Author: Margaret Price firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: “From Eroica With Love” belongs to Yasuko Aoike, and Fabulousman belongs to Kadorienne, but she let me borrow him for a while.
Warnings: AU, established relationship, no graphic mansex. Sorry.
Thanks: Kadorienne for looking this over to make sure that I didn’t do horrible things to screw up her Fabulousman canon. Esther for beta reading, and who lodges a general protest over certain perceived inaccuracies. Twissy for encouragement to start writing again, dammit!
Notes: This contains several plot bunnies that have been bugging me to be written for more than a year. They are, in no particular order: Fabulousman, Injured!Klaus, Semi-Amnesiac!Klaus, Heroic!Dorian
Summary: The Major always says he will do anything for a mission. Can Eroica forgive him for that?
Written: January 10 - 14, 2009
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
ANYTHING FOR A MISSION
“This was so unnecessary. And a waste of several hours that I could’ve been spending with you!” Dorian said as he followed the Major out of the airport terminal building. “I am perfectly capable of flying myself anywhere in the world, thank you very much.”
“No,” the Major replied sharply, “your alter ego is capable of flying himself. The Earl of Gloria uses aircraft.”
“I could’ve come as Fabulousman—”
“With all this lot?” the Major held up the suitcase he was carrying, going on to use it to point at the others in the Earl’s hand. “And you’re the one who said that flying with luggage is undignified.”
Dorian perked up at this veiled compliment, preening himself at the same time. “Well, there is that…”
The Major gave a satisfied grunt, hoping this would end the argument. He popped the trunk of his car, loading the first of the Earl’s suitcases inside.
Dorian noticed there was a suitcase already in the trunk and his eyebrows went up. “Are we taking a trip?”
Dorian cocked his head to one side. “Oh…being mysterious, are we? What is it this time?” He received a sideways glance that made him want to hug the man right there in the parking lot. He did not, of course, and not just because they were in a public place. He was not about to repeat his mistake of their first time together and cause his beloved an injury because of his super strength. Instead, he settled for a quick brush of skin-on-skin as he handed the Major his other bag. “You’re not pregnant, are you?” he whispered playfully.
This earned him a growled, “Don’t start.”
Dorian could not help laughing at the man’s tone. You mean don’t start here, he thought as he got into the car. As the officer got into the driver’s seat, Dorian held out the silk rose that had accompanied the message requesting a meeting. “I assume you have a real rose waiting for me,” he cooed seductively. This time he was rewarded with a glare that made him laugh again. Even after being together close to a year, it was still so easy to tease his darling Major.
Klaus knew better than to rise to the bait. He turned to give the Earl a steady look, accepting a quick kiss that would end the teasing—for now. Then he started the car and pulled out of the parking lot.
Dorian sighed happily as he settled back in his seat, reflecting back on all that had happened to bring him to this point. After the initial excitement of the meteor enhancements in various individuals, his own elevation in status as Fabulousman, the Major’s reluctant emergence as Fledermaus, and the formation of the Hall of Heroes, everything had settled back into the familiar patterns of Good vs. Evil, East vs. West, Eroica vs. Iron Klaus.
This last thought caused a giggle to bubble up in Dorian’s throat and he threw a quick glance in the Major’s direction. With his concentration centered on maneuvering through the heavy traffic, Klaus was oblivious to his passenger’s adoring eyes, amorous expression, and frivolous giggles.
Dorian played with the silk rose in his hands, remembering the first time he had realized the scent from the real thing could overpower him, weaken him, almost suffocate him. How the Major had reacted upon learning Fabulousman’s Achilles’ heel, and his subsequent discovery of the effects of a single rose. How they allowed Dorian to be “normal” for the few precious and glorious hours they were together.
When the car turned down an unfamiliar street, Dorian realized that he had been letting his mind wander for some time. Just where were they going? The Major seemed to be taking them away from the center of town, not that this was all that unusual. But this particular area wasn’t exactly high class. It didn’t seem very middle class, either. In fact, it looked rather…seedy.
Dorian’s confusion deepened when the Major parked in front of a less than inviting…er, place of lodging. “Here?”
The Major gave him a dark look. “Did you think I was taking you to the Ritz?” he asked, getting out of the car before the Earl could reply.
Not to be put off, Dorian jumped from the car and leaned on the roof. “I didn’t expect you to be taking me to a dive, either,” he said sharply. “Is this a liaison or a mission briefing?”
The Major was in the process of turning away and stopped dead, his eyebrows going up as he turned back. “Mission briefing? Why do you say that?”
“Because your message was very specific on time and date. And along with this rose, it included a plane ticket, which, by the way, Mr. James wanted to sell because I can fly myself now. And, like Mr. James, NATO is cheap when it comes to accommodations.”
This very astute observation brought a startled look to the Major’s face. He did not allow it to remain, however. He quickly turned and led the way to the room. “Come on.”
“Don’t we have to check in first?” Dorian called as the officer strode off.
“Already done,” the Major called back.
“What about the luggage?”
Dorian sighed heavily. Why do I put up with the man? He can be so insufferable! Bringing me here under false pretenses… His anger evaporated when he saw Klaus patiently waiting for him to catch up. But as he got closer, the look on the officer’s face set off an alarm in his head. “What’ve you got planned this time?” he asked suspiciously.
The Major unlocked the door and stood back, holding out a hand. “See for yourself.”
Dorian’s eyes narrowed. He pushed open the door, took one step forward—and promptly fainted.
* * *
The word was out of Dorian’s mouth before he even realized he was awake. He struggled to open his eyes, discovering at the same time that he was lying on a bed. One of two beds in the second-rate hotel room that he’d only caught a glimpse of before passing out.
A second-rate hotel room filled with roses.
The Major was seated on the other bed watching the Earl intently. He made no reply to the angry remark. He had expected no less and was sure there would be more to come.
“If…you wanted…to break things off…” Dorian began groggily.
“I need to talk to you,” Klaus broke in seriously. “And I can’t have you rushing off as Fabulousman before I’ve finished.”
Dorian fought to focus, both his vision and his thoughts. “You don’t…have to…suffocate me…”
The Major’s eyes widened in alarm. Not all of the roses in the room were real. In fact, the majority were only silk, compliments of the establishment at not being able to provide the Bridal Suite, as if he would’ve reserved that. Klaus wondered if just the illusion of so many roses was overpowering the Earl. “Are you suffocating?”
Dorian opened his mouth, only to close it again, a hand going to his spinning head. Now that the initial shock had worn off, he realized that he wasn’t actually suffocating. He had just been panicking. “No.” A pause. “I’m bloody well pissed, though.”
The Major held up a hand. “Get mad at me later.”
“I’ll get mad at you now! You promised you’d never—”
“I’m trying to protect you, you damned idiot!” the Major thundered, jumping to his feet at the same time.
This was enough to stun Dorian into silence. Now that his eyes were finally able to focus properly he recognized the look on the face of the man standing over him. He’d seen it before, when they were being held in a Soviet submarine. When Iron Klaus was on his way to Moscow compliments of the KGB. The Major was worried. Deeply and seriously worried.
