Author's disclaimer and notes: I don't own them, I just dream of doing so. Feedback is better than marzipan. Corrections to my language or any other type of comments are welcome. Ask if you want me to archive it anywhere. You may link to this story if you want or to my main page. 20.263 words. Written in April 2008.
Warnings: Crossover with Doubting Lucifer, but no prior knowledge is necessary (besides, no such knowledge is currently available).
There will be a sequel, but it will take a long while before it is ready.
Betaed by Heather Sparrows (hat off to you as always, Heather!) and Kadorienne (big thank you!). Without you this wouldn't be half as good! Remaining errors are all mine.
If you want you can also read/download the story as a doc file (without graphics).
DON't MISS THE PICTURE ~aVoidETC MADE INSPIRED BY THIS FIC! It is great!
The heart of Schloss Eberbach was not the grand ball room, where the grafs of old had held their stately parties. Nor was it the smaller library, even if it was to that cosy little haven that the gentlemen so often retreated to in order to escape the strain of everyday life. It wasn't even the master bedroom - which had seen little enough action in the last decades. Some, more aware of the habits of the current head of the revered family, might have put their money on the well-stocked and often visited gun room. Admittedly, the latter must be counted as close to the heart of the matter, but in truth the real Schloss centre, around which everything else revolved, was the kitchen.
Post-war the family had found themselves in need of fewer servants. Some had retired, due to age, until a bare minimum remained. On the rare occasion when more staff was required, they were hired from the nearby village on a temporary basis. The kitchen staff consisted of only the chef and two maids. When they had nothing else to occupy them the latter also helped with cleaning. These days the kitchen mostly provided food for the other servants, rather than for the Eberbach family. Young Master Klaus, as the butler always thought of him, stayed at the castle regularly, but his taste was most ascetic. He frowned upon those lavish meals that the chef, Herr Gottschalk, longed to make - seven courses, served with the finest wines and made from ingredients specially imported from exotic countries. The Young Master did have a weakness for potatoes, yes. That little tidbit was a most well-known secret, jealously guarded by his employees. Potatoes was just about the only thing they could indulge him in. Possibly he didn't even realise how hard his employees worked to find rare species and variations of the edible root and how carefully they studied his least reactions to each new treat presented.
However, while the kitchen - if barely - kept busy during the day, from the wee hours of morning when the gardeners snuck in for their first cup of coffee, at 21:00 sharp the room became absolutely and strictly verboten. No excuses accepted, as many a careless maid had learned the hard way when returning to retrieve some dropped glove or bag. At nine the kitchen became the sole territory of the most feared man in the castle.
Not Young Master Klaus. Oh, the servants had all developed a very healthy respect for him - both due to his sometimes sharp temper, but also because of what little they knew of his line of work in the service of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Nor his father - Master Eberbach Senior himself only seldom visited the castle, preferring the more lenient seasons of Switzerland or even Italy. On the rare occasion he showed up he often fussed over the least detail, but they all knew he would soon leave, so while they tried their best not to upset him, they didn't fear him overly. No, ruler of Schloss Eberbach - not in name or in theory, but in practice - was Herr Hinkel, the butler.
From 21:00 Herr Hinkel expected the kitchen to be void of all workers. Within 15 minutes of that set deadline, he would make one final pot of coffee - the strong, dark Nescafé Gold Blend that his Young Master favoured. Then he would gather all newspapers - on one of the Young Master's rare days off often bought by the Young Master himself while running around the countryside, at other times by the groundskeeper, Herr Ibtsam, on his last round for the day - and sit himself down at the small table to the left of the stove. There Herr Hinkel would sit, slowly reading through each paper. Der Spiegel, Focus, Frankfurter Allgemeine and Stern, sometimes even The Tatler and The Times. The English magazines got sent to him irregularly by a colleague and associate of his, native to Great Britain. On occasion he would reach for big scissors hanging on the wall close by, and carefully cut out some article or ad. Sometimes the clippings regarded interesting new potato variations, more often recipes involving large amounts of potato and at other times they connected to the work performed by his Young Master for NATO. Herr Hinkel had a rather extensive archive of the latter and was most proud of the man his green-eyed little hellion had grown up to be. Lately some interesting thefts had also caught his attention, so they, too, had been added to his ever-growing collection. When this, his last task of the day, had been meticulously dealt with Herr Hinkel would finally add the newspapers to the paper pile, carefully place his cup and saucer in the large kitchen sink and retire to his small room on the top floor of the southern wing.
Thus had been Herr Hinkel's routine for nigh on 25 years. Of course, he only followed it when the ascetic bedroom in the northern wing, that of Young Master Klaus, was occupied. On other nights Herr Hinkel merely put the gathered newspapers in a separate pile, to be worked through when the Young Master was home once more. And finally, once upon a great, great while, Herr Hinkel's routine was disturbed for a very different reason than forgetful maids, luckless thieves or intruding enemy agents. This was such a night.
A minor headline in Stern had just caught his attention - " Kartoffelsuppe Rheinische Art" (Potato Soup Rhenish Style). He was glancing through the short text to see if the article might be suitable to add to Herr Gottschalk's experiments, when a waft of cold air touched his legs. This alerted him that the kitchen door had been opened. A faint swoosh followed, indicating that the door had then, once more, been closed. Without moving as much as an inch Herr Hinkel lifted his eyes to the silver serving dish hanging by the table - in perfect angle to show an intruder in its extremely well-polished surface. An intruder who was not a maid or a gardener or any other staff-member - but the tall, dark-haired Young Master of the castle himself. Young Master Klaus looked around the area as if to reacquaint himself with its nooks and crannies. He only very seldom visited. For all that Herr Hinkel knew it might have been ten years since Young Master Klaus last had come down. At other times, when an errand required his presence, of course, but not on an evening such as this. The butler lowered his gaze again, returning to the admittedly rather promising article. No matter if ten or fifteen or twenty years had passed, he knew his Young Master well - better than anyone, perhaps. If he acknowledged the boy, ah, man before he had made his final approach, Young Master Klaus would immediately retreat.
Skittish like a deer, Herr Hinkel thought affectionately.
So he kept reading and waiting and finally he reached for the scissors and made his cut. Oh, he did wonder what had prompted Young Master Klaus to come, of course he did, he was only human, but he also knew that only if he played his cards right, would he ever find out. When the chair next to him was pulled out he could no longer pretend to be unaware of the company. So he gave a little start, just to keep up appearances - the Young Master would have been so disappointed, had he known how readily he had been spotted. Then he bowed his neck in acknowledgement, before once more returning to the paper.
A memory of old came to him - of sitting just so that first night so long ago - around 25 years ago, in fact - at the time cutting out articles about companies of which Master Eberbach Senior was a shareholder, when his then even younger Young Master had made his appearance, sitting down and meeting his eyes defiantly, all but daring Herr Hinkel to mention that Young Master Klaus had been up way past his bed time.
After having finished with Stern he put it onto the pile of papers already examined. Instead of reaching for Der Spiegel he lifted his cup and drank.
"Coffee?" he then asked casually. "I do believe there might be a small cup left. It would be a shame to waste it."
Once, a long time ago, he had said "ice cream" and "bowl" rather than "coffee" and "cup".
The answer had been the same, though. Even as a child Young Master Klaus hadn't been very talkative. Without commenting on the taciturn reply, Herr Hinkel rose and deftly poured a second cup. The pot he had made earlier held two, even if he always only drank one. He placed the cup - early 19th century bone china with the Eberbach city boar - before the Young Master, who took it at once and lifted it to drink. The staff had long since come to the conclusion that it was Nescafé only that passed muster. A shame that, as otherwise a whole new venue to please their employer would have opened. He really was quite addicted.
Duty done, Herr Hinkel sat down again and started in on Der Spiegel. He had one more paper left, but if in a pinch he had a few old issues he had already examined that he could go over again. While he would normally finish by a quarter to eleven at the latest, on a night such as this he would keep going until the Young Master had had his say. Which could take time.
Midway through Focus came the question – spoken with a hint of annoyance, as if it had already been asked and he hadn't paid attention.
"So if the girl follows you home for one of those 'nightcaps' - do you drink before or after?"
As if 18 years hadn't passed from that time they had spoken about ladies following a gentleman home for a "nightcap" and what that euphemism really stood for? Still, the butler calmly replied, "It is always polite to offer the lady refreshments once you are inside, but let her decide what she prefers. Normally she will indicate what she is most interested in to start with. If she is nervous a small glass beforehand might be good, but do have something ready for afterwards as well. Just something small, unless the lady insists."
"But before is acceptable?"
"Yes," he affirmed with a small nod.
"What if she follows you home for a nightcap and doesn't want to ... well, what if she really just wants to drink?"
"If you have treated her well on your date; made sure that the evening is all about what she wants to do, and she then follows you home for a nightcap, by doing so she gives her permission that what goes on once you are back at your place is for you and what you want, Young Master Klaus. Needless to say, though – of course a no is always a no, should the lady happen to change her mind in the last minute."
He received no reply and ventured a quick glance at the serving dish. The Young Master looked pensive, as if something about the answer hadn't been quite what he had hoped for. Still, the butler couldn't have given any other advice. So, he just waited and went through The Tatler. He did wonder, though. Had the Young Master really never made use of the advice given to him all those years ago? And did he now finally contemplate doing so? The butler had actually started to give up on ever getting to put together another Eberbachian wedding - and maybe getting to see another generation of headstrong - if adorable - tykes growing up ...
"The date is for her, afterwards is for him," said the Young Master, parroting the butler's own words from 18 years ago.
"Exactly, Young Master Klaus."
"But she might not be a real lady if she does do this?"
"Normally a true lady would not do this, no. Possibly very close to the marriage."
"It is not considered proper. But it is proper for the man?"
"Yes, of course."
"That is how the world is."
They sat in silence for a short while. The final newspaper done with, Herr Hinkel bent to retrieve a bunch of old ones, carefully selecting a Focus he knew he hadn't made any cuts in, and continued. No further questions came. Finally, the Young Master got up and left. Herr Hinkel waited a few minutes longer. Then he carefully placed the cups and saucers in the large kitchen sink and retired to his small room on the top floor of the southern wing. While doing so he wondered, slightly morosely, how many more years would pass before he was once more needed for consultation. Still, he would sit at the kitchen table again tomorrow night, at 21:00 sharp. Of course he would.
The day was beautiful. More than beautiful! It was wonderful! Radiantly so. As had been, actually, every day for the past week - regardless of hesitant sunshine and far less hesitant torrential thunderstorms. At least as far as one of the citizens of North Downs was concerned.
"Hello, my dear Bonham!" Dorian greeted his SIC on cornering him in the library.
"Do you, my dear Bonham, know what day it is today?"
"Why, so it is! Beautiful Tuesday! And do you know what day it will be tomorrow, my dear Bonham?"
"Exactly! Gorgeous Wednesday. And do you know what day it will be the day after that, my dear Bonham?"
"None other! Blessed Thursday! And do you, my dear Bonham, know what I will be doing on Thursday?"
"I believe you mentioned something about going to London, Milord."
"Yes, yes, yes! But what will I be doing in London, my dear Bonham?" The mastermind of the Eroica gang fairly bounced in place, all but shivering with anticipation.
Bonham, who very well knew exactly what his employer would be doing in London come Thursday, nevertheless played along. Dorian seldom played silly like this, so he wanted to indulge him. "Why, no, Milord. Whatever will you be doing in London, Milord?"
"I will be going on a date! A date, my dear Bonham! And do you happen to know just who I will be going on this date with, my dear Bonham?"
