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July 2...

"Nein!... Nein!"

Darius jerked up at the sound of the moans. He quickly moved out from under his blankets and hurried
to his guest's side.

The young Austrian was shivering and moaning on the pallet that Darius had spread out for him on the floor.
"Nein," he moaned softly. "Nein…nein…" He shivered more and his cries grew louder. "Nein! Nein! Bitte! Nein!"

"Wilhelm!" Darius knelt beside him and shook him gently. "Wilhelm, wake up!"

Wilhelm jerked awake. He didn't sit up, just looked wildly around.

Darius gently clutched his shoulder. "It's all right, Wilhelm," he said softly. "You're safe."

The Austrian's eyes focused and he sat up, looking around to either side of him. "Daniel?" he murmured,
confusion in his voice. He looked around, his apprehension rising. "Daniel? Eva? Where are they?"

"Shhh," Darius said reassuringly. "They're safe. You and Duncan left them with their families back in Amsterdam,
remember?"

"Amsterdam," Wilhelm mumbled. "Yes…they're…" He took a breath. "Forgive me."

Darius smiled. "There is nothing to forgive. You'd been taking care of them for so long you're not going to be used
to them not being with you for awhile. But they're safe and so are you."

"But the others weren't…," Wilhelm's haunted eyes were anguished. "The others…" His voice trailed off, and his face
contorted as he wrapped his arms around himself and began to tremble violently.

Close to tears, Darius put his arms around him and held him close. This young Austrian: so pale, so thin,
and so heartbreaking. Darius had lost count of how many times his heart had broken and how many silent tears
he had shed as he had thought of all the young man had suffered. Him and all the others...

Darius gave a deep sigh and silently steeled himself. His guest needed him to be strong, so he would be.
"Wilhelm," he said gently, "This floor is hard and it's drafty at night. Will you please reconsider and get into the bed?"

Even as the youth turned his pale haunted eyes to his, Darius knew what the answer would be.


*Flashback*

The Week Before

The young Austrian had spoken very little since the Highlander had left him at St Julien, but when Darius told
him that for the duration of his stay he would have his bed, the youth immediately protested, albeit in a soft little
more than whispered voice.

"Where will you sleep, Father Darius?"

"Don't worry," Darius said with a gentle smile. "I will spread some blankets on the floor."

Wilhelm shook his head. "This is your home. I am not going to take your bed. I will sleep on the floor."
He lowered his eyes. "I've slept in worse."

Darius' face darkened with pain as he considered just how true those words must have been for the young Immortal.
"I have no doubt of that, Wilhelm." He said gently. "That is why you need to take the bed."

Wilhelm's voice was whispered, anguished. "I can't, Father Darius. IIcan't."

"Wilhelm," Darius whispered, filled with concern. "Why can't y-?"

"I can't!" Wilhelm practically shouted. "I don't de-..." His voice broke, his eyes brim full of anguish and guilt.
"Please," he continued brokenly. "Please don't order me."

Order him? This young man was afraid that he would order him? And then he remembered again where Wilhelm
had been. Oh yes, he would have heard too many orders, seen what happened to those who didn't obey...
or obey fast enough.

"Very well, Wilhelm," Darius said finally. "I will spread out a pallet for you, and one for myself as well."

Wilhelm's eyes widened in dismay "But, Father Darius,-"

Darius cut him off. "Wilhelm, you are my guest; I will neither order nor command you. But I can not
and will not
sleep in a bed while you sleep on the floor! If you insist on sleeping there, I will as well."
He gave a brief smile
"After all, I've slept on the ground before."

"But-,"

"No more arguments, Wilhelm."

At that quiet command, Wilhelm instantly become silent and lowered his eyes.

Darius' heart broke again as he realized that he had just inadvertently given the young man an order.
He reached out and held the youth tightly. How? he thought frantically, How can I help free him from
the guilt which consumes him and the obedience beaten into him?

*End Flashback*


July 2...

Now, as he held the trembling youth for the seventh night in a row, the question once again
came back to haunt him.

And how to help to help him cope with the demons that haunted him?

Wilhelm had been having nightmares almost every night. Darius had noticed that he never screamed,
just moaned and cried softly. And even when it was obvious that the dreams were horrible, he almost
never thrashed. It was almost as if, even in sleep, he was afraid to move.

"Wilhelm," Darius asked softly. "Would you like to tell me what you were dreaming about?" Darius knew
that it was important for Wilhelm talk about it, but so far the youth never had.

This time though, Wilhelm gave a shuddering sigh and began to speak. "Back at the first place I was taken.
Two of the guards..." he paused, "I hadn't done anything. They did it for no reason…no reason."

The cruel often need none, Darius thought sadly.

"They started beating me," Wilhelm whispered. "They beat me…kicked me, over and over.
All while they were doing it they cursed me. They called me a stupid swine, a stupid son of a whore."
He swallowed and his trembling increased. "I was screaming in pain…but they kept beating me.
The other guards were watching and…laughing."

Heart breaking Darius held Wilhelm tighter.

Wilhelm paused again and then whispered "They beat me…over and over and over." He swallowed hard.
"They just kept beating me. They beat me until I couldn't cry out any more."

He squeezed his eyes tightly shut and began to violently tremble. "They…they wouldn't stop even when…"
His trembling increased even more and he grew sobbing, gulping breaths.

Even when what, Wilhelm? Darius wondered.

"They… they didn't stop."

There's something you're not telling me.

"They kept on beating me and they were still laughing. They beat me until I passed out."

Darius' heart tightened. Was that how it happened, Wilhelm? Was that your First Death?

Wilhelm continued. "When I woke up…it hurt. It hurt so much. I was lying in the mud…covered with my own blood.
And I saw…" he drew more sobbing breaths. "I couldn't stand up. I almost couldn't move. Everything hurt.
I wanted to die, just so that it would stop. I wanted to die."

His shuddering continued. "I limped for days afterward. I was in pain for weeks."

No, that hadn't been it; you would have had no injuries. His heart breaking for the youth, Darius hugged
him until the trembling had finally ceased.

When it did at last, he gently lay the youth back down. "Wilhelm would you like for me to sit beside you
until you go back to sleep?"

The young Austrian nodded. Darius held his hand and sat with him for nearly an hour, until his eyes finally
closed and his breathing became soft and even.

When he was satisfied that his guest was asleep, Darius went back to his own pallet, lay down and allowed
the tears to come.