Claimer: All characters are property of faded_lace and vink_sama
Warnings: Yaoi, one-sided, language...the usual.
Algernon smiled and set down his teacup politely, crossing his legs and entwining his fingers in his lap. "Now, Your Majesty...as for the business I have to discuss with you..."
Cecile smiled and fingered the large blue diamond around her neck unconsciously. "Ah, yes...do proceed."
Algernon nodded. "Our war efforts in Hispania are looking up, and they seem to be inclining towards acquiescing to peace talks. Soon, we may be able to reach a truce and bring the majority of our troops home."
Cecile clapped her hands together in delight. She wasn't very well versed in military terms or anything of the sort, but the idea of the troops coming home sounded good to her. "That's wonderful!"
"Indeed," Algernon agreed, nodding again. "But, for the time being, our troops are worn down and low on supplies...more men are dying from injuries and disease than in battle. We are suffering a great deficiency in funds, and I, for the sakes of all the soldiers fighting for the good of the nation, am here to humbly request that You Highness raise taxes only a small amount in order to help the men and women in Hispania."
Cecile did not fail to notice his inclusion of women in his statement, and was impressed. "Of course, General Commandant. Anything you need. I trust your judgment in these matters implicitly."
Algernon's lips curled into a confident smile. "Thank you, Your Highness. I can assure you that your trust is not misplaced."
“I can’t believe it,” Dragomir grumbled, not to Niles in particular, but just in general as he stared out the window of the automobile, looking at the signs that he couldn’t read which lined the road they took to work each morning. “Who does she think she is, increasing taxes?” He sat up straighter and looked over at Niles, folding his arms. “It’s all well and good if Her Royal Highness wants to help the soldiers in Hispania, but raising taxes? It’s terrible. People aren’t going to be able to afford to pay them.” Dragomir was speaking from experience; the last time the taxes went up to fund the initial dispatch into Hispania, his family had suffered tremendously under the increased monetary strain. “I don’t even think all the extra funding will make its way to the men.” Dragomir sighed and uncrossed his arms. It was a nice thought and if it worked, than kudos to the Queen; he knew the economy would stabilize in time, and because of Niles’s help, at least his family wouldn’t suffer during the transition.
Niles nodded sympathetically, though he himself was unfamiliar with the sort of trouble to which Dragomir was referring. "At least it's for a good cause...I mean, you were out there, too, so you know what it was like...I'm sure, at least, that the raise in taxes will help save lives of soldiers in Hispania. Besides, with Viorica and Pierre working, I'm sure things'll be all right." He gave Dragomir a confident smile as they pulled into the parking lot, hoping to instill him with a little more confidence in the government.
They were running a little late, and so they walked briskly to the office, the topic of taxes momentarily dropped. Niles knocked quickly before opening the door for Dragomir and following him into the office cheerfully. "Good morning, Lt. Colonel."
Their superior, however, only nodded anxiously at them and shooed them from her desk. Niles wondered what was wrong, but was left clueless all through the morning, and they could only watch as she fidgeted and strummed her fingers and, later on, got up and paced anxiously around the room.
Finally, just before ten, there was a knock at the door, to which the Lt. Colonel hastily called, "Come in!" An enlisted soldier hurried inside and bowed quickly before hastily whispering something to the Lt. Colonel and leaving again. It must have been what she was anxious about, because she paled and became even more uptight as he conveyed he information. She waited until the door was tightly shut behind him, however, before standing up and rapping loudly on her desk to get the attention of the room. Niles looked up at her, beginning to worry that whatever was upsetting her was worse than he originally imagined.
"All right, everyone! This is extremely important and I need your absolute attention and compliance!" The low murmur that had been hanging over the room died down, and everyone seemed to realize the gravity of the matter. The Lt. Colonel nodded and continued, her voice a little lower. "There has been a riot of civilians forming around the royal palace which is becoming increasingly out of hand and needs to be taken care of. The participants have not yet committed any offense, but the crowd has been growing and many of the persons involved have been reported to be armed. I have been ordered to end this riot before any sort of violence ensues, so listen carefully to my orders." She seemed to glare every single person down, making it quite obvious that any deviance from her orders would result in grave consequences before continuing. "But before I give out any individual orders, you must be absolutely clear on this: you must hold your fire unless you hear a direct command from me! Do you understand? Do not fire on any civilian, armed or otherwise, without direct commands." There was a murmur of agreement, and the Lt. Colonel seemed satisfied and began giving out individual assignments.
Niles swallowed and looked up to Dragomir worriedly. He wasn't prepared for this in the least, and though the Lt. Colonel had insinuated that it could most likely be ended without violence, he was still worried. What if things turned out like last time? He was frightened of ending up in the middle of the fray again. They were lucky last time, but who knew what would happen to them this time? Forgetting his surroundings, Niles clutched Dragomir's hand, looking for some sort of comfort.
Dragomir lifted Niles’s hand to his lips and kissed it quickly. Everyone, including himself, was focusing intently on the Lt. Colonel, and he felt it was important Niles knew he wasn’t quite as concerned as he appeared. A riot at the royal palace was bad news, but Dragomir knew things would run smoothly. Even if the civilians were armed, they wouldn’t dare confront an armed battalion. Apart from that, he knew the Lt. Colonel to be an expert at strategy and keeping her men under control; it was unlikely that anything would go awry.
“Captain Hirlea,” the Lt. Colonel instructed him coolly, “You will take ten other men and guard the palace gates. Permit no one to enter or exit under any circumstances.”
