by Catt Kingsgrave-Ernstein
Molly took a deep breath, steadying herself. She was half tempted to curse the young fool for leaving her executrix. "I'm too old for this, Dorian...." Despite herself she chuckled, picturing th ehurt look he would have given her at that. As if he could have left anyone else in charge. Bonham, perhaps, but the man wouldn't want to deal with either the barristers or the other aristocracy. Best to get the reading over with, she supposed. She took another deep breath, straightened her shoulders and walked into the office.
"He left me what?!" Klaus exclaimed. Molly did not answer, she just smiled. Z smiled a bit to himself. He wasn't all that surprised, really. J was. The agent stood off by himself, probably trying to come to grips with the fact that he had just been willed a zeppelin. He had to smother a laugh, it wasn't much easier to deal with inheriting a tank; a Russian tank at that. What did one do with a tank? He supposed the major was at as much of a loss. After all, he'd just inherited an entire island. G would be ecstatic. Z's smile got a little wider. The small agent was going to be swamped in most of Dorian's wardrobe. He'd love it anyway.
"Actually, that wasn't all he left you, Major," Molly answered calmly, despite the man's temper. "Boys, will you excuse the Major and I for a moment?" Although it was phrased as a question, they knew better than to argue. Molly waited until the three were gone and then walked over to the desk. "He once asked me to give you this if...." She hesitated for a moment, fighting down her grief, and handed him an envelope. "If anything ever...."
Klaus took the envelope silently, understanding her uncustomary loss for words. "Thank you."
Molly sniffed once and smiled bravely. "I'll leave you to read it in peace. Would you like some tea, Major?"
"Of course," and with that Molly left the room, closing the door softly behind her.
Klaus stared at the envelope for several long minutes, absently tracing the ornate lettering of his name. Taking a deep breath, he opened the envelope and removed the single piece of paper.
Klaus crumpled the letter with a pained growl. He wasn't sure how to deal with a serious Eroica. The last thing he had expected was an apology from Dorian. Why couldn't you have shown that you understood while you were alive... when we could have been truly friends... without the strain of the constant baiting that so infuriated me? And why do I miss that baiting so much now? ...Dammit Eroica... why are you still driving me crazy? Glancing up to make sure that Dr. Watson had still not returned, he reached into his pocket for his cigarettes. Finding his pocket empty, he frowned and tried to remember if he had already smoked them all. No... he had put them in his pocket that morning. They had been in that ridiculously ornate silver case Dorian had given him when he'd been in the hospital in Bonn. It had been a peace offering of sorts, since Eroica had been the prime cause of his injuries. In fact, he had been smoking one when the man who looked so much like Dorian had bumped into him.... No. Just because the man looked like Dorian was no reason to assume he was a thief.
"...But I saw him! I did! It WAS his lordship...."
James's voice interrupted his thoughts, and Klaus looked up as the fluttering accountant burst into the room. "He's not dead! I saw him! Major! You have to find him. He's out there!"
"James, calm down!" Molly tried to catch the man as she darted around for Bonham. "What on earth is he babbling about?"
"He says he saw His Lordship wandering around the West End. We were there looking for that painting that he had fenced. The one Eroica left to the Duke of Northumberland in his will."
Klaus looked up sharply. While ordinarily he ignored anything that James said, in this instance it was too similar to the encounter he had been remembering only moments before. To Molly's complete surprise, Klaus whirled and grabbed James's shirtfront.
James squeaked and tried to hide behind Molly.
"Major! Let go of him! We'll never get any sense out of him if you keep terrifying him."
Klaus scowled but let go of James's shirt. Visibly trying not to yell, he repeated the question. Bonham, seeing that James was still too excited to ansewr, sighed and answered for him. "We were outside of a pub in the lower West Side, waiting for a... contact - to show up. James started chasing somebody down an alley. I didn't actually see who it was, but James was yelling about the Earl at the top of his lungs. I thought I'd better bring him home. He was attracting quite a bit of attention."
"What pub?" Klaus's intensity startled Molly. It was almost as if he believed James had seen the Earl... or at least believed he was alive....
