woke to the faint smell of bacon, and sunlight streaming through
the filmy curtains. He felt remarkably
refreshed for as little sleep as he'd gotten; he'd left his shamefully
delayed flight at Heathrow at midnight the night before and headed
straight for the North Downs in a rented Benz, arriving in time to
trade sleepy greetings before tumbling into bed for a few hours.
He reached over and poked Dorian's smooth arm. "Wake up," he said. "Time for breakfast."
"Ow," Dorian mumbled, burrowing into his pillow. "G'way."
Klaus tugged at the blankets. "I have had less sleep than you," he said reasonably. Dorian made a grumpy noise, and turned over onto his back, squinting against the light. Klaus brushed a stray curl off Dorian's face, which in the morning sun looked as lovely as one of the man's own paintings, and frowned suddenly when something caught at his attention.
"Dorian," he said. "Why have you got red spots?"
"That's not funny," Dorian said, rousing enough to pout a little.
"It's not a joke." Klaus traced Dorian's features lightly with a finger, tapping each of the spots as he passed it. "Here, and here, and here, and there on your neck…" he pulled the covers down further, baring Dorian's sleek torso to the light. "They're on your chest, too, and your arms. And your skin is quite warm." He frowned again. "You should have told me you were ill; I would not have imposed my company on you."
"What?" Dorian glared at him with overbright eyes. "Don't be absurd, darling, I'm never ill." He moved as if to sit up, but subsided against his pillows with a groan. "Ow," he said again, looking affronted.
"Stay here," Klaus said, getting out of bed and pulling on his robe. "I will be back in a few minutes."
He made his way down to the kitchen, where Bonham and James seemed to be arguing over whether a carton of eggs was fresh enough to eat.
"Bonham, you need to call Lord Gloria's doctor," he announced.
James dropped the eggs and let out an ear-splitting wail. "I KNEW it!" he sobbed. "You've killed our poor earl at last!"
"He has a rash on his face and his chest," Klaus continued, raising his voice and trying not to cough at the stench of sulfur that was filling the room. "And he's running a fever. His muscles also appear to be sore."
"You've always wanted to kill him! And now you've got your WISH! I don't know what he ever saw in a horrid man like YOU!"
Klaus paused, remembering a very unpleasant two weeks that he had spent in the infirmary at Gymnasium, trying not to scratch. "I would almost say he had chickenpox," he said, "but surely he will have had that already, or at least taken the vaccine?"
James stopped wailing as though he'd been dropped in a pond, and started to edge away from Klaus. Bonham turned towards James suddenly, a furious look on his normally calm face.
"Interesting you should say that, Major," he said. "Since a few weeks ago his lordship visited his eldest sister, and two days after he left she rang up to let us know that the baby had come out in spots and that her brother hadn't ever had it, so he should be sure to get vaccinated if he hadn't already. But Mr. James here was going to take care of getting Lord Gloria his vaccination, so surely he can't have caught it after all." He took a threatening step towards James.
"Vaccinations are very EXPENSIVE!" James cried, scuttling away towards the door. "And he hardly even touched the baby the whole time he was there! He says they aren't interesting before they can dress themselves!"
Klaus barely overcame the urge to punch him, and only managed it because there were more important things to see to. "Bonham," he said. "Get the doctor."
Bonham left, and Klaus found a tray and some tea things in the kitchen. He made tea and put it on the tray, along with some toast and a little fruit; invalid food. He would get some beef broth later. One needed proteins to fight off infection. He added some paracetamol that he had found in a kitchen drawer and took the tray back up to Dorian's room.
The door was locked.
"Open the door," Klaus said, raising his voice to be sure of being heard. "I have your tea."
"You shouldn't come in here," Dorian called out, his voice muffled. "I might be contagious."
"Do not be stupid," Klaus said. "Whatever you have, I have been exposed to it already." He didn't mention that if the chickenpox theory was correct, he couldn't catch it in any case.
"But you have a very strong immune system! If you aren't exposed any further you can probably fight it off. You should go downstairs straight away and tell Bonham to give you some orange juice and vitamins."
Klaus kicked at the door, wishing that he had something on his feet besides slippers. "At least come open the door," he said. "I have brought you something for your headache."
"I haven't got a headache, love, but thank you all the same."
"You have got a headache!" Klaus bellowed. "You wrinkle up your forehead when you have a headache and you were doing it the whole time I was talking to you! Now come to the door and drink your tea before I go around outside and throw it through the window at your goddammed aching HEAD!"