“Yes sir.” Dragomir nodded before sweeping into a bow. He was relieved that she’d assigned him to hold a position rather than be directly involved in suppressing the crowd; he assumed she realized his slight conflict of interests, and that he had some amount of sympathy for the protestors. But he didn’t have any qualms about defending a position, and the fact that he would be able to pick his forces meant she’d been lenient enough to allow him and Niles to work together. Dragomir was, as always, grateful for the Lt. Colonel’s foresight.
As the Lt. Colonel continued on her way, giving instructions to the other officers, Dragomir looked down at Niles with a confident smile. Already, things were looking like they’d go well.
As they approached the palace, the crowds of people could already be seen through the tiny slit-windows in the armored vehicles. It was uncomfortably stuffy; the entire battalion was crammed into just five of the large specialty military automobiles, and the short journey to the place took almost twice as long compared to a regular automobile. Still, Dragomir was glad they’d have the vehicles on-hand; they were particularly imposing and showed the mob that the army meant business. Additionally, should any violence ensue, they’d have cover even in the open square that stretched out in front of the plaza.
Dragomir was sitting close to Niles and the other nine men under his direct command inside the vehicle, and he watched carefully as they approached the demonstrators. Wisely, the crowd broke up and moved out of the way as the armored automobiles made their way to the palace. Due to various security measures protecting the gates, it was impossible for the vehicle to take them any closer to their post than just under a hundred feet, and so they disembarked, staying in close formation as they pushed their way through the crowd to the gate, where they gathered in a defensive formation, watching as the rest of their battalion moved out and began taking other strategic positions and moving to persuade the crowd to disperse. Looking down to Niles who stood just to his right, Dragomir offered a small smile. Already they were making progress, and he wanted to make sure Niles felt confident that things weren’t going to escalate any further.
Niles fidgeted anxiously, looking back to Dragomir and hoping that his confidence correctly reflected the situation. He had never seen such a big, angry crowd, and he hoped that nothing violent would start. He fingered the pistol on his hip nervously; the count of men he had killed had dropped from one to none, and his aim was still as bad as ever. Still, he knew Dragomir knew these sorts of situations better than he, and so he smiled back nervously and tried not to be intimidated by the angry masses.
Just as everything appeared to be settling down, someone in the crowd shouted out, “Look!” and gestured wildly at the palace. Many of the soldiers who’d been pressing the crowds back turned, and an uproar followed as they were overwhelmed by the masses pressing back against them, over running the troops as they made their way forward, desperate to confirm the cry of another man: “Look, it’s her! It’s the Queen!”
Dragomir swung around quickly, just long enough to register the form of a woman emerging from the palace yards behind him and rushing out onto the sprawling green that encircled the palace. Panicking slightly, he turned back to the crowd. He knew this was exactly the sort of situation the Lt. Colonel had anticipated when she’d instructed him not to let anyone in or out, and cursed under his breath. He hadn’t even considered the possibility. The Queen was now in direct danger, and the military had to do something, fast. The crowd was growing violent again, and he jumped slightly as a glass bottle was hurled in their direction. Looking ahead into the fray, he could see that a scuffle had broken out, and soldiers and protesters were grappling in the midst of an enraged crowd.
Dragomir’s hand flew to the hilt of his rapier and he tensed, searching the area for the Lt. Colonel. Violence, it seemed, would be difficult to avoid now. His eyes flicked upwards a moment too late as he caught sight of a man dressed almost in rags perched atop an object buried in the sea of protesters. He lifted a rifle to his shoulder and took aim as Dragomir gasped, his hand transferring from his rapier to his pistol. It was already too late, of course; the shot went off and the bang echoed, reverberating off the steep stone walls of the palace. Within a second, before Dragomir had any time to react, another shot fired—a pistol round, and the man with a rifle fell from his perch into the crowd. Few people noticed, however, all eyes were on the Queen, who’d fallen, crumpled amongst her skirts, at the base of the stairs leading to the palace. Spinning back around, Dragomir drew his pistol and raised it, his finger hovering over the trigger. Surely, surely the Lt. Colonel would give the word. The Queen had been shot! All hopes of a peaceful resolution had disappeared the moment the two shots had been fired. They had to defend themselves or be overrun. Even so, Dragomir waited for the command.
“Hold your fire!” Dragomir caught site of the Lt. Colonel a little ways off, surrounded by her own unit, and lowered his gun, even as he heard other shots go off around him. Not only civilian shots—panicked soldiers were firing back. He watched as four advancing protesters fell sputtering and bleeding to their knees only to be trampled by the advancing mob. Many, he could see, were retreating; scattering and running down the streets, but it wasn’t enough. They’d still have to fight. As another round of shots went off, Dragomir looked urgently to the Lt. Colonel. She still seemed to be trying to keep everyone in line—to little avail. He hated to go against her orders, but then again, she wasn’t going to end up in the middle of the fray in only a matter of seconds; he had to do something. Grabbing Niles by the arm and pulling him around behind him, he raised his gun. “Fire only at the men who are armed!” he yelled to his men, taking aim at a man who was raising a rifle to his shoulder and hitting him in the leg so that he fell to the ground. “Don’t shoot to kill!” Dragomir reprimanded sharply as an advancing man with a pistol fell backwards into the crowd with a bullet in his head. Turning anxiously to Niles, Dragomir swallowed hard. “Cover me, but stay out of sight.”