Klaus stared at the decrepit pub with barely concealed disgust. Dirt and less recognizable substances covered the single window with an impenetrable layer of grime, preventing him from seeing inside. It was, he concluded grimly, the last place anyone would think to look for Dorian. Taking a deep breath, he headed for the door. If this was a trick, he was going to kill Bonham's contacts; but the Englishman, once assured that Klaus believed James's unlikely tale, had called in an amazing number of favors to get information he claimed was reliable. Apparently Dorian - or someone who closely resembled the Earl - had frequently been seen in this bar during the last month.
It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the dim light inside the seedy bar. Fortunately, it was still early enough for the main room to be nearly deserted, and he quickly sized up the few patrons. A heavyset man behind the bar glared at him in a not-particularly-friendly way as he moved farther into the room. Two burly men, who Dorian would have described as basic rent-a-thugs, sat drinking at the bar. Three more men were huddled around a table in the shadows of the far corner. The last man, however, immediately drew Klaus's attention. His back was to Klaus, but there was no mistaking Dorian's ridiculously long blond curls... or the object he was absently turning in slender fingers as he drank: Klaus's cigarette case.
Snarling silently, Klaus stalked up behind Eroica, grabbing his shoulder and dragging him out of his chair. Startled blue eyes widened in alarm as the man - Dorian - saw him. The case disappeared into a pocket as he struggled to free himself from Klaus's grip.
"Let me go...!" The alarm in his eyes changed to outright terror as he focused on something behind Klaus, who instinctively ducked. The mug that would have connected with the back of his head instead whistled through empty air. He whirled, forced to let go of Dorian for the moment. Swearing violently, he punched his assailant in the sternum, and the man dropped. However, when he turned away, he found that the situation was rapidly getting out of control. The two thugs at the bar were grinning and laying bets as his fallen opponents' two friends came after him. Each held a deadly looking knife in experienced fingers. Klaus glanced around to see Eroica edging for the door, his face pale. Klaus muttered something foul in German as he pulled his gun out, taking a perverse pleasure in the worried looks his opponents gave it. Dorian was at the door, and Klaus knew that if he lost him now... he might not find him again. He fired twice, to wound, not to kill; homicide took too long to explain. He stepped over the bleeding bodies of his former assailants, and ran for the door.
He caught Dorian in the alley, gripped his arm tightly and swung the Englishman around against the wall. Dorian saw the gun in his hand and froze. To Klaus's utter astonishment, he held out the cigarette case in shaking fingers.
"Please... you don't have to kill me... just take it...."
"Don't tempt me, Dorian!" Klaus hissed angrily. "Just move!"
They emerged from the alley and Klaus threaded his way through the crowded street to his car. He shoved Dorian in, then slid in to the driver's seat. Only after he had started the engine and they were well away from the bar did he glance at Eroica.
"Where the hell have you...? Dorian?"
Dorian pressed even farther into the far corner.
"Are... are you arresting me?" he asked in a small voice.
Klaus glared at him. "Not yet."
"I didn't mean to steal the case. I didn't know... I... um."
"I don't care about the verdammter case! I thought you were dead! Where have you been?"
"Me...?" Dorian stalled hesitantly. "Nowhere...."
"Dorian...." Klaus growled, about to lose the final shreds of control over his temper. He didn't know what game Eroica was playing, but it was too much.
"Why do you keep calling me that? Do... do I know you... or...?"
Klaus slammed on the brakes and just stared at the frightened earl, ignoring the angry screeching of tires and horns behind him. "What?!"
"Is that... um... my name?"
Klaus began to swear violently in German again, while trying to keep from strangling Dorian. For a brief moment he wondered if he had indeed found the wrong man... no, damn it all... this was Dorian. Although he had to admit, he certainly didn't act like Dorian. For one thing, Dorian did not normally flinch when Klaus yelled at him... even if he deserved it.
Shaking his head, Klaus ignored his passenger as he drove the rest of the way to the Estate. Relief at finding Dorian alive had quickly turned to rage at his foolish games... but he didn't dare speak to him now or he'd kill Dorian himself.