Then Dorian learned why.
He already knew that the intelligence community had been monitoring the activity of everyone who had become meteor enhanced—M.E.s—from the start. Each country had been trying to make use of its own individual specialists, while others had banded together, such as those in the Hall of Heroes under the auspice of NATO. The activities of all these groups were monitored.
“Several scientific groups have been trying to find ways of duplicating the effects,” the Major was saying.
“I know. NATO among them,” Dorian countered, rubbing his arm. “It’s a wonder I’ve any blood left.”
An annoyed look came to the Major’s face.
“Sorry. You were saying?”
The Major gave an impatient grunt. “I was saying that a few months ago, information surfaced that someone found a way of reversing the effects.”
Dorian blinked. “Wait… There’s a way of reversing this?”
“According to the latest intel.”
The Major shook his head. “That’s the problem. We don’t know. We only know that they plan on doing…something today.”
Dorian laid back, staring up at the ceiling, his mind reeling. Then a sudden thought struck him and he gave the Major a questioning look. “I thought you didn’t like my…enhancements.”
A dark look came to the Major’s face. There was no way in hell he was going to admit to actually liking having a meteor enhanced Eroica around. “I don’t,” he lied.
“Then why all this—” Dorian waved a hand, taking in the room. “Why not just let it happen? Let me go back to the way I was?”
The Major folded his arms. “Because, whether I like it or not, it isn’t my decision to make.”
“It wasn’t mine to get them in the first place.”
“Dorian, I’m under orders to protect you.”
I’m your mission? Dorian could not quite take it in. “Orders? Why?”
“Because one of the few things we do know is the process isn’t always benign.”
“Meaning it could kill you.”
This statement hit Dorian like a ton of bricks. As did another thought. “So you put me in a room full of roses to protect me!” If he could have, he would have flattened the Major right then and there. To his surprise, the officer actually looked uncomfortable. Good, I hope you’re feeling good and guilty about this!
“There is…a theory,” the Major began slowly, “that if an M.E.’s powers are removed naturally, like roses do to you, then it’s possible the manufactured way won’t work.”
Dorian didn’t think it was possible for his head to spin even more than it was already. He closed his eyes, drawing as deep a breath as possible. “So what you’re saying is, I might be safe from this…whatever-it-is if I’m already as weak as a kitten. But you’re not sure, and it might just kill me anyway!”
The Major gave him a steady look. “Dorian…”
“Shut up! Just…shut up! Don’t talk to me!” Dorian rolled over, turning his back to the man.
Klaus closed his eyes and drew a deep breath, a low growl rising in his throat as he exhaled. Even if this worked, he knew that he would lose the Earl’s trust forever. If he was lucky, it would only be his trust. If not, he would lose the man altogether. A year ago, he would’ve been ecstatic at this thought. But now…
The Major’s train of thought was interrupted by his cell phone ringing.
Dorian kept his back to the officer and tried to ignore the conversation on the phone. Then he heard, “Christ! They should call themselves the Hall of Idiots!” His eyes widened as the Major continued to rant into his cell phone. “Have you told them the dangers?” A pause. “God fucking dammit! Tell them again!” Another pause. “What about the boy?”
This last question caused Dorian’s heart to jump. The boy. That’s what the Major always called Mighty Mike, who was all of seven years old! Now Dorian couldn’t ignore the conversation and he rolled over in bed. The agitated Major was on the far side of the room pacing like a caged lion as he ranted into the phone.
“Major? What’s going on?”
“Hold on…” The Major stopped pacing and turned, giving the Earl a steady look. “My men are trying to evacuate the Hall of Heroes, and those idiots won’t go!”
“Not even Mike?”
For reasons the Major could not fathom, the Earl had taken a special interest in the pint-sized powerhouse. Naturally, his first reaction had been to accuse Eroica of all sorts of perverted intentions, which earned him an earful of vitriol on how homosexual did not equal pedophile.
“He’s with Z, but reluctant to go without the others,” the Major replied. Then he was speaking into the phone, “Put the boy on. Tell him Eroica wants to speak with him.”
Dorian’s eyes grew wide as the phone was held out to him. He wasn’t completely sold on all this to begin with. Now the Major was expecting him to talk a child into going along with it. Then again, if he did nothing and the boy was hurt or worse…
Dorian grudgingly took the phone. He couldn’t help smiling when he heard Mike’s voice. “Yes, yes, it’s really me, Mike, dearest. What’s the problem?” he said, trying to keep his voice light. “No, no, never mind what the others say. They’re just being silly grown ups. You go with Mr. Z. You’ll be fine.” He paused, listening to the boy’s reply. He could hear the uncertainty in his voice. “Yes, yes, I know. But Mr. Z’s one of the Major’s men. Yes, Fledermaus!” A pause. “No, dear, I can’t come get you myself. I have to help Fledermaus.” A smile came to the Earl’s face at the reply. “You will! Oh good show. Now, I must dash. Other people to save, you know. You do just as Mr. Z tells you, alright? Thank you, Mike, you really are a brave boy. I’ll see you soon. Now, please, put Mr. Z back on the line.” He handed the phone back to the Major and laid back, putting a hand to his head. Damn, I hope I did the right thing.
The Major ranted a bit more into the phone before ending the call. It seemed that Mighty Mike was the only member of the Hall of Heroes who believed the threat to be real. Damned idiots! Klaus stabbed the end button on the phone and turned with the intent of hurling it across the room, only to stop when he saw the Earl’s intense gaze on him. He gave a low growl and shoved the phone into his pocket.
“Well? Go on!” the Major challenged, waving a hand in the air. “Tell me I’m being a damned fool!”
Dorian blinked. This was a bad sign. The Major was second guessing his orders and himself. This whole operation was just one huge gamble—and Iron Klaus was not a gambler. Dorian decided to sidestep the issue for the moment and threw a look across the room, clearing his throat at the same time. “Um…actually, I need to use the loo,” he said mildly.
This completely derailed the Major. “What?”
Dorian struggled to sit up, barely managing to do so. He had to lean back on his hands for support. There was no way he’d be able to get to his feet, dammit! In fact, he had almost no strength at all, double dammit! “I’m gonna need your help,” he said tersely. “Or are you gonna make me crawl to the toilet, Major?”
While outwardly the Major’s expression remained neutral, inwardly the Earl’s tone made him wince. As their relationship had grown over the past year, he had noticed that, whenever Dorian was angry with him, he would stop calling him by name. And considering how badly he had betrayed the Earl’s trust, Klaus wondered if he would ever call him by name again.
It wasn’t easy, but the Major managed to get the Earl to his feet and half-carry, half-drag him across the room to the toilet. Dorian was pleased to see that this room, at least, was not chockfull of roses. “You are gonna give me some privacy, I hope,” he said tersely.
“You can’t even stand up…”
“I’ll sit then!”
The Major gave a low growl. “Fine.” He made sure the Earl was properly situated before he pulled the door shut, fighting the urge to hope Dorian would fall flat on his foppish ass if he tried to stand on his own. Then his phone was ringing again.