"No, Milord. With whom will you be going on a date?"
"On Thursday I will be going to London on a date, my dear Bonham, with none other than Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach! A date! A date, Bonham! We'll be going on a date! Me and Klaus! A real date!"
"That sounds wonderful, Milord. I'm really happy for you. Best of luck!"
"Thank you, my dear, dear Bonham. Rudy? Rudy, wait!"
Dorian flittered off to the next thief, who hadn't quite succeeded in sneaking out of the library past their employer's back. Bonham shamelessly listened in on the start of the following conversation:
"Do you, my dear Rudy, know what day it is today?"
"I do believe it might be Tuesday today, boss."
"Why so it is! Beautiful Tuesday! And do you—"
Smiling faintly, Bonham turned away. He was very happy for Dorian, he truly was. They all were, each and every one of the remaining twelve members of Dorian's crew. This had, however, been going on for well over a week now ... Thursday couldn't come soon enough for any of them.
With mixed emotions, Klaus dialled the well-known number and waited until he got Dorian on the line.
"Hello, Klaus!" The limey sounded so very happy to hear from him that Klaus almost winced.
"Dorian," he greeted in return, then started in on his planned speech. "I regret to have to inform you that—"
"You're bailing." The words fairly dripped disappointment. "I knew it was too good to be true."
Klaus winced now. "I have no choice. The situation has changed." It had.
"You've had time to think things through, that's what you mean." Accusing now.
"That's not it. I will not be in England that day. Otherwise, I ... looked forward to it." And he really had looked forward to the coming Thursday. Granted, mostly because of the football game. He seldom had the time and made the effort to do something like that, but truth be told he enjoyed football. Had he had more time to spare he would have liked to go more often. The other part, the ... Dorian part, he was less sure of - but he had made up his mind and would have followed through.
"Oh. So did I. Very much." Dorian's tone had become much softer; much more intimate. Klaus wasn't sure if that was better or not. "What happened?"
"I can't tell you. NATO business. Changed circumstances. We won't go until Friday, after the game." Because His Highness had changed his mind and instead attended a bloody camel race in Tunis or whatever. The would-be-assassin sat tight, though, waiting for his chance. "Orders from the Chief," he added, since he wanted it clear that he didn't break his word of his own accord, but really was forced by circumstances.
"Does he know?" At this a bit of sharpness returned to Dorian's voice.
"About the ... football game? That you were accompanying me?"
"Nein, I told no one." Especially not the Chief. What did Dorian think, that Klaus wanted to telegraph his surrender to the entire world? "We have nine tickets, but only seven were going." It was standard in such circumstances to have a couple of extras, in case they needed to bribe someone or meet informants. Since the original plan had been for them not to go to England until the day before the game he hadn't thought they would have accumulated the need of either, though if pressed he could have left an agent outside the arena to make room for Dorian. Dorian almost counted as an agent anyway. On occasion he had been very useful. Thus Klaus had had few qualms about claiming a ticket for personal use. Besides, Eroica was a business contact as well. Had anyone dared to question his decision Klaus could have spun a tale of greasing the man to ensure future cooperation.
Dorian hummed, an indeterminate noise that seemed to imply that he took Klaus's latest statement into consideration. "I am still most displeased."
Part of Klaus realised that he should probably insert an apology, but he had already said he regretted the entire thing, hadn't he? There was an awkward pause. A few seconds later, Dorian broke it. "We could do something else, though," he said tentatively. "Couldn't we? Some other time? I would really like that."
"We could," Klaus agreed, relieved that the man hadn't started screaming, like a woman Klaus had tried dating had done in a similar situation. Unlike that woman, he would actually run into Dorian again - of that he had no doubt - and that would get even more awkward. "Ehm ... I don't know when ..."
"I'll think about it and contact you later?" Dorian offered.
Klaus would have preferred to have the initiative, but figured he owed this to the Brit. "Very well."
After yet another awkward pause, they both hung up.
When John Paul entered the library Bonham looked in his direction. He had been reading up on the specification of a new type of safe, the Farinsaati 500, and the many technical details had yet to make sense, so he welcomed the interruption.
"Code blue," John Paul said, sounding dead serious. "We have a code blue. The Earl is depressed. I repeat: the Earl is depressed." He smiled wryly. "Seems as if Operation Football has been cancelled ..."
So Bonham said the only thing he could think of. "Crap!"
Dorian lay across his Francois Linke, Ormolu-mounted mahogany bed with a cornucopia design. Originally it had been owned by one of his lovers. After having found the man cheating on him Dorian had ditched the man - and stolen the bed. He lay with his hair carefully freed to tumble down the side, rather than to be tucked under his neck and shoulders. Too tired to even glance up when his bedroom door opened, he kept staring dimly into the air. He recognised Bonham anyway. The cockney's somewhat heavy, slow gait separated him from all of Dorian's other employees.
"Tea's getting cold, Milord," was said softly.
"I'm not in the mood," he replied listlessly. From his position he had a good view of the door leading to Klaus's room, the second master bedroom. In deference to the man himself, on this side the door was solid oak, with tasteful ironwork.
"Not in the mood for tea, Milord? You be ill, then?"
He shrugged. What did tea matter, when life had let him down so utterly ruthlessly?
A weight next to his shoulder rocked the water mattress, as Bonham settled beside him.
"Grandma always said that a cuppa will help you order your thoughts, Milord."
He glanced in Bonham's direction. The man, bless him, looked worried. "What I need, Bonham, is to go to a football game." And he didn't even like football!
"You don't even like football, Milord."
He closed his eyes briefly. "I know, Bonham ..."
So, Dorian did. He trusted Bonham. For all that Dorian was the supreme, undisputed leader of the Eroica gang, he most often ended up following Bonham's advice. Dorian might have the skill and the charisma, but Bonham had his own brand of savvy - Bonham got things done.
A slight rocking indicated that the Cockney kicked his legs while listening. When Dorian had finished his SIC hummed thoughtfully. "So. Uncle NATO is standing you up - but only because he has orders to stay put in Germany."
"Yes ..." The world was a cruel, cold place with no justice.
"Otherwise, Leader would have taken you out on your date."
As always, the moniker bestowed on the major by his gang made Dorian smile, if this time slightly tremulously. Knowing Klaus, he had always wondered how come the man had allowed them to use it. The German translation of "Leader" was "Führer", something which might have easily put Klaus off. He must have understood, though, that whoever came up with it hadn't know this and so he had instead taken it as an appreciation – as it surely had been intended. "He said so, Bonham. And I believe him." Even if he sometimes wasn't sure why Klaus had actually come with his unprecedented offer.
A hand, rather on the chubby side, floated past his line of vision. Then a careful finger deftly pushed his forelock away from his right eye, where it had fallen. Bonham smiled lovingly down at him. "This isn't like you, Milord."
"But he was going to take me out, Bonham! I wanted to go!" He had been willing to go to a football game, for love's sake!
"Of course you did. And he wanted to take you, that stone-faced Germanic ice-statue. Good for him, Milord, and good for you! And now you're pining like a 13-year-old ninny whose father has forbidden him to look at that handsome butcher boy down at the shop."
Dorian blinked, not used to hearing that tone from his unswervingly loyal Second In Command. "It was Mother who forbid me to do that. Father never minded."
"And what did you do when Lady Gloria did that, Milord?"
"Snuck out, so I could go look at him anyway."
Bonham nodded sagely. "You wouldn't let your mum stop you."
"Of course not. There was no harm in looking at the boy. He didn't understand why, though, I think. Not until I met him again six years ago. He still blushes when he sees me down in the village, the poor dear." The man was still of the handsome sort, even if Dorian had long since moved on to bigger and better prey.
Bonham patted the shoulder closest to him. "So why are you giving up so easily now, Milord? What's that personal policy of yours, again?"
Dorian blinked. "Whatever I want, I get."
He got another pat, a little harder this time. "So, Milord - make sure you get it, then."
Slowly, as he began to see the error of his ways , Dorian smiled.
"You know, Bonham, I think I'll have that cup of tea now."
The chief read a report on the progress of infiltrating certain key elements of the Russian government - a top secret operation, of course, which he desperately hoped would not land on Major von dem Eberbach's desk eventually. Before him stood a steaming cup of coffee. Mildred, replacement secretary while his ordinary secretary was on vacation, had just brought it in, favouring him with a sunny smile as she did. Lovely creature that she was - the chief enjoyed beauty of both genders - he didn't let her fool him for one second. In all likelihood she was one of the Enemy's henchpersons. He didn't want to know what the coffee contained, for all that it smelled so utterly delightful. Oh no - he had learned his lesson well. Nowadays he only drank water taken by himself from public restrooms at random and kept in a thermos never out of his sight. In the last month alone he had lost four kilos.
He hesitated, eyeing the phone. Then he took a deep breath and reached for the receiver. Before lifting it to his ear he studied the plastic carefully, to make sure that it at least looked untampered with. There had been ... unpleasantries.
"Yes?" he then said, making sure to sound brisk and businesslike. Meanwhile he wondered if the call would turn out to be yet another prank. They came often, yet irregularly. Traceable - oh yes, to various places - public phones, restaurants, police stations, the homes of persons currently vacationing abroad: places with nothing in common. He no longer even bothered having them traced.
"Hello, Director," said a bright, almost-purring, male voice. "So good to hear you." English. Upper class. Laurence? No, then there would have been that little half-chuckle at the end, indicating "We're all jolly good friends, are we not? Comrades in arms!"
"Ah ... hello?" he said tentatively. The voice had sounded familiar, yes, but he didn't know who it might be. "Who is this?"
"Oh, but you wound me. Am I really so easily forgettable?" The tone turned a little coy, flirtatious even ... Suddenly, an image jumped to his mind and his gut clenched.
"Oh - you do remember me! I am so very pleased!"
"Why are you calling?! When will you stop tormenting me?!"
A bright laughter answered him. Evil! Evil!
"Well, that little 'joke' you tried to play on my dear Major von dem Eberbach - I'm afraid I didn't find that the least bit funny. To tell you the truth, I was quite vexed," said the Enemy, his voice still close to a cat-like purr. "However, given the right inducement I might be willing to negotiate a ... well, let's call it a truce, shall we? Let bygones be bygones and all that ..."
What? He blinked, repeatedly. Could this be true? Could it be possible? "He's yours," he said hastily.
Another bright laughter. Perhaps not quite as evil this time. "Tsk, tsk, my dear Director. While I do appreciate the offer - oh, how I do dream of such a thing - I thought that was the very thing I just mentioned? The sweet major is not yours to make a gift of."
Danger! Danger! "I meant no offence!"
"Well, it was really sweet of you to offer. Now, as I was about to say - if you do me this itsy bitsy, tiny little favour, I would be willing to forgive you. My dear major has looked so dreadfully tired lately. I do believe that a small vacation would be very good for him."
No! He began to sweat. "He refuses to take them! We try to make him! He just won't go!"
"Not to worry. I will deal with that part."
He must be dreaming. A wonderful dream that never would survive him opening his eyes. "He can have as many days off as you want!"
"Thank you, dear, but one will do excellently. Thursday. Major von dem Eberbach was going to be in England that day, but you called it off."
"Oh, that's quite all right. But Germania can manage without her favourite son for just one little day, can't she?"
"Anything you want! He was supposed to go to England on a mission, but it was delayed, so—"
"Send him. Only him. Secret mission. He's on stand-by. Tell him that he will be contacted if there's a need for him to get involved. Of course, you will only disturb him if it is unavoidable. If you've heard the announcement of World War III, for instance. No, wait - strike that. You may contact Major von dem Eberbach if there's something you think he would want to know, otherwise he will be quite peeved and we don't want him in a bad mood, do we? Have I made this clear?"