Behind him, someone cleared his throat apologetically. Klaus turned, slopping tea onto the tray, and saw Bonham standing impassively in the hall, flanked by a cheerful-looking man with a black medical bag in one hand. Apparently, doctors were still willing to make house calls if you were rich enough.
"Lord Gloria's physician has arrived," Bonham said blandly. "Dr. Sayers, this is Major Eberbach."
Klaus nodded briskly. "He has locked himself in," he said, gesturing at the door with the tea tray, "and, with even greater idiotic stubbornness than usual, is refusing to open the door."
The doctor was looking at him as though he expected Klaus to pull a gun from his bathrobe on the spot and shoot the lock out. It wasn't a bad idea, if his gun hadn't been on Dorian's bedside table. This was what happened when one went around unarmed.
"Perhaps if I try," the doctor said, and moved forward to tap at the door. "Lord Gloria? It's Dr. Sayers. May I come in?"
"Just you," came the reply at last. "Klaus, if you try to push your way in I shall let James sell your tank."
Klaus scowled. His ongoing failure to discover where Dorian was storing the thing was a sore point with him.
"As you are obviously delusional and in need of medical treatment, I shall indulge you this time," he said stiffly. After a brief pause they heard the click of the lock, and Dr. Sayers nodded pleasantly at them and slipped into the room, shutting the door behind him.
Klaus shoved the tea tray at Bonham and stormed off in the direction of the kitchen. He was going to have a little discussion with Mr. James.
He was in the dining room, scowling fiercely at a plate of fried potatoes and ignoring the tall glass of orange juice that Bonham had provided, when the doctor found him again.
"It's chickenpox, all right," the doctor said, helping himself to eggs from the sideboard. "Shocking that he hadn't been vaccinated; he's not going to have an easy time of it. It's nothing serious in children but in adults it can be really nasty."
Klaus pinned him with a glare. "Are you implying that Lord Gloria's condition is serious?"
"Serious enough," said Dr. Sayers, "but we caught it early enough that there are still drugs that will help him; with any luck he'll avoid the worst complications. He's going to be damn miserable, though, for a week or two, and you'll have to watch him. If his fever stays too high call me; he may have to go to hospital if he gets too ill."
Klaus nodded. "I shall make sure of it."
The doctor coughed, and stirred his coffee uncomfortably. "Well, about that," he said. "I'm afraid Lord Gloria still doesn't want you to come in."
Klaus stared. "He surely cannot still be spouting that drivel about being contagious. I had chickenpox already, many years ago; I can't catch it again."
"You have to understand, Major," Dr. Sayers said, looking as though he knew quite well that Klaus didn't have to understand anything in particular, "Lord Gloria is already quite ill, and, well, sometimes our patients must be humored in their little fancies…"
"Stop blathering," said Klaus, "and say what you are trying to say."
"It seems that Lord Gloria is quite self-conscious about the blisters," the doctor said. "He doesn't want to be seen until the rash subsides."
Klaus snorted. Such vanity was completely unwarranted. He had not come all this way simply to turn around and go back to Bonn because Dorian was ill, nor did he intend to spend his holiday with Eroica's thieves.
He would simply have to tell Dorian so.
By the evening, he had lost his voice from shouting through the door, and his luggage had been moved to a nearby guest room. It was handsomely appointed, with none of the affected gauzy stuff and paintings of nude men that Dorian had in his own room. Klaus scowled at a painting of the Rhine valley that hung over the mantel, and went off in search of Bonham.
He found him in the kitchen, putting together the tray for Dorian's dinner. Klaus' attempts to take in the luncheon and tea trays had been met with wails and a flurry of bedclothes as Dorian dived under the covers. Perhaps it was time for a different approach.
He pulled a notebook and pencil out of his pocket and wrote a note in clear block letters: STOP BEING AN IDIOT AND LET ME IN. He tucked it under Dorian's water glass. It was important for Dorian to stay properly hydrated.
"Major, perhaps if you just left him alone for a bit," Bonham said, and was glared into submission. Iron Klaus did not need to speak in order to intimidate people.
Klaus waited outside Dorian's room until Bonham came out again.
"He says you should stop worrying and go do something fun," Bonham said. Klaus shot him a look of contempt and stomped off to his room.
The note on Dorian's breakfast tray said WHY THE FUCK WOULD I CARE WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE WHEN YOU ARE ILL?
Bonham told him that Dorian had suggested a walk in the gardens as being a lovely way to spend the morning.
LET ME IN BEFORE I MAKE YOUR ACCOUNTANT EAT HIS OWN SMALL INTESTINE, said the next one. Klaus didn't see James much after that.
