Lethal Attraction

by Anne-Li

Author's disclaimer and notes: I don't own them, I just dream of doing so. Feedback is better than a ProViva Active Tropical Juice. Corrections to my language are welcome as are comments! Ask if you want me to archive it anywhere. You may link to this story if you want or to my main page. 22.487 words. Partly inspired by a mail to EML many years ago, but I currently don't have it, so I can't credit the right person for it. Written in March 2007. For Heather Sparrows on her big day 2007. Was published in October 2007 in the Connotations 2007 con zine.

Warnings: crossover. Possibly slightly AU, mostly with regards to timelines.

Betaed by Heather Sparrows (Stellar job, as always) and Kadorienne (Very big thank you!). Remaining errors are all mine.

If you want you can also read/download the story as a doc file (without graphics).

The safe was not of the simple make that Klaus had been told he would find. That, he would have been able to crack, given that he had been briefed in detail on how to do just that. Alas, no. Of course not. Once again the gathered information, supposedly from reliable sources, had turned out to be good for nothing but possibly fire kindling.

Up until then the mission had been going fairly well. The target lived on the outskirts of a small village in Scotland. To get there had provided no greater obstacles than having to eat British food and be carted around in non-German cars. He and the Alphabet had spent 48 hours staking out the property. The tenant, a Mr. Percival Fudge, was the suspected leader of a small cell belonging to a larger terrorist organization. The man had been on his regular lunch-break and had then left his humble home on the dot when he was supposed to. Apparently the people in the village were of the trusting sort. A hedge circled the house, but the gate had been helpfully left unlocked. This allowed visitors inside so that they could knock on the front door. Said hedge also provided almost complete coverage from curious neighbours, should the visitors prefer to let themselves in on their own accord. To open the simple lock in the front door took Klaus all of seven seconds – he doubted that even Eroica could have done it all that much faster.

So far, so good. The safe had been right where it was supposed to be, as well – on the second floor, in the master bedroom (second room to the right), behind a rather garish painting portraying a silvery blue dragon with long, pointed horns. The fantasy animal had been realistically done, in strong colours – something Eroica would have coveted, no doubt. Klaus had moved the painting to the side – only to see a dark grey safe with gold lines running down the edges, rather than a pale grey one. The word "Farinsaati" was embossed by the lock, rather than "Wicksmόle".

He tried.

He failed.

The technique he had learned for the Wicksmόle didn't work, nor did the other tricks he had picked up over the years (often by watching a master going at his craft). Brute strength would be laughable against a Farinsaati and Klaus's favourite screwdrivers nothing but a feeble joke. All but hearing the ticking clock, Klaus could do nothing but admit temporary defeat. Neither he nor any of his men possessed the skill necessary to open the safe in the short time allotted to them before Mr. Fudge was to return home for the day.

Brushing back his long black hair from his face, Klaus glanced through the fly-spotted window and wasn't the least bit surprised to spot a thief standing just a block down the road from the house, looking with what seemed like genuine interest at the display of a bric-a-brac shop.

He jogged down the stairs and out onto the street. When he came within range he stuck his right index finger and little finger in his mouth and whistled sharply. When the thief looked up – as did a few other pedestrians – Klaus motioned for him to come.

"I always feel appreciated when a handsome man whistles after me, Major, " the Earl of Red-Gloria said by way of greeting. He wore a burgundy red suit and his enormous mane of blond curls was bound back with a gold-coloured silk scarf. "And what an unexpected surprise to see you in Scotland. A quaint little village this is, isn't it?" He smiled warmly at Klaus, like he so often did.

Klaus could already feel the onset of a headache. "Ja, ja, whatever," he said, turned and started walking back towards the cottage at a brisk pace.

"Ah ... Is there anything you want, Major?"

"For you to stop following me, peace on Earth and a cure for cancer. Since I'm getting none of that, can you open a Farinsaati safe? One of the newer models."

"I would stop following you, Major, if you but stopped running and let me catch up. But to answer your question – in my sleep and with a hair pin. What's in it for me, though?"

"Me not tipping off the local authorities that you're here to steal something," Klaus said, giving his regular opening bid.

"I'm merely here to visit some old friends," Dorian countered blithely as they jogged up the stairs in the cottage. The Alphabets on guard greeted their British sometimes-partner with amiable nods. None of them appeared particularly surprised to see him.

Klaus snorted in disbelief. He was fairly sure Dorian lied – or possibly obfuscated. If pressed the fop might even claim some of the Alphabet agents to be "friends" of his. He wouldn't be stupid enough to claim Klaus as such, not to his face. No, Klaus's money was on a theft. Even if the magpie was there primarily to see Klaus, which Klaus did not doubt, there would always be something worth stealing involved. Some painting, perhaps, or some rare chalice in the local church or a statue or whatever. At one time, in Copenhagen, Klaus had overheard a group of 'bets going over a tourist brochure, trying to guess the Earl's target. H had apparently won 50 marks.

"I won't tell Interpol that you're here," he offered next.

Then he walked alone, as Dorian had turned with the ease of a professional salsa dancer and was calmly heading back down.

Klaus caught the fop's arm to stop him, then quickly let go. "Then tell me what the bloody hell you're after!"

Dorian turned back towards him. "No more threats then, darling." He came back up the stairs, insinuating his arm under Klaus's as he did. Klaus quickly shook him loose. "I suppose a night in your bed would be too much to ask for? With you in it as well, mind you."

"I'll be awake the whole night, Magnum ready to blow your brains all over the wall if you as much as brush against me," Klaus countered easily. He was actually getting rather proud of his ability not to blow up at every indecent suggestions the fop made – it was no use anyway and a waste of strength and time.

"That's gross."

"Getting touched by you? Ja, I think so too." They stopped at the top of the stairs and Klaus waited to hear Dorian's real suggestion. The thief would always start with something sexual, which Klaus would turn down, before he would ask for what really interested him. At least the greedy bug accountant didn't seem to be lurking about, so perhaps NATO would get off easy this time around.

"This is Tavern Street 41, yes? Mr. Percival Fudge?"

Klaus wasn't the least bit surprised that Dorian knew, so he just nodded. Dorian always knew. For years Klaus had suspected first G, then A, then Z, then the Chief, then R and currently G again, of providing Dorian with the latest mission information. He had never been able to prove anything, though. "Ja."

"Oh, goodie. Then I want whatever is left in the safe when you've taken what you want."

Klaus wasn't the least bit surprised.

Since Dorian wasn't asleep he did require a little more than a hair pin to open the safe. However, he did open it in a timely fashion and – after trying to tease Klaus into kissing him as part of his "hero's reward" – as if! – stepped aside to let Klaus see.

The safe contained several old-looking, leather-bound books; four bejewelled daggers; two stoppered plain glass bottles with blue content and a beige folder. Klaus opened the latter and quickly established that it did contain at least some of the information he had been sent to retrieve. Then he opened his attachι case and put the folder in – followed by the books and the daggers. He managed to prick himself on one of the latter and hissed, annoyed with his clumsiness.

"Hey!" Dorian protested. "I say – I wanted those!"

Klaus allowed himself a small smile and a shrug. "You get what's left in the safe. That was what I promised." They probably wouldn't have any use for the daggers, but it was always amusing to be able to fool the thief. Besides, he would probably steal the daggers soon enough anyway.

Dorian threw up his hands in disgust, then grabbed the bottles and flounced off.

Not too shabby a mission after all, Klaus thought, feeling overall fairly pleased.

Klaus was sending each and every one of the Alphabets to Alaska. Up to and including Z. This time he wouldn't take no for an answer, he would send them, damn it!

They had just stood there! Stock still. Not a single one of them had moved – not even one had even reached for his gun!

Either send them to Alaska or trade them all in for the girls in Records! They might have thrown their purses at the attackers – that would at least have been something!

On leaving Mr. Fudge's cottage they had gone through the gate in the hedge when, on the other side, they had unexpectedly been surrounded by a group of black-clad men and women wearing masks. It had been as if the group had appeared out of empty air; suddenly they had just been there, attacking him and the Alphabet with some kind of slim fire-throwers. Klaus had at once pulled his Magnum – while the Alphabet had just stood there!

Could every single one of them be a KGB plant? Klaus asked himself as he ran through the dark forest with one hand to his burning chest. He had always had his suspicions that KGB had implanted some of his agents. Like G. And M. And N. And P. Not Q, perhaps - not even KGB could explain Q. R, certainly. S. Maybe even T. Though all 26 of them? Not even Z had moved! It was possible, he supposed. Why break cover now, though? Nothing about the terrorist organisation had pointed towards Russia.

He had tried to shoot the attackers, but his Magnum – better tended to than some infants, carefully oiled and cleaned and checked in minute detail – had taken that bloody moment to fail completely. Then he had been shot and – since they were surrounded and the Alphabet members were doing their imitations of deer in the headlights – had had no choice but to make a very tactical and very hasty retreat.

The group – possibly from the same terrorist organization as Mr. Fudge? – didn't seem to have gone into pursuit, but Klaus continued through the trees, frantically scanning the ground so that the speed he held wouldn't be literally neck-breaking. He held the attachι case against his chest, despite the fierce burn. The forest was dense, but also filled with several animal tracks, so he was able to keep a fairly good pace. He tried to run in a north-by-east direction – deeper into the forest, but also to the side so that he would eventually reach the road which circled the little village.

When he had run for a long while without hearing any pursuers he jumped behind a large, swarthy tree and whirled to see the path behind him.


Even as he looked, he jammed the attachι case between his knees and quickly emptied his Magnum. A quick click test worked without fail and he hastily reloaded the weapon. Since he couldn't very well test shoot it he could only hope that whatever had malfunctioned would not act up again.

His instincts screamed for him to backtrack and find out what really had happened to his subordinates. At the same time he knew that the information he carried was vital. If the NATO source was right, the terrorist group the beige folder contained information about was bent on wreaking havoc on the British isle. Thousands upon thousands of civilians might die. Klaus privately thought that the British government could do with a bit of reconstructing – and if certain of the country's citizens were to vanish from the face of the Earth he certainly wouldn't cry over the loss - but not by way of murder and mayhem.

"Death Eaters". Stupid name for a terrorist organisation anyway.

What bothered him most, though, was the admittedly rather uncharacteristic behaviour of his men.

Something must have happened. Could they have seen something I didn't? Some other weapon, perhaps? Something that made them hesitate? Something that might have stopped me too? He just couldn't conceive of what that something might have been.

As he ran the pain in his chest had intensified, but he was still too close to the terrorists to take the time to tend to the wound. So he started moving again, slower now, but with a clear goal in mind – to get out of the forest. First of all he needed to get the folder safe. Only then would he be able to find out what had happened. Klaus was not a religious man, but as he ran he prayed to God that he wouldn't return to find twenty-six bodies.

At least the Earl got away. Not that I care about what happens to that wanker!

It suddenly struck him as odd how silent the forest was and how dense the trees' foliage. Hardly any sunlight found its way to the ground and he had to squint to see the wild path he followed. The trees looked odd too. The faint light made it difficult to tell, but the trunks looked completely black, not just dark brown, while some leaves shone with a faint, silvery sheen.

Some kind of lichen that makes that glow? Like St. Elmo's fire at sea? I've never seen that before.

About an hour later he stopped for a breather and raised a hand to the now steadily throbbing wound. Even through the clothes he could feel a burning heat and a spiking pain. Since he figured he must have gotten away from the pursuers – few could follow his pace for that long without making sounds - he swiftly undid his jacket, followed by his shirt and undershirt, pushing them gingerly aside to access the damage.


The wound was ugly and it was easy to tell that it was more serious than just another addition to his growing collection of battle scars. A wide slash went down his left pectoral, oozing green pus and narrowly missing his nipple. Poison. He wasn't sure how, since the flame throwing thing couldn't very well have thrown poison too, but somehow the wound had been poisoned. A mere infection wouldn't look as bad. The slimy substance actually bubbled. Klaus had never seen the like of it. The surrounding skin had turned a dark, unhealthy red. When he touched it a searing pain flashed through him. He hastily removed his hand.

He started jogging again, but after a few steps slowed to a quick walk. The poison would spread with the pumping of his heart. If he walked he could still move fast while keeping his pulse down. Besides, he felt positive that he should reach the road any minute now. It arched around the village and the forest, so even if he had misjudged the direction he was walking in, he should reach it within the hour, at most. Then he would follow it back to the village. Perhaps he would even get lucky and be able to flag down a car.

About an hour later he felt hot all over and had started to have trouble breathing. When he came past a shallow stream, he stopped to gulp down a few mouthfuls. Then he bared his chest again and sacrificed part of his shirt to use as a towel as he cleaned the wound to the best of his ability. The fierce redness had spread downwards almost to his navel and inwards onto the other side of his chest. When he had to brush the infected area he bit back a howl, transforming it to a sharp hiss. Since he felt so warm he left his jacket by the stream before continuing down the wild path. Luckily the latter went fairly straight, so it should eventually take him to the road. Or so he hoped.