Dorian hadn’t really needed the facilities. He had just wanted to take refuge somewhere and it took a moment before he realized that he was starting to feel…stronger. He looked around the small bathroom a moment in bewilderment. Then the sound of the exhaust fan in the ceiling caught his attention. It was clearing the air of the chemical that weakened him! Within a few seconds, he was able to stand, if somewhat wobbly, a hand on the sink to steady him. A few seconds more and he didn’t need the help of the sink.
Dorian sat down on the toilet again and wondered how best to proceed. He couldn’t just walk out the door to confront the Major. He’d just be overwhelmed by the roses again. There wasn’t a window he could escape through, either. He would probably have to stay in his place of refuge and try to reason with the Major. Reason with the Major about a mission. Brilliant strategy, Eroica! Well, if he couldn’t reason with the man, then he’d just have to punch a hole through the ceiling and fly out, even if that was very messy and undignified.
As Dorian sat pondering, he became aware of the Major’s phone conversation in the next room. Were it not for his enhanced hearing kicking in, he would not have heard the man at all, he was speaking so quietly. Quietly? Klaus?
Curiosity got the better of him and Dorian decided to chance a peek out the bathroom door. He hoped that the exhaust fan would still work to keep the air clear enough for him to stay on his feet as he opened the door a crack. The Major was on the far side of the room with his back to the Earl. He seemed to be looking out the window. Then he leaned down a bit, as if he were trying to get a better look up at the sky. Is that where the attack on the M.E.’s will be coming from? Dorian wondered.
“When?” the Major asked as he was leaning further down to look outside. “Then make sure!” he growled, straightening up at the same time. “How long is it estimated to take?” He threw a worried glance over to the bathroom, the look on his face deepened at the reply. He turned back to the window again. “Keep me informed of any changes.”
Dorian strained to hear the other end of the conversation, but could only make out mumbles. When the Major looked over in his direction, he quickly pulled the door closed. If the man suspected that he had recovered his strength, all would be lost.
Because he closed the door so quickly, Dorian failed to notice the officer’s body language, which the Major carefully guarded when on a mission. Since their relationship began, however, Klaus had been working to drop his Iron Major persona when they were in private, to be just plain Klaus. And despite the fact that this was a mission, Iron Klaus and just plain Klaus were struggling for control. The tone might have been the Major’s, but the body language was all Klaus. Dorian’s Klaus. Had the Earl seen this, it would have convinced him of the severity of the situation. It was Klaus and the Major who were trying to protect him from an unknown enemy the best way he—they—knew how.
“Dorian, are you alright in there?” came the Major’s stern voice and causing the Earl to jump back from the door. Before he could think what to do, the Major was coming in, bringing the overpowering scent of roses with him. Dorian was on the floor before he knew what hit him.
“Dammit, Dorian!” the Major growled, biting back the rest of the words that threatened to spring from his mouth.
Damnation, why did I wait so long? Dorian wondered as he was lifted from the floor. He was not ready to return to a room full of roses.
As the Major was helping him back to the bed, Dorian remembered his luggage. He had brought enough for a week. “Just how long are you planning on keeping me here?” he asked as he was eased down onto the bed.
“As long as I have to,” came the evasive reply.
Dorian wanted to scream in protest. How could the Major think of holding him against his will? He wasn’t a terrorist. Or a threat to society. Then again, he had known the Major to do whatever he needed to complete a mission. Then another thought struck him.
“Klaus, if I asked you to let me leave now, would you?”
The question hit the Major like a ton of bricks. Christ, Dorian, please, don’t ask me that! His only visible reaction, however, was a flicker of his eyelids.
Dorian decided to play on the Major’s sense of honor, which only added to the turmoil that his Klaus was feeling. “You said you wanted to talk to me. Well, you’ve talked. Now—”
Shit, you would bring that up. The Major waved a hand toward the window. “If you go out there you might—”
“If I go out there,” Dorian interrupted, “I might go back to the way I used to be.”
The Major gave the Earl a startled look. It had never occurred to him that the Earl might actually want to go back to the way he had been before. “Is that what you want? To go back to being just Eroica?”
Before Dorian could reply one way or the other, the Major’s phone was ringing again. This time, it was a panicked Bonham looking for the Earl.
“What the fuck are you calling me for!” the Major thundered, glad to finally have someone to yell at.
For once, Bonham was not put off. “The Earl’s not answerin’‘s phone, Major. ‘E said ‘e was meetin’ you…”
“So? Major, don’ y’know wha’s goin’ on? The M.E.s’re droppin’ like flies over ‘ere!”
Klaus stiffened visibly, his eyes growing wide. He threw a quick glance out the window and then back at the Earl. “Hold on, Eroica’s right here.” He turned to the now baffled Dorian. “It’s Bonham.” He held out the phone, adding, “I think you should listen to what he has to say.”
* * *
“Eroica! God dammit, slow down!” the Major growled breathlessly. He had been struggling without success to keep up with the Earl as they made their way through a dense wooded area.
Dorian turned back, an evil smile twitching at the edges of his mouth. He had come through the attack on the M.E.’s unscathed, unlike many of the others. NATO, and indeed the Major’s, uncharacteristic gamble had paid off. Fabulousman had emerged with his powers still intact, as had Mighty Mike. The Hall of Heroes, on the other hand, had been decimated, as had all the other M.E. groups around the world.
The status of Fabulousman, however, had been kept secret. Several groups had claimed responsibility for the attack on the M.E.s, but none could be verified. Until this could be done, and the way in which the attack had been carried out was found—and destroyed—Fabulousman was no more. Only Eroica.
“I thought you ran every day, Major!” Dorian taunted as he happily jogged in place.
Completely winded, the Major was unable to reply beyond a glare. He was finally forced to stop and put a hand on a tree where he stood catching his breath. It was bad enough that he had to work with the thief while he was still angry with him. Doubly so because he had to keep reminding the idiot not to use his powers. He had lost count of how many times he’d told him that he couldn’t fly.
“We’re supposed to be a couple of hikers, aren’t we?”
“Hikers!” the Major snapped as best he could while still getting his breath back. “Not joggers!”
Dorian continued grinning. “Which way, Major?” he asked brightly.
The Major glared balefully before he pulled out a compass and scowled down at it. He looked up and pointed. “That way.”
“Jolly good!” Eroica turned, this time to trot in the direction indicated. “Do try to keep up!” He laughed when he heard the Major grumble something before tromping noisily behind. After several minutes, the trees grew less dense and the Earl came upon a precipice to a yawning canyon. Well, perhaps not quite that. It was more a ravine, but canyon was a more romantic description.
Dorian removed his heavy backpack and dropped it to the ground before walking to the edge. Near the bottom of the slope was a river. “Major, we’ve made it!” he called out delightedly, turning back to the officer.
“About bloody time!” the Major growled as he came to stand beside the Earl. He looked down the steep incline they still had to traverse and groaned inwardly. Why had he stupidly tried to keep up with a meteor enhanced Eroica? He dropped his own heavy pack onto the ground and then sat down on it, pulling out his cigarettes.