Dorian continued to send back charming little messages regarding things that Klaus could do to fill his time, and Klaus continued to fume outside the door. By teatime on the third day, however, he was starting to worry. Dorian hadn't even bothered to respond to his last note (STOP BEING AN AFFECTED FOP. I CARE NOTHING FOR YOUR VANITY) and Bonham had spent half an hour consulting with Dr. Sayers on the phone. Dorian's fever was worse and the rash was giving him a lot of trouble.
He took the dinner tray out of Bonham's hands and opened the door with a smart kick. It went flying and hit quite hard on the ornamental doorstop, almost coming back to hit Klaus in the face, but he caught it with his shoulder.
He set the tray down on the table and surveyed Dorian, his arms crossed.
"Why the fuck are you wearing mittens?" he asked, in the raspy whisper that was all the voice he had at the moment.
"Go away," Dorian said, turning his head away from the door.
"No," Klaus said, calmly. He sat down on the side of the bed and captured one of Dorian's restless hands, which was covered in something. Further examination revealed it to be not a mitten as he had thought, but a sky-blue silk sock, secured with several layers of black electrical tape wound around Dorian's wrist.
"You've got socks on your hands," he said.
"I had to do something," Dorian said crossly. "It itches so horribly and Dr. Sayers said if I scratched it would scar." His fingers twitched inside the sock.
"Ah." It was rather clever, really. Even if Dorian tried to scratch, it would be difficult to do himself much damage.
"It's a lovely day," Dorian said, his face still turned towards the window. "Later this evening, perhaps you would like to go for a walk on the Downs…"
"You are being willfully idiotic," Klaus growled, his voice rasping as he tried to raise it. He tightened his grip on Dorian's hand. "I did not come to England so that I could tour Kent. I came to visit you. The fact that you are ill does not suddenly make me into some sort of tourist. Now turn the fuck around, I can't talk to you properly when all I can see is the back of your head."
"You don't want to see me like this!" Dorian said, his voice wobbling. "It's dreadful!"
"I have had the chickenpox, Dorian," Klaus said. "I know what it looks like."
"But there's no reason for you to see me with it! Can't you just give it up?"
Klaus snorted. "When have you ever known me to do so?"
"Never," Dorian said fretfully.
"You should spare us both the trouble, then," said Klaus, "and give in now. Then you can have your tea and we can spend the evening in a more productive manner."
"Or you'll send me to Alaska, is that it?" Dorian demanded. "With poor L and R?"
"L could have come back twice already," Klaus said. "She likes it there. Women are very odd." He tugged on the rumpled arm of Dorian's pajama jacket. "Have you had a bath?"
"I don't want a bath," Dorian said. "My head aches."
"You should have a bath," Klaus said. "With oatmeal. It will soothe your skin."
"You never listen to a word I say, do you," Dorian said.
"I listen to you more than most people," Klaus said. "Just not while you're delirious." He pulled Dorian's nest of covers apart.
"That's cold," Dorian protested.
"It will be warm inside the bath," Klaus said calmly, having given up on speaking any louder than a whisper. He helped Dorian sit up, bracing him with a hand between his shoulder blades.
"You really are a horrid man," Dorian said petulantly. "I can't imagine what I ever saw in you." He slid his legs off the bed and stood up shakily, clinging to Klaus for support.
"I've never known," Klaus said, sliding an arm around his waist and helping him into the bathroom. He deposited Dorian on the lid of the toilet and turned on the taps, letting the massive tub begin to fill while he turned to a tray Bonham had put in the bathroom earlier. He started dropping a number of small cheesecloth packets of oatmeal into the water, sparing a moment of approval for the way they'd been tied up neatly with twine. When the water started to look cloudy, he turned back to Dorian, who was leaning limply against the wall with his eyes shut, looking miserable. He started unbuttoning Dorian's pajamas, wincing a little at the sight of the angry rash on his chest. Dorian shifted uneasily beneath his hands, rubbing at his leg with a socked hand. Klaus slid the pajama jacket off Dorian's shoulders and tossed it into the elegant hamper near the door.
"Stand up," he said, and helped Dorian stand, propping him against his shoulder while he slid his pajama bottoms off. "Get in the tub,'' he said, and steered him gently towards it.
Dorian moaned as he sank into the water. "All right," he said, sulkily. "Perhaps I did want a bath."
Klaus unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled his sleeves up above the elbow, then pulled one of the sodden oatmeal bundles out of the tub and squeezed it over Dorian's shoulders. Dorian slumped lower in the water until only his head was exposed to the air, the ends of his hair wet and kinking up. "You should do this twice a day," Klaus said. "More often if you like." He looked at Dorian's face, tracing the angry rash as it crept up under his hairline. Dorian's scalp was covered; it was a wonder he hadn't pulled out all his hair by now.
