image he would spend time on an alien planet, let alone two. Even after meeting the Doctor and Jason the first time, it never occurred to him that it might happen. He was always focused on the problems on Earth. Why would he care about someone else’s planet?
Dorian had basked in all the attention and could not get enough of the planet’s artworks. He had taken advantage of the staff member assigned to them and toured the entire Royal Palace. Klaus was glad he still wasn’t strong enough to walk around too much. This prevented the Earl from even asking him to join him, even out of politeness. They both knew he would have been bored to tears, although Klaus did find the private tour of the armory Jason had arranged to be incredibly fascinating.
Klaus suddenly realized that Dorian hadn’t snuggled up against him as he usually did when they sat together like this. Something else that made him marvel at himself. He had always pushed everyone away, objecting to the slightest touch, the slightest hint of intimacy, yet he no longer thought twice about wrapping his arm around Dorian whenever he leaned up against him. He found himself accepting a quick kiss without so much as a growl. Would run his fingers through the Earl’s long blond curls without realizing. Put up with his romantic prattling and foppish nonsense just to listen to the sound of his voice. Klaus wondered if he was just trying to convince himself that it was real. That he wasn’t dreaming or hallucinating. It all seemed too good to be true.
“Klaus, I’ll stay with you until you get your strength back,” Dorian said suddenly, breaking into the officer’s reverie and returning him to reality with a jolt. “And then I’ll go.”
“Was? Ich habe dich nicht gebeten zu gehen.” Klaus was so completely thrown by this sudden non-sequiter that he had to struggle to recover his English. “I didn’t ask you to go,” he repeated.
“You didn’t ask me to stay, either.”
Shit, what more does the idiot want from me?
“I told you once already, if you asked, I would agree that—” Dorian broke off and drew a deep breath, having to force himself to say, “I would agree that this never happened.”
Klaus blinked. “That was for a kiss, not…” He waved a hand between the two of them, still unable to put his relationship with the Earl into words. He wondered if this was only because he still couldn’t believe himself that it had happened.
“I know that. Moreover, I know you. Now that you’ve got years instead of months…”
“Do you think I’m as shallow as you!” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Klaus regretted saying them. The Earl had already proven he had more depth than Klaus had ever given him credit.
Dorian could not have looked more hurt if Klaus had slapped him across the face. “I’m not going to bloody well let you martyr yourself.”
Klaus’s eyes narrowed. “Martyr myself? What the hell are you talking about?”
“If the only reason you haven’t told me to go is because of your overgrown sense of duty, I’m definitely not staying. I’ll only stay if you want me to, not because you feel duty bound because you started something that you regret.”
“I see,” came the terse reply. Now what did I do to make you think I regret this?
After a long pause, Klaus gave him a thoughtful look. “Is that all you have to say?”
The officer nodded and turned to look at the festivities going on several metres away. “You never asked me why,” he said quietly. He did not turn back, but knew Dorian would be staring at him with those enormous blue eyes in the way that always used to send him into a panic.
“I was afraid of what the answer would be.”
Klaus drew a deep breath but did not reply. You’re not the only one.
“What did you think would happen? That I’d try to turn you into my sex slave or something equally ludicrous?”
“No. I thought you’d lose interest.”
Dorian’s mouth dropped open, and then he felt himself becoming angry. “Lose interest? I chased you for years!”
Klaus finally turned to look at him. “And then you stopped.”
“Only because I got sick of waiting—” Dorian broke off, his own words seeming to confirm what had just been said. To his amazement, he saw a pained look flash across the officer’s dark green eyes. “I didn’t lose interest, Klaus,” he said in an earnest tone. “I lost hope.”
“Yes!” Dorian snapped angrily.
Klaus gave him a steady look. “We both know all about that now, don’t we?” he said mildly.
Dorian lowered his eyes. “Yes.” That we do. In spades.
Again, they fell silent, watching the ongoing festivities for several minutes.
“Klaus, do you love me?” Dorian asked suddenly.
“I don’t know.”
The reply came immediately. You didn’t even think about it, did you? Dorian closed his eyes and turned away, feeling his heart turn over. He should’ve known better than to ask.
Klaus took him by the shoulders and turned him to face him, looking him in the eye. “I only know this. When I learned about the tumor, I couldn’t imagine dying alone.” He put a hand behind Dorian’s neck and drew him close. “Now, I can’t imagine living that way.” So saying, he kissing him very tenderly on the mouth.
* * *
No copyright infringement is intended.
Doctor Who original series broadcast on the BBC. Format © BBC 1963
Doctor Who and Tardis are trademarks of the BBC.
The From Eroica With Love characters belong to Yasuko Aoike.
The story and all other original characters are © Margaret Price