Dorian gave him a disapproving look. “I thought you gave those up.”
“Don’t nag me like a wife,” the Major snapped back automatically, turning slightly so he was facing away from the Earl.
“Don’t start, Major.”
The Major turned back. “Now what are you on about?”
Dorian pointed a finger at the officer. “Don’t you give me that look, either. You know exactly what I mean!”
“No, I don—” Klaus broke off when he saw a very familiar disapproving look on Dorian’s face. “Fuck. I am not gonna go through all that again!”
“It isn’t my fault NATO needed my services on this mission, Major!”
“There’s no way you could’ve cracked that safe yourself, admit it!”
Dorian suddenly found himself talking to the Major’s back. “Dammit, you’re bloody impossible! I knew accepting this job with you was a mistake!”
“Eroica, if you want to stay mad forever, fine, stay mad. Just don’t endanger my mission while you’re doing it.”
“I am not endangering your mission!” Dorian thundered back.
The Major was on his feet, waving a hand in the direction they had just come from. “Oh! Who was it wanted to tear the roof off the building?”
Dorian gave him an innocent look. He turned slightly away, tossing his hair over one shoulder. “It would’ve improved the architecture.”
“And who wanted to throw all the pictures out the window?”
“Those so called paintings should be incinerated!” Dorian shot back. “I’ll wager they all came from the back of a lorry.”
“And who wanted to fly back to the rendezvous?”
“I still think we should.”
The Major threw up his hands. “You idiot! How many times must I tell you! You’ll light up the radar if you—”
“Not if I stay at treetop level,” the Earl countered.
This reply was enough to bring the Major up short. “Who told you that?”
Again, Dorian was playing with his hair. “I think…you did, Major dearest.” He gave the man an innocent look, batting his eyelashes at the same time.
“I did not!”
“Oh? Perhaps it was John Paul. Anyway, I happen to know that I’m much too small to be picked up on any radar.” Dorian threw an inquiring look over his shoulder. “So what’s the real reason?” he asked coldly.
The Major did not reply and sat down again, silently smoking his cigarette.
After more than a minute, Dorian crossed his arms. “Well?”
The Major threw a look in Eroica’s direction and knew that he would never hear the end of it if he didn’t explain. “It’s because there may still be a residual trace of…whatever it was in the upper atmosphere. What if you were flying along, hit that, and...?” He stood up and flicked his cigarette stub over the edge to illustrate the Earl dropping from the sky.
“Oh! How dreadful!”
“You’d be a fabulous grease spot somewhere.”
“Must you always be so crude?” Dorian admonished, wrinkling his nose in distaste.
“You asked.” The Major allowed a small smile to play at the edges of his mouth as the Earl made a face. Then he turned to study the steep slope in order to determine the best way to proceed.
“Well, I hope it dissipates soon.” Dorian heaved an overly dramatic sigh. “How will I be able to rescue you if I can’t fly?”
The Major spun around. “I don’t want you to rescue me!”
The Earl was turned away, admiring his fingernails. “But that’s what heroes do.”
“Bullshit! You’re just a—Aaaaaaa!” Klaus’s angry retort turned into a cry of alarm.
Dorian heard a snap followed by a thud and a loud rustle of leaves. He turned back to reply, only to see that the man had vanished. “Major, that’s not funny!” he said as he stalked over to where the Major had been standing, expecting to see him a few metres down the slope smirking up at him.
“Major?” Dorian looked around, checking to see if the officer were hiding behind a tree. “Major, this isn’t the least bit funny!” His eyes continued to scan the area, moving downward to finally come to rest on the tangled form near the bottom of the slope. “Klaus!”
Dorian had no idea how he got to the bottom of the steep incline. Perhaps he ran, perhaps he flew. Either way, he was at the Major’s side in a blink. The officer’s progress down the hillside seemed to have been halted by a large boulder, which had very likely caused serious damage at the same time. From his position, it looked like his left arm was broken. Possibly his leg, too. And there was blood all over him from various cuts and scrapes.
Dorian had to fight to stay calm. Don’t panic. See to Klaus first, panic later, he told himself over and over. The first thing he did was make sure Klaus was still alive and breathing, which he was, although the breathing part was worrying.
Dorian tried not to move the officer too much as he checked him over, wracking his brains to remember his meager first aid training. One very useful piece of information made itself readily available. Keep him warm.
Dorian scrambled back up to retrieve the backpacks. His own heavier one contained the raft the pair were to use once they reached the river. The Major’s pack contained, among other things, the reason for the mission in the first place. Dorian knew that if he left that behind, the Major would never forgive him. If he lived.
Dorian shook this thought from his mind and looked down at the unconscious officer. “You are not gonna die on me, Major! Do you hear me!” he said as he pulled out the contents of his backpack. “You are not gonna die!”
Suddenly Dorian felt woefully inadequate to the task at hand. He had basked in the part of superhero, but now he actually needed to be a hero. Here. In the middle of nowhere. With no photographers to capture his endeavors. Just the Major’s life hanging in the balance.
Fabulousman didn’t feel so fabulous.
He decided to take things one step at a time and covered the injured Major with an emergency blanket that he found with the hiking supplies. Thank goodness we needed this lot for our cover, he thought. The worry on his face deepened. He’s so pale. He touched his hand to the unconscious man’s face and then his head. His hand came away with blood on it. Oh, hell!
Forcing himself to concentrate, Dorian pulled one of his own bottles of water from his pack, a small smirk coming to his face at the same time. His own; no bubbles, no minerals, no additives, plain ordinary filtered water that the Major had told him was a foolish waste of space. A foolish waste that he could use to clean the man’s wounds and then refill from the river.
Using the Major’s pocketknife, Dorian carefully sliced open the officer’s left shirt sleeve. The arm beneath was cut and bruised, but had no bones sticking through the flesh, thank goodness. The Earl wasn’t sure he could have handled that.
Dorian found himself thankful the Major wasn’t conscious and therefore unable to berate him using his super-strength to snap the branches that he used to make the splints for the injured arm. Or for slicing up his shirt sleeve to use to tie the splints into place.
Dorian switched positions in order to split the leg of the Major’s trousers to get a closer look at what was causing the bloodstain that had been blossoming on his left thigh. Again, he was grateful to see it wasn’t a bone sticking through flesh. It turned out to be a rather nasty looking deep gash, however. Dorian had to gulp a few times to steady himself before he could plow ahead.
A further search of the packs produced extra clothing that Dorian decided would make excellent bandages for the deep gash. He cleaned the dirt from the wound as best he could and was in the process of binding it when the Major gave a low moan and started to stir. The Earl wasn’t sure if he should be happy or not that the officer was waking up. On the one hand, he was happy that Klaus wasn’t so badly hurt as to be unconscious for hours; on the other hand, once he was awake, he’d be in a great deal of pain.