"Crystal! And ... ah ... then you will, I mean, you won't ..."
"Truce until Klaus returns to Germany. Longer if everything proceeds well. Oh - and you won't tell him about our little chat, will you? Let's make this agreement our little secret. I trust you will take care of everything. Oh, and Director? Mildred really does makes excellent coffee. I do think you will like it. Ta-ta."
The phone disconnected with a click. Hardly able to believe his good fortune he cautiously reached out to take the coffee cup. He braved one tiny sip. It tasted wonderful.
Dorian carefully placed back the receiver on the telephone, then shifted back in the luxurious 18th century north Italian gilt wood armchair that served as his office chair.
"You look as if you should be having a fluffy white cat to pet," said Bonham.
"You look like a criminal mastermind. And pleased with yourself too."
Dorian laughed lightly. Then he lifted his tea cup - 1890 Russian silver-gilt and cloisonné enamel with a pattern of loose floral sprays in shades of red, white, blue and green - and smelled the still steaming brew before drinking deeply. "A good cup of tea really does work wonders, my dear Bonham."
"So, will Leader be coming, then?"
Dorian was mid-swallow and it took a moment before he could answer. "Well, I have no doubt that Fatso will arrange everything and then I ..." He trailed off, suddenly frowning.
" Milord? What be you thinking?"
"What if he doesn't?"
"By now he'd be doing anything to have some peace, that man. A shame, that. I kind of looked forward to stage 6."
"No! No, no, no, Bonham! Not him. Fatso'll do as he's told. But - but what about Klaus? What if he doesn't?"
"If Leader doesn't do what, Milord?"
"Call me! What if he doesn't call me!? What if he just ... doesn't? What if he's changed his mind?" Dorian now stood, tea cup forgotten. He could see it all too clearly. "Don't you see, Bonham? This is perfect for him! He thinks that I think he'll be in Germany that day! What if he goes to London on the Chief's order and never calls me about it?!"
His SIC shrugged a bit helplessly. "I don't know what to say, Milord. Leader's a honourable man. I don't think he would be doing that."
Not quite convinced, Dorian sat back down. He lifted the tea again. He held the cup in both hands, letting the heat warm them. "If he doesn't call, I'm taking Z to the game instead," he grumbled.
Luckily for everyone involved - and possibly especially Z - Klaus did call. He sounded slightly hesitant, maybe confused, but otherwise his usual, efficient self.
"There has been another change in circumstances."
"And hello to you too, my dear Klaus. It is lovely to hear your voice again, and especially so soon after your last call. Dare I hope you have thought about me and a possible rescheduling of our little get-together?"
"As I said - there's been a new development change in circumstances. I will be in London on Thursday after all."
"Oh, but how marvellous! Klaus, I'm so happy!"
"There are limitations!"
"I'm not sure how you mean, dear? Um ... Is it that I shouldn't—"
"I need to reach central London within the hour of being notified."
"Oh. Well, that should prove no obstacle. Would that be all?"
"Yes, as long as you realise that if I am called, everything else is off. I must go and that will be that."
"I can't say that I'm thrilled, but as long as I get a rain check if that happens, I understand. Don't worry, Klaus. Your work is important to you. I know that. Where will you be staying? You always have a room with me, but—"
"I will stay at the Ritz."
"As you wish. When will you arrive precisely? "
"My flight arrives 12:13 to Heathrow."
"I'll pick you up."
"Not in your pimpmobile you're not!"
"Of course not, darling. I'll have John Paul polish that darling little Benz you used last time you visited."
"I suppose that'll be acceptable."
"Capital. Then that's settled. Ah ... Klaus? I'm really happy about this. I really do look forward to it."
"... Football is an interesting sport."
"Oh, Klaus ... Well, I do look forward to seeing you. Goodbye."
"Hello, my dear Bonham!"
"Do you, my dear Bonham, know what day it is today?"
"Why, so it is! Beautiful Tuesday! And do you know what day it will be tomorrow, my dear Bonham?"
"Exactly! Gorgeous Wednesday. And do you know what day it will be the day after that, my dear Bonham?"
"None other! Blessed Thursday! And do you, my dear Bonham, know what I will be doing on Thursday?"
Bonham smiled, but obligingly provided the same answer as last time they had gotten this far in the proceedings. "I believe you mentioned something about going to London, Milord."
Dorian's blinding smile assaulted him. On the rare occasion when Bonham wondered why he stuck around, he reminded himself that it was for moments such as this, when Dorian's happiness could fill an entire room with its radiant warmth and joy. "I will, Bonham! I will. Operation Football has been reinstated!"
"I'm most pleased to hear that, Milord. I know we all are."
Thursday morning. Flughafen Köln/Bonn. Klaus was half an hour early to his flight. The Chief had - surprisingly forcefully so - told him he was not to show his face at the office that morning, but was to head straight to the airport. Why, Klaus wasn't quite clear on, nor why he had been sent alone - or indeed why the order had been given in the first place. Some secret mission again, no doubt. So secret that they couldn't even tell him about it. Such things happened. Granted, last time he had been subjected to such an idiocy, it had all been a demented conspiracy to force him to take a vacation ... This time, however, he had been instructed to be available at short notice so perhaps there really was something that might require his - and only his - assistance. He carried a beeper, which would alert him to contact base if necessary.
The gate to his flight had yet to open when he reached it, so he went over to the tiny kiosk, eyeing the goods dubiously. Then he studied the just as small coffee shop. A cup of coffee was never wrong. At airports they actually usually had almost acceptable brews, strong and dark just like he preferred his coffee. The line wasn't too long either. Finding nothing more productive to do with his time he walked over, stopping at a fair distance from a fat man in a flower-patterned shirt that threatened to make Klaus's eyes bleed. The man smelled quite strongly too - revolting, really. Klaus hoped that the man was a foreigner, even if he knew all too well that some of his compatriots for whatever reason went insane when vacationing. Yet another reason not to do such a thing, for why tempt fate? He momentarily contemplated leaving instructions that should he ever be seen in such a shirt, he must have been replaced by a clone and therefore should be shot on sight. Then he sighed inwardly. Sooner or later there would be a mission that would require this of him, that was just the nature of his life.
The friendly, inquisitive noise so close to his ear made Klaus twirl, backing up into the brightly dressed traveller as he did. "Pass doch auf, wo du hinläufst!" was blurted at him, but Klaus's attention remained fixed on what was before him. Or "who", possibly, but sometimes the jury still seemed to be out on that one.
He hadn't been crept up on. Had someone else suddenly appeared practically plastered to his back he would have assumed so (and normally, this other person would have been Dorian). When Klaus himself didn't deliberately sneak, he tromped forth, a military habit so ingrained he had never bothered to correct it. Before him stood one of the few persons he had encountered who managed - no matter on what surface, no matter wearing what type of shoes and no matter what the situation – to move as if footsteps were something that happened to other people. Klaus remembered vividly how disconcerting it had been to run together with this man and never once hear a sound but those that came from his own two feet.
"Lutz," he said by way of greeting. "Why are you here?"
Even Klaus knew that such a direct question was less than stellar politeness - but he also knew that Lutz didn't mind: knew that Lutz would, in fact, prefer the direct questions to more wrapped up niceties.
"Miii," came again, from between the giant's lips: a ridiculous sound that quickly had begun to grate on Klaus's patience, but which he had never had a choice but to put up with. "Waiting."
The incomplete statement would also have annoyed Klaus greatly, except for that he knew more than well that Lutz considered it a perfectly acceptable answer. If Klaus wanted precision he should have asked a more detailed question. "What are you waiting for?"
"Raphael and Gabriel."
Klaus began to scan the crowd for two medium-length, platinum blonds. "They are here?"
"When will they get here?"
"I don't know."
"When is your plane leaving?"
"I don't know."
"What does it say on your ticket?"
"I don't have it."
"Where is it?"
"One of them has it. Gabriel, I think. It could have been Raphael."
"What is your destination?"
"I don't know."
Klaus had no doubt that the faintly smiling Swede - 2.25 in his socks and built like a muscular Greek statue - told the truth. Lutz usually saw no reason to lie, for all that he did so flawlessly. Baal had explained it once, when Klaus had double-checked one of Lutz's stranger statements with his slightly shorter - and comparatively more sane - twin. "When most people lie, they feel upset, guilty or worried. Lutz feels none of those things, so he shows nothing."
"Was darf es sein?"
He turned to find himself first in line - if at a good distance from the cashier. He quickly walked up. "Do you want coffee?" he asked Lutz, who nodded, so he ordered two. Then they brought their steaming cups to a table close to Klaus's gate.
After having taken his first sip he continued the slow questioning. "Are you going home?"
"I said I don't know."
"Out on business, then?"
That earned him a look that he could have sworn was ever so faintly amused. "First rule about Fight Club: you never talk about Fight Club."
Lutz bent his neck and then cocked his head. "What year is it?"
Klaus patiently answered this odd question.
"Oh. Then I got it mixed up with another movie. Never mind." He lifted a hand. Klaus saw it approach and steeled himself. Before the touch came, though, the motion came to a halt - and then the hand turned into a fist, with a raised index finger wagging in time to Lutz's words. "First rule about Klaus: you never touch Klaus's hair." Words spoken most seriously and with great determination.
Klaus snorted. "You better believe it."
"Baal told me that. I never understood why," Lutz said, having lowered his hand and gone back to drinking. "Others don't mind. Your Dorian loves it when I pet his hair. He is like a kitten. You are going to see him now?"
"Yes. And you don't have to understand it - just don't do it. I dislike it."
"I won't. London is nice at this time of the year. I took Mormor there, once. She really liked the city. Cousin Dorian is nice too. You will tell him we say 'hello'. It is good that the bad situation he was in was resolved."
"Yes. He appreciated your offer of diplomatic immunity."
"He told me so. It will remain open - for him as well as for you. You are family too, now. Miii." A lazy smile accompanied the silly meow.
Klaus deemed it less than appropriate to decline hotly - and to explain thoroughly why he never could accept such an offer would take much too long time. So in the end he said nothing, just continued drinking. Not much later came the announcement that passengers travelling on the Lufthansa flight to London Heathrow now could start boarding, so he downed the last sip of coffee and bid Lutz happy hunting. For a tense moment he feared that the giant man would try to hug him - he vividly remembered one such occasion that had almost ended very, very badly. But Lucifer Black merely smiled again, in that strange little way of his, nodded and then appeared to shift Klaus out of his awareness. Puzzled - but feeling ever so slightly relieved - Klaus went on to board.
Thursday. Finally, the blessed Thursday! Dorian had felt certain that he would be unable to sleep through the night, that he would toss and turn and worry about the day to come. Much to his surprise, however, he had slept like the dead. So on waking he felt relaxed and ready - enjoying life and eager to get the show started. It was, as his father would have put it, "A good day to be alive."
He had woken up at an ungodly hour - a quarter past seven. Normally he slept to at least nine. Since he had Important Things to do that very day his clock had actually been set as early as eight. On waking 45 minutes early on a normal day he would have just turned over and gone back to snoozing. This Thursday morning he rose at once and started in on his morning ablution. A long, hot shower; washing his hair; then letting the leonine mane self-dry as he used various creams. With his curls still damp he went on to an all in all rather nice breakfast. The days of dry three-day-old breads were gone, missed by none except possibly their initiator. Partly because Dorian had pulled off some rather interesting coups lately, making his stingy accountant approve a larger food-budget. Of course that there were fewer of them to actually eat helped. Many of his former gang-members had proven themselves untrustworthy during The Bad Thing. Some of them had tried to return, but he had hardened his heart and refused to accept them back into his service. And partly he suspected that the increased food budget correlated to the fact that James lately had been seen researching the Eberbach family affairs - and gloating about whatever he found there. This was something that ever so slightly worried Dorian.