Niles bit his lip and held his pistol out with shaking hands. He hid to the best of his ability behind Dragomir, peering around him for any oncoming rioters. He hoped he wouldn't have to shoot anyone, but, unfortunately, more and more people began shoving their way towards them, and Niles was soon forced to defend their post. Raising his gun and squeezing his eyes shut, he pulled the trigger, then let his eyes slide open again. He, miraculously, had hit a man in the leg, and his stumbling had stopped up the flow slightly. Feeling a little more confident, he shut his eyes and fired again, this time hitting another man in the foot. Though he wasn't very good, for once, it helped, and so he took a deep breath and continued. For once, he'd be able to help Dragomir.
Smiling inwardly, Dragomir was pleased as he watched two men fall to Niles’s missed shots. This was the perfect situation for his horrible aim, and Dragomir was glad to have him there to back him up. At the same time, if anything got too out of hand, Dragomir knew also that he could keep Niles safe, and that gave him solace enough to keep his mind on the battle.
Unfortunately however, as more and more civilians slipped through the thin wall the soldiers had struggled to enforce, the men holding the gates and defending the walls, as well as the troops surrounding the Lt. Colonel, began to panic, and many of them were now shooting to kill. The whole ordeal had turned bloody surprisingly fast, and it seemed there was little to be done now but fight to live. As a man beside him fell to his knees, clutching his gut, Dragomir knew the situation was becoming dire. Lifting his pistol once again and aiming at a man who’d managed to clamber on top of some object behind the line of advancing men, Dragomir pulled the trigger only to discover that he’d run out of shots. Cursing as the man aimed his rifle, Dragomir fumbled for his spare ammunition. As he opened the packager and dumped the rounds into his palm, he saw the man topple out of the corner of his eye, and spun to see who’d fired the shot.
The Lt. Colonel stood, among her men, with a rifle raised and smoking, poised to fire another round. Dragomir grinned, relieved to have her aid, and turned to Niles, his expression changing to one of urgency. “I’m out, can you cover me?”
Niles nodded quickly and stepped in front of Dragomir, firing at the men approaching them. Luckily, by taking out two, he'd managed to slow the flow, and so he tried to carefully aim to block the most people in order to buy Dragomir more time. However, two shots later, he pulled the trigger again to realize that he was out of balls, and looked urgently back at Dragomir. "Are you almost done? I'm empty now." He tried not to sound frightened, but he wasn't sure how well it worked.
“Yes,” Dragomir said coolly, firing a shot over Niles’s shoulder before taking a quick step in front of him again. “Thank you for the time.” He smiled slightly, glancing over his shoulder before returning his focus to the fight that was rapidly closing in on them. In only a matter of minutes, the long range weapons would no longer be of use, but as they were almost out of rounds now, it wouldn’t much matter anyway.
The live wall of men, struggling to hold back the mob, was growing ever thinner, and Dragomir feared it was only a matter of time before it broke and they were overrun. Looking to the ground, Dragomir could still make out the numerous bodies of the fallen, and came to the dreadful realization that the men they were wounding were probably being trampled to death. It was all in vain, and Dragomir’s heart sank. However, they still had themselves to worry about—Dragomir still had Niles to protect. Taking a deep breath, he issued a new order. “Fire at will!”
He heard the shots going off all around him and watched as many more civilians fell to the ground, dying or dead already, and lifted his own pistol again, taking a headshot. Then, as the bullets continued to fly and another man to his left fell, Dragomir’s breath caught in his throat as he saw the wall crumble and fail. One of the integral officers in the center had fallen, and the whole defense collapsed. The remaining soldiers were either shot or pushed to the ground and trampled brutally, as wave after wave charged toward them. Their retaliation became more frantic; they know longer had to worry about hitting their own men in front of them, and they shot at random, the goal being only to stop as many of them as possible.
The barrage of bullets hurling towards the oncoming wave could only last so long however; the increased number of shots being fired only served to drain what little ammunition they had left. Dragomir holstered his pistol and drew both his sword and his dagger, charging forward and cutting through a man appeared to still have ammo. Retreating with a small hop back to where he’d left Niles, he threw his dagger, not even watching as it sunk into the throat of an oncoming enemy. “Are you ready?” Dragomir managed to grunt lamely to Niles, transferring his rapier into his right hand and standing so that he faced Niles and so that together their defense would be impenetrable. There wasn’t much time now, he hoped Niles was ready and trusted him implicitly. He’d do the majority of the fighting, and he was hoping Niles could defend.
Niles drew his rapier as well, determined to do his best to help Dragomir. As more men moved in towards them, he followed Dragomir's lead in attacking before anyone with a firearm could shoot. He was nowhere near as effective as Dragomir and, so far as he could tell, he hadn't killed anyone yet, but at least he was doing something. The new sword helped, and he was at least able to wound the arms of people aiming to fast or reaching for their swords, buying Dragomir some time, at least. Dragomir was doing a very good job of fending off any attacker, and so Niles felt safe in the job that he was doing. Still, he didn't know how much longer they could last this way, and he hoped that soon things might start to get under control.
Dragomir always felt more comfortable with a sword in his hand than a pistol, so now that they were down to close range combat, his confidence had increased somewhat. With Niles by his side, too, he was certain they wouldn’t have any trouble fending off anyone who got too close. As long as they could keep striking the men who still had firearms before they could shoot, Dragomir didn’t think they’d have much trouble holding back the still advancing forces.