This last thought was verified when the Major gave a sharp cry. This was followed by his muttering something that Dorian could not quite understand. He stopped what he was doing to listen, the frown on his face deepening. This was not the time for his German to be failing him. Then he realized it wasn’t his German that was failing. The Major was speaking Russian.
Great. Does he think he’s being interrogated?
Considering the Major’s obvious confusion, Dorian decided it best to stick to German. “All very interesting I’m sure, Major,” he said in as calm a voice as he could manage. “But not the information I need at the moment.”
The Major jumped at the sound of the familiar voice and struggled to open his eyes, to get his thoughts together, which was difficult while fighting the pain wracking his body. “Eroica…?” he said weakly.
“Yes, Major. It’s just me.”
“What…?” Klaus gave another sharp cry when he tried to move.
“Easy, Major. You’ve had a bad turn.”
“Bad…turn…?” Klaus looked in the direction of the voice, suddenly realizing exactly where the Earl was positioned; feeling his hands on his thigh the same time. “Bloody pervert! Have you…no shame!” he said in as forceful a tone as he could manage.
Dorian heaved an exasperated sigh. “If you don’t want to bleed to death, I suggest you let me finish,” he snapped, returning his full attention to his half finished bandaging job. He winced himself when the Major practically screamed as he moved the leg to get the wrapping around it. “Sorry. I think this leg’s broken, too,” he said in as firm a voice as possible.
“When you fell.” Dorian shifted position so as to look into the Major’s eyes. He seemed unable to focus properly. Was it the pain, a concussion, or both?
“Did you push me?”
Dorian stiffened visibly. “No, I did not push you! Do you think I’d endanger your mission just because I’m angry with you?”
“You’ve screwed up…more than one…mission—”
“Not when I was being paid!”
This was enough to silence the Major. He closed his eyes and struggled to pull up any kind of information on what was going on. Nothing. Just pain. Dammit! I’m on a mission with the bloody thief and I don’t remember shit!
“Well…?” came the Earl’s voice.
“I can’t…think,” Klaus admitted reluctantly, gritting his teeth against the pain. “How long was I out?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t been keeping track. I’ve been trying to keep you from bleeding to death.” Dorian sat back, admiring his handy work a moment before moving on to the next step. Splinting the leg. He got to his feet and went over to his collection of branches, picking out the best ones before breaking off what he needed. It was at this point that he realized there was more to the Major’s injuries than he had first thought.
“You…idiot,” Klaus admonished weakly. “You can’t… use rotten wood…for a splint.”
“What makes you say it’s rotten?” Dorian asked as he returned to the man’s side.
“I just…watched you…break it…”
The Major struggled to focus on the Earl’s face. “You’re not…that strong—”
“Look, I know you said I shouldn’t use my strength at the building, but I hardly think using it out in the middle of nowhere will be a problem.”
“What?” The Major tried to move and was rewarded with shooting pains.
“Don’t move, you thick-headed Prussian! You’ll do yourself worse damage,” Dorian scolded. The reply was a curse. “I’m glad you told me about the residue or I’d be flying you out of here and probably putting both our lives in danger.”
“Fly? What the hell…are you on about, Eroica?” The Major closed his eyes but his mind was still aggravatingly blank of everything except pain. He put a hand to his left side and winched, wondering abstractly how many ribs he had broken.
A worried look came to Dorian’s face. “Klaus, are you telling me you don’t remember my being Fabulousman?”
“Fabulous what?” Klaus frowned. “And when…did you start…calling me by name?”
Christ, it’s worse than I thought! Dorian had several conflicting emotions collide into one another at the same time, all of which would have to wait until the pair were safely back in civilization. He got down beside the Major and held out a smaller stick. “Here. I think you’re gonna want to bite on something while I splint your leg—and tell you the rest of it.”
By the time the Earl was finished, Klaus was sure he had left some of his teeth in the wood. The pain from his leg being moved was bad enough, but then he was being told that the thief had turned into a superhero, that NATO had done the same to him. That he and the Earl had become—
Klaus shuddered at the very idea that he would willingly get into the pervert’s bed. That he would willingly do anything with the man!
Dorian reached for the mutilated stick between the officer’s teeth, only to have it spit out at him. “You don’t believe me,” he said sadly.
“I don’t!” Klaus growled. “I wake up…to find you…cutting my clothes off…”
“So now you make up… this cock and bull story…to cover your ass!”
“Do you remember the mission we just completed?” Dorian asked challengingly. “What we were after? What country we’re in?” He had to remind himself to be gentle as he pulled the blanket over the injured man’s leg. Don’t get angry or you’ll really hurt him.
The Major opened his mouth, only to close it again.
Dorian sat beside him, giving him a piercing look. “Do you even know what day it is? What year it is?”
“Taunting. This…is more like you,” Klaus observed coldly.
Now it was the Earl’s turn to be rendered speechless. He sat back a moment and then waved a hand in the air. “Truce, Major. Arguing isn’t gonna get us out of here.”
The Major closed his eyes and nodded. That is wasn’t. After a short silence, he asked, “How were we to…?”
“To…what?” Dorian asked sharply. He saw a puzzled look come to the Major’s face and suddenly realized what he was being asked. As always, the Major was focusing on the mission, probably grasping at something familiar in order to get his mind working. “How were we to get out, is that what you’re asking?”
Dorian looked over at the river. “We were supposed to inflate that raft over there and paddle to a specific place—that only you know, by the way—several miles upstream.”
Dorian nodded, “I rather think I was expected to do the paddling.”
“Because…of your…super strength?”
There was only the slightest edge of disbelief in the Major’s voice this time and Dorian couldn’t tell if it were a challenge or partial acceptance. He chose to take the question at face value and just nodded. Then he looked at the horizon. “Too late for that now, even with me doing all the paddling. The sun’s going down.”
“No way…to call out?” Klaus asked logically.
Dorian shook his head. “No. You said that ‘average hikers’ don’t carry satellite phones. And—” He broke off, wondering if the Major had brought his cell phone to use when they arrived at wherever they were supposed to be going by raft. A quick search of the pockets of the backpack produced the phone that made a cacophony of beeps and squeaks to indicate that no service was available in their present location. “Damnation!”
Although disappointed, the Major wasn’t overly shocked to hear this. “Need…shelter,” he said quietly.
“I know.” Dorian turned back to look at him. “Major, I’m not…really cut out for this survival in the wild stuff, you know.”
Klaus closed his eyes. He was already painfully aware of this fact. “Use the raft.”
“The raft?” Dorian repeated. Then he listened as the officer told him exactly what he needed to do to get a make-shift campsite put together before it was dark.
* * *
The Major had tried as best he could to prepare himself for the agony he would have to endure when the Earl moved him. He still was not fully prepared, not that it mattered beyond a few seconds as the blinding pain finally rendered him unconscious.
On several occasions, Dorian wanted to just give up. To sit in a dejected heap and wait until morning. Each time, however, he just had to look at the broken and battered Klaus for his resolve to return. The Major needed him to be strong or he would die. It was as simple as that.