Something screeched far away and Klaus stopped in his tracks. Sounds like a big cat, he thought sluggishly. Only, there were no big cats in this part of Europe, as far as he knew. Someone mentioned a ... legend about a big black ... cat somewhere. Was that in Scotland? What I heard must have been ... something else. An owl, maybe.

Though he kept marching, no road ever came into sight. He began to wonder if he could have gone in completely the wrong direction. Otherwise he really should have reached the road. The very faint sunshine came from behind him, though, just like it should, so he must be going in an eastern direction, away from the setting sun. The road must be curving. I'm walking parallel to it. Ja, that must be it. Fuck ...

Somewhere in the shrubbery to his right a branch broke. To draw his Magnum again was a relief. A small animal ran over the road and he almost shot it, before sense stilled his itching trigger finger. The animal shone in the near darkness – the same silvery sheen as part of the surrounding foliage. It was an ugly animal too, like a little fat pig, but it jumped on its hind legs like a squirrel. Klaus shook his head in amazement, though shrugged off the strangeness. He was no expert on Scottish wildlife.

His breath grew very laboured and the burning heat travelled gradually lower. Finally he removed his shirt, binding it around his waist for if he would need more cloth later. The red had spread down to his pubic hair and across to his right nipple.

As darkness fell he stumbled up a small hill. From the top he could see over some of the trees, but saw nothing in any direction that wasn't more of the vegetation. With a heavy heart he trudged down again and continued in the same direction as before, since no other route offered a better alternative.

I'll die in this bloody British forest, he thought, trying out the idea in his head. The poison, whatever it was, seemed slow-acting but potent. Of course, there had always been a possibility of him dying during a mission. Preferably in Germany, but equally possible practically anywhere else on Earth. He had come to terms with that a long, long time ago. Not like this, granted, he had never considered this particular version of death's embrace, but still. At least it was not during torture or as the result of some stupid accident.

Long after the sun had set and only the faint moon and the strange lichen shone his way he refused to stop, though he panted hard against the weight of the poison on his lungs. Most of the time no light reached him at all. By then he no longer really remembered where he so desperately needed to go, only that it was imperative that he keep moving, because he carried something important that needed to reach somewhere.

Right. Left. Rechts. Links. Got to ... deliver. Rechts. Links. Things. Rechts. Links. The case. Rechts. Links. Rechts. Links. Rechts. Links. Not … let … Rechts. Links. Rechts. Links. … them be taken. Take them … Taken. Rechts. Links. Rechts. Links. Take them. Go. Must. Rechts … Links …

He stumbled, fell with a pained growl, but managed to get up again and continue.

"Rechts," he hissed out loud. " Links. Rechts … Links … Rechts … Links … Take them there. Not let the fop take them. Rechts. Links. Rechts. The fop. Links. Can't let. Links. Him. Nein, rechts, rechts – links. Rechts. Links. The fop …"

He remembered that the thief had wanted the things, so it must be he who he protected them from. That made sense. The British Lord always got in his way; wanting things that Klaus was unable to give.

Suddenly to walk became easier and he stopped in confusion to look around. Before him lay a long, narrow meadow, fairly well lit considering the night time. The grass was short and there were no strange roots to hinder his progress – sometimes he could have sworn that the roots on the path moved to try to trip him. He started walking again, despite the burning in the entire front of his body and that he wanted nothing but to lie down to rest.

Can't give him. What he wants. Even if I wanted to. Can't. He wouldn't want me ... if he knew. Should tell him. Wouldn't have to run then. Fuck, I'm not running – I'm not even walking.

He stood stock still, in the middle of the meadow, not knowing how long he had been standing there. Over the trees he saw only pitch black sky and what looked like a thousand glittering stars. He had never seen so many stars together or so clearly. They were ... fascinating.

Must ... walk. von dem Eberbach! Rechts! Links! Rechts! Links! Rechts – I've never seen that constellation before.

The stars over England were pretty much similar to the ones over Germany, or so he had thought. The angle of the Earth shouldn't allow for entirely new constellation. Still he was sure he had never seen that cluster before, forming a perfect M.

Dizzy ... he thought, while forcing himself to take another couple of straining steps. 'm not seeing straight. The image of Dorian smiling at him rose before his blurry eyes. He snorted.

Then there was a sudden pain in his knees and he forced his eyes to focus. Now he neither walked nor stood – he knelt on the path, swaying precariously. Apparently he must have fallen without even noticing it. He started to get up, but his knees refused to cooperate.

Rest, then. Just for a moment. Must go … Soon.

He had managed to get almost all the way through the glade. Just to the right of the path he noticed a small lake next to a tiny hill. The surface glittered seductively. Suddenly he felt dry to the bones.

Water. Yes. Then ... I can go. Ja …

With a Herculean effort he crawled the last meters. Finally he could drink deeply. It tasted better than the finest German beer. The liquid – which he somehow thought of as "bright" - soothed his boiling body and returned to him a few ounces of strength. While supporting himself shakily with one arm, he splashed icy water on his chest, moaning through his teeth at the sharp pain that followed.

He knew he couldn't stay there, so he managed to get up and stagger a few steps, reaching the little hill before his knees gave out. The grass was surprisingly soft to fall on and the ground blessedly cool against his burning flesh.

Nap. Ja ... Sleep. 30 minutes.

Though that was a lie. He felt fairly sure that if he went to sleep he would never wake up again. Darkness swirled around him and then the stars came down to play around him before everything went black.

Klaus woke with a start. Knowing that whatever had alerted him was potentially dangerous he automatically reached for his Magnum. Then he almost howled at the searing pain that wrecked the entire front of his body. Panting, he let his head fall back to the ground, looking around frantically to find what had disturbed what he instinctively knew ought to have been his final rest.

Stars. Stars! The stars themselves had descended and played before him in the glade! Bursts of shimmering light dashing this way and that.

Fever ... he thought sluggishly. Hallu … cinations. Stars ... They're not ... stars.

But they shone. White coats glittered in the moonlight, flashing tantalizing glimpses at him until a few moments later a spot of brightness came close enough for him to focus on it; letting him see a hint of a long neck and long legs on a long body. A swish of tail and a glimmer of mane.

Horses ...

There were no wild horses in Scotland, were there? Some parts of England had them, he seemed to recall, or rather some sort of ponies running wild, but what he now witnessed were no short, coarse beasts. He was no horse expert, though he rode quite well, but these were ... different.

Then one of them cantered up to the lake. There was a strange, musical clatter to its hoofbeats, as if the animal ran on a crystal surface. Just a couple of meters away from Klaus it stopped to lower its noble head to the water. Its coat seemed to reflect the moonlight and for the first time Klaus saw clearly the semi-translucent spiral horn that jutted out from its forehead. He could only stare.

A horned horse. A … unicorn. It's a … I must be ... hallucinating. Or dead.

But if he was dead, why did he feel so bloody weak? Was a dead man really supposed to hurt so much? Though he did feel a bit better than before. Funnily enough, something told him that the ethereal animal's approach had had something to do with revitalizing him.

More of the otherworldly creatures came to drink, all of them gleaming white unicorns. Klaus lay in silence, staring at the fairytale animals in open-mouthed astonishment.

The fop would have been ecstatic. It's like something out of one of his paintings. Except then there would probably have been some fat, naked woman about as well.

A group of gold-coloured, horn-less foals with spidery legs far, far too long for their small bodies, played some kind of catch game that gradually took them closer to the hill he lay against. Then one of the young ones nipped one of the others on the shoulder, before rushing straight towards him. It was a small thing, but if it trampled him he knew he would be severely wounded. Of course, a few broken bones would be the least of his problems, considering the fire that still coursed through him. Klaus knew that he should yell or wave his arms, but the lethargy he felt overwhelmed him.

In the last second the foal noticed him and leaped sideways with a frightened whinny. Then all of the small ones, neighing in obvious distress, rushed back towards the main herd. One of the adult animals freed itself from the rest and with a couple of long strides stood above Klaus, staring down at him with luminous, cornflower blue eyes. This one had a sturdy horn with a dark grey base and a hint of pink at the obviously sharp tip. Compared to the rest it had a more arched neck and a rounder, muscular body. It was the most beautiful creature Klaus had ever seen.

So close to the unicorn he felt rejuvenated. That it was its presence that returned to him some measure of strength he couldn't doubt. Perhaps he had even gained back enough to pull his Magnum. To make the draw had for many years been more a reflex than a conscious effort. Perhaps he would even have had the strength to pull the trigger and thus keep the beast from piercing him, as it clearly contemplated.

Instead Klaus let his head loll back, offering the horned stallion the only homage he could, given the circumstance – an easier target.

It whinnied. Through almost closed eyes he watched it bend closer. Then he gasped at the feel of the tip of the horn like an icy flame against his swollen chest. In the light from the equine's body he could see the green pus that seeped from the wound. The latter now covered most of his front. He relaxed back onto the ground, waiting patiently to be impaled. It would be a preferable death than to die from the poison.

A rumbling came from the right of the glade. Klaus tried to lift his head to see what had made the sound. At the clearing's edge he could discern a towering shape, but the darkness and his wavering vision couldn't make out whatever it was in detail. Could it be a threat to the unicorns? He jerkily reached for his gun and felt it slap willingly into the palm of his hand, when the unicorn stallion dragged the tip of its horn down his chest and he promptly passed out.

A deep, rumbling voice slowly made Klaus aware of his surroundings.

"Hrum-hum-hum-hum, ter tha' dark forest. Hrum-hum-hum-hum, ter catch a li'l dragon. Hrum-hum-hum-hum, on th' road ter Camelot. Hrum-hum-hum-hum, met one o' th' king's knights. Hrum-hum-hum-hum … Oh, hallo there, li'l 'un. Playing fox, are yeh, pretty?"

Something earth-smelling scratched down the ridge of Klaus's nose and he quickly opened his eyes to better access the situation. Then he blinked in surprise, as the person leaning over him was just too big to be believed. He began to move away sluggishly, uncomfortable with the closeness. That was when he realized that he was naked safe for his boxers and instead pulled the heavy cover up to his neck.

"No, no, pretty, none o' tha'. 'm not out ter hurt yeh. Don' strain yehrself."

The man filled up Klaus's entire field of vision. While the angle made his height difficult to determine, he had to be roughly 2.30 tall, with unruly, dark hair and a bushy beard. He had almost black eyes and a jolly smile. The latter was currently aimed towards Klaus.

"Yeh got ter be thirsty, pretty. Would some water go down?"

An over-sized wooden jug was held out to him and Klaus suddenly realised that he felt parched. "v'n 'm 'berbach!" he managed to squeezed through his rusty throat. "Not 'retty!"

The huge man chuckled and ... chucked him under the chin? Klaus felt his jaw drop in response. "Oh, I think yeh're. Verra pretty. Here now, Vernam Berbach, some water for yeh."

Klaus decided against beating the giant up for insisting him to be "pretty", considering that a) he felt weak as a kitten and b) he had yet to see anyone else around, which meant that he might be forced to rely on the other man's kindness for help until he felt stronger.

The wood pressed against his teeth and water splashed up on his lips, so he drank, knowing that he needed the liquid. "von dem Eberbach," he then said firmly. "Klaus von dem Eberbach."

"Eberbach," the giant repeated dutifully. "Tha' suits yeh. 'm Hagrid meself. Rubeus Hagrid, but everybody just calls me Hagrid, so don' feel formal 'bout it. Now, lay back, pretty, and let ol' Hagrid have a look at tha' wound o' yehrs."

Klaus hesitated, torn between the knowledge that he had been wounded badly and his in-born disgust at the thought of anyone pawing at him – especially someone nearly twice his size who insisted on referring to him as "pretty" ... Finally he stiffly lay back. When Hagrid pulled down the cover Klaus balled his hands into fists to keep from lashing out - Better save that until it's really needed. - and instead looked down to try to judge just how bad the wound really was.

The skin remained flushed, but was nowhere near as inflamed as the last time he had seen it, and the wide gash he had been prepared to see was now merely a bright, silvery scar. Klaus looked up sharply at his temporary host. "How long have I been unconscious?" Scars like that didn't just appear overnight, that he knew full well.

"Me an' Fang found yeh early mornin' yesterday. We were takin' a midnight walk, we did, up ter th' meadow ter see the li'l foalies, when we found yeh. Took yeh home we did and I patched yeh up. Had a li'l help from a friend o' mine, a pr'fessor from th' school I work at. He reckons someone got yeh good with a flesheater o' some sort. Tha' should'a kill'd yeh, but Ansirrannini helped yeh along. Ansirrannini's the lead stud o' th' herd. Fierce as yeh'll get 'em, but he 'as a good heart for the li'l uns and those in need. Those 'e c'n approach, tha' is."

Klaus couldn't quite make sense of this. The man clearly referred to an equine herd, but had he and that Fang-guy seen the unicorns? He wanted to ask, but surely what he had seen must have been real horses and the rest just an hallucination? If he asked, the man might think him mad.