So many people had fallen all around them, and taking a quick glance at his peripheral, Dragomir realized that only four of them remained. The rest of the group, the Lt. Colonel’s men, and another corps had joined together and were slowly fighting their way over. As soon as they had the back-up, Dragomir knew they could start advancing and drive the civilians back away from the palace. As his mind flitted momentarily back to the royal place, he remembered the Queen and hoped that someone had managed to get her inside; more importantly, he hoped she was all right.
In that instant that his mind left the battlefield, Dragomir failed to notice as an approaching civilian stumbled over a soldier’s fallen body and got to his feet, lifting a stolen pistol and taking aim. Dragomir saw him too late, and lashed out desperately, but couldn’t get the needed range to prevent the gun from going off. He hit that man in the wrist, throwing off his aim so that when the shot fired, echoing resoundingly in Dragomir’s ears, he felt a shooting pain tear through the muscle in his left leg. He crumpled, his knees giving out as he fell to the ground, hard, and dropped his sword, crying out as he clutched his wounded leg. Managing to bite back the pain, Dragomir reached for his rapier and lunged upward at the man, stabbing him in the throat, but not managing to squirm away as the body toppled and fell on top of him. Using his good leg, Dragomir kicked the body off of him and found the pistol, taking out two men before it ran out of ammo and he realized himself to be utterly useless.
Niles screamed when he saw Dragomir fall, immediately shoving his sword back into its sheath and dropping down to his knees to Dragomir. His leg was bleeding profusely, and Niles knew he had to get him out of the way before he was trampled. "Dragomir...please...hold on," he instructed weakly as he tried his hardest to lift him. He found it nearly impossible, however, as Dragomir was so much bigger than him, and so he had to drag him back out of the way. Glancing back over his shoulder, he realized that, with the advancing riot, he didn't have time to try to bandage the wound. With a last desperate look at Dragomir, who appeared to be struggling with the pain, he promised, "I'll take care of you, Dragomir...I'll protect you."
However, he was not as confident as his words, and, as he once again drew his rapier and faced the angry mob, he was downright frightened. Still, he had to protect Dragomir, he absolutely had to, and so he began fighting again with renewed vigor, stabbing violently through any man who tried to come near with a firearm or any other sort of weapon. Man after man, he began to lose track of what he was doing besides that he had to keep them back, and then all of a sudden, there was the Lt. Colonel, and her men weren't far behind, and he was being ordered to make sure Dragomir was all right.
As he darted the few feet back to where Dragomir lay, he realized, in a dazed sort of way, that he had killed. For the first time, he had killed other men. But that didn't matter now, he didn't need to think about it because Dragomir was hurt and he had to take care of him. Dropping to his knees beside the other man, he saw the wound fully for the first time. It was bloody and bad, and he hurriedly ripped at the cloth at the bottom of his jacket, using the torn piece to bandage the wound. When he had tied the cloth tight, he leaned over to see Dragomir's face. "There, I have it tied off...Are you going to be okay, Dragomir?"
“Y-yes…” Dragomir grunted. As far as he could tell, the bullet had gone straight through, but his vision was foggy and his thoughts were muddled and difficult to process. He could hardly think beyond the pain; it was all-consuming. Dragomir was breathing hard, trying to focus on Niles’s face, trying desperately to stay conscious, but his eyelids felt so heavy, and he felt so exhausted… His vision was failing him, and he felt as if he were falling… He saw red first, and then everything went dark.
Dragomir woke abruptly and sat up with a start, glancing around and trying to figure out where he was. However, he had to lie back down again, as his head was spinning and he felt a burning pain in his leg. Grunting, he rubbed his eye and thought about rolling over, but decided better of it and let his arms fall to his sides. He realized that he was on a bed, a cot, really, and that he was probably in the hospital. He knew there’d been a fight, but he didn’t remember passing out… Dragomir did remember, though, that Niles had protected him, and he sat up again with determination, looking around the room for Niles as he somehow managed to ignore the dizzying spinning sensation.
Niles, who had only been a few feet away chatting with Viorica and allowing her to bandage up a small cut he had received in the process of defending Dragomir, hurriedly pulled away from her to drop down into his chair at Dragomir's bedside once again. "Oh, Dragomir, you're awake! Are you all right? You ought to lay back down, you lost a lot of blood...is there anything I can get you?" As Niles's flow of words trickled to a stop, he was suddenly hit with a wave of emotion to see Dragomir conscious again. Tears sprang to his eyes, and he flung his arms around the other man without thinking. "Oh, Dragomir, I was so worried! After you fell, I had to protect you, and I was afraid it was worse than it is...oh, thank God you're awake again!" Then, realizing what he had done, he sat back again quickly. "I-I'm sorry, did I hurt you? I was just so relieved to see you..." He blushed slightly with embarrassment, hoping he hadn't hurt Dragomir worse or anything like that.
Dragomir smiled, allowing himself to lie back with a chuckle that became a cough. Clearing his throat, Dragomir managed a grin. “You didn’t hurt me; if anything, it made me feel better.” He grunted, shutting his eyes to stop the spinning and reaching blindly for Niles’s arm. “I’m glad to see you…and that you’re all right.” Dragomir’s voice was weak, but he wanted to keep talking to make sure he didn’t pass out again. He opened his eyes slightly, squinting, determined to conquer his nausea. “How long has it been?”