There were also a few times that Dorian was glad of his super strength and speed. He had been exceptionally careful moving the Major from where he had landed up next to the boulder. He had done exactly as instructed, putting one of the emergency blankets under the officer. It was during this operation that Klaus had passed out. At first, Dorian wondered if he should try to rouse him. Then he decided it best to leave the Major oblivious. This way, he could relocate him without causing him more pain.
Using the blanket the Major was now lying on, Dorian was able to drag him off the slope to a more level place. He found an area that wasn’t out in the open and positioned the injured man there, going on to cover him with another blanket once he was situated.
Then came the real work. Getting the trees and branches positioned so he could secure the uninflated rubber raft over it to create a kind of lean-to. This way they would have some protection against the elements should it decide to rain during the night.
Dorian was just finishing up with a camp fire, which he was feeling rather proud of having built himself, when he heard a low moan from under the raft. He crawled in just as the Major was struggling to open his eyes. His hopes for even partial return of his memory were dashed when the man started up in Russian again.
“We’re still on the proper side of the Iron Curtain, Major,” the Earl said mildly.
Klaus was able to force his eyes open, not that it helped much. It had gotten dark while he had been unconscious. After a few seconds, his vision cleared enough for him to become aware of the thief beside him, as well as the light from the fire outside his make-shift shelter. “You finished?”
Dorian breathed a sigh of relief. At least the Major remembered that much. “Yes. I did everything exactly as you instructed, Major.” He threw a glance over to the fire, adding proudly, “Even the fire.”
The Major’s subdued manner set off numerous alarms in the Earl’s head. Even after they had become lovers, Klaus wasn’t so accommodating. “Major, you must be hungry by now,” Dorian said, trying to keep his voice light.
“I know it’s not much, but there’s something that can loosely be described as food in—”
“No,” Klaus repeated. “I’m not…hungry.”
“Major,” Dorian said firmly, “you should try to eat something.”
Klaus was silent a long time before finally admitting, “I don’t think…I could…keep it down.”
Dorian blinked. Dammit! Why didn’t I think of that. He’s probably got a whale of a concussion. “You feeling sick?”
“No.” Klaus closed his eyes. “Just…let me sleep, Eroica.”
Another alarm sounded in Dorian’s brain. “I thought I wasn’t supposed to let you sleep. Head injury and all that.”
The Major gave an amused grunt that was followed by a groan of pain. He’d already passed out once. What difference did it make now? Especially since he was sure he wouldn’t survive until morning anyway. “Whatever…”
Dorian sat in a stunned silence for several minutes as he considered what he should do, finally coming to a very obvious conclusion. If Klaus was back to the way he had been a year ago, then...
“Fine, I think we both could do with some sleep,” the Earl said at last, pulling up the blanket to snuggle against the Major’s less injured right side.
The Major’s eyes sprang open. “You…bloody pervert…”
“Shut up and go to sleep.”
“Sleep!” Klaus caught his breath when he tried to move to push the man away. He wanted to kick himself for even trying. He was in enough pain just breathing. “I don’t believe…your crap story…” he said through clenched teeth.
“I know, Major,” Dorian said sweetly, snuggling in further. “I’m just trying to keep you warm for the night. Shared body heat and all that.”
Klaus gave a low snarl but did not reply. Eroica was right, damn him. He was already feeling a chill. If he got the shivers, he’d probably pass out again from pain. He decided to change the subject completely and focus on the mission. The mission he didn’t remember, but was obviously so important that it required the skills of a professional thief. He would make Eroica promise to get the information back to NATO, no matter what. The life of a single agent wasn’t important. The mission was important.
The mission must be completed. Even if I die.
Before Klaus could get his thoughts in order, he heard soft snores coming from the man beside him. Well, I’ll be damned. He’s asleep. No foppish nonsense, no innuendo, no perverted comments. The Earl had obviously worn himself out getting the shelter built. Rather than keeping the officer awake, he had curled up beside him and dropped off to sleep as if it were the most natural—
Klaus’s brain had a short circuit at the realization that everything he had been told might actually be true. He was not about to start dwelling on that. Even if the thief was very effectively keeping him warm.
I am not gonna think about it!
With nothing else to do, and no way of escaping where he was, Klaus resigned himself to the fact that he was going to have Eroica beside him all night. If he were lucky, he’d die in his sleep and be spared having to listen to the man the next morning. For some reason, the Major found this thought strangely comforting. He calmly closed his eyes and went to sleep.
* * *
Dorian was awake when the sun rose, his brain fuzzy on where he was and why. He sat up stiffly, the sight of the Major beside him bringing it all crashing back. The bruises that had been forming on the injured man’s body were in full bloom by morning. Dorian hadn’t even noticed the one on the Major’s face the night before. Now it was a deep shade of purple.
This is not the time to sit back and admire the man’s profile!
Dorian crawled out of the lean-to and looked around the camp site. The fire had gone out, probably hours ago. He made certain of this, scooping up hands full of dirt and covering the ashes. With no proper toilet facilities, he tried not to think of the indignity of relieving himself in the woods as he did it. He wondered how he would handle this problem when Klaus woke up, and then decided to cross that bridge when he came to it.
First he needed to get the backpacks repacked. Then he had to get the shelter taken down and the Major onto the raft before he inflated it. After that, it was a matter of forging his way upriver until he found civilization.
Dorian stood beside the shelter as he went through this list, putting a hand to his head. I think we’re gonna die, Major.
* * *
The Major found himself amazed at the goings on around him every time he opened his eyes. After falling asleep beside the Earl, he had awaked to a bright day and the sensation of floating, the world moving beneath him. He heard water and what sounded like someone sloshing through it. He scarcely had time to register the fact that he was lying in the raft before the world changed in the matter of a blink. He opened his eyes to find someone fixing a strap over his chest. He could hear the rotor blades of a helicopter, the Earl talking loudly to someone over the noise. The person standing over him was telling him he was in good hands and not to worry. Odd. Was he worried?
A blink later and the Major found himself indoors, in a room full of people, a bright light overhead. The part of his brain still able to process logically told him he was in a hospital. Someone was speaking to him, but he could not quite make out what they were saying. Not even what language they were speaking. He felt like he was lying at the bottom of a deep well, looking up at the activity on the surface. He wondered abstractly why he wasn’t in pain any longer, and decided it must be because he was dead. As before, Klaus found this thought strangely comforting. He closed his eyes, blissfully sinking back into unconsciousness for the next several hours.
Eventually, the Major learned that he was not dead. Nor was the pain miraculously gone, although he soon learned of the miracle of pain killers. He also learned the full extent of his injuries, which included a broken left forearm, four broken and three cracked ribs, a severe concussion, a very deep laceration in his left thigh, and innumerable cuts and bruises. His left leg had not been broken in the fall, but the doctors suspected that he had done some damage to one or both of his legs. His one ankle was very certainly sprained, having been badly discolored and swollen by the time medical assistance arrived. The rest of the assessment would have to wait until the officer was strong enough to get back on his feet.