"Where am I?" he asked instead. As a little boy he had been fascinated by the Narnia Chronicles and while his rational mind dismissed the notion of other worlds as ridiculous, at age eight he had wanted nothing more than to fight for King Peter in the battle of Narnia ...

"'n my hut at Hogwarts."

"Where exactly is this Hogwarts?"

"Why, it's 'n Scotland, pretty. Didn' yeh kno' tha'?"

"I'm German," he replied curtly.

"Ah, from Berlin then, I wager. Now, does this hurt?" The large man carefully touched the red flesh by the scar.

Oh, if I had a Mark for each I heard that assumption ... "Bonn, not Berlin. It burns some."

"Bonn, eh? Hmrph. This, then, does this hurt?" And then Hagrid touched the scar itself with his smallest digit.

Klaus screamed. The overwhelming sensation – not of pain, but of something indescribably good - wracked him and he struggled to get away. The giant hastily withdrew and Klaus collapsed, shuddering at the hot pulses that still made his body tremble.

"Sorry 'bout tha'," said the giant – he really did sound apologetic. "Didn' kno' it'd effect yeh like tha'. Should'a guessed. The venom, see, freely given to counter-act the spreadin' of th' flesh-eatin'. C'n do things like tha', s'm'tim's. No pain, then?"

Klaus mutely shook his head, not trusting his voice to carry. No pain, no. He wasn't sure quite what the incredible sensation had been, but pain was an old friend and that hadn't been it.

"Ah, good. Now, li'l one, yeh just rest a li'l and when Hagrid gets back he'll have a real nice breakfast for yeh, how's tha' sound? I'll jest be a few minutes."

The giant reached out and before Klaus had time to duck, he was once more chucked under the chin. Then Hagrid left. Klaus quickly looked around, plotting his escape. The large man seemed, for all his friendly words, decidedly unstable.

The room was large, clearly built with the giant in mind. All the furniture – table, two chairs, bed, bookshelf, cupboard and seaman's chest - were obviously home-made rather than factory-produced and store-bought, and they were decorated with fanciful flowers clumsily drawn in bright, strong colours. Heaps of knick-nacks laid spread around the place. Propped up against a table leg stood Klaus's attachι case. Hardly able to believe his good fortune he got out of bed and, keeping a sharp eye on the door as he did, snagged the case before getting back in under the covers. The exertion left him a little breathless, but all in all he felt in much better shape than he had any right to be. A quick sort through the material proved that nothing had been removed. Feeling relieved that he hadn't lost it somewhere during the hike through the forest, he put it down on the floor by the bed.

He contemplated getting up again and going through the cupboard and the seaman's chest, to see if he could find his clothes – or any clothes at all, if it came down to that, when the door reopened. Hagrid returned, carrying a huge platter loaded with food.

"Here yeh go, pretty," he said and carefully set the plate down by Klaus on the bed – there was plenty of space to spare. "The house-elves put it together for yeh, they know what yehr kind likes."

Doesn't look particularly German, Klaus thought, slightly puzzled. Where's the Fleischwurst, the leberwurst or the teewurst? At least that bread looks like whole grain, but there's not even coffee! Apple, pear, grapes, orange – it's a bloody fruit salad! No ham, no sausage, not even an egg. What does he think I am – a grass-eater? And "house-elves"? Funny thing to call servants.

"I want my clothes," he said as he lifted a roll with poppy seeds - or what he had thought were poppy seeds anyway, but which fizzed in his mouth.

"I asked th' elves ter wash 'em and mend 'em, should be done by now. I'll get 'em for yeh. Eat up now and I'll be back in three shakes o' a thestral's tail."

Klaus ate as much as he could get down. He even drank all of the strangely flavoured juice and felt better afterwards. Normally he would have been leery of eating something given to him by a total stranger, but for some reason he doubted that he had anything like poisoning to fear from the friendly-seeming giant. When he was done he got up again and tried to drape the cover around himself for protection. Finally he had to dismiss the idea as un-doable due to the thickness and size of the thing. Wearing only his boxers he padded over to the window by the table and looked out. Only a narrow strip of land could be seen, before a dense forest filled the remaining view. Then he heard voices and leaned closer. To the right, just barely within his field of vision, stood a tall man with long, black hair; pale skin and an eagle's beak of a nose. He wore a black robe.

"'s eatin' now," said Hagrid. His deep, rumbling voice was unmistakable. He had to be standing on the other side of the tall man. "Th' sweet un got ter be hungry after 'is big adventure. All alone in ter ferbidden forest. Cold an' lost an' hungry. Cryin' too, no doubt. Cursed an' then left ter wander. Poor li'l un ..." He sniffled.

Klaus winced. What was with this man, behaving as if Klaus was some kind of delicate flower?

"Do you wish for me to have a look at him? With Poppy away on her retreat ..." the tall, black-haired man – the before mentioned Fang, perhaps? - said. He had a warm voice of the kind that sinks into the listener's ears like a caress.

"Tha's nice o' yeh, Sev, but yeh better not, now tha' he's awake. Shouldn't be a problem, but just in case, yeh understan'. I have things under control, I have."

"I suppose you are right. It would be best not to risk any ... unpleasantries. Do remember to repeat my offer to him, though, Rubeus."

Hagrid stepped into view. "Can' do tha', Pr'fessor – tha's indecent, tha' is."

"My offer is well above the going rate for frozen samples, but I would be very interested in seeing if fresh samples would have a different effect. So, remember-"

Samples? Klaus thought, confused by the conversation. What kind of "samples" is the man talking about?

"– I offer him five galleons for a blood sample and 20 for a sperm sample."

Klaus jaw fell. Spe—Spe—Spe—Fucking sperm sample!? Fuck the clothes – where the fuck is my Magnum!? Not even the fop had ever had the gall to offer him money for ... for ... And what is he going to do with it anyway?! I have to get away from these perverted mad-men!

"I doubt me askin'll do yeh any good. Tha' li'l un is acting all brave, but he seems shy – unusual for one o' his kind, tha' is."

"All I ask of you is that you try. That is good enough, Rubeus."

Then the tall man – as if to do so was the most natural thing in the world! – reached up and – when the giant obligingly bent down – kissed the offered cheek, before striding away.

The entire nation consists of nothing but lunatics and perverts! Klaus realised. The giant started towards the hut again, so Klaus quickly got back into bed – the unwieldy cover was better than nothing.

"Hullo, pretty. Feelin' better now, are yeh? Here's yehr clothes," Hagrid said. He put a bundle down on the bed and reached out to ruffle Klaus's hair. Klaus ducked and quickly examined the pile. All seemed to be there, including his holster, except for ...

"Where's my Magnum? I want it now."

"Yehr what?"

"My pistol," he clarified, at the same time as he tried his very best to put on his shirt without flashing any skin. The shirt had been expertly patched, he noted. He couldn't even see where it had been torn.

"Yehr what?"

"Pistol!" he growled as he hastily buttoned the shirt. Then he looked up into completely guileless and completely not-understanding eyes. Do they call it something different in Scotland? "Kind of like a revolver, but without a drum? Like the Yanks use in those bloody cowboy movies? You know – bang, bang?" The giant's expression never changed. "Like this—" Klaus used two fingers to draw the outline of a pistol in the air. "—made of metal?"

"Oh, tha'. I remember it now. Yeh held it in yehr hand when we found yeh. I'll ask the elves. Be right back."

He left again. Grateful for the solitude Klaus pulled on his socks and trousers, followed finally by his shoes. Through the partially open door he heard the giant's voice, so he figured that the man must be calling those "house elves" rather than go wherever to get the gun himself. But when Hagrid returned, he was carrying Klaus's Magnum – by the pipe in a way that made Klaus wince.

"I want to get back to my men now," he demanded, feeling a slight apprehension in knowing that while he felt fairly well, he remained comparatively weak. Should the huge man refuse to let him go he would be unable to do so on his own, at least for the time being.

The giant's happy smile fell. "Want ter get back ter yehr swarm, do yeh? Well, I can' blame yeh, I guess. Nice havin' yeh here, thou'." He sighed audibly. "Pay no mind ter ol' Hagrid, he's jest a bit stoopid sometimes. Well, where be yehr swarm nestin', then?"

Swarm? Nesting? Strange use of the words they make in Scotland, Klaus thought, but promptly rattled of the name of the village the mission had taken place in. At least I hope they are there. And not in the local morgue.

"Oh? I thought mostly Muggles lived there."

I need to get a Scottish dictionary. "We are just passing through. As I said, I'm German."

"Ah, yeh said tha' – from Bonn, yeh said, not from Berlin. Tha' explains tha', I guess. How're yeh feeling now, then?"

"I'm fine," Klaus insisted. "Thank you for your concern. And for your assistance. NATO will reimburse you for any expense you have had on my account."

"Oh, it was my pleasure – don' get ter see th' likes o' yeh often hereabouts. Tell Nato – tha's yehr leader, is he? - 't was my pleasure. Rest a li'l longer, now, then we'll have lunch and then I'll take yah ter tha' village, if yehr up ter it. We'll go by boat, I have mine by th' lake, be quickest tha' way. Bet yehr li'l friends are all worried sick 'bout yeh. No walkin' back through th' forest. Tha's a dangerous wood, yeh see. 'specially fer such a pretty li'l thing like yehrself. Shouldn't 'ave gone in there in tha' first place, got yeh inter trouble, didn' it?"

Klaus ground his teeth. "Fucking hell, I am an adult man and I had my fucking reasons!"

The giant tsked. "No need for language like tha'. B'sides, didn' mean ter scold yeh. Yeh just need ter be more careful, tha's all. Now go lay down while ol' Hagrid goes on his rounds. Oh, an' by th' way ..." The giant blushed. "... a friend o' mine ask'd me ter ask yeh if yeh'd be interested in making a little money on th' side, like?"

"Absolutely not!"

"No need ter yell at ol' Hagrid. It's nothin' tha' would hurt yeh or nothin' ..."

Klaus marched into the hotel, bent on asking if any of his men had checked in, when he saw T's slightly unruly haircut through the semi-transparent doors to the dining hall. He marched in and found 26 gazes centred on him.

"Major!" A greeted him. "We were worr—We didn't know where you were. The Chief told us to wait another day, then return to Bonn."

Klaus nodded. "Everyone all right? All accounted for? No one injured?"

A frowned. "Injured, sir?" he then asked. "How do you mean?"

"No one was shot? At Mr. Fudge's cottage?"

"Shot, sir? How do you mean?"

How difficult could the concept be? "Was anyone shot?" he tried again. "At the house? By the Death Eaters?"

"Did you see hostiles, sir?" A replied, glancing at B before he continued. "Is that why you ... took off?"

Something is very wrong here, Klaus thought. As he could see from their empty gazes none of the Alphabet members knew what he was talking about. "I want a written report about what happened from each and every one of you, to my room in half an hour."

As he waited for the Alphabets' reports, Klaus went into his bathroom and stripped before turning on the shower. The water ran cold to start with, so he waited. Meanwhile, he glanced down at his naked body. The vivid red had all but disappeared, only remaining as a rim around the silvery scar. Remembering how the giant's touch had felt he put a finger to the scar and traced it down his chest. Then his knees buckled and he moaned involuntarily.

Fucking hell!

He had never felt such an intense pleasure before. Like ... Like ... No. He couldn't compare it to anything, for it was incomparable. Klaus lifted his hand again, then hastily put it down.

Too much! Not now, it's just ... too much!

He hastily stepped into the cubicle – chilly or not, he needed the distraction. At first the water ran over the scar, making him tremble all over, but just when he feared he would have to take cat baths for the rest of his life, the sensation lessened to merely a nice buzz. Klaus started to wash himself, being very careful not to touch his chest more than absolutely unavoidable.

30 minutes later: clean, freshly shaved and dressed in a new set of clothes, Klaus had also browsed through most of the Alphabet agents' reports. They were all very short, half a page or less. "We came. The Earl opened the safe. We were leaving. The major ran away." No mention of any black-dressed people in white masks carrying flamethrowers.

I have gone insane, he thought as he packed. It must have been all just one big hallucination: the Death Eaters, those unicorns ... everything.

Yet, something had happened. The scar proved that, if nothing else. He hadn't had the scar before: now he had it. Something had happened, even if he couldn't prove what it had been.

Can I have been drugged somehow? When? I ate breakfast with the others. We all had the same things. Maybe the fop slipped me something – God knows he pawed me enough to get something onto my skin – but no, the little twit wouldn't do something like that. Pwah – not and let me get away afterwards, anyway. Maybe something in the cottage? On the safe? I could ask G to check in with Bonham, see if Eroica acted stranger than usual afterwards. Some kind of security measurement? I did cut myself on one of the daggers. Yes, maybe that was when.

It all sounded very unlikely, but the alternative – that he had gone temporarily gaga – was something he didn't even want to contemplate.

Even if I was drugged, something happened. The scar ... that doesn't just happen. I guess I could have fallen in the forest, though. Gotten whipped by a thorny branch or something. It had been far more healed when he woke up in Hagrid's cottage than it should have been if it had really been so bad to start with as he had imagined.