Niles smiled, relieved, and took Dragomir's hand, holding it tightly. "I'm perfectly fine, so don't worry about me. You were out for a few hours...After you went down, I fought them off until the Lt. Colonel showed up with more of her men. She managed to calm everything down after a while, and then we came back here right away..." He trailed, remembering all the corpses they had gathered once it was all over. "Dragomir... There were so many bodies... Oh, I'm so glad that you're all right!!" Wiping the tears that had returned to the corners of his eyes once more, he steadied himself, figuring Dragomir deserved an explanation. "I managed to stop the bleeding early enough, and the shot went straight through without hitting anything vital, so Viorica says you should be all right, so long as you rest it for a while. You're probably going to be out of work for at the very least two weeks." Niles sighed and leaned over the bed, looking wistfully at Dragomir. "...I'm going to be so lonely without you."
“Two weeks!?” Dragomir repeated, opening his eyes completely and wishing he hadn’t, but keeping them open nevertheless. To be off of work for two full weeks was going to be nearly unbearable, especially since he wouldn’t get to be with Niles, after he’d promised not to let him out of his sight…
“Yes, and even after that, you might need to use crutches and limp around for a while,” Viorica piped in, having come over to stand next to Niles. At Dragomir’s almost pouting expression she added, “Just be glad the bullet didn’t shatter your femur. You’re really lucky, Dragos.”
Dragomir sighed and nodded to her before turning back to Niles. “At least I’ll still get to see you in the evenings...right?” He made it a question last minute, double checking with his sister that he wouldn’t be confined to the hospital for his recovery. He hoped he wouldn’t; two weeks away from Niles and work was bad enough, and to not be able to be with Niles at night after hours—Dragomir didn’t think he could handle it.
“I don’t see why not, as long as you rest and don’t try to move around.” Viorica smiled sympathetically. She knew Dragomir had dealt with these sorts of injuries many times before, and trusted him to report any abnormalities he noticed. Additionally, she knew Niles would do everything he could to take care of her brother and figured he’d probably get better care if he didn’t have to stay.
Dragomir managed to smile up at Niles with relief and closed his eyes, only to open them again momentarily. “Thank you for helping me, Niles. I know you pulled me back and protected me… It could have been a lot worse.” Changing his tone from serious to a little more jocular he added, “That’s twice you’ve saved me in the middle of a battle, you know. I really owe you my life.” He laughed, kissing Niles’s hand.
Niles blushed and smiled. "It makes up for all the times you've saved my life." He squeezed Dragomir's hand. "Oh, I'm so glad you're all right. I love you. I'm so happy that you can come home, too."
At the comment, Viorica appeared out of nowhere brandishing two long, wooden crutches. "Here you go!" she chirped. "Dragos can move around on these, if he wants, but not too much, okay, Niles?" Niles nodded, accepting the crutches, listening to Viorica's instructions. "Don't let him do anything that makes him break a sweat, or breathe hard, and don't let him strain the leg, or do anything that would rip open the wound under any circumstances." She suddenly smirked at Dragomir, then looked back to Niles. "So I guess you guys are going to have to get creative for a little bit, okay Niles?"
Niles blinked at her, confused. "...about what?"
Dragomir blushed and rolled his eyes at her. Honestly, she didn’t have to be quite so suggestive. It wasn’t her business what they did together. But really, as he thought about it, she did have a point…sex was going to be rather challenging with his injury. Blushing even more, he chortled lowly and grinned. They’d think of something.
Choosing to leave it at that—Niles would figure it out eventually—Dragomir pushed himself up onto his elbows and managed a sitting position, shaking his head lightly to clear it. He rubbed his eyes again and took the crutches from Viorica, positioning them carefully in front of him and placed his good left leg on the floor. Then, putting all of his weight onto it and the crutches, he gingerly made his first move forward. It hurt like hell, but Dragomir knew he’d have to get used to the jarring movement and the pain it caused or else be bedridden the entire time he was recovering. Wincing, Dragomir looked over to Niles. “Are we ready to go?” He asked through clenched teeth. Getting home and getting to be with Niles, it was more than worth the effort it took to bear the pain.
Niles nodded, wishing he could do something to ease Dragomir's pain. Still, soon they'd get to the automobile, and Dragomir would get to rest. However, the walk to the parking lot was much longer than it usually was, and he was very grateful when they finally made it so Dragomir could rest and feel better. The drive was slow, but it was all right, since Dragomir was able to be resting, and Niles was glad that he could pull up close to the door and help Dragomir inside.
The stairs were a bit of a challenge to overcome, and Niles felt terrible at the way Dragomir gritted his teeth and winced, but finally, after what seemed like eons, they made it to the bedroom, and Niles hurried ahead to arrange the bedclothes so that it would be more comfortable before helping Dragomir onto it and sitting gently beside him. "There, is that all right? Is there anything I can do for you?" He wanted to do anything he could to help Dragomir.
Dragomir sighed, using his arms to rearrange his leg more comfortably as he settled onto the bed. It was nice to take the weight off of it again, as even with the crutches, his leg still throbbed and ached terribly. Lying with his leg out stretched and horizontal was just about the only thing that made it tolerable, and Dragomir realized regrettably that he’d probably have to heed Viorica’s instructions for recovery implicitly, for once. Still, for right now, lying on a bed with Niles didn’t seem too bad at all.
“No, I think I’m about set.” Dragomir nodded and slipped his arm around Niles’s waist, pulling him a little closer to complete his state of comfort. “Actually…” Dragomir smirked; there was something Niles could do to make him feel better. Leaning over slightly, Dragomir pushed his lips to Niles’s in an eager kiss.
“That’s exactly what I needed.” Dragomir grinned when they broke apart for air. He leaned back again and held Niles close. As much as he’d been fighting losing consciousness earlier, he realized that he really was exhausted. Now, however, he welcomed rest, and he smiled down at Niles and murmured contentedly as he allowed his eyes to flutter shut, “I think that with you here, even if it’s only after work, I’m bound to make a fast recovery.”