Eroica had been placed in the same room with him, which made sense since they were found together. Once in the city, the Earl had been able to used the Major’s cell phone to contact his men, but they had yet to arrive. Because of this, Eroica said that he had continued to use their cover story, seeing as he had no idea if they were “safe.” He also said that he had retained possession of the backpack containing the vital information from the mission. He had gone so far as to play the part of traumatized hiker in order to keep the staff from taking it away from him.
Klaus found himself very impressed as Eroica explained everything calmly, concisely, and without excessive embellishment. Normally, he was the one to lead in a mission, everyone else following his orders. Now it was Eroica taking the lead. And effortlessly, too. Then again, once he thought about it, it made perfect sense. Eroica led his own gang, his own operations, his own leadership role. He would have to be used to making snap decisions.
The Major was further impressed when he learned what Eroica had done to get them out of the middle of nowhere. The Earl hen forgone rowing, choosing instead to bodily pull the raft upstream. He had any idea how far he walked before stumbling upon a group of sightseers. One thing was for certain, though, Eroica had used every bit of his super strength—and stamina—to get the Major the medical help that he desperately needed. Eroica had not just been checked in to the hospital with the Major for observation, he had completely exhausted himself.
Days later, the Major was in a hospital safely back in Germany. His men had arrived within a day of the Earl making contact. Klaus had not seen nor heard from the Earl after his release from the hospital. He learned from his men that Eroica had delivered the pack that containing the spoils of the mission to NATO headquarters, making it mission accomplished. After that, no one knew where he was and suspected that he had simply flown back to England.
On his own.
Under his own power.
He really had superpowers after all.
* * *
There were days when the Major could not turn his mind off, and this was one of them. He shifted in bed, trying and failing to find a comfortable position. It was no use. He could not stop thinking. Well, he hurt too much to sleep anyway, even with the pain killers that, as one nurse put it, made him “loopy,” whatever the hell that was supposed to mean.
There was a dim light on near the bed and he looked at it, wondering if he should try turning it off. He drew a deep breath and winced, a hand going to his side with the broken ribs. I’ll leave it on, he thought, going on to wonder, When the hell are they gonna let me go home? He tried adjusting the head of the bed, raising himself up more, which did not help at all. Finally, he closed his eyes and settled back on his pillows. Perhaps if he just lay still for a while…
Only a minute after Klaus closed his eyes, the door to his room opened and closed. The Major did not even have to look to know the identity of his visitor as the thief stole over to his bedside. He continued in his pretense of sleep and waited. A moment later, a hand gently moved the hair from his face. He opened his eyes in time to see Eroica standing over him, his eyes closed and on the verge of planting a kiss on his…cheek?
“Eroica,” Klaus said quietly, his tone sounding as if he were just saying hello rather than having caught the man in the act of stealing a kiss.
Dorian’s eyes sprang open and he found himself staring into two very intense green eyes. “Major!” he gasped, jerking his head back. “I…um, hello.” He suddenly realized he still had a hand in the Major’s hair and quickly pulled it away, putting it behind his back as if to hide it. “I came to see you,” he stammered, taking a step away from the bed at the same time. “Well, obviously I came to see you. I mean, I’ve wanted to see you.” He waved a hand toward the door. “I don’t mean, well, yes, I do mean… Your men wouldn’t let me visit you… During the day, that is…”
The Major did not reply, his face an emotionless mask. He watched as the Earl nervously paced back and forth and continued to babble.
“I just wanted to see how you were doing and…and…” Dorian’s voice trailed off as he suddenly realized the Major had yet to utter a word. He stopped his pacing and gave him a questioning look. “And why aren’t you screaming your head off at me?”
“It’s much more interesting listening to you trying to justify sneaking into my room in the middle of the night,” Klaus replied calmly.
“I am not trying to justify…”
The Major folded his arms as best he could with broken ribs and a cast on one arm, a challenging look on his face. “Try again.”
The look caused the Earl to accept defeat and he sighed heavily. “Okay, I did want to see you, Major,” he admitted quietly. “And I didn’t think you’d let me after…” He waved a hand in the air, leaving the sentence unfinished.
Klaus’s eyes narrowed. “After…what? You saved my life?”
“I’ve done that before,” Dorian countered. “It never changed anything. Why would I think it would now?”
This was indeed true now that the Major thought about it.
“I was hoping that…that…you’d remembered…something.”
“Obviously you haven’t, so I’ll just…go now.” Dorian said dejectedly, turning toward the door.
“You’re very keen on my getting my memory back,” Klaus said, causing the Earl to stop and turn back to look at him. “Why?”
“Why? You actually have to ask why?”
“You didn’t tell me about what happened to the other M.E.’s when you told me that…story.”
“Considering what I did to you,” Klaus went on startlingly. “I should think my not remembering would be an easy way of…ending it.”
Dorian stood with his mouth hanging open, not quite able to take it in. “My God, you remember,” he said at last.
Klaus shook his head. “Not everything. Not the mission. Just before—” The Earl started towards him, he held out his good hand. “I don’t have any roses!”
“I don’t care!”
“I do! I have enough broken bones!”
Dorian stopped short when the Major’s hand made contact with his chest. Was that fear in the man’s eyes? Christ, does he think I’m gonna hurt him?
Dorian carefully moved the hand from his chest, took Klaus’s face in his hands, and kissed him very gently on the mouth. To his elation, the kiss was returned. He wanted to hug the man for all he was worth, but knew if he did, he would indeed break some bones. He leaned back to look Klaus in the eyes. The fear had been replaced with a searching look. “I’m still angry with you, you know, Major!” he said, although his words held no malice.
Klaus nodded and struggled to come up with an appropriate reply. To put all of the conflicting emotions into words that the Earl would understand. After several attempts, he said simply, “I’m sorry.”
This time Dorian did hug him. “God, Klaus, I thought I was gonna lose you!”
“And now you’re gonna crush me!”
Dorian jumped and immediately released his grip. “Did I hurt you?”
“Not permanently,” Klaus replied, wincing as he shifted in bed. Dorian started to pull away and he put a hand on his arm to stop him. “And you?”
“You’re still hurt. Is it permanent?”
Dorian put a hand to his head. “Klaus…”
“I was a damned fool not telling you up front.”
This admission actually caused Dorian to laugh. “You’re actually sounding reasonable. You still must be concussed.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Klaus said evasively. Or maybe I’m just loopy from all the pain meds they’ve got me on. He leaned back on his pillows and closed his eyes, suddenly feeling very tired. Dammit, now I get sleepy!
“I should go,” Dorian said mildly.
Klaus opened his eyes. “Will you be back?”
Dorian shook his head and was surprised to see disappointment move like a dark cloud over the Major’s face. “I’m only in town to collect my payment from NATO.”
“That’s the only reason?”
Amusement briefly flashed across the Earl’s face. “Well, one of the reasons. You don’t think I’d drop everything just to visit a hospital in the middle of the night, do you?”
Klaus closed his eyes again. Obviously it had been too much to hope that the Earl would forgive him just because he had almost died. He felt a soft kiss on his lips and opened his eyes to see two bright blue eyes sparkling back at him.