After breakfast Dorian went to visit one of his new employees. The slim brunet, Jox, had been hired as a fulltime stylist. With Dorian's hair, a stylist really was necessary. Timothy, the man who had previously held the position, had been the one of the Unfaithful Ones that Dorian had been saddest to see go. Jox slowly proved to be an excellent replacement, though. He was also a most accomplished cat thief and had pulled off a few fairly complicated heists. Dorian had, however, not yet clued Jox in on the criminal aspect of his own nature, preferring to wait until Jox had proven himself trustworthy. Bonham would set traps to see if the man would try to steal from the Gloria household. After that, they would see. Meanwhile, Dorian made good use of Jox's talents with scissors and hair drier.
Then to get dressed properly for the day. For once, Dorian found his usually vast selection somewhat limited. He had never been shy about dressing his best in front of Klaus - but for whatever inane reason Klaus often seemed to find Dorian's best strangely inappropriate. This would most often prompt Dorian to chose something even more outrageous, just to see Klaus amp up that annoyed glare of his. Quite sexy, in Dorian's not so humble opinion. However, this day promised to mark yet another turning point in their slowly budding relationship. Dorian was bound and determined to do nothing that might make Klaus uneasy or annoyed with him. Perhaps his good intention was doomed to failure, as he and Klaus simply weren't on the same wavelength regarding important issues such as clothes and fashion, but he had vowed to give it his very best try. Which included wearing something he hoped Klaus would, if perhaps not approve of, then at least find not completely outrageous. Dorian wasn't prepared to change the way he lived for Klaus, no, - but on important occasions such as their first date he would happily compromise.
Eventually he selected a suitably dour brown costume, with a green-and-black tie, a black jacket and a charming dark green hunter's hat with a black band. Neither unbearably dull nor exaggerated peacock flashy. On occasion he wore it when playing proper Lord at some soirée. The cut was, of course, flawless, showing off his narrow hips and strong shoulders. He knew he looked smashing.
Then a second trip to the kitchen, to pick up the basket with necessities. Perhaps not the necessities he dreamed would one day be counted as necessities - i.e. condoms and lube, but thermoses with hot beverages; a very sizeable blanket; a stack of neatly wrapped sandwiches; some fruit and, what he wasn't quite sure of, but considering the evidence was willing to give a whirl - four small bags of Ready Salted Walkers. Heaven forbid that Klaus would find him an inconsiderate date. And since chocolate and roses were right out, well ... he had to play with the cards dealt to him. He had considered bringing a bottle of Koningsmosel, but football just didn't feel like a wine sort of event. Beer would probably have been better, some brand suitably German to tempt Klaus's taste buds. On the other hand, he hadn't wanted to bring alcohol and later be accused of trying to affect Klaus's judgement or get him drunk during a mission or whatever such nonsense. Klaus could be so strangely petulant, at times. Perhaps, as the day unfolded, he could hint at some store carrying beer so that Klaus could make his own decision. That was, in the end, always the best thing to do with his darling Kraut.
Finally done with the preparations he checked his Belle Epoque wristwatch to find himself right on schedule. He had allotted one hour twenty to reach the airport and 30 minutes for Klaus to disembark, collect his luggage, usher his way through passport control, collect his Magnum and enter the arrivals department at Heathrow. The Louis XV gilt wood cartel clock in the second hallway struck 10:45 just as Dorian walked down the stairs to the main door while correcting his white leather driving gloves. On reaching the bottom level he found Bonham, John-Paul, Jen and James waiting for him. He smiled at them all: his brightest, happiest smile. James's eye got a little greener, as it did when he detected something valuable. Jen sighed. John-Paul blushed faintly and Bonham rubbed his knuckles over his eyes, as if he had just gotten something in them.
"We just be wanting to wish you best of luck, then," said Bonham. The others nodded.
"Thank you, my dears," he said. "I do believe I need all good wishes I can get."
He favoured them all with another sunny grin and then turned towards the door, just as the bell rang.
Dorian had a vivid, second-long waking nightmare, of the door opening to a soaked and lethally pissed off Klaus. He had misunderstood the pick-up time and the major - being his stubborn, pigheaded, lovely self - had jogged in from Heathrow to House Gloria during the morning rain.
However, he was spared that fate. Bonham smartly opened the door. Normally, this would have been the butler's task, but he, too, had been a traitor, and they had yet to find a fitting replacement. On the other side stood ...
"Lizzie! And Willy!" Delighted - if slightly puzzled - Dorian put down the basket and moved forward to embrace his middle sister. She hugged back, slightly stiffly, but not unfriendly. Then he knelt to give Willy a quick squeeze too, and to ruffle his hair. The lad already showed the Gloria trademarks: midsummer sky blue eyes and next to untameable, blond curls. His ... other sister ... had always shorn the boy close. Lizzie, who had temporary custody of the boy pending the outcome of Margareth's trial, had let the hair grow: it was already fluffy and showed clear attempts at rebellion. "What a most unexpected surprise!" A nice surprise too, if slightly mistimed.
"Dorian!" Elizabeth greeted in return. She sounded glad to see him too. Of course, they both had the strict upbringing of the British nobility and could easily smile winsomely in the face of their worst enemy. "I trust we have not come at an inconvenient time? May we enter?"
He mentally winced. "Actually - and I do hate to have to say this, dear Lizzie. You and Willy - my boy, you look quite the young gentleman in that suit - caught me just as I'm on my way somewhere important. I truly need to be going in the next few minutes."
Lizzie pursed her full Gloria lips. "Oh, Dorian - surely whatever it is can wait for another day? I came to discuss the ... current situation."
"Which is really important and it was good of you to come, but darling Lizzie, you really should have called first. Normally I wouldn't have hesitated for a second to put everything on hold for you, but it happens that today I simply can't." He held out his arms imploringly. "It is completely impossible."
"Whatever can you be doing that is so important, Dorian? You don't work and you have no businesses to take care of. What could possibly be more important than to discuss Willy's future and ... well ... Margareth and the trial and so on?"
True, but ... if he was late Klaus would not be impressed - he would in fact be most annoyed and God help them all if he felt slighted - Dorian might never get the chance again! Simply out of the question. "I'm dreadfully sorry, Lizzie, but it does happen to be quite important." He said the words firmly. "I need to go and I need to leave right away. You are absolutely right that we do need to discuss everything, but not today. I will contact you tomorrow and we will talk about it then. Are you thirsty or anything? Bonham, do serve my sister and Willy any refreshment they require, then make sure they get home safely. Sorry, Lizzie, but I really have no choice, I must be off now."
Elizabeth's displeasure was evident by the line of her mouth. What was worse - Willy looked sad - the latter tore at Dorian's heart as he really liked the little tyke and didn't want him to feel unwanted, as Dorian himself had done at times when his mother clearly had preferred the girls. But Elizabeth really ought to have called before coming over, so he refused to feel too guilty. Today was his day. His and Klaus's.
With a kiss to his sister's rouged cheek and another tousle to Willy's hair, he said, "I'm sorry, Willy, I really am. I'll talk with you too, tomorrow. Maybe we could do something together? Go riding or visit Madame Tussauds, perhaps?" The he hefted the basket again, and left.
By the time the road signs told him to turn left for Heathrow, Dorian was a nervous wreck, having half convinced himself that the entire situation was all one gigantic pull-the-Dieb's-leg stunt.
"He wouldn't do that!" he informed himself quite sternly.
"Why not? Think of that time you left him on the Hallelujah Express. Or he fooled you into digging for the lost treasures of King Assurbanipal. Or that time he took the Raphael basically out of your hands, leaving you to explain to the Shah that you really weren't trying to get into his harem ... Or when—"
"Yes, yes, but that was then! That was ... before! He wouldn't do that now! Not after ... everything!"
Only ... maybe Klaus would? They had played one another some spectacular tricks over the years. To pretend to set up a date would be more cruel than most of them, true, but the notion that Klaus would voluntarily go out on a date with him was almost as unthinkable - and it had been Klaus who had suggested it in the first place!
After having parked the car, Dorian remained behind the wheel for a few seconds, calling himself both paranoid and gullible. Finally, he got up and forced himself towards the revolving doors. Paranoid he might be - or gullible: the only way to find out which was the case was to enter Heathrow Airport and find out.
Paranoid - Klaus would come to him.
Gullible - Klaus wouldn't.
And if you're not coming, I'm on the next flight to Bonn, Dorian promised, to make you mine the hard way. In tears and blood.
Well, no. He never would. But a brief imagining of doing just that, in case Klaus really had made a royal fool out of him, was not beneath him.
He went inside, glancing up to check an Arrivals screen for progress. The Köln/Bonn plane had landed right on time, as fitted German precision. Glad that at least no delay would draw out his suffering he went up to the area where the passengers would emerge and waited ...
and waited ...
and sweated ...
Dorian all but felt his ears twitch.
Tromp, tromp, tromp.
That ... That really does sound like ...
Tromp, tromp, tromp, tromp, tromp!
It is! It is! It must be!
Still, he dared not fully believe. Not until the tromper exited from the inner area of the arrivals hall, cautiously glaring around as if expecting to find a hall full of KGB spies. Feeling his face split in a relieved grin, Dorian hurried forth. Klaus's eyes passed over him, lingering for just a second before continuing, obviously having identified him, but also catalogued him as a non-threat.
"Major!" he greeted. For the moment "Darling" felt just a hint unsuitable. He was well aware that Klaus might have agreed to a date, which was promising, but that didn't mean that the war was anywhere near won. To be on his very best behaviour was still highly advisable. "So," Wonderful, "good to see you." You gorgeous hunk of a man whom I wouldn't mind shagging right here and now. "How was your flight?"
"On time. Which is the only good thing I can say about it. Lousy food, coffee weaker than G's left hook, screaming toddler, dirty seats, pilot having fun doing bloody loop-de-loops - probably drunk anyway. Flight attendants - why do they put a Danish crew on a flight from Germany to England? - with a bigger cup size than IQ - and that includes the male ones. Are we going to stand here all day?"
Oh dear. The major did seem to be in a less than stellar mood. Not a promising start. Well, the schedule Dorian had drawn up might help to improve matters. He could always hope. "That does sound dreadful. And no, we can leave at once." He made a small gesture towards the exit. "Your chariot awaits."
Klaus hefted his small travel bag, then threw him a suspicious glance. "You promised to bring the Benz. If you have horses out there—"
"No, no, no," Dorian hastened to reassure. The thought had never even occurred to him - though come to think of it, the idea had its merits. He remembered sled rides when visiting his cousins during a winter a few years ago. Yes, he could easily envision it - cold, snow, bells and running horses - and being pressed against Klaus's warm side under a thick blanket. Kissing going on and perhaps letting hands stray a little without the coachman noticing (or more likely ignoring their antics). Maybe one day - if I play my cards just right, he thought and resolved to do just that.
Back in central London Dorian parked fairly close to the Ritz. Then he tagged along as Klaus checked in and went up to his room. Klaus had given him a funny look in the lift, but Dorian felt positive that if Klaus hadn't wanted him to come along, Klaus would have said so. That was, in Dorian's not so humble opinion, one of the good things about Klaus's bluntness - you never had to worry about him suffering in silence.