Dragomir opened his eyes slowly, unconsciously flexing the muscles in his right leg as he tried to work out the unusual numb stiffness. He was only rewarded however, with a searing pain in his leg, and gnashed his teeth together to keep from cursing. Even though the sun was already rising, Dragomir hoped his squirming hadn’t woken Niles, who had fallen asleep in his arms; he didn’t want his injury to disturb both of their rests.
Niles murmured in his sleep upon Dragomir's movement and rolled over, snuggling closer into Dragomir's arms. He didn't want to get up yet...but, as he slowly came into consciousness, he realized it was a work day, and he'd have to get up soon. After putting it off for a few more minutes, he opened his eyes and placed a soft kiss on Dragomir's lips; he didn't want to wake Dragomir if he was still asleep, and he knew the rest would help him recover quickly. However, when Dragomir opened his eyes and kissed him back, Niles realized that he was indeed awake and informed him that he would be back as soon as work was done and instructed him not to do anything that took too much energy because Niles wanted him to get better quickly so he wouldn't have to go to work alone. Then, with a final kiss to Dragomir's cheek, he hurried to get dressed and head out to work.
The drive felt positively lonely without Dragomir, and by the time Niles made it to work, he was beginning to think that these would be the worst two weeks of his life. He made his way to the office glumly, knocking and entering with a lack-luster, "Good morning, Sir."
The Lt. Colonel grinned at him. "Chin up, Christian, I know you're lonely without Hirlea, but I have someone else for you to work with in the interim." She motioned to the new desk which Niles now noticed had been placed on the other side of his from Dragomir's. Standing in front of it was a man that Niles had never seen before. He wasn't nearly as handsome as Dragomir, but Niles still found him attractive, with his black hair and dark blue eyes contrasting against his pale skin.
"This is Captain Julian Kaiser, who has just been transferred to our unit. While your commanding officer is out of work with his injury, your orders are to make sure he is given all the information we have to date on the Berceuse Malheureuse and make sure he is fully prepared, should we need him in any upcoming plans. You are to take his orders until Hirlea returns. Understood?"
Niles blinked at her. "Oh, yes sir!" he replied quickly, before turning back to the Captain. Bowing deeply, he smiled brightly at the other man. "Nice to meet you, sir! I'm Warrant Officer Niles Christian, at your service!" This new person seemed friendly enough; though he would miss Dragomir, maybe things wouldn't be entirely too bad.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Julian inclined his head with a slight smile. Before the Warrant Officer’s arrival, Julian inquired about his temporary assistant, but had been expecting someone entirely different than the slender blond and very attractive Warrant Officer, and found himself pleasantly surprised. “I’m most grateful for your assistance, though you’ll have to forgive me for troubling you; I’m quite ignorant in the matters regarding the Berceuse Malheureuse, and I may be asking you quite a few questions.”
Niles smiled in response. "I understand, and I'm sure there's nothing I'll need to forgive you for, sir." Even as he talked, he felt nervousness creeping up his body; this new Captain wouldn't necessarily be as forgiving as Dragomir, and he had to do his best. "However, I apologize in advance because I'm sort of dense, and I'll probably mess up a lot, and I hope you'll be able to forgive me, sir. I'm really happy, though, to help you, sir." He tried his hardest to make a good impression; Captain Kaiser seemed kind enough, and he was eager to have another person who didn't hate him.
Following his superior back to his desk, Niles realized that multiple files on the Berceuse Malheureuse were already laid out. Smiling obediently, he asked, "What would you like me to do, sir?"
“Please have a seat,” Julian said congenially as he folded his fingers atop an envelope of papers. He found reports and the like to be quite dry, and had an abhorrence of reading them. Julian preferred to hear the accounts first hand, and trusted that his striking blue-eyed subordinate could provide him with a much more in-depth and personal description of important events and persons. “What can you tell me about the Berceuse Malheureuse, Warrant Officer Christian?” he asked kindly, leaning forward with interest.
Niles smiled as he pulled his chair over and sat down next to the Captain. He was glad he was being so nice, and Niles dared to hope that maybe they could get along. "Well, I've been working this case since last October, so I can tell you everything I've learned since then. Let's see..." He thought for a moment. "Well, I guess I ought to start with the basics. The Berceuse Malheureuse is a crime organization for which the major person in command, as far as our information goes, is a man named Donavan D'Aubgine. D'Aubigne is an extremely elusive man, and we don't have much information on him. We know that he's a master of disguise, and that he's willing to kill his own men for his personal advancement. He is extremely charismatic, but brutal to anyone who crosses him...and, sir...I speak from experience. He also was last seen with a young boy whom he called by the name of 'Esparanza,' who he used as a shield from fire, and example of his cunning." He smiled sheepishly. “Does that all make sense, sir? Let me know if I'm not doing a good job."
"Yes, thank you. I find it difficult to absorb information unless there's a personal significance." Julian admitted, smiling again. He knew the Berceuse Malheureuse by reputation only, and he'd certainly heard of Donavan D'Aubigne, but newspapers lacked the eloquence to hold his attention, so all of his information up until now was gained through speculation or rumor. Aside from that, to keep continuity, Julian liked to hear the necessary information from a single source, and he was enjoying listening to the way the Warrant Officer spoke. He was fascinated by words and the nuances that could be learned about a particular person just by listening to their enunciation, and already he found the Warrant Officer to be quite intriguing. "And, if I may be so bold as to inquire, you mentioned that you knew his brutality from experience. Have you had the misfortune of an encounter with D'Aubigne in person?"