He very briefly contemplated going to the NATO doctors, but dismissed the idea. They were incompetent anyway, most of them. He hated having them poke at him and while they might find some traces of a drug in his blood – what if they didn't? The rumour of that he was "going wild" was the last thing he needed.

If it happens again, I must see one of them. But I'll wait until then. Perhaps ... I have worked a little too much lately. Maybe a rest would do me good. Ja. Go to the Schloss, check up on the maintenance. Catch that poacher the butler swears is trying to get to the boars. Get ahead of the taxes. Go over the weaponry ... There were always things there that needed doing. Normally the butler would hire men to do anything necessary, but some things Klaus wanted to deal personally with. Besides, that might get me on Father's good side. His father had been after him lately, hinting quite heavily that he thought Klaus should start looking into politics, of all stupid things.

They returned to Bonn late in the afternoon. Klaus handed over the contents of the attachι case to his superior and requested the next day – a Friday – as well as the following Monday, off. These days were gladly, nay – joyfully, granted. The next morning he drove up to Eberbach and by lunch he was on his back on the garage floor, looking over the chassis of the oldest family Mercedes.

Monday 11:10 found Klaus in the dining room, eating a light lunch. He felt rather pleased with what he had achieved so far. The solitude – the castle workers knew more than well to leave him alone – had been very pleasant. He had almost managed to forget the strange occurrences during his latest mission. The scar remained, but he had refrained from touching it as well as he could. Once he had finished eating he started to read a morning newspaper that had been delayed due to a misprint. After a few pages he became aware that the butler didn't stand by the wall, but rather hovered only a few metres away. The man looked at him with an odd intensity.

"Is there something you wanted?" he asked his old caregiver.

"Ah, yes ... Well ... Young Master Klaus, I ..."

"Do you want time off again?" The butler was involved in some sort of card playing club, Bridge or whatever. Thrice a year he requested a long weekend off to go to a meeting.

"No, Master Klaus. I ... The thing is ..." To Klaus's amazement two red dots appeared on the man's pale cheeks.

"Spit it out!"

"Well ... The thing is. I do know that you are over 30 years old now, Master Klaus, and ..."

"It's not my birthday until May!" Klaus sincerely hoped that this wasn't yet another attempt to "subtly" let him know that wasn't it "time to start breeding soon, sir?"

"I know, Master Klaus. It's just ... I was looking at you and I remembered when you were a little boy ... You were so sweet. Especially when Herr Atker accused you of stealing his apples. All big, green eyes. My innocent little boy. I used to think—"

He's turned senile, Klaus decided.

"—of you like my own, with the way I took care of you. I potty trained you, and—"

"Don't talk about that!"

"—you learned so very quickly, of course. My young master, my bright little boy, and I—"

"What the fuck do you want?" He would grant a whole week of vacation, just as long as he would never have to hear another potty training story again!

The butler spread his arms and took a step closer, smiling hopefully. "Do you remember the winter evenings when your father was away on business trips? We used to sit in front of the open fire and I would read to you from Military Strategies Through The Ages. We would roast chestnuts and you would sit in my lap and ask me what I thought Julius Caesar would have done if they had had firearms back then. You were so cute."

I can't kill him. Father would be furious. "What. Do. You. Want?" he repeated, putting down the paper and turning to keep the odd-acting man in sight.

"Well, I was wondering ..." the butler said and took another step closer. His eyes had a strange, bright sheen. "I know you are older now, but ... Do you think you could do that again? Just one more, last, final time? I miss it so, Master Klaus."

"Do ... what?" Klaus hissed. For some reason he doubted that the butler was suggesting that they would roast chestnuts together.

Just as the telephone began to ring in shrill, demanding tones, the butler smiled sappily and said, "Sit in my lap again, Master Klaus? Just one more time?"

M sat at his desk and checked a report listing potential KGB agents in Norway when the major entered the room. Funny, M had just been thinking about the major. Ever since the mission in Scotland he had been thinking about the major a lot. Once the tall man had passed M's desk M allowed himself to admire the long lines of the other's body. M was not bad-looking himself, but he leaned more towards obvious muscles and – sadly - easily put on weight, so he never quite achieved Major von dem Eberbach's almost catlike, sensual grace.

The major threw himself down at his desk. He looked ... ragged. A strand of his hair stuck up, as if he had pulled his hands through it repeatedly. And his tie was crooked. Perhaps he had been in a hurry to get it on and had then forgotten to check it. Not at all their usually spotless superior.

He looks more human this way. Much more approachable. That tie looks as if I could pull it off with just one finger, M thought and imagined doing just that: hooking a finger in the cloth and pulling it lose. Major von dem Eberbach would lean back a little, to counterweight the pull. Then the tie would be gone and the shirt would fall open, showing that pale, smooth skin. M had managed to catch a glance of it once, when he had woken the major up during a mission in Tunisia. And those pink, pert little nipples, like rosebuds, just waiting for M's touch ...

The major reached for his phone and dialled a number – an internal call, judging from the quick execution. Then he jammed the phone between his ear and shoulder while writing something on a piece of paper and drumming his left hand's fingers furiously against the desk.

M found himself staring at the major's lips. Neither overly thin nor thick, but nicely pink. Strong, somehow, like the rest of the man. The major glanced up at the clock and in that moment M knew how Major von dem Eberbach's – no, how Klaus's face would look like if he knelt at M's feet. None of that superior smirk any longer, no – he would look approving ... no ... appreciative ... no ... admiring, yes! That was right – admiring as he leaned forward to make good use of those strong, capable lips ...

Oh yeah ...

Hurry up and wait! Hurry up and wait! As if this bloody day wasn't fucked up enough already!

Granted, with the butler clearly going insane Klaus was actually kind of grateful for the abrupt call back to headquarters. The man's request had stunned him so badly that he had been unable to decide if he should call for the nice men in the white coats or just mercifully put the man out of his misery. An emergency mission had come up. Quickest haste possible was ordered. Only, on reviewing the material Klaus spotted a glaring lack of certain vital information. This would be quickly provided, but not until the following morning, so their departure had to be delayed ... Klaus glanced out over the Alphabet. Most of them stared back at him like a herd of stunned reindeer. Even Z look strangely preoccupied.

"Tomorrow morning. 08:00 at the airfield. Mission to Poland, approximately four days. With any luck there will be more instructions for us before we go home today. Otherwise I will instruct you further on the plane. I will take a late lunch break. A, you're in charge. Everyone is to get ready for tomorrow, then continue with the paperwork."

Since he had already eaten when the butler had decided to go barmy he wouldn't so much take a lunch break as make his own preparations. Normally he only got a haircut every couple of months, but when he had looked at himself in the mirror in the morning he had noted that his hair had reached shoulder length uncommonly quick – and that his forelock fell into his eyes. So, it was definitely time to visit the NATO barber. Besides, he looked forward to a 20 minute nap from the craziness of the world.

A didn't care what the others did to prepare. If they weren't doing what they should be doing half an hour from now, when the major returned, he would catch hell for it, but he felt fairly confident that they would all behave. So, not expecting any trouble, he quickly dialled his home phone number.

"Hello dearest," he told his wife when she answered. "We will leave tomorrow morning and be gone for four days or so. Can we celebrate my birthday tonight instead? Good. I look forward to it, dearest. See you soon."

They hadn't planned anything special. They never did – nothing which could not easily be postponed anyway, since they never knew if something would come up, dragging him across half the globe in Major von dem Eberbach's footsteps. Besides, most of the men he might have invited to a celebration would go with him to Poland tomorrow anyway. So birthdays were just between husband and wife on an evening when he found himself free. They celebrated hers in the same way, for fairness's sake. A couple of heartfelt gifts, a favourite food served and then ... for the night ... whatever the birthday boy or girl wanted. No questions asked. Never any questions asked.

There had been times he had wanted to ask questions. Who was "Hutch" anyway and should he feel jealous when his wife moaned "Starsky" when he did her ... that way?

No matter. A knew perfectly well what he wanted this time. With a covert glance at those of his co-workers who had already returned from extra-long toilet breaks he quickly opened his attachι case, careful not to let anyone see his treasure ... Which he had picked up from the evidence room just a few minutes ago. The beautiful, beautiful wig ...

His fingers shook when he caressed a strand of the long, black hair.

Dear Sister,

Z wrote.

Tomorrow we will embark on a new mission. As always I can't tell you any specifics, but it promises to be an interesting one. I might be able to send you a postcard before we return if all goes well, I know you like them.

I write you today to ask you if you still have Uncle Johann's address – or possibly his telephone number? I find that I have a couple of questions I want to ask him about his lifestyle. Do you remember the discussion we had about how many men at one point in their life feel some sort of attraction for another man? I think I just entered such a phase.

He is here, at work. I have always admired him greatly, but in the last couple of days I have come to realise that my feelings for him have changed. I find that I no longer only want to make him proud of me as a co-worker and contributing member of the team. I find that I want to wrestle him to the floor, tear off his clothes and mount him; bite hard into his neck as I enter him; make him scream my name in passion as I take him; mark him with

Z stared in horror at the words, then quickly – his hand shaking – erased the last sentence entirely, replacing it with,

I find that I want to get to know him better. I will write to you again soon.

Love, your brother, Z

While he seldom went to the barber, Klaus had long since conditioned himself to quickly fall into a semi-nap at the sound of the scissors, even if he disliked having sharp objects so close to his face. Early on he had made it inescapably clear to the barber that he, Klaus, was in no way interested in any type of conversation. "Unless you see a KGB agent passing by outside, stop the fuck nattering at me!"

Which was why, when the hairdresser spoke – and clearly to Klaus and not to some other customer – Klaus automatically listened. He then also became aware of that his hair was being combed with fingers, rather than with a good comb.

"Such fine hair ... Like a prince of noble blood's ... It's such a shame to put it to the scissor. Should let it grow long; down to your waist. Naked in the moonlight, with only your hair to shield you ..."

Klaus heard the soft, dreamy words. He understood their meaning. He just couldn't believe they had been spoken. Not by the NATO barber. Not to him. Not—

Hands caressed down his shoulders and a pressure rested against the back of his head. Klaus kicked at the wall so that the chair spun around, then hit out at the man hovering over him. He only had time for one hard punch, which sent the lean man staggering backwards, before the man was tossed sideways by ... a growling X?

The barber struggled, but then X clipped him with a neat upper-cut and he was thrown to the floor, knocked out cold. Klaus could only stare. X turned towards him, smiling proudly.

"There, sir, all taken care of. I saw what he was up to and ran to assist you, sir."

"Very ... good," Klaus said hesitantly, not used to anyone rushing to his rescue. He quickly recovered. "Well done, X. Ah ... the man must have snapped. He started talking idiotic nonsense. Take him to the doctors. Tell them that he was acting strange. Have them check him for drugs."

"Yes, sir! Right away, sir. Ah ... but ... sir?"


"I was wondering ... Would it be possible that we had dinner together, sir?"


"I ... would like to discuss something with you, sir. Something ... very important."

He's quitting? Requesting a transfer? A vacation? Getting married? From the hopeful, anticipatory look in X's eyes, Klaus had already deduced that no-one was dead or dying, which were generally the other two reasons for one of the men requesting a private audience with him. NATO demanded that he made himself available for such discussions. Even if he had made it very clear he disliked them there had been a few occurrences over the years.

That must be why he came to the barber shop, hoping to ask me in private.

Since he felt fairly magnanimous, he nodded. "Very well. Not dinner, though. Lunch after we get back from Poland." That way he could at least do it on working hours.

For a moment X looked disappointed, then his smile widened again. "Yes, sir! Thank you, sir!" Then he hauled the barber out of the shop. Klaus followed, absentmindedly turning the sign from "Open" to "Closed" before heading back towards the office.

X felt lightheaded. Yes! He had done it! Yes! He had a date with Major von dem Eberbach!

He dragged the barber towards the doctor's office and he was so happy ...

Finally, blessedly, the day drew to a close and Klaus could retreat to his Bonn apartment for a few hours of peace and quiet. He didn't know what had gotten into the Alphabet, but they had been completely scatterbrained and utterly impossible. For once he had been really tempted to send them off early, but he didn't want to reward such behaviour. Even Z had acted weird. Klaus had meant to talk to the young agent about an up-coming training session, but when he had approached him Z had turned beet red and had run – yes, actually run - out the door.

Doesn't matter now. Tomorrow is another day and all that bullshit. I deserve a treat, after today, with the insane butler and the crazy barber and the Alphabet acting up ... What, though? Shall I go to the restaurant on the corner? They do have good food there. Fried potatoes and a rump roast, perhaps. Yes, this I shall do.

Pleased with his decision, he began to walk back towards the hall. That was when he heard a knock. Automatically flexing his arm muscles to ascertain that his Magnum was still holstered, he went up to the door and looked out from the peep hole. A cornflower blue eye peeped back. Even if he intellectually knew that the person standing outside couldn't see in, Klaus drew back his head sharply.