The hotel suite was sizeable. Not luxurious, but with two rooms: bedroom and a fair-sized second room with a big chair as well as a sofa easily seating five. No doubt because once the Alphabet joined their superior, this would serve as their headquarters. Still, Dorian was glad NATO hadn't made Klaus stay at some dump. Of course, if they had maybe the man would have been more inclined to stay at House Gloria. The Alphabet would also have been welcome.
"If you wish to shower, go right ahead," he said.
He was answered by a snort that said in no uncertain terms, "And have you spying on me? Ha!"
"I can wait down in the lobby if you wish," he expanded mildly.
"Thank you," Klaus said, somewhat stiffly. He knelt by the small bar, stuffing two bottles from his luggage inside, "but I'm in no need of showering." His trousers stretched quite fetchingly in that position.
"Are you hungry? Fancy a bit of—"
"Nein. Didn't you listen? I ate on the plane." He rose, grabbed his bag and continued towards the room leading to the bedroom. Even if the concept of "Klaus-in-bedroom-naked-in-bed!" did flash through Dorian's mind, he found it best to stay lounging on the large sofa as he waited.
Since Klaus hadn't closed the door Dorian merely raised his voice slightly to continue their conversation. "Yes, but you said it was lousy, so—"
"It was swill, but at least better than army chow."
"I see. Food later, then. Do you need to check in with NATO or something?"
"Already did," Klaus said, emerging again from the bedroom. He stopped by the sofa and stared down at Dorian with his arms crossed forbiddingly before him. "At the airport, before coming out. Nothing yet and Fatso said he thought nothing would happen for a while."
Dorian very carefully did not smile. Fatso's behaving. Maybe he will get some reward still, when this is over. If things progress well. "Capital. Then I'm wondering if you would care to accompany me as I run an errand? There's this little thing I'm thinking of procuring and your opinion would be most valuable to me."
Was it his imagination or did Klaus look relieved for a moment, before the look turned into suspicion? "I'm not following you around like a puppy while you're shopping for clothes."
At that, Dorian smiled. "No clothes, you have my word."
"Though you look decent for once," was said roughly. "Almost like a man."
Part of Dorian wanted to feel insulted by that, but he had a feeling it hadn't been meant as such, so he politely thanked Klaus for the compliment. "Well, if you're ready, then, major, let us be on our way."
Klaus was in heaven. Or at least the nearest thing to Heaven he'd ever been outside Germany. Who had known such a place even existed? Well, by the knowing smirk on his face, Herr Dieb had known - and had known enough to take Klaus there, to let him enjoy it.
He hadn't had a clue what to expect when he and Dorian had once more gotten into Dorian's Benz. If anything, he had felt slightly relieved to leave the hotel, because being in there reminded him that the two of them would return there at the end of the day – bar any interventions from whatever Fatso thought might happen - and ... well, they would at least start with a nightcap, even if it was his place and not Dorian's. He had even brought his favourite schnapps from Germany. He would get some alcohol into him before whatever else might take place.
But ... this!
Since he hadn't really thought Dorian would haul him along to some bloody fashion show or to scout out some potential target, he had felt slightly lost as to what the Brit might be in the market for. They already had the game tickets. Food would be necessary in a few hours, but apart from that they were set. If the thief was heading to some disreputable Soho shop to get some damned sex thingamabob, Klaus would get the hell out of Dodge. He would return to the Ritz all on his own to spend the evening polishing his Magnum.
They passed Green Park, took east on Piccadilly, up Berkey to park on Bourdon before walking down to Burton. Where Dorian - looking surprisingly good in his unusually masculine outfit -determinedly led the way to a rather unassuming store. Still with some trepidation, Klaus had entered on his heels, never expecting to find ...
... the Holland and Holland London Gun Room!
Dorian relaxed back onto the very comfortable sofa, sniffing the excellently brewed tea - Darjeeling - as he watched Klaus flitter about the shop. Well, "flitter" might not be the right word for the man's determined steps, but he found it most amusing to see a full fledged march be redirected mid-step as something else obviously caught Klaus's attention.
The Eberbach family is well off. Very well off, by the look of things. And especially by how happy James has been lately. Yet Klaus looks like a boy who has just stepped into a candy shop for the first time in his life. Oh well, I'll happily play "sugar daddy" to this "little boy". Perhaps the words should feel inappropriate, considering what he had so recently been accused of, but with the "little boy" in question being a 6 foot 2" trained killer - and about as likely to accept the notion of having a "sugar daddy" as Dorian was to fall in love with a buxom female and start breeding his own football team of little Red-Glorias, well ... The thought amused him.
"Is the tea to your liking, Lord Red-Gloria?"
Dorian tore his eyes away from where his major had his nose practically pressed against a red mahogany glass cabinet containing six rifles of varying shapes, to look at the store manager. "Quite," he said, using his most regal tone. "You have our thanks."
"Everything for our clients. Might I enquire if you are satisfied with your acquisition?"
"Quite," he repeated with a brief nod. In truth he wasn't fully sure of Klaus's reaction to the weapon, but based on the almost-awed tone in Klaus's voice when he spoke about it Dorian considered the money well spent. He had wanted to be present when Klaus first saw it, though. Alas, that had been impossible and the second master bedroom - Klaus's room - at House Gloria had no hidden cameras, even if the notion had been tempting for a few seconds when Bonham had brought up the possibility. But Klaus would never have forgiven cameras.
He noticed how the store manager glanced between himself and Klaus. Very discreetly, of course, the man was of old British stock and no doubt well used to the quirks of nobility. Likely he had drawn the conclusion that Klaus was Dorian's lover and the gun bought as a token of affection - or possibly even to assure said affection. Dorian didn't mind overly. It was sweet, in a way, to have at least someone believing them to be lovers. Though the notion that he would be forced to buy Klaus's affection rankled. Did he look like someone who would have to resort to something so ... distasteful? He just hoped Klaus wouldn't catch that particular clue bus. Of course, the man could be surprisingly dense regarding such matters. Possibly due to his little ... affliction.
As he wool-gathered he let his gaze follow the major on automatic. He had considered the major being frigid - or possibly being "autoerotic", a term he had seen mentioned. Funny - he had thought that would mean something entirely different. Between the horror of being arrested and the aftermath of that dreadful little drama he hadn't had much time to read up on things yet. To get everything back under control - and to prepare for both this very day as well as for revenge on the people who had treated him badly while it happened - oh, Dorian had plans, he really had ... had simply taken up too much of his time. Nor was it something he could delegate, not even to faithful, trusted Bonham. He had gone to a lending library at Boston Spa, West Yorkshire, then had suddenly felt like a 12-year-old schoolboy staring wide-eyed at the door to a sex store, mind unable to comprehend what might lie beyond and blushing at the very idea of girls having different parts than boys. Not that he had ever been such a boy. Living with three sisters made him he well aware of the difference, fairly disgusted by it and not the least bit intrigued.
He had ended up grabbing the first book he saw with a likely title, hiding it under his cape and then running off, actually blushing brightly.
What was it that Klaus was holding now? It looked like a ... well, it couldn't be, not with Klaus looking so pleased to examine it, but it did look just the right shape ... and maybe it could be used for that, even if it wasn't? Dorian quickly adverted his eyes. Autoerotic? Well, he automatically found Klaus erotic, if that was any clue. Though from what he had gathered the expression seemed to indicate a person who only found him- or herself attractive, not anyone else. But that didn't seem to be the case either. Based on what Klaus had said he did masturbate on occasion, but it hadn't sounded as if he truly enjoyed the experience. Oh, Dorian just didn't know what to think. What he had read had seemed to be mostly about women anyway. He really should have researched the subject more, not just glanced at the book he had hidden in the Dorian's Very Private Everyone Keep Out-box. What he did know was that he must take things slowly and carefully. He must treat Klaus like the precious thing he was, but for all that was holy never make him feel cosseted or jollied. Not an easy task, considering what a short-tempered, intelligent man Klaus was. Dorian was honestly surprised he had gotten as far as he had.
Klaus was looking through a large book on the wide glass counter, asking one of the staff members something. Dorian glanced at the clock. 15:35. Still plenty of time, but they couldn't spend all day at the Gun Room either. They still needed to get something edible before the game and he didn't want to hurry that along. Who knew when he might be able to sit down for a meal with Klaus again? Besides, he had already drunk two cups of tea and the store manager eyed him in a half-worried manner as if gearing up to ask if he wanted thirds. As he was slightly less open than Klaus to use an available wall to relieve himself at, he rose and strolled over to the counter. He glanced at the book. It appeared to depict a selection of available calibres and models. All very exciting, he was sure.
"That's a pretty one," he said and pointed at a rifle. It was. The pattern on the side was a kind of speckled rainbow colour and the stock was a warm, blacklined bay.
Klaus blinked at him as if only now remembering his presence. "It's a 20-bore, single trigger, 28" barrel, sidelock ejector, straighthand grip, splinter style forend. It's not pretty - it's efficient. It's a J. Purdy and Son."
"Golly, who could have imagined. Major, it has occurred to me, perhaps you would be good enough to do me one tiny favour?"
The book was abruptly closed and he could all but see Klaus pull in on himself, frowning. "What?"
What did Klaus think would be asked - demanded? - of him? Dorian honestly couldn't even begin to imagine and he had a vague feeling he would be surprised if told. He decided it best to pretend not to have noticed the unease. "Well, if you remember that darling little rifle in the ... second master bedroom? It just occurred to me—" And they both knew what a lie that was, but if Klaus wanted to call him on it he could. "—that I don't even know if it works."
"Of course it bloody well works! It's a Holland and Holland! They're the finest hunting rifles there are!"
"I'm sure, but anyone can make a mistake, can't they? What if it ... got damaged during the shipping?" Or when he had run around with it, pretending to be the Great White Hunter, but no one had seen that and he would tell neither Klaus nor anyone else in a million years. He put up his best, most innocent face.
Klaus's suspicious look made clear he wasn't buying it.
"Seriously, Klaus - I would feel a right fool if someone was to try it and it didn't work properly."
"Why would you—" Three words were said angrily, then Klaus bit off the rest of the sentence.
Interesting. "Let anyone use my rifle?" possibly? Oh, it is yours and we both know it, even if you refuse to accept it in as many words. Dorian decided to ignore that. "Why, I would feel terribly humiliated. So - just for my peace of mind and as a personal favour to me, couldn't you - please? - give it a try and check if it is any good?" Normally, this would have been where he lowered his voice and ran a finger up someone's chest as part of his seduction routine, letting the words mean something else entirely. As it was he kept his voice even, just a hint pleading.
Sharp, green eyes studied him, as if he had asked Klaus to please just taste test this chocolate cake to see if it has been poisoned or not ... But then the sharpness ... eased and ... was that a twinkle? No, it couldn't possibly be!
"Wouldn't want you to blow someone's head off," Klaus said dismissively.
"So ... you'll do it?"
"I suppose I must."
"Capital! At North Downs, then, at the shooting court?"
Klaus shrugged, then turned away, attention caught by a particularly large rifle in yet another cabinet. Dorian decided to take that as a yes and felt giddy with the knowledge that he had all but scored a second date. Well, time to do more about that later. Now he must concentrate on this first one, to make it as good as possible.
He glanced around, caught the manager's eyes and imperiously waved him closer. "The weapon I bought. I find that I am in need of one of those Cleaning Kit boxes you suggested after all." In fact, he had held off on buying it - not due to the price, a mere 250 pounds - but to have a reason to return just like this, with Klaus along.
"Very good, sir. This way."
