by Anne-Li

Author's disclaimer and notes: I don't own them, I just dream of doing so. Feedback is better than (some) birthday cakes. Corrections to my language are welcome. Ask if you want me to archive it anywhere. You may link to this story if you want or to my main page. 815 words. Written in December 2008.

Birthday story for Maf 2009!

Betaed by Heather Sparrows (Thank you!), Maf (Thank you for doing it so quickly despite a lot of other work!) and Kadorienne (Thank you!).

This fic is available translated to japanese by BasilLeaves! Thank you very much, BasilLeaves!

Twenty-three days a year Dorian dedicates solely to his gang. At the beginning of his career as Eroica, the greatest thief the world had ever known, he hadn't done so. However, after too many missed birthdays and disappointed expectations - culminating in him utterly forgetting John-Paul's graduation ceremony and subsequent celebration and everyone giving him the cold shoulder for weeks on end afterwards - he finally got his act together. He invested in alright then, stole - a limited edition, hand-drawn calendar - the one with the, ahem, very friendly male twosomes ... With considerable help from Bonham's excellent memory, he had painstakingly filled in important dates such as birthdays, upcoming competitions and so on. As such things are wont to do, several events coincided, which did not jibe with Dorian's original intention. So, another plan was quickly devised.

Eight years later his gang consisted of an even 20 members - some more involved and dedicated to his cause than others, maybe, but twenty nevertheless. So - add New Year's Eve, Christmas and Dorian's own birthday and it all added up to two events a month- with the Red-Gloria Birthday Carnival dominating July. Dorian, the born romantic, hoped for a summer wedding to his German Liebling to bring up the total to an even twenty-four celebrations, but that was - if ever so - still just a tantalizing future prospect.

Birthdays and the likes were, of course, always acknowledged with gifts selected with great care and then ceremonially presented. Quite apart from that, though, each member was allotted one day a year during which Dorian dedicated all his time to that person only. In the early years, some nights might also have been dedicated, but not long after meeting a certain distant relative of the Habsburg family, any affectionate gestures towards his gang went no further than friendly hugs or kisses. On the chosen day, the "victim" was not alerted in advance, Dorian just whisked the man away - after having ascertained that he had no pressing engagements, of course - for a full day of fun and play. What exactly took place naturally depended on each gang member's personal interests.

Rudy, for instance, was a poker player. They would generally fly to Monte Carlo or over to Las Vegas and spend a tuxedo-clad evening gambling for high stakes. Well - Rudy would, while Dorian encouraged him, never strayed from his side and in general acted as his lucky charm. A charm that actually worked, since Dorian made sure in advance that Rudy really would win big. If Rudy ever caught on to the latter, he never let on, but accepted each victory with near James-like glee.

More often than not, the day Dorian selected for Bonham happened in late winter. Bonham liked nothing better than to stay at home. Well, they did go for long, slow walks together, talking about everything and nothing at all. They never went to town or something, though; they preferred to cosy up in Dorian's rooms, with a birch wood fire burning merrily. They would eat well, play chess, watch a movie together and just luxuriate in the shared peace. Sometimes Dorian suspected that Bonham Day was as much for himself as for the oldest of his friends, as they always left him feeling well rested and completely at ease.

John-Paul was all about the ponies. Good food too - that was almost a given during all the Special Days, one way or another - but mostly his interest lay in the world of equines. A visit to a stud farm or an auction or some show was usually on the schedule - or maybe a day at the races. Ascot for Derby Day was a common enough occurrence - with Dorian having fun participating in the hat parade. The actual races were a little difficult for Dorian to ensure the successful outcome of John-Paul's betting in, but he did his best. They often went riding together - racing their horses for some given goal - a tree, a house, a clearing. The loser would have to kiss the winner - and Dorian knew how to admit defeat gracefully when it suited him.

"Jamesie, my dear. What do you say about picking strawberries in the garden and then selling them at a stand by the road?"

"Can I take pictures of you and the buyers and sell them too?"

"Of course you can. I'll even sign the pictures for them, at an extra charge. And when it gets dark we can crawl into town and loot the wishing fountains for pennies."

Everyone is much happier these days, Dorian included. The other 342 days he dreams of dedicating to Major von dem Eberbach.

The End

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