Oh yes – the only thing this damned day needed. It wouldn't be a complete disaster without that dimwit.

He considered not answering, but estimated that it would take the other man roughly 20 seconds to get in on his own. Then a cold fury enveloped him. He unlocked the door and opened it forcefully, grabbed the stupid ruffles at Dorian's throat and pulled him up.

"What the fuck do you want?" he growled.

"Hello, darling. I have decided to forgive you for that little stunt you pulled on me last time. Besides, James sold the content in the bottles for a nice, tidy profit. Anyway - nice tie – it goes well with your eyes. Mmmm ... You smell good today. There's something new about you, though, dear, did you get a haircut?"

The cold fury which had simmered boiled to an eruption. Klaus threw the Brit out of his apartment, slamming him into the opposite wall. "This is all your doing, isn't it? You put him up to it, didn't you?!"

"Ah ... I don't know what--" Dorian began hesitatingly, but Klaus didn't pay him any attention.

"Did you get to the butler too? Bribed him or something? You bloody, fucking perverted wanker, leave me the fuck alone! I hate you!"

"Don't say that, darling. I—"

"No! Fucking hell, no! Get it into your thick head – I'm not fucking interested in fucking fucking you!" There might have been one "fucking" too many in that sentence, but he honestly couldn't care less. He pulled his breath sharply. "I will go out in five minutes. If you are still here then I will shoot you through the head and claim I mistook you for a KGB spy."

Then he slammed the door shut and leaned against it for a moment to calm down. Exactly five minutes later he stepped out, wearing his jacket for a trip to the restaurant. He found the area empty. Not that he had actually wanted to shoot Dorian, not really, but he told himself that was why he felt disappointed.

The trip to the restaurant turned out very well. Klaus had never received such fast and attentive service. He wasn't sure why the head waiter had given him his phone number, though. If Klaus wanted to reserve a table in the future then surely he should call the restaurant itself?

Klaus surreptitiously looked around the plane. Something was up, he just couldn't figure out what. The Alphabet was restless in a way they usually were the day before Christmas, as if they anticipated something. There was no small talk. Normally G would chatter and there would be hushed conversations that he would have to silence roughly every half hour or so. Instead the men were silent, rocking slightly in their seats or throwing quick glances his way.

Except A. A sat with his head leaned back, wearing a silly grin and looking as if he hadn't slept a wink all night. The one time Klaus passed by him to go to the toilet he had heard the man mumble "Hutch" under his breath, followed by a breathy laughter.

And E. The lean agent was busy drawing in his notebook – apparently using Klaus as his subject, if his quick glances were anything to judge by. Since E was their human camera when it came to drawing suspects, Klaus had early on forced himself to ignore such behaviour. E always sketched – other members of the Alphabet, views from windows, random people – and, if rarely, Klaus. The only thing Klaus had insisted on was that those drawings would be promptly destroyed. E had readily agreed. This time there was something strangely intent about E, though, with the way the tip of his tongue stuck out from his mouth and the red colour of his face. Was he perhaps running a fever?

E guarded his masterpiece from the view of the agent next to him, F, and stole another glance at the major before looking down again. Yes, he had done it. The picture captured Major von dem Eberbach perfectly; that slightly annoyed glare he had: in this case because whoever he was looking at wouldn't get in bed with him fast enough. All that pale skin against the darker blanket; strong muscles and rounded behind, slightly spread legs with his cleft in tantalizing shade. Head turned back. The long, black hair falling to frame his shoulders on either side of his neck – and also showing off the necklace – E wasn't quite sure why, but the thick collar looked just right. Beautiful shoulders and those long, long legs ... He considered colouring the image when he got home. Maybe try it on a copy first? Yes. Or maybe just painting the eyes that incredible, burning shade of green? Yes ...

He estimated that this would earn him at least four times the regular price of his usual Eberbach subjects from the Earl of Red-Gloria. However, E had no intention what so ever of selling it. Oh no. This was going into his personal collection.

Finally, Warsaw. Unfortunately, information on the mission had – once more ... – leaked. Not that Klaus had been the least bit surprised when they reached their hotel to find Dorian sunbathing like a cat on the hood of his Lamborghini just outside. He had done his "oh so innocent" gig, acting as if he had no idea what-so-ever that they were coming. Then he had shamelessly invited Klaus to the theatre. Klaus had only just managed not to kill him.

None of that mattered, though. Dorian was, as far as Klaus knew, still at the hotel or at the theatre or possibly out putting into action whatever nefarious scheme he had come for. So Klaus could – at least for a while, forget about that particular nuisance. He had other things to consider – more important things. The hunt was on! In Klaus's view, deskwork was a necessary evil. Diplomacy was a waste of time. But this – to pit his mind and body against the enemy – yes, this was what made him get up in the morning. He and some of the Alphabet members had managed to separate Mischa from his gang of underlings and had the Russian bear on the run.

"Mischa!" he shouted as he ran into the alley to find the Russian facing a dead end. Klaus levelled his Magnum at his enemy's forehead and came to a halt. "Surrender and I will make sure you are treated with all the kindness you are due." Privately he hoped he would get in a hit or two; he never had repaid Mischa for the punches that time in Alaska.

Even with the sunglasses covering the KGB agent's eyes Klaus still all but felt Mischa's glare. Slowly the other lifted his large hands into the air.

Someone crashed into Klaus from behind. Thinking someone had attacked him, he almost shot Mischa to eliminate him, before he realised his assailant was just C. He elbowed the agent sharply in the chest. "For fuck's sake stop pawing at me like some bloody pervert," he growled.

"Sorry, sir," C panted. Not that he sounded very sorry; he sounded ... hoarse. More breathless than the short run should have made even the most out of shape of Klaus's agents.

Then the rest of the group came running in. Their entrance made Klaus step closer to Mischa, especially since D for whatever reason stumbled and also fell against Klaus.

What the fuck is this? Paw Major von dem Eberbach's Arse Day *? Klaus pushed the man off him. He would have slapped him, but he had to keep his gun trained on Mischa. "H! Bind his arms!"

"Of course, sir! Anything for you, sir!" H enthused and did as told.

"Not so brave now, eh, Mischa?" Klaus said, then addressed his agents, "We take him with us back to the hotel to start with."

He motioned for Mischa to proceed him out of the alley. As the big man did, he suddenly turned his head sharply towards Klaus. Instead of saying some annoying taunt, as Klaus pretty much had expected when he saw him open his mouth, the Russian breathed in deeply as if he tasted something on the air. Over the tinted sunglasses, Mischa's eyebrows rose.

They met up with the remaining Alphabets at the hotel, located at the city's edge, and Klaus led the way to the main suite. His first clue that something was amiss was when he opened the door and found the light turned on inside. His second was the roses – several big vases filled with the blasted flowers. Then the perpetrator himself, wearing a loose, gold-coloured blouse/shirt, a wide black belt and skin-tight, black trousers, posing on one of the sofas.

"It seemed as if we got off on the wrong foot this morning, Major, so I—Oh, you have company."

"Mischa," Klaus said and smiled his very best, friendliest smile at the Russian, who had just been led inside. "Tell me he is one of yours. Please? Lie if you have to, Mischa, I'm begging you."

"Sorry to disappoint, Iron Klaus. He is all yours."

"See, darling – even Mischa approves."

And I actually fooled myself into believing that this day would have to be better than yesterday ... Klaus thought. "Get out of here, Lord Gloria – you are not welcome!"

"That was what you said last time, darling."

"Don't call me that! And I meant it that time too!"

"Oh. So I suppose you aren't interested in this little microfilm that I, purely by accident I assure you, found while I was out taking my daily constitutional?"

Klaus nearly growled. "Stay then. I'll inspect it later." Maybe if he managed to ignore the magpie for a really long time, it would get bored and fly away. Maybe. And maybe Mischa would defect and declare his undying love for Lawrence.

More of the Alphabet members entered the room, so Klaus moved further in. Mischa moved with him and since there was nowhere he could go, Klaus let him. The room was on the third floor, so while Mischa now stood fairly close to the large window to the balcony he wouldn't be able to jump out without breaking a couple of bones in the fall. The only other exit would be through the gathered Alphabet. Despite this the Russian acted strangely calm – which he had done during the entire trip, even if he had continued to breathe in that strange way with his head turned towards Klaus. Klaus felt unaccountably tempted to tear off the man's sunglasses, but to do so would be childish – at least since they hadn't even started the interrogation yet.


"G? Out with it."

"Y-your wound? D-do you want me to-to—"

"Just a scratch. Why are you stuttering?"

"You ... fell ... The wound might have gotten ... infected." G's voice still trembled, but at least he no longer stuttered.

"Ja, ja, whatever. Get me some Iodine, then, and a tissue."

The requested objects were quickly handed to him. He unbuttoned his shirt and was about to lift his undershirt, then he remembered and looked up sharply. "You! Turn away!"

"But, Major—"

Before Dorian had time to protest further he was grabbed by Y and F, who smoothly hauled him around and held him in place. He made a very undignified sound. Klaus blinked at this unexpected – but welcome – initiative from the agents. He gave them both an approving nod. Something about the way they smiled back made him hesitate.

With that little problem solved he lifted the undergarment, grateful that the scratch hadn't reached the silvery scar so he wouldn't have to touch it again. Before he had time to swipe the scraped skin he heard several loud gasps, followed by Mischa's quiet words, "You just might have made a mistake there, Iron Klaus."

He glanced up at Mischa, but the Russian was watching the Alphabet – who in turn were ... looking at Klaus. All 26 of them. With fixed stares and slack faces they looked ... hungry. Starved.

Klaus let the cloth fall back in place. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

"You're so beautiful when you're angry."

Klaus's jaw dropped. That hadn't been Eroica!

"Who said that?!" he demanded. Only the Earl ever dared to say anything like that and by the way the Earl was staring around – he had managed to slip out of Y and F's hands – the Brit seemed as baffled as Klaus himself. The voice hadn't sounded like him anyway. It had sounded more like ...

"I did," said P. He stepped half a step forward, smiling widely.

"I say—" Eroica started saying, but he was drowned out by another voice.

"Don't say such things about him!" N, standing beside P, growled, and shoved at the man's shoulder. Then he turned his head slowly back towards Klaus and said with an eerie determination, "He's mine."

"Excuse me—" Eroica began anew.

"He's not, he's mine!" B yelled – B! Klaus wanted to pinch himself.

"He most certainly is not," said X. "He agreed to go out with me!"

At this the angry mutterings from the rest of the Alphabet died out as everyone stared at X in stunned amazement – and then towards Klaus. Including Dorian, who looked very hurt.

"It was for lunch – I thought you wanted to discuss something!" he hissed at X. "Now what the fuck's gotten into all of you?! You act like you're all high!"

"They are," said Mischa.

Klaus sharply turned towards his adversary. "This is your fault? You and your men poisoned them somehow!" That, at least, made sense. Some sort of demented sense, but sense.

Mischa, smiling faintly, shook his head. "No. That I swear to you, on the honour of Mother Russia. But I think I know what is happening. Major, tell me ..." He wriggled his eyebrows and said suggestively, "What would you say if I asked you to take a ride on the Russian bear?"

"That you have a fucking death wish!" he growled, while trying to keep everyone – the Russian and the Brit as well as what he had formerly thought were good German boys – in sight. G and R had started some kind of slap fight. "What the fuck is going on, Mischa?"

It's the Earl of Gloria – it has to be. He must be ... contagious somehow! He has spread this amongst them and since they're not as foppy as he is, they've gone insane under the pressure, all of them! Though he didn't believe that, not really.

"They are gearing up to fight amongst themselves until only one of them is left standing and then whoever he is will claim you as his prize," Mischa said, sounding amused.

"Good! That means I only have to shoot one of them!"

Mischa winced. "You shouldn't have said that, Major."

"No," said Z. "He's right. Everyone – stop."

Finally! A sensible person! Klaus thought as the youngest of his agents took a step closer. At least Z hadn't gone insane. Z was a good boy. Z could be trusted.

"He would do it," Z said in a clipped voice. "We should secure him first; now - while we can. He can't kill all of us. Then I shall defeat you all."

"Ha!" said Q. "I'll make him mine on top of your broken body!"

"I'm not a bloody prize!" Klaus yelled, while still staring at Z. "None of you is strong enough to have me!"

Where the fuck did that come from? he then had to ask himself.

"And besides--" Eroica said sharply, sounding livid. He slipped past the Alphabet to stand between them and Klaus. "--I do believe I have the prior claim here! Major, your Alphabet is acting funny."

Tell me about it, he thought wryly. He opened his mouth to repudiate the Earl's claim as well – but before he had time to do so, K acted.

The reddish blond agent took two smooth steps up to the Earl and bashed him in the head with the handle of his pistol. The Earl of Red-Gloria slipped to the floor in a pile of gold and black. K then turned towards Klaus, pulled himself up to his full height, smiled and made a loud, coughing sound.

"K!" Z called, sounding annoyed. "Good that you got rid of the interloper, but we have to work together now. And no guns, everyone – he's no good to me dead."

