Dorian felt someone shaking him roughly.
“Stay awake!” Klaus snapped.
Dorian blinked and found himself in the passenger seat of his own car. He felt battered and bruised and there was a splitting pain in the side of his head. His hair and his shirt were red with blood on that side. Oh, he thought absently, the mission had not been a resounding success.
“You can’t die. I need you.” Klaus said, staring straight ahead at the road. In any other situation this would have been humorous. The Major hated this car, and would surely despise driving it.
Dorian smiled. His head was throbbing but he couldn’t resist an opportunity to taunt the Major. “You need me?” He repeated, suggestively.
“Why must you twist everything I say?” Klaus said, taking a corner a bit too fast. “I need your skills, you imbecile.”
“Don’t worry, I believe you,” The Earl said. He gritted his teeth and closed his eyes, the pain was making him dizzy.
“Scheiße!” The Major yelled, slamming on the breaks and coming to a stop centimetres away from the vehicle in front.
“My dear Major, you came to save me,” Dorian breathed.
The Major wrenched the hand-break on, slapped the gear stick into neutral and leaned over the Earl.
“You’re so rough with my car. Is that how you treat your lovers too?” Dorian smirked.
Klaus looked furious, but there was a pink tinge to his cheeks. He glanced pointedly at Dorian and then looked away. “Where is your first aid kit?” He demanded. Klaus had the glove compartment open and the contents now lay at Dorian’s feet.
“Under the driver’s seat.”
“Bloody stupid place to put it!” Klaus complained as he twisted around to make a grab for it.
“How did you know where I was?”
Klaus was still contorting his body, trying to reach behind the driver’s seat. He threw the first aid kit at Dorian and started driving again. Traffic had started moving.
“I’m my line of work, it pays to know where your enemies are at all times.”
“So you can run to their rescue if they need it?” Dorian smiled.
The Major scoffed. “A lucky coincidence.”
The traffic stopped again and Klaus turned to Dorian, taking the bandage he had selected and changing it for a larger one.
“Do you have any alcohol?”
“Am I really so bad to look at?” The Earl went to play with his hair but he withdrew his hand when he realised he had a blood soaked piece.
The Major’s expression said everything. Shut up. But also, yes.
The Earl reached into the side pocket of the door and passed the Major a bottle. He took it and unscrewed the top. Dorian felt Klaus’s hand accidentally touch his leg as he leant over him. A thrill went through his body, replaced by dread as Klaus pushed his hair to one side and angled his head. It felt he had been doused in petrol and set alight. He shut his eyes and screamed silently.
Dorian noticed that they were moving again. Klaus was driving oddly, reaching over himself with his right hand to change gear. Dorian realised that he was had tight hold of the German’s other hand. Had he grabbed it, or had Klaus offered it to him? Either way, he found the fact that he was not struggling out of his grip immensely comforting.
Klaus had bandaged his head. Dorian didn’t recall passing out, but he supposed he must have.
Dorian loosened his grip and let his fingers trail over the back of Klaus’s hand as he let go. The pain in his head was still there, but more of a dull thud. “Thank you, my dear Major,” he said.
“What for?” The Major was staring ahead, sitting ramrod straight in the driver's seat. The Earl saw the fingernail marks in his hand when he took it back and put it on the steering wheel.
“For saving my life. For taking care of me,” Dorian said. “I know it is not true, but it brings me great joy to imagine that you love me as I love you.”
Did the Major flinch? Perhaps.
“Bloody move, you morons! If you don't know how to drive get off the damn road!” Traffic was slowing down again. Traffic stopped.
The Major sighed in frustration and reached for his packet of cigarettes. He offered one to the Earl, who accepted, and then lit both of them.
Sirens and blue lights behind them. Racing past them in the wrong lane.
“Gottverdammt! Bastard! Dummkopf!” The Major shouted at the road in general. He turned to the Earl. “This is the last thing I need. I need to get you to a hospital.”
“I'll be all right,” The Earl said, putting on a brave smile. “It's best we get over the border first. They may still be looking for me.”
“Why didn't you tell me that?” The Major took a long drag on his cigarette.
“I thought it was obvious!”
They smoked in silence for a few minutes.
“I will be all right,” The Earl said, “Eroica always finds a way out of these situations.”
Klaus glanced at him. “Do you remember when we were on the train to Romania?”
“Of course,” Dorian smiled at the memory.
“I wish you were joking like you were then.”
“Major! I'm not going to die! Why must you be cruel to me?” Dorian felt his pulse increase. Did the Major really think he was in that bad a state? “I'll never forget that day. I have been kissed so many times, but I will never forget how it felt to be kissed by you.”
He reached over and touched Klaus lightly on the shoulder and stroked his forearm. The Major was like stone. He simply took another puff on the stub of his cigarette and did not look at Dorian. He wondered what the German was thinking about. It was fun to flirt and trade insults with the Major, but when he went quiet he grew worried.
“We might be here for a while,” Dorian said softly, “you can kiss me again if you like. Nobody will see.”
Klaus hit the steering wheel with his fist. The horn blasted. Other drivers around them joined in and sounded their horns, thinking he was protesting the hold up.
He turned on the Earl. “I want you to stop this! This pathetic joking, it disgusts me! You disgust me. What did I do deserve interminable harassment from a degenerate like you?”
Dorian's mouth fell open. A witty response did not come to him. “I'm injured, Klaus,” he said in a weak voice.
The fury seemed to disappear from the Major's face for a moment. He turned away and took out another cigarette. This time he did not offer one to the Earl.
“The offer of a kiss is still on the table. It might calm-”
“Shut up! How many times do I need to tell you to stop? I hate you. I should have left you to die.”
“Then why did you not?”