Dorian stared at the mansion in awe. "Where are we? Is this your home?"
"It's yours, you idiot! Come on."
Klaus dragged him up the stairs and in the front door. He slammed the door, scowling as James hurled himself into Dorian's arms.
"Your lordship... how could you... die like that... and not tell ME...."
Dorian looked helplessly at Klaus.
"Uh... I don't... um...."
Klaus rolled his eyes.
"James! Let his lordship go," Molly ordered firmly. "Bonham!"
Bonham appeared from a doorway farther down the hall. His eyes widened when he saw Dorian. "Your Grace...!"
Molly gently but firmly peeled James off the bewildered Earl and pushed him at Bonham. "Would you see to James, please? I need to speak to his Lordship privately."
Dorian turned to Molly as Bonham dragged a still protesting James into the nearest room and shut the door. "Why does everyone keep calling me that?" he asked plaintively.
"Dammit, Eroica, enough of your foolish games...." Klaus grated as he glared at Dorian, who flinched.
"Major. If you don't mind, I think you have done enough shouting for the day." Ignoring Klaus, Molly turned back to Dorian and put a protective arm around his shoulders. "Don't mind him. He was just... worried when you disappeared."
"Who... are you? Why am I here?" Dorian hesitated, then added softly. "Do you know who I am?"
Molly took a deep breath and then slowly let it out. This was going to take a long time to explain. Best to start simply. "I'm Molly Watson. And yes, I know who you are, luv."
Leaving Klaus speechless in the hall, she led Dorian upstairs.
"I don't remember," Dorian repeated, the strain beginning to tell in his voice.
"Major-" Molly interjected, firmly. "There is no way Dorian can possibly force himself to remember just because you want him too. He has traumatic amnesia," she restated the last for the eighth time.
"Humph," Klaus snorted in exasperation.
"I am trying-" Dorian ventured softly.
"Ja - my patience."
Dorian looked hurt at that. "I suppose you think I'm enjoying this?"
"I think you enjoy driving me crazy!" Klaus yelled. Dorian flinched at that - a reaction he'd developed in the month he'd been missing.
"That's quite enough, Major," Molly said coldly.
"But he's right... I have to remember." Dorian sighed. "If only to keep from making any more mistakes out of ignorance." He shuddered at the memory of what had happened when, questioning J about the Major's concern at his death, he'd been led to the conclusion that he and Klaus had been lovers. Not for the first time, he wished he'd gone back to Germany with the fleeing agent. He rubbed his eyes wearily as another of the damned headaches began to build in his temples. "Maybe if I could see where it happened?"
"I suppose it is worth a try," Molly agreed hesitantly. "If you are sure you feel up to it."
"He's up to it." Klaus grabbed his arm and propelled him towards the door. "N, go get T and meet us at the car."
"I'm alright, Molly. I need to see this through." If only, he thought grimly, to try and make the death of someone who'd been a friend mean something.
Molly swallowed her doubts and followed them outside. "Be careful, Major. I expect you to keep...."
N, seeing the Major and Eroica start down the stairs to the curved driveway, started the car.
Molly's eyes went wide with horror as the car erupted into a large fireball. She was vaguely aware of Dorian grabbing her and the Major pulling them both down behind one of the ornate banisters. They crouched there for a stunned moment before Klaus, swearing in what had to be German, although she couldn't hear his words, stood up and sprinted for the car. She knew it was useless; there was no possible way the two agents could have survived the blast. But she found herself following him anyway.
Dorian screamed, half expecting water to drown the noise. He shook his head despite the pain and tried to scramble backwards, away from the noise and the flames and....
"Stewart!" he yelled... knowing there wouldn't be an answer, and praying for one anywya. He had to get away... had to.... Reality returned with a disorienting lurch. He blinked, resisting the urge to shake his head again to clear it. The water was gone abruptly, replaced by the hardwood paneling and smooth marble which decorated the entrance hall. "Stewart...?" This time it was a whisper instead of a shout, because he knew there couldn't possibly be an answer. "No...." covering his face in his hands he cringed back into a corner, trying to deny what he had finally remembered.