Niles smiled, glad to be useful. "I'm so glad, sir!" However, his tone darkened slightly as he addressed his superior's question, nodding slowly. "Yes, sir...I very nearly killed D'Aubigne, and, for revenge...he...well, sir, I-I still have the scars to show for it." He shook his head quickly, bringing the cheerful smile back to his face. "I'm sorry to bother you with my personal problems, though, sir, and I can assure you that I recovered in full." He knew that his superior had probably asked because of curiosity, but still, Niles was somewhat touched that he cared enough to ask.
"Anyway, the Berceuse Malheureuse have been known to deal in many and varying nefarious practices, but they often manage to stay one step ahead of the military, so we haven't been able to do much, because our plans to invade their meetings have been found out before we get there. There is information to support the statement that the Berceuse Malheureuse has spies throughout the ranks of the military, but it is not a formal statement, and thus has no formal backing. ....And that's about all I can think of on the spot, sir...do you have any specific questions...?" He smiled, waiting for a hopefully-positive response.
“As of yet, no, none about the Berceuse Malheureuse, in particular.” Julian shifted his position slightly, propping his elbow on the desk and resting his chin against his hand. “I do however, have a few questions about you, Warrant Officer.” His lips curled slightly, almost forming a smirk. “Forgive me if it seems I’m prying, but I find myself inexplicably curious about you, and since we’re going to be working together in the future, I hope you deem it expectable that I might ask a few questions?” Julian smiled brightly to show the innocence of his request. Really, he was genuinely curious about the Warrant Officer and found him interesting. It was a rare person that could capture his attention so quickly, and quite so entirely, and as such Julian hoped to learn more about him, about Niles Christian, so that he could discover just what it was that he found so appealing.
Niles blinked, blushing unconsciously. "M-me, sir?" He was surprised that his superior would want to know about him, but, he supposed, it certainly couldn't be a bad thing, and so he broke into a happy smile. "Of course, sir! Whatever you want to know, please, feel free to ask." He looked up at Captain Kaiser, cocking his head slightly to one side and smiling expectantly.
Julian found that single subtle reaction quite adorable, and his smile momentarily broke into a grin. “Do you like poetry, Warrant Officer?” He kept his tone serious; to Julian, poetry and literature were everything and not something that could be spoken of lightly. He knew now that he found the Warrant Officer irresistible, even if he had no rational basis for his feelings. He was attractive, of course, and remarkably interesting, but Julian wanted to make sure he had substance, too.
Niles nodded quickly, smiling. He loved reading; before Dragomir, it had been what he spent most of his time doing, and had read many books of poetry during his long, lonely hours. He found it quite beautiful, even if he didn't always understand the deeper meaning, and was very impressed with those who wrote poetry. He had taken a stab at it once before, and had failed miserably, so he knew the level of skill that it took.
"Oh, yes, sir, I like poetry a great deal! I've read quite a few books of it...I'm especially fond of sonnets, Shakespeare, in general. His 150th is my favourite, I think..." he said thoughtfully. "I also really like Wordsworth's 'To a Sky Lark,' and Keats' 'To Autumn'...and Shelly and Byron are also really good, don't you think?" He smiled sheepishly. "I think people who write poetry are so talented...I could never write anything, myself, and I really admire anyone who can." Suddenly realizing that he was rambling, he stopped suddenly and put a hand to his mouth. "Oh, I'm so sorry, sir, I went on for far too long. I'm sorry I didn't answer your question concisely."
By the time the Warrant Officer had finished listing his favorite works and authors, Julian was at the edge of his seat, riveted. They had so many favorites in common! And yet, he kept his expression cool and composed, even while internally, he was bubbling with excitement. “No, not at all,” Julian said quickly, waving his hands dismissively. “I admire your enthusiasm.” He smiled and refolded his fingers as a means of self containment. “And I must complement your exquisite tastes.” Julian said, as he began wringing his hands, finding it quite difficult to be still. “I personally adore poetry and sonnets in particular, not unlike yourself,” Julian explained, excusing the overzealousness he worried would be apparent. When he’d calmed himself again, and placed his hands back on the desk, he said rather more wistfully than he’d intended, “I think, then, that I shall have to compose a sonnet for you.”
Niles brightened, looking at his superior in excited disbelief. "A sonnet? For me? Oh, sir, that would be simply wonderful! No one's ever written anything for me before, and certainly not poetry!" Though it wasn't something Niles particularly felt was causing a huge hole in his life (Dragomir's illiteracy never really bothered him, and the idea of poetry never really crossed his mind in relation to him), but the idea of someone writing such a beautiful, important thing all for him simply made him bubble with excitement. "Oh, sir, I don't know what to say...I'd love it." He smiled gratefully, truly happy that he had found another person who liked him and with whom he shared interests. "I'm so glad you like sonnets and poetry, as well...I've never had someone to talk to about those sorts of things before. I know a lot of people don't like Shakespeare, but I really think his sonnets are amazing...though, I do wish I spoke Albionian, so that I could read them in their original text...I don't know, but I've heard they're even more powerful in their native language." It was strange to talk about a subject like this, but it felt good, and so he smiled at the Captain and hoped he didn't mind.