This time it was Klaus who trailed after him and then insisted on checking the cleaning kit's quality - for Dorian's sake, of course. The kit, however, an elegant black box full of oil and cotton wool and what to Dorian looked vaguely like drumsticks, was met with approval. No money exchanged hands, as Dorian had set up an account the previous time he had visited. That was always easier in the long run, even with James being uncharacteristically generous, especially when "Leader" was involved.
The case would be delivered to House Gloria later the same day. Then they returned to the Benz, Klaus with some obvious reluctance.
"I believe they might have one of those rooms in New York as well," Dorian mentioned off hand as he turned on the engine.
"Huh. Maybe I'll have a look one day."
Which said a lot about how much Klaus had enjoyed the place, if he was willing to risk an American version of it. Dorian counted the visit as a complete success.
"I don't know about you," he went on to say, "but I could do with a bite to eat now, before we head on to the stadium." To tell the truth, he had skipped lunch in case Klaus would have wanted to grab something and now felt rather starved.
So after a bit of fuss Dorian manoeuvred his way down to Piccadilly again to park off Arlington, from where they walked on over to Fortnum & Mason, a combined shopping and eating department store, which he found somewhat charming and therefore on occasion frequented. It wasn't a cosy hideaway with romance in the air, more somewhere he would take a gang member on a birthday or a group of them when they could escape from under James's watchful eye. The choice of restaurant was deliberate. He knew dozens of places in London alone, where the atmosphere was far more inductive to a make a couple feel alone in the world with one another. Oh, he wanted to romance Klaus; wanted to win him over; wanted to sweep him off his feet. However, all his instincts screamed that the other was far from ready. To try simply wouldn't have the desired effect. A place like Fortnum's was better, at least for now. Open and airy, so Klaus wouldn't feel restrained, yet with a solid back wall, to make Klaus feel more secure - from where they would be sitting he would also be able to see anyone coming and going. Decent enough food; good, attentive staff; enough space between the tables so they wouldn't have to worry much about being overheard, should the conversation stray to delicate topics. Fairly central too, so they would have no trouble reaching the stadium on time - or, for Klaus's sake, reaching anywhere within central London within the allotted time to make to his rendezvous, should the Chief be desperate enough to contact him.
Dorian could tell that Klaus was initially confused, when he was led through the shopping part of F&M, then up the stairs to the little dining area, white and bright with round, small tables. A uniformed waiter stepped forth to greet them. He used Dorian's full name, with that hint of respect that Dorian knew was well rehearsed: not so strong as to be fawning, but enough so that a visitor would know himself recognized. The waiter: a slim, short, red-head, was rather cute, so Dorian favoured him with a smile as they were led over to one of the tables close to the wall. Apart from being a fairly regular visitor who tipped well, he was also a good friend to a close friend of the owner. This time of the day there usually was no trouble to get a table, but he had given them a call in advance, just in case. He would have felt silly at the thought of having taken Klaus all that way and then being forced to start all over again.
Three minutes later they had settled at the table. Dorian, who was still in a generous mood, had pretended not to notice Klaus manoeuvring him so that Klaus sat facing the room with Dorian in front of him - not only blocking Klaus from view of the other patrons, but allowing him a view of the stairs. Dorian didn't mind. Normally he preferred Klaus's position himself - not for protective purposes, but to see everyone and - since no one would sit directly in front of him - to be admired by them in turn. He knew that Klaus's need outweighed his - and besides, this way he could imagine Klaus guarding him as well, which made him feel warm and pleased.
They ordered - Line Caught Sea Bass with fennel confit and sauce verge with spring beans and tomato salad for Dorian and Highgrove Beef Rib Eye Steak with mashed potatoes for Klaus. Dorian often had the Bass on going there and was particularly fond of it.
"So," Dorian said, keeping his voice low. "This job you are in town for, does it need a thief?"
"Because you know you only have to ask, don't you? Even if I would have to steal something ...—" He shuddered dramatically. "—ugly."
That earned him a light snort. "No heist being currently planned, then?" Klaus asked in turn.
Only that of your heart, my dear. If I even can pull that off. "Not at the moment. Nothing new has caught my fancy in a bit." My obsession for you is hardly new. "Well, I was thinking of making a small visit to an old favourite haunt of mine, just south of here, Christie's. You see, that's where—"
"If it's illegal - don't tell me."
"Very well." So, he wouldn't tell Klaus, though he might show him, one night, sometime in the future. If he was a very, very lucky little Red-Gloria. The visit to Christie's would be to retrieve the Shah's emerald necklace once given to Harlun. Who had sold it to secure means to bribe the parents of the boy who had lied so about him. To steal something that he had already given away - even if he had stolen it in the first place - did make him feel something of an Indian giver, but Harlun really had no further right to the necklace and so Dorian would reclaim it. Perhaps one day, if he and Klaus finally did become lovers and if he could guilt-trip Klaus for some reason or maybe ask for it on his birthday, that necklace would be all Klaus wore to bed one night ...
"Met your cousin again," Klaus said, then they stayed quiet as the waiter replaced Klaus's cutlery and put down their glasses.
"Lutz. At the Flughafen Köln/Bonn. Meowed in my ear. I thought I'd jump through the fucking ceiling. He's a weirdo." A half-accusing glare accompanied the words.
Dorian felt his lips pull back to an affectionate smile. "Was he coming or going?"
"Going. Didn't know where to and I haven't got a clue how he got inside the terminal without a ticket."
"I've found it best not to speculate. You know - as a whole he's not really all that dangerous. Oh - in situations when he needs to be, but other than that he's like a big, lazy lion with his belly full." Unable to understand some human reactions, sure - but also not very interested in inflicting pain or suffering. All in all, Dorian actually liked the biggest of his cousins - if preferably at a distance. "I guess the Holland and Holland isn't your usual fare of weapon, Klaus? Or do you hunt?"
"Not unless the prey shoot back. Father hunts. Not much nowadays, but more when I was young."
Dorian simply had to ask. "Boars?"
A shrug. "Boars, deer, rabbit, pheasant. He travelled abroad too - buffalo and moose and elk and cougar. Haven't you seen the trophy room?"
"I must have missed that one. Perhaps you can show me one day?" Not that he really wanted to see, but on the remote chance it would buy him an invitation to Schloss Eberbach he was willing to fake an interest. "Foxes?"
"Good he never got to meet mum, then, I suppose. But I never heard her mentioning liking them. Actually, Father hunted some too - mostly rabbits and roe deer at the country estate."
"I thought he was a poof."
"Sexual leaning doesn't disqualify someone from hunting, you know. Besides, it is a classic pastime for us British nobility. Foxhunting and the like. Not that I ever found it remotely interesting. Funny you should mention moose, though. Every year my cousins sends us prime moose meat from their hunting ground up in Dalicarlia, in Sweden. Twenty kilos or more. Pleases James to no end - one of the few times we eat meat regularly."
Klaus snorted. "I never understood why you let that little twerp top-ride you like he does. You're his boss: you should be in charge."
It was far from the first time someone had asked Dorian just that. Bonham, for one, asked it every couple of weeks. With a quick smile, Dorian gave his standard answer. "Well, it's not like I can give him back, can I?"
"How do you mean?"
"I suppose you will accuse me of being horribly sentimental now, but dear James is a ... a kind of trophy, if you will. A remembrance."
"Of my first heist," Dorian said and smiled beatifically. "He was the first thing I ever stole." He had timed his explanation to the cute waiter bringing their plates, so he could enjoy Klaus's look of annoyance when he couldn't question him any further until they were, once more, alone.
"... and when she had had enough John-Paul's mother took him in. Lovely woman, runs a small B'n'B now up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He visits her a couple of times a year. Brings back the best vegetable soup I ever ate. Anyway, James stayed there for two years. Then Father died and I was floundering so badly with the family fortune I began to fear I would have to get a real job or get married or something awful like that. I think John-Paul heard about my plight from Bonham and then all three of them showed up. James spent 48 hours with a cross-ruled notebook, a pencil, a Casio and all my papers. We were well into the red by then, but he found some loop hole or whatnot. I really don't understand it, but in the end we came out in the black."
They had all but finished their meal. Klaus had vehemently declined any kind of dessert, but had - not too grudgingly - agreed to coffee. He had listened to the story in silence, but had seemed interested enough and at at least one point Dorian could have sworn he saw a hint of a smile.
"So, you see, I can't possibly give him back."
Which earned him an harrumphing noise that very well could be interpreted as agreement. "Doesn't mean you have to keep him around all the time either."
"Perhaps not, but we're kind of used to him. When he's happy he's a joy. And he does his job better than anyone. If I didn't have James I would have had to try to seduce you for your money rather than because I happen to love you."
A sharp look. "Don't talk about that now. What did the police say about ... ehm ... your mother?"
Dorian lifted an eyebrow. "I wasn't aware that you followed the investigation." He had been shocked to learn that they had exhumed his mother, performing an autopsy to try to find out if she had died from anything but an accident.
"I'm in intelligence."
"And pray tell me what can the situation regarding my mother's death possibly have to do with national security? Or NATO security? Or any type of security?"
"They knew I helped you and that NATO is interested in you. Professional courtesy."
"Oh?" Dorian wasn't sure if he liked that or not. Who were "they" anyway and did they know about his extracurricular activities as Eroica? "I'm surprised that you don't know the details already, then. Well, she died - as previously known - from a broken neck when Shanjah threw her off. Nothing else." Of course, the notion that perhaps not all had been fair play had gotten him thinking as well. His mother had been thrown off, yes - but why had the mare bucked in the first place? Shanjah was a well-mannered horse, unlikely to misbehave without cause. That someone might have deliberately made the horse buck caused his stomach to turn and his tea cup clattered when he put it back down. "As you said before - let's not talk about that. Are you sure I can't convince you to try some Amedei Chocolate Brûlée? It is really most divine."
"Then I suppose we are ready to go. I'll just make a quick stop in the loo, be back in a mo'."
When the Brit had left Klaus caught the eye of the sissy waiter and signalled for him to bring the bill.
So far he had had a good day. He would never have thought to look up the Holland and Holland Gun Room by himself, but it had been a really interesting place to visit. Very high quality stuff, even if they weren't German. And Dorian's not too subtle invitation to North Downs to "check if the weapon worked" might be as transparent as that veil Dorian had worn in Egypt, but, well ... he couldn't kid himself. His fingers practically itched to try out the rifle, ever since he had first laid eyes on the sleek gun. Which would mean, on the other hand, a second date - would Dorian want more sex then? More than what they would do tonight? Well, maybe it wouldn't be so bad, all things considered. One thing at a time. If it was beyond what he could bring himself to endure he could always simply decide not to go.
The bill came and he paid without hesitation. He wasn't sure what was the proper code in situations such as this, but it wasn't like either of them had to scrounge for the money, especially not such trifling sums. At least not when Stingy Bug wasn't present. If Dorian took offence they could always argue it out later.
The food had been decent and the fop well behaved. He hadn't made any untoward advances - had hardly even mentioned the possibility or hinted at what he wanted. He had even dressed surprisingly masculine, almost decently. The mass of hair still made him stand out in a crowd, needless to say. On the other hand, Klaus well remembered how the Brit had looked with short hair: almost waif-like and quite unDorianesque. Perhaps, though, if he merely combed his hair back hard and put it in a pony tail - would that even be possible? Klaus did that himself, sometimes, when his got so long he really should cut it, but he hadn't had time yet. Dorian had much thicker hair, though, and the curls didn't make things easier. He remembered Lutz mentioning that Dorian liked to have his hair petted.
When the steady hum of voices around him suddenly rose Klaus abandoned contemplating Dorian's hair. He looked around to find the cause of the whispering. Then he groaned and hid his face in one of his hands.