Then Klaus had to listen in horror as his subordinates made a crude plan to overwhelm him and tie him up. He drew his Magnum again, determined to take out as many of them as possible and wondering if he should save the last bullet for himself.

"Major," Mischa said. "I propose a very temporary truce. You need to get out of here and I can get you out. I am no threat to you, Major, and I think I can help you."

Klaus didn't want the Russian's help, but he didn't want to kill his own men either. Or get raped by one of them. "What's in it for you? And how would you get us out of here?"

"It is a long story, Major, and – I think we just ran out of time."

The Alphabet had started to approach, walking like a herd of very determined zombies. Klaus tensed and took a step back, aiming at the closest agent, T.

"I will shoot," he warned, but they didn't even seem to hear him. Then a growl to his left made him glance that way, only to almost drop the gun in pure shock.

Mischa ... grew. He didn't just straighten up, he grew! The ropes they had used to tie his arms snapped right off. The shaggy coat he wore melted into him! And grew to a thick, luxurious, brown fur. And then ... Mischa changed! His chest widened and lengthened – his face was ... pulled out and his fingers ... melded together and widened, hardened and sprouted ... claws?

The growth continued, until Mischa's colossal body filled a near quarter of the big room – in the shape of an enormous, dark brown bear!

It has affected me too, whatever madness this is, Klaus thought as he aimed the gun towards the … grizzly? Did they have grizzly bears in Poland? Or in Russia, for that matter? His hand shook just a little and he tried to convince himself that was simply because the target was so huge that he had no idea where to aim at.

The Mischa bear roared. The mighty, rolling sound was so low that it echoed inside Klaus's skull. Even the zombie Alphabet cowed before the giant beast that their enemy had transformed into. Then the small head (small only when compared to the humongous body it sat on) turned towards Klaus. Beady, black eyes scrutinized him. Then the creature went up on its hind legs and turned some more, bringing one gigantic front paw – with claws the length of Klaus's hands! – towards him. He pulled the trigger of the Magnum automatically. The sound of the shots could hardly be heard above the still lingering roar. Mischa huffed and then Klaus was swept up against the mass of fur and the bear tucked him to its belly as it jumped towards the balcony windows – straight through them.

Cold outside air flushed against Klaus's skin, driving him into the raging heat of the beast's body. They fell and he had time to shoot once more – had even time to think that he would be crushed under the animal's weight as they reached the ground – before the bear rolled in the air and Klaus instead landed on top of the black belly.

The impact knocked the air out of him – and the Magnum out of his hand. He was utterly helpless as the bear grabbed him again and ambled towards the forest. Oh, he tried hitting it, but he doubted something so large even felt his fists. He also tried to plant his feet against it and push away, but that was of no use. From a distance he heard a series of bangs. Now and then the bear twitched or huffed.

After an indeterminable amount of time the colossal beast let him go. He fell onto wet berry bushes and hastily looked up. Before him the bear gradually shrunk back into Mischa's more familiar, human shape. The man muttered to himself in annoyed Russian and examined his coat, fingering several holes in the side and back. Finally he huffed and turned to Klaus, who seriously considered running off or possibly climbing a tree – but he had heard that bears could climb very well. Not to mention that the enormous creature had looked fully able to pull down even the sturdy trees surrounding them by the power of its paws alone.

"What in God's name are you?" he asked.

Mischa smiled and removed his sunglasses. His eyes were the eyes of the bear – completely black, with no hint of white. After letting Klaus see them for a moment, he put the glasses back on. "I am mostly human. I have some giant blood and a few drops of this and that, but about 90% human."

"Giant? This and that?"

"I can transform into a cave bear – if a very small one – as I wish. It is what we call my 'animagus' shape. I am a wizard."

Klaus narrowed his eyes. "A wizard," he repeated, trying the word out. He was prepared for it to sound ridiculous, but he was a man who believed what his own eyes told him. Mostly. Unless he had been drugged again.


"And you ... " He made a gesture that was meant to symbolise swishing a wand. "... magicked them to behave like horny animals?"

Mischa shook his head. "On Mother Russia's honour, Major Eberbach. I had nothing to do with it."

"Why did you help me, then?" After having seen the Russian's transformation, the major knew he must be very careful. Mischa had made that stupid comment about Klaus riding the Russian bear. Not that he thought that the man would try to rape him in bear shape – that should be physically impossible, if nothing else – but if all the other man had wanted was to get Klaus alone he would have to fight him while he was still human enough to be hurt by Klaus's fists.

The man shrugged. "Not even Iron Klaus deserves such a fate. But it is more than that. Major – am I correct in assuming that you know nothing about the magical world?"

"There are more like you in Russia? I ... think I saw unicorns recently. In England." Oh, that sounded stupid, even considering the transforming bear-thing.

Mischa chuckled dryly. "Dear Iron Klaus ... We are everywhere. Even in your beloved Germany. And there are wizards and witches and unicorns and more than you could ever dream of in England. But I'll take that as a 'no'. As to why I help you: we magical people stick together. At least when it comes to Muggles – that is, people who have no magic. We don't wish anyone to know about us. Between ourselves we bicker much like all countries bicker, but we have a very united front outwards. We have ways of recognizing one another, in most cases. And, Major, up until we got to the hotel and I had a chance to really smell you, I thought that you, too, were a Muggle."

"I can't do any magic. And what do you mean, smell?"

"In the alley I thought perhaps you had brushed against one of them, especially since you have never smelled that way before. Lust, Major Eberbach." As if to underline his next words, he took a deep breath and smiled wide. "You smell like pure, undiluted lust."

Klaus sniffed himself. "What the fuck are you talking about? I smell like I've always smelled."

Mischa shook his head. "Believe me, Major – you don't. Lust, I tell you--"

"Don't say that word about me!"

"But it is true. Don't worry though, you have nothing to fear from me."

"Why not? Are wizards frigid then, all of them?"

Mischa laughed. "Hardly. But I am bond-mated. Dostoyevsky would never forgive me if I strayed. Also, I have, as I said, some giant blood. We are immune to this type of lust, even if you do smell ... delightful."

Klaus shuddered at the very thought. "This type? You know it, then? You have smelled it before?"

"Yes. And I think I know where you can get help."

Klaus had always hated his Russian counterpart, but in that moment he could have hu— ... bought him as many bottles of vodka as he wanted.

"Of course ..." Mischa wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. "You'll have to ride the bear to get there."

And pour the vodka over his bald head and set it on fire.

Klaus staggered a few steps. The insides of his thighs felt raw and his rear ached. Not to mention that he smelled like a wet dog.

"We're as close as we can get in the forest now. From here we must go through the city to get there," Mischa, who had transferred back to his human shape, said. "Warsaw is used to any number of strange things, but a cave bear ridden by a NATO major might cause some gossip." He sounded amused.

Klaus had just about had it with Mischa's attitude. He began marching down the last stretch of open area to the outskirts of the city.

Mischa quickly joined him, matching him step for step. "You better stay close to me. It should take most people a little while in your presence to get excited by your smell—"

"Don't say such things!"

"What, excited? That they get excited by you? Why, Major, don't you want people do get excited by you?"


"Very well then. For a normal human, maybe half an hour or so – less, depending on how close to them you are and their natural interest in you. Of course it would take longer than that before they started ... actively going after you. I'm very impressed with your Alphabet for toughing it out as long as they did – too afraid of you for it to bite properly, no doubt."

"Oh fuck," Klaus said and stopped.


"I can never go back. After what happened; what they tried to do - even if whoever you're taking me to – and I want a gun before we get there, Mischa – can help fix this, I can't go back to them."

Mischa lifted a hand, then put it down again as if thinking better of offering physical comfort. "No, no, Iron Klaus. We shall meet again in the field – and as soon as you have this little problem of yours under control our truce is over. Do you have a hunter amongst your men?"

"They are all trained trackers. I think U hunts for sport."

"They are following us, then, trying to catch you still. Once I have left you in good hands, I will return. A little obliviate in the right spot and none of them will remember lusting after your lanky carcass."


"A kind of magic brain wash to forget something."

Klaus felt very uneasy about this. "How can you protect yourself against it?"

"If you don't have magic, you can't. Otherwise, you can counter it before it grabs hold of you, if you are quick enough."

"So this ... wizarding magic ... it can be used for battle?"

"Oh yes, Iron Klaus, oh yes," Mischa said and laughed briefly. "I will make sure that they believe that you sent them back. They will tell your chief that you stayed to find and cut off a loose thread. Anyway, as I was saying – it will take a little while for Muggles to be affected. Far less time for wizards. Minutes even. Unless they have giant blood, like me, but to have that is rare. What is worse is that wizards from countries such as this would know what you are very quickly, and then things can get ugly in a hurry. You must stick close to me."

"What haven't you told me, Mischa? What has happened to me?"

"I have only ever smelled one other being before that smelled as tempting as you do. Besides Dostoyevsky, of course."

"Don't say such things! Mischa! Spit it out – have I been cursed?"

Mischa removed his glasses for a moment and looked at Klaus very seriously with his black, strangely luminous eyes.

"You're a Veela, Major Eberbach."

In one of Warsaw's back streets they entered a small restaurant which, if Klaus's rusty Polish was anything to trust, was called something close to "The Laughing Falcon." Mischa led the way up the stairs to the restaurant's second floor. There they came to a small room with a few tables and guests, but the area also opened out to a very busy street – "out to" as in so that they stepped straight out; the restaurant's second floor didn't just overlook the street as it should have done. Klaus watched the strangely dressed people in amazement – men and women in colourful dresses – robes, Mischa told him when he stared in horror at a man in a pale pink, star-studded outfit.

"I saw a man dressed like that. Though in black and without all the glitter. Just after I saw the unicorns. Fang, I think his name was. The fop would look right at home here."

Mischa snorted. "I wondered about him, for a while, if he might have some magic in him."

Klaus stopped cold. "Tell me he is not a wizard, Mischa."

"Not that I have noticed, no."

"Thank God," Klaus said and while he wasn't particularly religious, that sentiment was heartfelt. "Is that man carrying a spider twice the size of his head?"

"Yes. Pets you might consider odd are quite common here. Come now, just one more block."

There were quite a few stores on the way and Klaus found himself looking this way and that, trying to make sense of everything.

"He's a Veela, isn't he?" someone suddenly said and Klaus turned to see a lean man with a hungry look on his face.

"Da," Mischa affirmed.


Klaus bit back a reply and just growled under his breath.

"Njet. I am taking him to the compound."

Compound? Klaus didn't like the sound of that word – at all.

"For sale?"

For fucking sale!?

"Njet. Besides, that would be, if I'm not mistaken, illegal in Poland."

"Mischa," Klaus broke in, keeping his voice even. "Wait a minute."

The Russian's eyebrows went up. Klaus gave him his best good boy-smile and Mischa snorted. Klaus went up to the man. "You want to buy me?"

"Yes, pretty."

"You couldn't afford me," Klaus said and decked the man with a solid upper-cut. Then he sighed happily. "I needed that," he explained to Mischa, who just nodded. "Now, about this compound – what exactly is it?"

"If I say that it is nothing to bother your pretty little head about, will you knock me out too?"

"Oh, yes."

"It is for protection. As you have seen, an unprotected, unbonded, blooming Veela is highly desirable—"

"Don't say such things!"

"—and most of them can't protect themselves as well as you, Iron Klaus. The compound is protected by every possible charm and curse and usable magic. Not even your Eroica could get in, you might want to remember that. There is a rather large Veela swarm in Warsaw – I'm sure they will be able to help you."

"Swarm! That's the word he used."


"The man who helped me after I saw the unicorns. Not the guy in the robes – a big man; the biggest I've ever seen. Hagrid. Rubeus Hagrid. These giants of yours – how big do they get?"

Mischa stopped. "Tell me more about this, Major Eberbach."

He gave Mischa a very condensed version, making no mention of either his mission or the silvery scar.

When he had heard the story, Mischa huffed. "It does sound as if the unicorns had something to do with your current predicament. I don't know more about Veela than what I learned at Durmstrang – my school. That they are, as I said, a kind of magically seductive creature that often mates with humans. They themselves should know far more. Ah, we're there now."

There was a small opening, just two meters wide, between a store featuring cauldrons and one apparently selling strange animals. Klaus looked in – and found himself looking out over a much larger area – with a huge building in the distance built along the lines of the Taj Mahal. He saw waterfalls and flowers and trees and people moving about. He also saw a razor wired fence, with grim-looking, heavyset guards. A couple of wizards stood by the side of the gate, gazing into the compound. When Mischa and Klaus entered, the wizards turned towards them and then lined up like some kind of honour escort.

"Such a tall one," Klaus heard one of them whisper, sounding awed. He wondered if Mischa would mind if he beat up all of them.

One of the big sentries left his position and bowed to Klaus. "Name and identification number, please."

Klaus seriously considered offering name, rank and serial number, but Mischa intervened.