Seeing the Warrant Officer so excited imbued Julian with and even stronger desire to compose something truly beautiful for him, something reflective of his own loveliness. He was both determined and eager to begin writing, but he knew he had to wait, and trusted that his thoughts would only gather more potency the longer he got to spend in the presence of the Warrant Officer. As his newest muse continued to speak on the exalted subject of Shakespeare, Julian refocused himself on the words the Warrant Officer was saying, rather than just on the fact that it was he who was speaking. “Oh yes, they’re truly exquisite in Albionian…” Julian trailed pensively, but caught himself and tried to conclude his nearly-unfinished sentence. “Impeccable, in fact.” Then, realizing an explanation was needed, he explained, “When I was a boy, I set out to teach myself Albionian, with the goal in mind that I should one day read Shakespeare.” He smiled slightly and pressed the tips of his fingers together thoughtlessly. “I labored tirelessly growing up to learn as many languages as I could so that I could pursue my passion for literature, and I’m proud to say, as a result of my efforts, I’m near fluent now.” Julian always under-exaggerated his talents; he was actually completely fluent in several major tongues, but by leaving it vague, he found he received a better reaction.
Niles's eyes widened with amazement as the Captain spoke. "Fluent? Wow, that's so amazing, Sir! What languages do you speak? Do you think you could say something for me?" He laughed slightly at himself, it was a silly request, but Niles had never mastered any language he had been taught, and so he marveled that someone could be so good at it. "I'm sorry to be making requests. Only if you want to, sir. I'd just like to hear, it's such a wonderful talent."
“But of course, I’d be happy to speak for you.” Julian bowed graciously while seated and straightened, looking into the Warrant Officer’s stunning blue eyes. “O, from what power hast thou this powerful might? With insufficiency my heart to sway?” Almost letting a smirk to show itself on his lips, Julian finished reciting the first two lines in Albionian of the memorized 150th Sonnet Shakespeare had written with a smile and an explanation of what he’d said before continuing to answer the Warrant Officer’s previous question. “I grew up speaking Allemangnese with my mother, and it was my father who first taught me Gallian. On my own, I studied a few others; five, all together, and I intend to keep learning as many as I can.” Julian said humbly in such a manner he was sure that it would impress.
Niles's eyes widened. "You speak five languages!? That's amazing! And your Albionian sounds so good, too!" He clapped his hands together in delight. "You can compose poetry and you're so good with languages...you're so talented!" Niles had never known someone with so many language-related talents before, and he was completely taken. "Maybe you could teach me some someday...I mean, if you wouldn't mind, sir. I'm really not very good with languages, but since you're so good..." He shrugged, blushing slightly with embarrassment. "I mean—well, never mind. Sorry, sir."
“Oh no, please don’t apologize. I’d be delighted to instruct you,” Julian said rather overeagerly. Correcting his tone, he continued, “What would you like to learn? I don’t feel that I’m quite qualified to tutor Albionian, but for you, Warrant Officer, I’m certain I could make an exception.” Julian’s lips twitched slightly, but his suppressed the impending smirk. For Warrant Officer Christian, he’d make any exception.
"Oh, would you? I'd love to learn Albionian!" He smiled brightly. "I'm sure I have my old textbooks around somewhere...would you like to come to my house sometime? I have a library, and a study, or whatever you'd like." He hesitated, then realized it was sort of a strange offer for someone he'd only met that day. "I mean...I hope that doesn't seem strange or something. You wouldn't mind, would you?”
“Not at all, thank you for such a generous summons.” Julian beamed, this time doing nothing to suppress his elation. “Perhaps, since you’ve been so kind as to invite me to your home, I should extend an invitation as well.” He bowed again slightly, a little worried that his offer would seem too forward. Julian had, however, already been mulling over it in his head, and he felt now was an apt time to make his suggestion. “Please, allow me to treat you to dinner sometime soon.” It was bold, but Julian was keen for the opportunity to get to know the Warrant Officer outside of work, and really, why should he wait? The Warrant Officer certainly seemed receptive, and for once, Julian was interested as well.
Niles blinked. "M-me...?" He was surprised, but quickly recovered. "Why--I'd love to! Thank you very much, sir."
However, Niles had been so wrapped up in talking to his superior that he hadn't noticed the Lt. Colonel making her way over to his desk. When he suddenly realized she was there, he started slightly. "Oh—sir!"
Corinne raised an eyebrow. She had been distracted from her own work by the chatter that Christian and the new Captain were causing and had been dismayed to mind that Christian was seeming a little too friendly to his temporary superior than seemed right. She knew he was naive and a bit dense, but she decided, for Hirlea's sake, she ought to intervene. "I take it this conversation is work related?"
Niles blushed. "Oh, um...yeah...yes, sir."
Corinne nodded sternly. "So, Christian, how is Hirlea doing?"
Niles brightened at the mention of his true superior. "Oh, Dragomir's doing well...he's resting, and his leg seems to be healing well, sir."
Corinne nodded again. "I'm glad to hear that. Now, please stay on task."
Niles was back to being embarrassed. "Yes, sir." Then as she walked away, he turned back to Captain Kaiser, smiling sheepishly. "I'm sorry I distracted you, sir."
“Alas, I think the blame must fall on me. After all, I asked for the rather unorthodox explanation of affairs, and proceeded to distract us both with thoughts of poetry and language.” Julian laughed lightly and opened the envelope in front of him, glancing over to the Lt. Colonel as he did so, putting on a show of getting to work. However, his superior’s question to the Warrant Officer left him yet again curious about his assistant. Julian chose however, not to question him further; it was only his first day under the command of the Lt. Colonel, and he wanted to make a good impression.