He should have known.
He really should have known.
Or if not exactly known, he damn well should have guessed.
"What?" was asked in well-modulated, upper-class British. Eroica had a surprisingly dark voice, for a fop. "Is there something wrong? I thought this was a good time to get changed? Isn't this traditional football wear?"
Klaus glanced once more, this time through his fingers.
No, the monstrosity remained. At least there was no glitter, only shiny clothes in brightest red, sky blue and purest white. Klaus didn't mind blue. He could have lived with white. Red was ... well, red was Dorian, so it wasn't as if he had ever believed he would get rid of it. But the combination, so totally void of all common decency! The fop looked like a walking (and very foppish!) incarnation of the British flag!
Not that everything was in colour. There were pompons too. White pompons with black hexiconals. A pair of miniature footballs hung from a long, silver necklace. Around one wrist he spotted a bracelet with similar decorations.
"You ..." he found himself saying. Then he had to stop, unable to continue.
Dorian performed an elegant little pirouette, revealing more football pompons, hanging from his belt and scarf. Then he stood still again, watching Klaus expectantly. Klaus took it all in. From the red and blue-chequered shoes - with little footballs on the straps, he noted - up over the shiny, tight trousers - left parts of each leg white, right part red, crotch in reverse, to the predominantly blue upper half - with the English flag helpfully distributed throughout, just in case some daft person had problems associating the colours or - god forbid - might think them American in origin.
Then, he began to laugh.
Dorian stood, enthralled, and listened to the low, rhythmic sound of Major von dem Eberbach laughing. It sounded slightly rusty and he could imagine that the major seldom laughed like this, almost helplessly. Did he ever? Surely as a child he must have and sometimes even as he became older. Rarely, though, that was for certain. Even if the mirth happened to come from having seen him, Dorian, in his football finest, Dorian didn't mind being laughed at. Not by Klaus. Not if it afforded Dorian the joy of hearing this lovely sound - one he would surely give up dreams for, to get to hear again.
Still, to join in wouldn't do, so he pouted artfully and pretended not to understand. "I should have drawn flags on my cheeks, shouldn't I? Drat, but I forgot the make-up box at home. Do you think I will look dreadfully out of place? We could stop on the road and buy some. I could do you too at the same time, if you wanted to?"
The laughter ceased as if cut by a knife. "Do?" was asked, tone laden with suspicion.
"Flags? On your cheeks? If you would like? I do believe I could manage the German one, but we'll be in the British section and sadly I wouldn't trust all my fellow countrymen to recognise the Italian flag from the German one."
That got him a snort as if Klaus could fully believe that. "I'll pass. And you look like you belong at a circus. You had that in the basket? I'm surprised you don't have one of those caps on with huge hands that clap if you pull a string. Where are your old clothes? Put them back on."
"B-but isn't this proper?" He widened his eyes, to look innocent. "Besides, no one will recognize me like this."
He was watched for a few long seconds and he could have sworn he saw Klaus's lips twitch. "You can keep the jacket," was the final verdict, "but ditch the trousers."
To hold back his automatic response was impossible. "You keep telling me that, darling - a man could get ideas. Do you want me to do it here and now? No, no! I was just jesting! Right, another mo' then, I'll be back in a minute!"
Then he retreated back to the restroom.
Wembley Stadium was already filling up nicely by the time they found their seats near one of the twin towers. Klaus had let Dorian take the lead, hanging back mostly to watch the eyes following his - as always - attention-fetching companion. He had expected more of a reaction as Dorian, even in the more demure trousers, still was a sight to behold. Especially considering his hair and his general manners. But as the man determinedly used the basket and his considerable charm to make a path through the filling up stand it seemed as if people - at least people within hearing distance from his litany of "Coming through; do forgive; nice tan; please make way; if you could only—; why thank you; how kind; where did you buy that lovely—; I do appreciate; excuse me; pardon" instead started smiling. Of course, this was England and Dorian had the air of a true nobleman. The people must react to that, that was the only explanation Klaus could come up with.
Finally, however, they were sitting.
Neither the English nor the Italian team was anywhere near as good as their German counterpart, needless to say. Even so, the game was reasonably interesting. The crowd was really into the game and the sun not too hot. Klaus wasn't sure why Dorian had seemed disappointed when he had declined the use of the (football-patterned) blanket, though later he noticed that the man didn't even use it himself.
Klaus had contemplated cheering for the wops, mostly to be contrary, but had then decided that to do so would be childish. Besides, England really did have the better team. If he couldn't cheer for Germany, at least he wanted to be on the winning side.
He followed the game eagerly, allowing himself to get engrossed until his muscles twitched as if wanting to join in. Memories of his own football days returned to him. He had been good. Good enough to compete outside school, even in the higher league. Perhaps even for Germany, if he had chosen that track rather than the military one. Not that he regretted his choice - no, it had been easy, in the end: football mostly a wistful kind of dreamy "could have been". In different circumstances, maybe, if he hadn't been who he was. But he had been, so that was all there was to it. Klaus was not a man much given to contemplating might have beens. Still. Football was fun. NATO actually had a team. Had he been more given to socialising that might have been fun to try out.
I'd never have time to make it to all the games, let alone practice, he told himself firmly and pushed that wistful notion out of his head. NATO needed him on the real field, not on the grass one.
Slowly he realised that something bugged him. Not the English shouting all around him. Not that both teams wore the wrong colours. Not even that he was there on some kind of date - with a man ... No, it was an out of sync movement in the corner of his eye. Since he was not a man to let things keep bothering him - all too often they turned nasty - he turned to check.
Rather than leaning forward like most spectators, Dorian sat well back in his chair. Not due to complete disinterest, though - no, he intently followed the game through very small binoculars. They were only about finger length and with a yellowish surface that glimmered faintly.
"Isn't it difficult to follow the game with that?" Klaus asked.
Dorian moved the opera glasses away from his eyes long enough to flash him a bright smile. "Not at all. Do you wish to try them out?"
"I can see well enough with my own two eyes."
"Very well, then," said Dorian and put the object to use again.
Klaus watched for a few seconds. Something still bothered him. Then he glanced out on the field. It took him a few seconds to find the action. A look back at Dorian confirmed his misgivings.
"You're not watching the game."
"I have my eyes firmly on the field."
"The ball is on the other side."
Dorian nodded up with his chin in the direction he faced. "The man with those delicious thighs isn't."
Klaus couldn't help but turn his head in the direction he knew Dorian's opera glasses to be aimed. Seeing a tall, swarthy Italian he briefly closed his eyes, then dropped the entire conversation. Later during the game, glancing towards his companion, he would find him smiling faintly and obviously not following the ball, but studying something else which had caught his attention. At other times, he found him with the opera glasses in his lap, apparently actually following the game.
Dorian had promised himself not to rattle Klaus's cage if he could help it, but he didn't want the man to suspect that Dorian might have had been kidnapped by the KGB and replaced by a pod person either. Besides, most football players had very nice bodies to rest his eyes on in between following the game itself. Many with very nice legs. Dorian liked legs. Especially Klaus's legs; long and sleek, yet impressively powerful.
Yes, those legs would be very useful, not just for carrying Klaus around. For Dorian to lean his head on, for example, if they watched television together. Klaus liked football - it was shown often on the telly, so if Dorian could snooze on the sofa while Klaus watched they were set to go.
For Dorian to grab hold of as he performed oral sex. All men enjoyed oral sex, that was an absolute in Dorian's experience. Surely Klaus would at least be curious enough to let him try? He could very well imagine kneeling before the man, running his hands over those long legs as he worked; feeling those hard muscle bundles and the short hair - soft, no doubt, as Klaus wasn't the type to shave more than his face. Very nice ...
And then, of course, for Dorian to have them wrapped hard around his back as Klaus held him in place while Dorian frantically—
"Hello? Dorian? Are you sleeping with your eyes open now? It's half time. The players are gone. No more ogling for you. What are you staring at?"
Dorian blinked. Had he really been that deep in thought? Why, it appeared so. "Sorry, I was thinking about something else."
"You bored? Want us to leave?"
"No, no! Not at all! Don't mind me. Look, I brought coffee and sandwiches, I have them right here."
The evening was not cold enough to warrant the blanket. Darn it, as Dorian had kind of looked forward to sharing one with Klaus. As it was he had to make do with Klaus's body heat as Dorian had shifted close enough in his chair to feel him. And warm coffee felt very good, even if he normally preferred tea.
It amused him that Klaus, while very sceptical about the Walkers, after having gingerly tried one, then ate an entire little bag. He even hesitated when Dorian offered him a second one, as if he had really wanted to take that one as well.
Dorian pointed to two fallen players, struggling to get untangled. "You know, you can actually have sex in that position."
Klaus's eyes widened. "You ... can?"
"Oh yes. But I wouldn't recommend it. It's dreadfully uncomfortable."
Unexpectedly, his seat mate stood, screaming, "He was offside! Are the judges all blind or are some of them just drunk? He couldn't be more offside if he had bunny jumped over the line and waved his hands at the line judges!"
Then he sat back heavily, snorting his displeasure at the incompetence witnessed on the field. They sat in silence for a few seconds.
"I thought you didn't know anything about football?"
Dorian looked questioningly at him, then bit his lower lip. His still winter-pale cheeks darkened ever so faintly. "I don't know why you would think so."
"Because you asked me if they played two or three halves. Because you asked me in the beginning 'Are they facing off now?'. And maybe because when that blond guy headed the ball into goal, you asked 'Isn't that a foul?'" Klaus didn't raise his voice, just used his pleasant 'Interrogation? Oh no, I'm merely asking. It's if you don't answer me that I will start interrogating you"-tone.
Dorian bowed his head in acknowledgement. When he looked up again his eyes shimmered in mirth, though his cheeks were still a bit flushed. "Oh, all right then. Of course I know a thing or two about football. I'm British! And I did go to an all-boys school. We often played. I'll have you know I was actually considered a rather promising forward. We beat several other schools. Seriously though, darli— ah, major, nowadays it's not my cup of tea. Bonham often watches it on the telly and I catch a few minutes here and there. I've never gone to a real game like this before, though, on that you have my word."
In the end England won 2-1, after a very interesting last five minutes. They were both in a fairly cheerful mood as they exited the stadium. Or almost, anyway. As the car approached central London and the din from the football stadium no longer rang in his ears, Klaus all but felt himself tense up.
He had tried his best during the day not to think about the night ahead. The conflict in his mind confused him and for once he wasn't sure what would be the best option. In all his life he had been taught that if you said 'A' you must always say 'B', to do otherwise would be cowardly or cheating. He considered himself neither a coward nor a cheater. Even if he might have been the one to suggest the football event, he hadn't protested when Dorian had turned what should have been mostly work into a date, complete with good food and things Klaus himself enjoyed far more than Dorian did. A day during which Dorian catered to his, Klaus's, likes. He had been fairly young when Herr Hinkel had first explained about such things like dates and nightcaps, but that didn't mean he hadn't understood how things were supposed to work. And when Klaus had asked him again, just little over a week ago, Herr Hinkel had confirmed this.
That he and Dorian were both male was an unexpected complication, yes. A complication that basically meant that due to circumstances that more or less had snuck up on him, Klaus had found himself on the woman's side of things. Not where he wanted to be. Not due to disrespect for women, but because it limited his choices in the matter. Especially since he really wasn't a woman and since he wasn't one there could never be a marriage. Since there would never be a marriage he had no reason not to give Dorian what Dorian after such a date had every right to expect.