"Tilt back your head," he ordered, and began to sluice water gently over Dorian, wetting his hair through. "If you lie back," he said, "you can soak your head." Dorian did so, sighing a bit as the water covered his inflamed scalp. His hands, still sock-covered, twitched.
Klaus was somewhat concerned at Dorian's meek acquiescence to his plans. He would take his temperature again after he had finished with the bath. He kept one hand under Dorian's neck; it wouldn't do for him to fall under the water.
"Your hair needs washing," he said, after Dorian had soaked long enough and the water had begun to cool. "Sit up."
"Always barking out orders," Dorian murmured, the corner of his mouth turning up a little.
Klaus quashed the absurd impulse he felt to smile. "That is because I always know what people ought to do," he said, helping Dorian to sit upright again and pouring a generous amount of shampoo into his hand.
Dorian sniffed the air, looking alarmed. "That's not mine," he said. "Where did you get that? What are you putting on my head? That had better not be that stuff you get at the chemist's..."
"Don't be stupid," Klaus said. "This is something Dr. Sayers sent. It will help with the inflammation."
Dorian looked torn. "But what will it do to my hair?"
It was, in an odd way, quite reassuring to see Dorian's vanity reasserting itself. "Your hair will be fine," Klaus said, and unceremoniously dumped the entire handful on the top of Dorian's head and began to work it through his thick hair.
Dorian sighed, letting his head sway under Klaus' hands, and submitted quietly to the lathering and rinsing process. After a last rinse with fresh water, Klaus steadied his arm as he stepped onto the bath mat, and swaddled him efficiently in a number of excessively plush towels. Dorian sighed, and let his towel-swathed head fall forward onto Klaus' shoulder as Klaus stripped the dripping socks off his hands. Even Dorian's fingers were covered in spots.
Klaus guided Dorian to the toilet, and sat him down on the closed lid. "Do you think you can sit up a while longer?" he asked.
Dorian blinked up at him muzzily. "Sit here? Why?"
Klaus held up a large bottle of calamine lotion, and Dorian made a face. "Suppose I can't look much more absurd," he said. "Just don't take too long?"
"I will be quick," Klaus said, and proceeded to anoint Dorian's blisters liberally with the lotion, even covering the worst spots on his scalp, despite Dorian's squeak of protest. While the lotion dried, he ventured back into the bedroom to get Dorian fresh clothes. He shook his head as he looked through the drawers where Dorian kept his vast assortment of sleepwear; it was full of expensive, impractical wisps of nothing that would undoubtedly be ruined by the calamine. He paused for a moment over a pair of pink satin pajamas that would at least camouflage the stains, but put them back into the drawer and pulled a pair of his own pajamas from his bag, which had reappeared at the end of the now freshly-made bed while Klaus and Dorian had been in the bathroom. The pajamas would be a little large for Dorian, but were comfortable crisp cotton that would not cling annoyingly to fevered skin and could be vigorously laundered later without damage. He brought them back into the bathroom, along with fresh underwear and new socks. Dorian was dozing, his head leaning back against the wall, pink splotches of lotion a vivid contrast to the few bare patches of creamy skin.
He laid a hand gently on Dorian's shoulder. "Wake up," he said. "Just a little longer and you can sleep." He dressed Dorian quickly, leaving the top button on the pajama jacket open because Dorian didn't like his throat to feel constricted while he slept. He finished with the socks, a thick warm pair for Dorian's feet and a new silk pair for his hands. Tomorrow, Klaus resolved, he would send Bonham in search of a pair of silk gloves.
He steered Dorian back to bed, inserting him neatly into the turned-down bed and pulling the blankets up over his shoulders. Dorian wormed a sock-covered hand out from under the covers and clutched at his arm. "You could come back after you've eaten," he said softly, "if you like."
"I have already eaten," Klaus said, crossing to his own side of the bed and sitting on top of the covers, propping his back against a few of the many pillows.
"Talk to me?" Dorian asked, his eyes drooping.
Klaus wasn't sure how much longer he could talk without losing his voice altogether, but he shrugged. "What about?"
Dorian snuggled deeper into his pillows, reaching over to lay a hand on Klaus' thigh. "Anything you like," he said. "Marching formations or handgun maintenance or something."
Klaus covered Dorian's hand with his own, and told him in a whisper
how to clean and oil a Magnum, until Dorian’s closed eyes
and easy breathing showed that he had fallen asleep.