"He might not be a true Veela," said the Russian. "There might have been a unicorn-related incident. I thought it safest to bring him here. May we speak to someone in charge?"

"Who are you?"

"Mischa Krum, Durmstrang graduate of '22. Currently I work for the Russian Muggle Government. I'm not trying to get inside, I merely want to have someone talk to him."

"Someone will come," said the guard, then added, "You lot – leave," aimed towards the loitering wizards. They reluctantly left the alley. Klaus noticed meanwhile how the other guard did something with a piece of wood, sending a flash up towards the palace-like building.

They only had to wait five minutes, before a group of four persons approached the gate from within – three white-blond women and one black-haired man. Klaus carefully studied them, trying to see if anything separated these Veela from ordinary human beings. They were good-looking, as far as he was able to tell. Their faces glowed and their hair shimmered as if they had put glitter in it. All four wore their curls indecently long. He himself skirted the length of what was appropriate, but mid-waist was to go much too far. Even the fop had recently taken to wearing his at a nearly acceptable length, if it hadn't been for those dratted curls. The Veela wore loose clothes of light, pale materials. A multitude of thin gold necklaces and bracelets made faint, rustling sounds as they moved. The little group, in turn, looked back at him with interest.

"Good day," said the blond female. "My name is Lenina Vasganna. And you are?"

"Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach."

The four exchanged quick looks. Then Lenina went on to say, "I heard of your situation. You are welcome within the compound. You friend may--"

"He's not a friend of mine! We're ... acquaintances. Before I put as much as a foot inside – how do I get out again?"

"How do you mean?"

"I can leave whenever I want, yes?" He definitely did not like the look of those fences. To keep the Veela's protected, maybe, yes, and the image seen behind them looked peaceful enough, but razor wire fences and guards reminded him much too much of a prison or a concentration camp.

"Of course. Whenever you want. If you wish, one of our guards can also escort you anywhere you want to go. They are all highly trained and they all have giant blood, so they are quite safe. We also have a one-way connection to the floo network, if you prefer to travel that way."

"Wizard way of travelling, between fireplaces," Mischa muttered in his ear. Then he said, out loud, "Well, Major, I will leave you here, then. Remember, once we meet again—"

"—the truce is off," Klaus filled in. He felt a little awkward, considering that they were enemies most of the time. Still, the man had helped him when things had looked bleak. "Ah ... Mischa? Thanks."

"Just get your little problem taken care of. It would be most distracting trying to outsmart you when you smell like that." The Russian gave him a quick pat on the shoulder, which Klaus let him get away with.

"Very well," Klaus then told Lenina. "I will go inside with you."

She and the other three proceeded him. Just as Klaus followed a large hand patted his rear. He whirled, but the gate had already closed. Through the metal bars he saw Mischa grin and turn away.

You bloody wanker!

During the walk to the pink building lots of other longhaired people (the women predominantly blond while most of the men had black hair) came up to them, greeting Klaus and looking at him with curiosity. Well inside, he got a decent cup of coffee – not Nescafι, but something almost as good – as they asked him questions about the incident with the unicorns and about his family. As with Mischa he refused to tell them anything about his reason for entering the forest, but they didn't seem at all interested in that, so he answered most of their questions. They were friendly and made no kind of advances, so he could even let his guard down a little. Then they left him alone, claiming they would look up some details. In the meanwhile tiny humanoids with huge, floppy ears served him fried potatoes with what he at first thought was a very rare steak, but when he bit into it, it turned out to be sweet and fruity, not meat at all. He ate it anyway, since he found the taste acceptable.

There was a knock on the door – which looked to be carved from a single block of pink stone, with figures etched on the surface. Klaus, who sat with his back to the wall, looked up. Mischa hadn't been able to give him a pistol – "They won't work around so much magic, anyway." – but had, still looking amused, supplied him with a very impressive-looking knife with silver inlays and a serrated edge. Klaus didn't have all that much experience with knife fighting, but knew how to hold and throw one, if necessary. To kill using a knife was rather messy, but he had done that as well. Even if these people seemed rather friendly on the surface, he couldn't fully trust them. The knife was in his belt, hidden by his jacket, but the latter was unbuttoned, so he would be able to reach the weapon swiftly. If someone tried to get too close to him for comfort – well, then let them come close enough for him to stab them.

"Enter," he called out.

A male Veela came in. He was tall for the breed, at least 1,75 – from what Klaus had seen none of the others topped 1,70. Like most of the other males he had long, dark hair and his eyes were green, like Klaus's own. He was dressed rather sensibly in a brown suit. If not for the hair he would have looked perfectly normal.

"Hello," said the Veela in perfectly fluent German. "My name is Heinz Bregier. Is that name at all familiar to you?"

Klaus waited a split second to see if his brain would produce a match, then shook his head. Remembering his manners he rose and reached out to shake hands.

"Klaus von dem Eberbach."

"I'm pleased to finally meet you. Once Lenina had the situation more or less clear she called me, thinking that I would be best suited to talk to you about what is the matter with you. I was very surprised to hear from her about your blossoming, but I flooed here at once, of course. I'm from the swarm at the Berlin compound."

Ah, so that is why Hagrid spoke of Berlin. "You are German. I thought as much."

"Yes, I am. We are not very many in Berlin, but you would be welcome to visit there, whenever you want. I will make sure you have the address of the place and instructions on how to get inside."

"I would rather you helped me get rid of this nuisance."

"Merlin knows I've wanted that myself, sometimes."

Klaus felt something inside of him freeze. "It is impossible, then? I will always be ... like this?"

"No, no. But let me get back to that in a minute. You haven't heard my name before. I suspected that. You see, Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach ... I am one of your great uncles, on your mother's side."

Klaus blinked once. "You're too young."

"We age very slowly and can become very old – 150 is not uncommon and 200 not unheard of. I am, in fact, only 68 years old."

Klaus would have guessed at 24. "You are 68 years old and my great uncle?"


That did it. He abruptly stood. Maybe this whole magic business was real – after all, he had seen unicorns and ridden a rather large bear that seemed to transform back and forth into Mischa. In the alley leading out from the upper floor of The Laughing Falcon he had also seen some very strange things. Provided, of course, that he wasn't in some KGB hideout, drugged to his gills and taking the trip of his lifetime – which actually sounded like a rather good alternative, given the circumstances. The longer he thought about things, the more he became convinced that this all had to be some sort of KGB hoax to get him to reveal ... whatever they wanted to know. "I have no Veela in my family tree! I demand to leave this very minute!"

"You can leave at any time you want, nephew, but that won't change anything and won't help you with your problem. Believe me when I say that we are related or don't believe me if you wish – that is your decision, but listen to what I have to say."

Klaus shook his head. "If I think you're lying to me about one thing I can't believe anything else you say either."

"Then believe me when I tell you something that no one else in the world should be able to know about you, Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach. You've never had an orgasm in your life – you've never even had an erection."

Klaus stared at the Veela for all of two seconds, then slammed him up against the wall and hissed, "How can you know that?!" No one knew that – not even the NATO psychiatrist!

Cool fingers, shivering slightly, touched his wrists. "Easy, nephew – easy now. I didn't want to insult you. That is simply the way of a hybrid Veela with Veela potential."

"You're telling me that ... what is wrong with me is because of ... you?"

"Because of the Veela blood, yes. I'm a quarter Veela myself. My maternal grandmother was a fullblooded Veela. Which would make you 1/16th Veela. At least from this strain of the family. By then the potentiality is considered bred out from the line, which is why you were never told about your Veela heritage. We haven't found traces of more Veela blood in other lines of your family tree that could have intensified the amount either. It is quite a puzzle. Even 1/8th Veela very seldom carry the potentiality. We will search further into the family tree, see if we find anything more. The touch of the unicorn might have brought on the blossoming, but we're not sure."

"I'm ... 1/16th Veela," Klaus said, mostly just to taste the words. Oh well, NATO doesn't have any rule that agents must be 100% human. If I can just get this bloody smell thing taken care off, that won't be a problem.

"Yes. For what it is worth, I am sorry that you were overlooked. It is just that ... well ... We did look at you when you entered puberty, but you grew so tall – much taller than we normally are. Of course, it might be that the giant blood cropped up, it does that sometimes."

"Giant blood?"

"Even less than the Veela. 1/64th, that's all. A few drops, basically. Hardly worth mentioning. A little extra height, a little extra strength, a little extra resistance to some types of battle magic. Won't jump up and bite you in any way. That's why I'm so tall as well, though the Veela blood in me suppressed the giant blood more than it did in you, since I have more Veela-blood than you."

"Whatever, then, if it doesn't affect me now. Go on – how can this be cured?"

"Well ... it's not so much of a ... cure thing. Hybrid Veela with Veela potentiality either blossom into a full Veela – like you or me, or they don't. If you have children, they will be full Veela if you mate with another Veela or half-Veela if you mate with a non-Veela."

"How can I have children if I can't get it up? Father's been pestering me about marrying, but I can't!" And the fop's been pestering me to-- He firmly broke off that line of thought.

"You will be able to, don't you worry. When you mate you will be able to."

Klaus's mind made a connection. "So I've ... gone into fucking heat? Like some kind of stray she-cat? And what about my mother and grandmother – how were they able to ... reproduce?"

"Your mother didn't have the potential. It rarely skips generations, which was another reason you weren't watched closer. Your grandmother had the potentiality, but it never blossomed for her. She married anyway and had children."

"So by mate you don't mean just to fuck?"

"Language, Klaus Heinz. Not for someone with potential, no. For a blossomed Veela, though, yes. And then, nephew, after that, you will be able to control the ardour. The lust-smell. Men will do anything for you if you use it, but you will be able to control when you want to use it. See – end of problem."

Klaus didn't fucking think so. "I have to ... have sex with someone?"

"I'm afraid that it is either that or to spend the rest of your life in a compound or somewhere equally protected. Or surrounded only by women, if you can find such a place. You seem to be the type to attract only men. A couple of hundred years ago it was fairly popular to hide in nunneries."

"I'm not joining a fucking nunnery! And I'm not gay!" Though in truth he wasn't sure what he was. He had never felt much attraction to anyone and had believed himself to be simply frigid.

His great uncle – unbelievable as that notion was – just smiled and shrugged. "Sorry. The only males that would not pursue you otherwise, as you've learned, are those with giant blood. Unless they like you for yourself, that is, there have been several very happy part-giant/Veela matings in the past. People already in a close relationship with someone are also more or less excepted, as are people too young or too old to breed – as well as those with very strong brotherly or fatherly feelings for you."

Such as the butler, perhaps, Klaus thought – and hoped. On close consideration the older man's interest hadn't been as much sexual as just plain weird – possibly with something fatherly to it. "Is there no other way?"

"I'm afraid not."

To stay at a compound was out of the question. Even if they might be Eroica-proof. "I don't particularly want to have sex with someone. Or have them rape me."

His uncle shrugged. "You will like it, when the time comes. Especially if he has to fight you for the privilege. When it happens like that, it is a test of strength, to see if they are worthy of you."

"So this so-called 'mate' of mine has to be stronger than me? Able to beat me in a fair fight? There aren't many of those around."

His great uncle laughed merrily. "Well, if you do find someone who you like, I suggest you don't fight so hard, then. And he doesn't necessarily have to fight you. Sometimes a Veela and his or her mate are true mates. They just 'click'. Normally this is when a male Veela has a female, human mate, unable to beat him, but sometimes otherwise as well. Tell me – have you spent time around a male since this began who didn't seem interested?"

"No." Well, except for Mischa, but Mischa had said that was because of the giant blood and him being in a relationship. Klaus hoped to hell that was true. If Mischa had turned out to be his fucking "mate", Klaus would have had no choice but to slit his own throat on pure principle.

"Pity. That would have been a clue. Such a mate is not affected by the lure, you see, though he would fight for you if forced. Well, in that case I can only really recommend that you think through your situation and see if you find any of your male acquaintances ... acceptable."

"This is sick. So – I have to fuck someone and then all this will go away." If that was what it took he would just have to shut up and cope. He could always spread his legs, close his eyes and think of Germany.

"You will be able to control the lure, yes. In some situations it can be very useful."

"Fine." Klaus had never considered himself in the role of Mata Hari, but if push came to shoves, he would never turn down a potentially useful weapon. But ... "Would I have to stay in close proximity to this person? And what if this 'mate' of mine were to disappear? Or ... die?" Right afterwards, for instance, real sudden-like.

His uncle frowned. "As long as you know where he is and that you can return to him regularly there is no problem with staying apart. If he dies or if he disappears for a significantly long time so that your body believes him to be dead you would go into a sort of withdrawal. If you were still of breeding age, that is. How long it lasts would depend on how long you have been together. Anything from between a few days to a couple of months – half a year at most. Almost all Veela kill themselves during this period. I'm told that the pain is more emotional than physical, but a great strain never the less."

Whatever. I can deal with any kind of pain for a couple of days, especially a fucking "emotional" one!

"And then it starts over again," his uncle continued.

Klaus looked up sharply. "Starts over again how, exactly?"

