Notes: A mood piece that's been waiting to be written since I read the Rev's story "A Good Thief."

Long Winter Nights

Dorian stood at the window of his darkened bedroom looking into the night. Somehow, he had thought that coming to his house in the city would make him feel less alone. Yet, looking out at the bright lights competing with the full moon overhead, Dorian felt more isolated than ever. At least in the North Downs he could see the moonlight reflected off the snow, turning the night that unmistakable blue glow of winter. Instead, he only saw the glare of the streetlights and dark slushy snow being thrown up by passing cars.

After several minutes, Dorian shivered and pulled the drapes, shutting out the cold glare of the night. He wished he could shut out the empty feeling he had within him with equal ease.

He was alone. Again.

Dorian tried to shake his melancholy thoughts from his mind as he crossed to the bed and switched on the lamp. He threw a quick glance over to the door, knowing all he need do was ask and James would very happily share his bed, even if it were only to keep him company. Even though the accountant was still annoyed with him for insisting on moving to London. James was always quick to forgive whenever the opportunity to get close to the Earl presented itself. Even now.

Dorian drew a deep breath, going on to change for bed, looking long and hard at himself in a mirror. How long would he continue in this solitude? Waiting. Hoping. Praying that…

Dorian closed his eyes. Best not to dwell on the negative, he thought as he pulled back the blankets and slipped into bed. He had been able to distract himself at Christmas, all the gaiety, the parties, and a new acquisition from an art collection that was being placed in storage. It would be several months before the theft was discovered. Several months after Mr. James had disposed of the less attractive pieces.

But that was last month. All the parties were over. The holiday decorations packed away. All the lights safely stored, leaving the long, dark, cold winter nights—alone. It was always easier to bear these cold nights when one had someone to snuggle up to.

Again, Dorian tried to shake these thoughts from his head. Dwelling on such things was not good for his spirits. Not at all. As he switched off the light, he wondered if he should go someplace warm until springtime. He had been teasing James with the idea whenever he whined about coming to London. Perhaps it wasn't such a bad one after all.

As Dorian mentally went through the list of locations that would very likely send Mr. James into a fit of apoplexy, he drifted off to sleep.


Sleep was not restful. Again.

Dorian found himself tossing and turning for most of the night, his mind filled with unwanted images of cold unwelcoming places rather than the warm, sun-kissed locations that he planned to tease James with. Just as he was settling under the blankets, he heard the sound of movement in the room.

"James, how many times must I tell you not to sneak into my room any longer?" Dorian scolded, turning over to switch on the light.

"Shall I tell him to stop?"

Dorian froze, his hand on the light switch. His heart jumped at the unexpected, and familiar, voice. "Major…?" he said softly. He switched on the light and quickly sat up in bed.

The Major's eyes narrowed against the sudden glare. He was in the easy chair near the bed. On the table beside him was a mug that very likely contained coffee. His cigarettes and lighter were beside the mug. Dorian wondered if it had been the sound of the cup being placed on the table that woke him. Or perhaps it was the sound of the Major crushing out the still smoking cigarette butt in an amazingly empty ashtray.

"How…? When…?" Dorian struggled to get his thoughts together. "How long have you been sitting there?" he asked finally.

The Major glanced at a wall clock. "About two hours."

Dorian's eyebrows went up, his eyes widening. "Two hours? You've been sitting there in the dark for two hours…watching me sleep?"

The Major startled the Earl further when he calmly replied, "Bonham told me you've been having trouble sleeping. I didn't want to wake you."

Dorian sat staring for a several very long seconds. "I…was worried about you," he said at last.

The Major merely grunted.

"How long have you been back from your mission?"

"A week. I've been in one debriefing after another. Now I have to go over everything again with the SIS in a bloody conference."

Dorian brightened. "Does that mean you'll be here a bit longer than a few hours?"

The Major gave a disgusted snort. "If the SIS are true to form, there will be one delay after another before the conference takes place."

For the first time in a very long time, Dorian broke into a bright smile. He shifted over in bed, patting the empty place beside him. He received a dark look in reply, which only caused him to brighten further. "Don't give me that look, Klaus. You look like death warmed up. I'm sure a short nap will do you some good."

"Getting in bed with you rarely ends in…sleep."

Dorian held up his left hand, putting his right on his chest. "No hanky-panky. Swear on my mother's grave."

Klaus was already slipping off his shoes. "Your mother is still alive," he said as he got to his feet.

"Whatever," Dorian said dismissively, patting the place beside him again. "You can sit on top of the blankets, if it will make you feel better."

Klaus nodded. "Only a nap," he said firmly. "I have to be at that damned conference at nine o'clock."

Dorian looked at the clock as the Major adjusted the pillows before getting on the bed and settling back. Plenty of time, he thought . When Klaus switched off the light, Dorian snuggled against the inviting warmth beside him that he had been aching for for so many months. He gave a contented sigh as an arm wrapped around his shoulders.

The exhausted officer closed his eyes, leaning his head back. He was asleep within a few minutes. Dorian listened to the man's soft snores and smiled to himself. He wanted to cherish every moment his beloved was with him. He leaned his head against Klaus's chest, putting an arm across him to snuggle up more.

This was how Bonham found them a few hours later when he came to tell the Major that Mr. Z had called with the message that the conference had been delayed a week. He placed the message beneath the officer's cigarettes where he would be sure to find it, going on to cover the Major with a blanket. Then he silently slipped from the room. Both his "bosses" needed their rest.