“I’ll come back once you’re out of this dreary place,” Dorian said quietly. “When you’re stronger.”
Klaus was surprised when his heart jumped upon hearing this. He had never felt this way about a meeting with the Earl. Not even after—
Before he could complete the thought, Dorian was gone, leaving him alone with his thoughts and several very confused emotions.
* * *
Klaus sat on a veranda in the garden of Schloss Eberbach quietly going mad. He had been released from the hospital, returned home, and found he had nothing to do. His whole life was centered around his job. A job he could not do until his broken bones had mended and his body was healed. The damage to his legs was minimal, but still made it difficult to walk. Doubly so when compounded with a cane, a broken arm, and broken ribs to contend with. He had grudgingly accepted a wheelchair as a means of getting around, at least on a temporary basis.
A stack of newspapers with an ornate weight on top sat ignored on the table beside him. As did several books. The Major hadn’t thought it possible, but he had actually grown tired of reading. What he really wanted to do was catch up on his work using on the computer in his study. But his Chief, in his infinite stupidity, had had the audacity to lock Iron Klaus out of NATO’s secure network! Inwardly, the Major was surprised that the man had the intelligence—and balls—to do it.
So here he sat in the bright sunshine of a beautiful summer day, with absolutely nothing to do. It was enough to drive a man to drink. Except that alcohol was not permitted with his pain medications and his butler had the key to the liquor cabinet.
Klaus closed his eyes, putting his head in his hand. Damn, I wish I had a cigarette! A moment later, a bright voice called out, “Oh! I’ve timed this just right. You look as though you could use some cheering up.”
Klaus looked up to see Dorian—no, Fabulousman—landing on the grass in front of the veranda. As usual, he was wearing a brightly colored costume with a long, flowing cape. His hair glowed like a golden halo in the sunlight. He was the most beautiful sight the Major had seen in weeks. He did not even flinch when the Earl marched over and kissed him, right there in the open.
Dorian stood back and grinned. “Are you pleased to see me, my Major?” he asked playfully.
Klaus nodded. “I’ve been going mad this past week.” He cocked his head to one side. “Have you come to help me?”
Dorian’s eyebrows went up. “Help you to go mad?” he laughed.
“I can’t do a damned thing until I’m cleared by NATO medical.” He put a hand to his head. “And they want me to talk to a bloody shrink because of the concussion. Tell him my feelings.” He gave a disgusted snort, shaking his head at the same time.
“Oh, the poor man. He has his work cut out for him,” Dorian replied, laughing at the dark look this produced. “And speaking of NATO,” he went on, “I learned something interesting from your Chief.”
Klaus’s eyebrows went up. “Oh?” He couldn’t imagine anything the Chief would have to say being of interest.
“When I delivered everything from the mission, he told me that he was surprised you actually approached me about the job, considering I had already stated quite adamantly that I’d never work with you again.” He crossed his arms, giving the Major a challenging look. “You told me that they insisted that I and I alone take the job.”
“I did. And I lied.”
“Who were you supposed to hire?”
Klaus met the Earl’s challenging gaze. “They wanted me to use the boy.”
Dorian’s eyes grew wide. “Mike? NATO wanted you to take Mike into that…that…” He waved a hand in the air unable to come up with the appropriate words—the appropriate polite words—to describe the disgusting pit that had been the mission’s target.
“Yes. Damned idiots! Do you have any idea what it was that you stole?”
Dorian’s eyes actually grew wider. He couldn’t remember the Major ever revealing the exact details of a mission before. It was always “need to know.” And the Major never seemed to think the Earl was worthy of knowing. He found himself mutely shaking his head.
“It was the formula to the stuff that affected the others.”
“What! And that canister? Was that…?”
“And they wanted you to have Mike handling that!” Dorian didn’t think he could be more incensed. If it had been Mike in his place, and the boy had opened the canister…
“After what happened during the attack, his going with Z,” Klaus was saying. “NATO decided that I could talk him into doing anything.”
“The way you could talk me into doing anything?”
Klaus stiffened visibly. “Are you gonna stay mad at me forever because of the—” He broke off when he realized where they were, a horrified look coming to his face. He looked over to the flower garden. “Christ, Eroica, the roses!”
Dorian followed the man’s gaze, his face neutral. “Oh, yes. They’re lovely. And Eroicas, too.”
Klaus sat helplessly watching as the Earl casually walked over to the nearest bush, plucked off a flower that was in full bloom, and brought it to his nose, deeply breathing in the scent. What the hell? Does he want to kill himself?
Dorian turned to see a horrified look frozen on the Major’s face. He smiled brightly and then levitated a few centimetres off the ground, gliding back to the veranda, his cape billowing dramatically behind him. He landed in front of the stunned Major and calmly took a seat, holding out the rose that was still in his hand. “An interesting thing happened that day all the M.E.’s dropped like flies,” he said calmly. “Whatever those terrorists used to take everyone’s enhancements away, took away my vulnerability to roses.”
Klaus realized he had been sitting with his mouth hanging open, and promptly closed it. He found himself at a loss for words and just stared as the Earl put the blossom to his nose again and breathed in its fragrance. “You’re no longer vulnerable to roses,” he said once he’d found his voice.
“Is your way of telling me it’s over?”
Dorian blinked, the smile fading from his face. “What? Why do you think that?”
Klaus closed his eyes a moment, sitting back in his seat. The only thing he had been able to do over the past few weeks was think. And as his memories returned, he had more to think about. And what he thought about depressed him more than he cared to admit.
“I knew it would happen when I tricked you into…” His voice trailed off and he had to force himself to go on. “Just do me the courtesy of telling me to my face. No more games.”
“You knew it would happen,” Dorian said calmly, “but you did it anyway.”
“I did it because I love you, dammit!” Klaus thundered.
Dorian’s mouth dropped open, a hand going to his mouth. “My God, I never thought I’d hear you say it.”
“Fuck. I have gone mad,” Klaus said sulkily.
Dorian could not help but laugh at the dark look on the man’s face. One would think he had just given all of NATO’s secrets to the enemy. “You have Bonham to thank for pointing something out to me.”
“I was so busy being angry with you that I overlooked how this would affect you.” Dorian gave a small laugh at the memory. “Bonham said that I was—oh, I must get this right.” He paused, trying to remember the exact words. “I was going back to being a shallow, self-centered narcissist, because I was just thinking of myself while you had done something awful to save me, even though you must’ve known you might lose me forever.”
Klaus’s eyes grew wide. “My opinion of your Mr. Bonham has just gone up.”
Dorian laughed again. He got to his feet, crossing to the Major. “One more thing…” he whispered seductively before planting a gentle kiss on his beloved’s mouth.
Klaus’s eyes narrowed. He was almost afraid to hear what else the Earl had to say.
“The roses…” Dorian leaned close to the man’s ear. “I can control how they affect me now.”
As a second kiss was placed on his mouth, Klaus found himself wondering exactly how long it would be before he was healthy enough to put this claim to the test.