"With the lure. To attract a new mate."

"Oh, fuck it! And there's no way to ... just suppress this?"

"Nothing that over 30 generations of Veela have found, anyway, and we are still researching the problem. I'm sorry."

So was Klaus.

The Veela compound was ... not straining. Everyone smiled at him in a friendly manner. That would usually have annoyed him, for he would have known they wanted something. Here, however, they only smiled and nodded, but gave him all the space he needed. The only one to approach him was his uncle, who joined him a few hours later for dinner. Again with nothing meaty on the table – apparently the Veela were grass-eaters, though by choice, not by necessity. Heinz told Klaus a bit about his mother's side of the family, which Klaus found interesting. His father hadn't known much and if he had known anything at all about magic, he certainly had never told Klaus. Klaus didn't plan on asking him, either.

He had agreed to stay the night, because he needed the time to figure out his game plan. The following day would come soon enough to put to test whatever he decided on. He couldn't return to NATO before he had dealt with the problem, that was for sure. The guest room bed was much too soft for his liking and the sheets a very feminine shade of pale green, but nevertheless, he lay down, trying to rest his weary body and gather his thoughts.

He couldn't stay in the compound. NATO needed him and besides, to while away his existence like some kind of useless, lazy freeloader was out of the question.

Furthermore - he couldn't lie down with a stranger. Not that it would do him any good, anyway. From what his uncle had told him, a "one night stand" would only give him a day or two in crippling pain, before the whole circus would start all over again. So, no to that, except possibly as some kind of last, desperate measure. Besides, who knew what kind of germs he would catch that way. So. One of those "mates". And damn him to hell if he would let a flock of sex-crazed wizards fight over him until only the strongest remained. He was not some kind of prize!

And then there is the Earl of Red Gloria ... I'd rather die!

Nor would he fight them himself, to find someone strong enough to be worthy of him. For whatever reason this option did feel slightly better than the previous one, resounding somewhere deep in his gut. However – as he had told his uncle – there were precious damn few of those around. Besides, whoever could beat him in a fair fight must also be trustworthy. Which left an even narrower selection.

If I pull my punches a bit Z might be able to ... he thought hesitantly, then wanted to shoot himself for even thinking about poor, innocent Z that way. Even if Z had acted as ringleader during the incident at the hotel, suggesting to the rest that they cooperate in order to ... secure their goal. He wasn't himself. Besides, I ... just couldn't.

And then there is the Earl of Red Gloria ... Hell no!

He thought about his other NATO co-workers. Major Navit, from the Primal Numbers Team (and whoever thought up that stupid idea?), was ... not a complete moron. They had, on occasion, ended up at the same, all but full lunch restaurant and had, as the only people there of their rank, silently agreed to share a table. The first time it had been a very quiet, strained affair, both of them eating rapidly and leaving with hasty nods in each other's direction. As the same thing had happened repeatedly, they had exchanged at first the most basic of small talk and eventually had drifted into complaints regarding their agents. Apparently Navit's lot was not far better than Klaus's own. Now, even when the restaurant wasn't so full, Navit would drift to Klaus's table and Klaus would, when he saw the tall Indian, make sure that half the table was free in the only invitation he could offer. However, Navit was married. Happily so too, from what Klaus had gleaned. So, that would be most inadvisable.

And then there is the Earl of Red Gloria ... No fucking way.

He desperately tried to think of the men who had been the boys he had gone to school with. Worthless bunch of lazy arses, all of them.

Members of other agencies he had had contact with. Incompetent bunglers.

So help him, he even considered his Bonn neighbours, with whom he sometimes was forced to have contact due to some neighbourhood crisis. Since they had somehow ferreted out that he worked in security, they came to him when young hooligans threw rocks through windows or committed other such nasty pranks. Not that Klaus minded much – to catch the perpetrators usually didn't take long and was a welcome change from his otherwise monotonous home life. The neighbours themselves, though, were so ... helpless. None of them would be able to protect his back in an ugly situation.

And then there is the Earl of Red Gloria ... Not a chance ...

So, no matter whom he tried to think of, there really was no one acceptable, for one reason or the other. He rolled over and leaned his head back, breathing in a lungful of cool air.

At least he is not my bloody "true mate". He would be impossible if he thought he was.

Oh yes, the flaming poof would have licked that possibility up with a spoon, that was for sure.

Stupid concept. With all the million people in the world, how could one find one's "true mate"? If I even have one. He might live in ... South Korea. I've never even been there.

Klaus didn't really think he had such a mate, though. Might be nice, perhaps. Oh well, it isn't the Lord of Gloria, anyway ...

No one had ever pursued Klaus the way the limey had. There had been weak moments when Klaus had ... not approved, no, not exactly, but ... found it ever so slightly flattering. He knew very well that he wasn't a "people person". He tended to scare most everyone he met, not charm them – not even when he tried his best to appear meek and harmless. To be so obviously courted by a man who could have pretty much anyone he batted his eyelashes at had been ... unexpected and unwelcome, yes, yet, in a way a strange kind of balm for Klaus's rough heart.

That meddling thief looked at me and knew he wanted me, pretty much from the start. Well, the beginning was a little rocky, but ... almost from the start, anyway. Like one of those "true mates" should, uncle said. Hah. I couldn't have been with him anyway. Not when I couldn't even get it up. He would have laughed at me. So what, though – he would have been gone. Wasn't that what I wanted? But then he acted like the rest of the mindless drones, when this cursed stupidity hit, following me as if I was a bitch in heat. I wonder what he wanted, when he came to my apartment? It couldn't have hit him before then, unless he lay in wait for me somewhere.

The very idea of Dorian in full pursuit mode made him want to shudder. When the man assumed his Eroica personality he had a truly ruthless strike, capable of doing pretty much anything to reach whatever inane goal he had decided upon. Like a force of nature.

If K hadn't knocked him down from behind, he would have fought the others. Hah – he doesn't have the training for it, they would have killed him, but he would have fought. He's underhanded, though, sneaky – maybe he would have done better than I think. Dorian had managed to trip him on a few occasions. He did seem a little ... less focused than the others, now that I think of it. Not less interested, only less ... wild about it.

He shifted to a more comfortable position and scratched his chest with his knuckles – catching the scar and hissing sharply when the pleasure zinged through his body.

Almost as if he wasn't affected by the smell. Though I guess he hadn't spent as much time with me as the Alphabet. Half an hour or so for a human, Mischa said, only a couple of minutes for a wizard. Hadn't gotten a large enough dose yet, perhaps. Though he did come on to me at the apartment, right away, complimenting me. No, he does that all the time ... What did he say this time? My tie, something. I smelled good. He snorted. And my hair looked good. Fuck it, I had just gotten a haircut, maybe he really meant it?

He dragged his hand across his chest again and closed his eyes for a moment at the strong sensation. Wonder how someone else's touch would feel like ... A deliberate touch, that is, to ... please me.

Feeling unaccountably ashamed, yet excited: he felt like when he had snuck out of school to smoke. Unbuttoning his borrowed pyjama top he exposed the silvery scar. This time he used his fingertips, dragging them lightly down the sensitive area. His breath caught in his throat and a warm pulse flashed through him, outwards and downwards. A little more teasing intensified the sudden warmth in his groin and Klaus watched in horrified fascination how his trouser crotch slowly bulged, tenting over a growing erection. Hesitantly, he reached out with his left hand to touch the ... protrusion ... and hissed under his breath at how good the contact felt.

He had tried to masturbate, when he had first learned about how good doing so was supposed to feel and how it was supposed to be done. Nothing had happened. He had tried a few times later too, just to check if anything had changed. It never had. There had never been any of this ... pulsing, demanding heat – nothing at all beyond the mild niceness of touching a part of himself which was soft - the same sensation he got from rubbing the insides of his wrists, for example. This, however ... this!

"Hhhh," he heard and looked around, startled by the unexpected sound.

"Hhhh." It was he himself who made that soft, breathy moan!


Something was wrong, though. To touch himself felt … good. Oh yes! Very much so. Better than shooting a perfect score with his Magnum; better than capturing Mischa; better than outsmarting the fop; yes, yes, yes, oh yes – but ...

I shouldn't be doing this alone.


He shouldn't do this alone, no. But since there was no one else near him, he pretended that the not quite there touch to his now - for the first time ever! - swollen cock belonged to someone else. Pretended that the long fingers that crept under his pyjamas pants knew what they were doing. Pretended that he had spread his legs a little wider at someone else's whispered encouragement.

"Hhhh. Hhhh. Hhhh."

Yes! Someone who knew what he was doing. Someone who knew how to touch to make everything feel so good. He shifted his hips into that knowing touch ... Someone who would ... claim him. Open him up. Take him. Penetrate him. Mate with him. Fuck him senseless. Join with him. Someone, who would look at him with those blue, blue eyes – soft blue like cornflowers, yet with an intensity like the centre of a flame ... His left hand tightened around his length and he bucked hard.


When he looked up, he wasn't the least bit surprised to see into exactly those blue, blue eyes. Soft blue. Like cornflowers. Yet intense like the centre of a flame.

"Don't stop on my account, my dear major."

Klaus snapped his left hand out of his pants at the same time as his right found the handle of the large, serrated-edged knife.

"So you gave Mischa the slip," he said, surprised at how difficult it was to keep his voice even and not breathless – it wasn't as if he had done anything strenuous, damn it! Strangely enough, he felt no need to cover up his exposed skin.

Dorian shrugged. His blue eyes wandered all over Klaus's body and his vaguely predatory smile made clear that he approved of what he saw. He tapped a long, white piece of wood – or maybe alabaster - against his thigh. "He is a good wizard. I am better."

"They told me no one could get into the compound."

Dorian shrugged again. He lifted the wood sliver and with no apparent effort bent the flexible wand almost double between his fingers. "The locks and barriers to this place are good. I am still better. There is no lock on this Earth, magical or otherwise, that I can't open."

Klaus got up. His legs felt strangely stiff, as if their skin was pulled too tight. "And now what?"

"If you want me to, I would be more than happy to give you a hand with that," Dorian said, nodding towards Klaus's still filled out groin. "Or a mouth. Or something else entirely."

"And if I don't want it? Will you fight me to get what you're after?"

Dorian's lecherous smile faltered. "Rape you, you mean?"

"Ja," Klaus acknowledged, waiting for the response to determine his next move.

The man before him managed to actually look hurt.

"As tempting as it was: the sight of you with your chest bared and stroking yourself with such a sweet sneer on your lips ... I don't do rape, darling. Not unless the victim begs me for it; a little game in bed can be all good and fun. The real thing, though, is much too ... uncouth. Either you scream my name willingly, or I would rather you didn't scream it at all."

"Good," Klaus said, with a decisive nod. "I never threw a fight willingly, anyway."

"Pardon me, darling?"

"Boxing term. Throwing a fight. Letting the other guy win."

"Right now, Major, you confuse me very much."

"Join the club," Klaus muttered. At the same time he knew that this was right –utterly, completely so. So he plunked the knife on the bedside table and sat down, scooting back until he was in the middle of the wide bed.

"Well, come on then." He waved for Dorian to approach. "What the fuck are you waiting for? Are you going to bloody hell claim me or not? Move it!"

So Dorian did.

What happened later:

A was very ashamed when his wife told him about what they had gotten up to during his birthday celebration. She wasn't. On a trip to America she discovered The Sentinel and six hours later a phenomenon known as "slash". She quickly became one of her chosen fandom's most prolific writers. A often helped her by beta-reading her stories – and by making sure some of the trickier scenes were physically possible. They kept the wig.

After he came to his senses the barber, a squib by the name of Sangfroid Malfoy, fled Germany in abject terror, certain that he would be hunted down and executed. He died two years later in a most unfortunate, boar-related accident.

On winter evenings the butler would often bring his Master Klaus roasted chestnuts and smile hopefully at him. However, neither of them ever mentioned The Incident again.

E's artwork gained an enormous following and 150 years later, when some of his most extraordinary masterpieces were released from a private collector, a large number were hung at the Louvre. His "Hurry the fuck up, I'm waiting," was for centuries regarded as one of the most sensual pieces ever drawn.

Hagrid and Professor "Fang" lived happily ever after. Klaus and Dorian visited them several times at Hogwarts, until Dorian stole some silly old goblet, after which the visits instead took place at North Downs.

Q, who had been quite amused by the whole situation, made a favourable report to the Continuum.

On returning home, X was quite confused to find that not only had he bought very expensive champagne, the finest German chocolate and a pair of gold rings, he had also marked the day after that the mission was supposed to end on his calendar with a big, red heart. He shrugged and got over it.

On following Klaus one night to see what kept him so occupied, Z accidentally discovered the wizarding world. Eventually he met, fell in love with and married Viktor, a cub from Mischa and Dostoyevsky's first litter.

Iron Klaus worked 15 more years for NATO, then joined the German Auror Division, where he quickly rose in ranks. He and Dorian boffed like bunnies for well over a century and then only once (or twice) a day, for the rest of their lives.

The End

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