A reached the bottom of the stairs just in time to see Z run out the door toward the explosion. He was about to follow when he heard a choked sob from his left. He turned just in time to catch the Earl as the man half-collapsed into his arms. "Um... uh... Eroi... Your Grace... um... Dorian? But...." He glaced at the open door and then stopped. There was nothing he could do that Z and the Major couldn't, and judging from the amount of swearing the major was doing there wasn't a lot anybody could do. Besides, short of knocking the man out he couldn't think of any way to make Dorian let go. He found himself supporting most of Dorian's weight as his knees buckled. A had no choice but to sit with him on the floor as he continued to sob.
Klaus turned away from the blaze in useless frustration; it was a feeling he'd dealt with a lot over the last month and it wasn't any easier to deal with. Two of his men.... "Verdammt!" he muttered one last time, catching sight of Dr. Watson standing not too far away.
Z came to a stop at the head of the stairs, seeing both the Major and Molly standing before the remains of the car. There was no sign of his fellow agents or Eroica... Oh God, not again. "Are either of you hurt, Major? Was... Dorian...?"
"Dieser verdammte Eroica!" Klaus bellowed. "Vo ist er hin?"
"I'm not sure, Major...." Z began, relieved. He broke off as the Major pushed past him into the house, and stopped.
A turned a bit to see the Major, Z, and Dr. Watson standing in the doorway. "Um... Major... uh... he... I don't think he's... injured but...." Despite his obvious confusion and embarrassment he continued to hold the Earl close.
Molly stepped in front of Klaus and knelt beside the two men. "Dorian... luv?" she ventured softly. "Dorian," she tried again, more firmly this time.
"M... Molly?" He let go of A enough to look at her. After a moment he released his hold on the agent and instead clung just as desperately to Molly. "Oh... God, Molly.... Tell me he's not dead... please?"
Molly just held him closer and gently stroked his hair, knowing that she couldn't tell him what he wanted to hear; she didn't say anything.
"The boat... blew up... there...." He swallowed hard. "There were... flames and... and water... and Stewart... he... Oh God, Molly... he killed Stewart."
"What?!" Klaus managed to keep from yelling.
"Who did?" Z asked.
Dorian closed his eyes, trying very hard to remember exactly what Stewart had yelled right before.... "Collingswood... that's what... Stewart said.... Collingswood was... on the radio... and then the boat... exploded."
"Collingswood? And who is that?" Molly put in in exasperation.
"Daniel Collingswood is the NATO liaison with Parliament," Z said, sounding confused. "But why would he be interested in killing you?"
"I don't know," Dorian replied, pulling himself together a little and managing to get to his feet. "Why don't we go ask him?"
Privately Z wondered if they were going to go through this all over again.
Molly got up as well. "You are not going anywhere," she said firmly. "Except to bed. I'm not about...."
"I've got to, Molly...." Dorian started for the door despite how the world was spinning. He had gone almost five steps before the motion of the room proved too much and he fainted.
Almost reflexively Klaus reached out and caught him. "Dorian?"
Molly hid a small smile "Be a dear, Major, and help me get him up to bed, will you?" She started up the stairs. A and Z remained prudently silent as the Major with a slight grumble picked the Earl up and followed Molly.
Dorian woke to the sound of someone pacing restlessly. Expecting James, he sat up and yawned. "Good morning, luv," he said before bothering to look over at his visitor. Klaus stood there staring at him in amazement. "Oh... hello, Kluas."
To his utter surprise, Klaus just chuckled. "Guten Morgen. Nice to see you're well again. Get up, we've got work to do."
Dorian managed a smile, the Major's words taking some of the pain out of remembering exactly why Klaus was there. He took a deep breath and flipped his hair behind his shoulders. "Help me get dressed?"
"No. Spoiled aristocrat...." With that Klaus left the room and closed the door.
With a sigh, Dorian got out of bed and proceeded to get dresssed.
"Good morning, all," Dorian said brightly as he sat down at the table. Molly smiled and handed him a cup of tea.