The Major smoked his cigarette in silence for a while. “This is all a joke to you. I do not like jokes. And this one has gone on far too long. Today it will stop. I will hear no more.” The Major's voice was measured and low, and that was somehow scarier than him shouting.
Dorian hung his head. It made his injury start throbbing more violently again, but he had other things on his mind. He was half way to reaching for the door handle when he realised that they were in his car. “Fine,” he said, “if that's how you feel, get out of my car.”
“You heard me. I will drive myself to the hospital. I'm sure your men will come and collect you.”
“Earl, you're delirious,” the Major said.
“No, I'm quite cognisant. If you think after all these years that I am joking, you may as well leave me now.”
The Major did not move. Dorian was upset with him, and although he was telling him to leave, he was secretly glad that he stayed. That meant something, he told himself.
“I will leave you and this lurid piece of trash at the hospital. You will not get there alone.”
“And you say you don't care, Major,” Dorian said tentatively. He knew it would only antagonise him further, but he couldn't stop himself. Old habits die hard.
“I do,” Klaus said quietly, then added, “Keep that to yourself. It would ruin my image.”
Dorian had his head back on the headrest, smiling at Klaus when he looked over at him. It was a nice moment. But Dorian knew he would not be able to stop himself from spoiling it.
“I was never joking with you, Major. I have always been serious about my feelings for you. I'm sorry if that upsets you.”
The Major was looking out at the unmoving traffic, tapping his fingers on the wheel in frustration. There must have been a serious accident up ahead. “I was always afraid of that,” he said.
“Afraid? Why? There is nothing to fear from little old me.” Dorian gasped. “You don't think I'm one of those despicable people who pounce on unwilling victims? Surely you know me better than that.”
Klaus snorted and shook his head. Dorian wondered what he was thinking. He felt uneasy, like something had changed in Klaus and he wasn't sure what. It was very difficult to tell what his real feelings were. Did the man even know himself?
Dorian unclipped his seatbelt. “Klaus. I don't feel well. Can I lean on you?”
“I fail to see how it will help,” The Major said, but he was holding out an arm towards him. Dorian was quick to take the invitation, and leaned over to lie on Klaus's shoulder. Klaus's arm went around him, his hand first getting stuck in his bloodied hair, then he moved it to his waist.
Dorian let out a happy sigh.
“You were lying,” The Major stated.
“No,” the Earl said into the Major's jacket, “I have not felt well this entire journey.”
Klaus laughed softly into Dorian's hair. “Idiot,” he muttered. Dorian slipped his arms around Klaus and he did not protest.
“I feel better already,” Dorian murmured.
“Nonsense. This cannot make you feel better.”
“Cuddling with someone you love releases oxytocin. It's scientific!”
“Even the scientists are full of blather and fantasies.”
There was a long beep behind them. The Earl extricated himself from the Major's arms and returned to his own seat. Traffic was moving again. Slowly.
“There is nothing wrong with fantasies, my dear Major. How else can we imagine how the world is not and how we want it to be?”
“The world doesn't work like that. The world is how it is. And we must deal with it.”
“You don't really believe that, Klaus. I love you. And I like to imagine a world where you might love me too.” Dorian sighed. He still felt flushed and breathless from being in Klaus's arms. It was testament to the depth of his feelings that a simple hug would affect him that much.
The car lurched forward and stalled. The Major swore as he repeatedly tried and failed to start the engine again. He finally got the car started again. Dorian watched him carefully for any indication of agreement, but the signs were unclear.
“Can we imagine a world where I recover from my injuries, and we go to dinner? In an exclusive, secluded restaurant in a neutral country, naturally?”
The flow of traffic was speeding up again. “You can imagine whatever you like,” the Major said dismissively.
“Klaus. Will you go to dinner with me?”
“I... I don't think that would be a good idea.”
“We can go in disguise. It'll be exciting.”
The Major threw the end of his cigarette out of the window. “I must get you to the hospital.”
“Then I choose to believe that you say yes to dinner,” Dorian said with a smile.
“Perhaps. In a world that is not this one.”
“Why not this one? Life is short. Too short to not do what you want. Too short to not be with the one you love.”
“We are already together too often to not arouse suspicion. I can never shake you off my tail.”
“Major. You cannot say this is entirely my fault. You were following me today.” the Earl said with a smirk.
The Major gave him a sidelong look, but his expression was not entirely serious. “Of course not. I told you, it was a coincidence.”
A little while later, the Major pulled into the hospital car park.
“Can I have the keys?” Dorian asked.
“Why?” Klaus asked, switching off the engine.
“Major, I like you, but I'm not giving you my car.”
“Why would you ever think I would want this tasteless piece of junk?”
Dorian leaned closer to Klaus. “Because it's mine. And I'd chase you to get it back.”
Klaus turned his eyes, green as Mosel bottles, towards him. “I do not want you to chase me. No more games.”
The Earl glanced towards the hospital building. “Can I ask for one thing? A kiss. For luck.” He leaned toward the Major, making it easier for him to bridge the gap between them.
“What?” The Major looked flustered. “No- I...”
“What's wrong?” Dorian asked, catching a piece of Klaus's dark hair and stroking it.
“I'm not leaving you here. I'm coming with you.”
Dorian wasn't sure whether to be disappointed or touched. Klaus went round and opened the passenger side door for him. As they walked towards the hospital building, Dorian leaned on Klaus.
“Is this really necessary?” The Major asked as the Earl put and arm around his shoulders and leaned on him more heavily.
“I have head injuries, Klaus.”
“I'm aware of that.”
“Do you mind if it isn't necessary?”
Klaus paused before he answered. “Not particularly.”
“You could carry me if you like?”
“Idiot,” said Klaus. And Dorian would have never believed that word could be said with such fondness.