"Morning yourself, Dorian. Major... you will not... I repeat not smoke when I am eating breakfast."
Klaus ground out his cigarette in exasperation and thought about how to bring up the subjects that they needed to discuss. The last thing he wanted was a repeat of yesterday.
"So," Dorian began, setting the china cup down carefully to keep from spilling it. "Did you get the bastard that killed Stewart or do I have to do it myself?"
That surprised everyone at the table.
"We checked into Collingswood. He does work for NATO and his record is spotless. Are you sure that Collingswood was who was on the radio?" Klaus answered finally.
"Of course I'm sure, Klaus. I can't believe you didn't arrest him! I thought... oh, never mind, if I have to I'll...."
"Dorian, sit donw," Klaus said calmly. "We have no proof. We can't arrest him. English law can't touch him and you are not going to go over there and kill him because I can't keep you out of jail if you do."
Dorian sat back down slowly, the shock at Klaus's matter-of-fact calmness showing plainly on his face. "But...."
"But nothing," Molly put in. Which surprised the hell out of A. He hadn't thought Molly and the Major would ever agree on anything.
"Assuming that you're right and Collingswood was the one on the radio and the one who set the bombs. Why? What reason would he have for killing either you or Stewart? Which reminds me, how did you know to steal those papers in the first place?"
"Papers...?" Dorian started and then stopped. "Oh, the ones about Edmond Jacobs.... Stewart said that he'd come across something suspicious in the office but that Jacobs had come in and he couldn't leave with the papers. He asked me if I would get them for him... I did... you know what happened then."
"Did Stewart ask Dorian, Earl of Red Gloria to get the papers or did he ask Eroica to get them?" Z questioned.
"What... oh, he asked me, I don't suppose he really cared how I got them."
"That's not what he meant. Did Stewart know that Dorian and Eroica we... are the same person," Klaus clarified, his temper beginning to rise a bit.
"Of course he did." Dorian sounded exasperated.
"You tend to tell lovers things like that, Major," Molly put in, calmly sipping her tea.
Z hid a smile and A just choked on his coffee, ignoring the Major's glare.
"Oh... I should have guessed, I suppose." He picked up his own cup, trying not to think about why that particular statement bothered him so much.
"We talked to Lord Kilgore last night and he seems to think that he might have told Collingswood that Stewart knew Eroica. What would Collingswood have against you, anyway?" A asked, trying to change the subject.
"I... well, there was that painting... but I certainly wouldn't kill anyone over it. The original was hideous to begin with and the forgery was only a slight improvement."
"What painting?" Klaus asked through clenched teeth.
"Um... the one I stole from his flat in London. Really was an ugly piece but it was worth a lot and Percy always had wanted it."
"Edward Percy, the Duke of Northumberland. I sold it to a fence I knew he could buy it from. Not my fault he didn't have the money for it."
"Was that the one you sent poor Bonham all over creation trying to track down?" Molly asked.
"I did...? Oh, read that, did you? Uh... yes." He carefully avoided meeting Klaus's eyes.
"Did he find it?" A asked.
"I think so. He hasn't sent it to Northumberland yet though, I'm sure of that," Molly replied, getting to her feet. "Shall we?"
It was, Klaus admitted to himself, an extremely ugly painting. "People pay how much for this sort of thing?"
Dorian laughed. "It's supposed to be a Jackson Pollock, Klaus. People pay exorbitant amounts for toilet seats this man painted. I don't ask, I just steal them."
"Well, is it really worth anything?" Z ventured.
"No... not if you know it's not the real thing," Dorian replied. "Why?"
"From an intelligence point of view there's probably more to this than just a painting. Maybe if we had it checked out... cryptology, microchips, that sort of thing."
"Please. It might as well be good for something."
"Klaus, pacing back and forth will not help them get the information any sooner." Dorian sighed. "Sit down and have some lunch. It's really quite good."
"I don't want...." Klaus turned to glare at Dorian, stopping as a flash of light off metal blinded him for a second. He was moving even before the glimpsed image of the rifle had time to register in his mind. Diving across the table, he knocked Dorian to the floor as the window shattered.
"Don't move." Keeping Dorian covered with his own body, he drew his gun and tried to spot the sniper. Raising his head, Klaus finally spotted the darker silhouette in the branches of the five hundred year old oak outside Dorian's dining room window. Firing a shot of his own to buy time, he shoved Dorian against the wall, out of the sniper's range of fire. "Stay down!"
Ignoring Dorian's startled protest, Klaus tried for another shot at the sniper. Glass showered both of them as the sniper's second bullet took out the remaining glass in the window. The bullet hit the table, passing only centimeters from Klaus's head as he ducked. Dorian yelled and grabbed Klaus, dragging him out of the line of fire. "Damn it, Eroica...."
"You are not going to get yourself killed! I've lost one friend to this bastard already, Klaus. Please."
Klaus started to argue and then stopped, seeing the pain and tears in Dorian's eyes. Not knowing what to say, he didn't say anything. After what had happened over the past month... the least he could do was stay there and let his agents deal with the man outside. Despite his better judgement he let Dorian cling to him as a third shot hit the floor not all that far from where they were. After almost three minutes a shout came from outside and then a few more shots; pistols this time, Klaus noted.
"All's clear, Major!" K's voice carried even from the trees outside.
Klaus helped Dorian sit up despite the fact that the blond still hadn't let go. He was about to say something until he realized that Dorian really was shaking. "Dorian?"
"He... killed Stewart... he tried to kill me... he tried to kill you... Oh God...." Dorian just clung tighter.
Not sure if there was anything else he could do, Kluas just sat there and let Dorian pull himself together a little. After thinking for a few moments he remembered what Molly had done in the exact same situation yesterday and began to stroke the blond's hair.
Neither man noticed when Molly glanced in from the hall. Neither was bleeding... and besides, Dorian would probably kill her if she interrupted now. Smiling to herself sadly, she walked on down the hall to see if any of the agents outside might need some help.
"Major!" A came running into the room where they were questioning the sniper. He'd taken one bad shot to the shoulder but Dr. Watson had declared him well enough to answer questions, although from her attitude the fact that he was conscious probably constituted able to answer questions.
"Yes?" Von Eberbach turned from the man who, after a few minutes, had begun to give them any answers they wanted.
"We found these in the painting." He handed Klaus a plastic bag which held a smaller manila envelope. "They're plans for the Apache helicopters the Americans gave to NATO. Collingswood's fingerprints are all over it." The blond agent smiled. "And X says they think they have enough of the car bomb to prove who purchased the materials."
"Very good. Perhaps it is time to put in another call to Scotland Yard."
Klaus sighed and relaxed a little for the first time in over a month. Collingswood had been arrested and the prosecutors were certain that they could build a solid case against him. The only dark spot on the whole thing was that the only crime they might not be able to prosecute on would be Stewart Granger's murder. Somehow Klaus didn't think he would tell Dorian that quite yet. He stopped the car and got out, heading up the front stairs, trying not to look at the charred spot in the driveway where his men had died. Leading men was one thing, losing them was another. He opened the door and was nearly knocked off his feet as Dorian flung himself into his arms. "Hello, Klaus."
Surprised, Klaus held him back for just a second before realizing exactly what he was doing. "Hello...." he managed, and then remembered something that he had thought of almost three weeks ago when he had known it was impossible. "You know, Eroica," he began almost conversationally, "there was something I've been wanting to do... that I thought of while you were pretending to be dead. Since you aren't... why not?" And with that he dipped the startled Earl over one arm in the best Hollywood tradition. Dorian's eyes widened in complete shock.
And with a very contented grin, Klaus dropped him to the floor.
There was silence for almost five seconds. "You... barbaric... uneducated... stupid excuse for German... aristocracy.... I ought to.... Oh!" Dorian picked himself up and stormed toward the stairs.
Klaus stood in the foyer and laughed. Things were back to normal. Well... maybe one more comment wouldn't hurt... besides, he owed Dorian something for making him read that damned letter.
"Does this mean I have to give the island back?"