And even with Dorian being so obviously gay and fawning and everything, which would normally make Klaus think him the more feminine one, Dorian did want the sex. The man in a relationship was the one who was supposed to want sex. Klaus didn't, not really. Which, again, pushed him towards the woman's side of things. Women often didn't want sex, that he also knew. He had heard his fellow soldiers complain about women often enough during nights in the barracks, calling some of them frigid bitches. That particular f-word had always jarred him and made him want to defend the unnamed persons: to stand up and challenge the insulter. He was an excellent fighter and could surely make them regret ever having opened their mouths. In the end he hadn't, but he had felt ashamed for not doing so. And ashamed about his own shortcomings, which he hadn't wanted anyone to know about.
Dorian knew, though. Dorian hadn't spoken ill of him because of this. At least he couldn't imagine Dorian ever doing that. Dorian seemed ... patient and understanding. And ... part of Klaus actually did want to know what it was like to have sex. Actual, real sex with another person, not just jerking off with his own hands. It wasn't that he wanted it or even imagined that it would be mind blowing, but on the off chance that it might perhaps be better than he thought. Perhaps he would actually like doing it after all? It couldn't be totally awful, could it really? Not if millions of people did it every day? And after that if anyone dared to question his experience he could at least say he was no virgin. That would be a nice bonus. Besides, he was positive that there was nothing that Dorian could dish out that he would be unable to take.
He had still spent most of the day hoping for the beeper to go off. He had even checked it a few times during the game, just in case he wouldn't have heard it over the ruckus. If the beeper beeped, well ... then everything would be out of his hands and he would have to go. Alas, no such luck. And now it was likely too late for such an interference. Whatever mission was going on probably wouldn't need him this late in the day, leastwise he didn't think so. If it had been a night mission, Fatso surely would have told him.
"Here we are, then," Dorian said out of the blue.
Klaus looked around and swore silently to himself. He was slipping, like some amateur not paying attention to his surroundings! That was dangerous. Things like that got an agent killed. Dorian was all good and well: a trusted, known part, but he was not a trained agent. To leave their security to him was an unforgivable lapse on Klaus's part. He looked out the window and stared morosely up at the towering Ritz. It was lit, in a strangely vibrant way.
He tossed around in his mind around for something to say, but found himself drawing a blank.
"So, about checking that rifle of ... mine, when do you think we could slot that in?" Dorian asked amiably.
Can't we bloody well go through one of these things at a time? "I don't know."
"Next month, perhaps? Would that work for you?"
"I don't know." He didn't want to commit to anything. Not yet. Afterwards ... After tonight, then perhaps he knew how he felt about things. Though he had promised to check the gun, hadn't he? He should have kept his mouth shut. But ... No, it was just too much to think about right now. Afterwards. Afterwards he would think about it.
"I see. How about if I give you a call a week or two from now and perhaps then you will have a better idea of your schedule?"
"I don't— Yes. Do that." Why was Dorian nagging about it anyway? Why couldn't they talk about that in the morning? "We're blocking the road. Aren't you going to park?"
"So we can get in and have a drink." He wanted a drink, damn it.
"Oh. I didn't realise you wanted me to go in with you. Hang on then, I'll get the Benz parked."
Stunned, Klaus realised that he had just made a monumental mistake.
Stupid! I'm stupid! A stupid, bloody idiot!
Klaus has liked the day! He must have! Else he never would have invited me up for a drink! Capital! Dorian counted the day as a roaring success. Actually, he had even kind of liked the football game, with England victorious and everything. Certainly not something he wanted to do every other week, but once in a great while he would be willing to accompany Klaus, no question about it. Perhaps eventually Klaus would let him hold his hand as they sat. Would leaning his head against Klaus's shoulder be too much to ask for? Yes, probably, when they were out in public. Inconvenient that. Oh well.
He stood back as Klaus - who had been silent all the way into the hotel and up the lift - opened the door and let them both in.
Careful now, Dorian! You must behave! Be a proper gentleman, just like Nanny Mary always taught you to be. This is a very important day and if you ruin it you will never forgive yourself!
It was difficult, though. There was the sofa, looking so very inviting. He should sit down in the left corner, furthest away from the chair. That way Klaus would also have to sit in the sofa, as not to look silly sitting so far away. As they talked Dorian would gradually slip closer, little by litte, until they once more sat close together ... He would sit almost sideways, so his arm would already be on the headrest. From there it would be so simple, so very simple, to bend forward. Their lips would meet and—
"I only have schnapps. If you want something else you'll have to get room service, if they deliver."
Dorian blinked. " Schnapps will do fine." He forced himself over to the chair and sat down, pulling his legs up so he could lean against the armrest closest to the sofa. The chair was far from being as comfortable as his own back home, but he doubted he would be staying very long - he didn't want to trust himself in holding back his baser instincts for too long and risk turning the blessed day into a total disaster.
After a grunt and little looking around - Klaus must be oblivious to the very nice view he once more presented crouching by the refrigerator - two glasses filled with honey-coloured brew as well as a tall, slender bottle was brought to the table. Klaus handed Dorian a glass and then sat on the part of the sofa closest to him and immediately lifted the second glass to take a swig.
Seeing that Klaus appeared to be deep in thoughts, Dorian lifted his own glass and took a small sip. The alcohol burned nicely on his lips and tongue before trailing down his throat. He knew well that he had a tendency to get tipsy easily, so while he kept hold of the glass he didn't continue to drink. Instead he took time to study his date for the evening (and for life, if he had any say about it). Klaus held his own glass in both hands, as if warming them with it - but that couldn't be the case, since the glass must be as cold as Dorian's own. He had already gone through half of the contents and didn't seem ready to stop just yet. Something about this bothered Dorian. Klaus was uneasy, he could feel that, but he wasn't sure what exactly it was that had caused the sudden change in mood. It had started not long after they had left the stadium, but it had become noticeably worse after getting out of the car or sometime thereabout.
He cast about for something to break the newly set ice with. "I met Willy this morning. Poor dear, Lizzie told me just the other day that he was dreadfully upset. Both about his mother and his little friend, of course."
"My nephew. Lord Wilhem Josiah Disken, we call him Willy. He seemed much better today, but still more silent than usual."
"Betrayal always hurts." Green eyes still studied the glass in Klaus's long-fingered hands, as if he wondered where it had come from.
"They - Willy and Lizzie - came by just as I was leaving for Heathrow. Lizzie wanted to talk things over. Hadn't called first. I promised to get back to them tomorrow. Couldn't keep you waiting now, could I?"
"Family is important."
"Of course." Dorian lapsed into silence, wondering if that would work better. Obviously Klaus was only listening with one ear, providing barely fitting answers.
Finally Klaus reached for the bottle again, filling up his glass. To empty it had been short work. As he leaned back in the chair again, he seemed to hold his breath for a moment, before saying clearly, "I had a good day."
"Good," Dorian allowed and, since Klaus still wasn't looking at him, toasted himself with another sip. Here's to many more good days to come. Maybe even some nights, if I'm really lucky.
Klaus was now sloshing his schnapps around in the glass as he stared at it. Then he looked over to Dorian, barely meeting his eyes before looking back at his hands. "My father had three brothers. Heinz - named after Great-uncle Heinz as I am - died when he was four. Uncle Johann lives in Cologne, he has a son and a daughter, three grandchildren. Uncle Eric lives in Stockholm, in Sweden. He is not married."
Not sure why he was told the family circumstances, Dorian said, mostly to keep the conversation flowing, "No sisters?"
"Nein. I ... When I was here before, when you had just got out, I spoke to Father. He thought I might be courting your sister."
Dorian shuddered and quickly took a new sip. What a disaster that would have been! He said nothing, though, just waited for Klaus to continue.
"Uncle Eric is, apparently, a homosexual."
That did catch Dorian's attention, as it was unexpected. "Oh?"
"I never knew. It must have been what Father meant, though. Father said, he said that 'There was a time when I began to think you were like Uncle Eric.'"
"Oh. Did he ... Ah ... Did he sound— How did he sound?" That was an important part - he knew that Klaus's father had a great influence over his son.
"I don't know. He sounded pleased I might be interested in your sister. I just don't know."
"How does he act around your Uncle Eric?"
That got him a turned head, as Klaus looked at him for a second or two before turning back. For some reason Klaus didn't seem to want to have this conversation face to face, which made it difficult for Dorian to judge his thoughts. "I have met Uncle Eric less than ten times, I think," he said, sounding thoughtful. "Sometimes he would fly down for Christmas, but rarely. Father didn't seem to avoid him or try to discourage him from coming. He rarely even mentioned anything about him until now. He rarely mentions Uncle Johann either, though."
"Maybe you could bring it up with him based on what he told you? Ask him about it? See what he says?"
Wide shoulders shrugged lightly. "Maybe."
Which Dorian actually interpreted as "Not a chance in hell!" but what else could he suggest when he wasn't even sure where Klaus was going with this? He took another sip, surprised to see that his glass now contained only enough for one last swig.
Klaus drained the last of his second glass. It still wasn't enough to get him drunk, but he felt warm inside and perhaps a little calmer when thinking about ... things. He was also starting to get slightly annoyed with Dorian just ... sitting there. Shouldn't he be making a move? Doing something? Trying to kiss him? Anything?
Instead Dorian just sat there, seemingly content with sipping his schnapps and talking.
Come on, damn you! Let's get this over with!
He put the glass down.
He can't honestly be waiting for me to do something, is he? Damn him, he knows I'm not good at this!
Well, time to get the show on the road.
"I will have to meet the Alphabet at 9:30 at Paddington."
So how about if we get started? So I can get some sleep before then? He had decided to follow through on things, so if Dorian could now just get on with the program before he had time to change his mind again, that would be good.
Dorian blinked at him. "Oh. Yes. Of course. I see. I ... Yes, of course." Then he started to get up, eyes intent on Klaus.
Finally he's doing something!
Dorian wasn't sure if he would dare. Or rather - of course he dared, he just wasn't sure if he ought to. But ... The day had been so good! Perfect, almost. And there was just one, tiny, itsy bitsy thing that would make it utterly, perfectly perfect. Either that, or ruin it entirely. So, do or don't? Fight or flee? Man or mouse?
Standing before the table he looked down at Klaus - who looked up at him with an unreadable gleam in his green eyes. He seemed to be waiting for something. On the plus side, his melancholic mood seemed to have eased.
And you did say you had a good day. I have behaved. Surely you won't begrudge me this? Oh, by Saint Dismas, Jean-Paul always says I was born under a lucky star. Let's see if he was right.
So he walked up to the sofa and, putting a knee on the slightly giving surface, leaned in. Klaus didn't move from his position, which he would most definitely have done if he hadn't accepted Dorian's advance. The movement likely would have been a fist to Dorian's very vulnerable belly - or an uppercut to his chin. Alas, Klaus sat still, staring at him, looking almost frozen with tension, but not from anything near resembling fright.
He leaned in further and to his delight Klaus bent his neck slightly backwards, to accommodate him. Feather light, their lips met. Klaus's were a hint dry and he moved them awkwardly to follow Dorian's ministrations, but he did move them and Dorian wanted to cry with the perfection of it.
It wasn't their first kiss. They had kissed before - Klaus had even kissed him voluntarily before. But it felt as if this was their first one: so sweet and gentle and loving. Simply perfect. He would remember it and treasure it always, no matter what.
When the time came that the kiss ended, he pulled back, still looking deeply into Klaus's eyes. "Thank you," he said softly. "I had a great day too."
Then he stood and swiftly adjusted his jacket.
"Good night, my dear. And about your mission - from Eroica with love: good luck!"
And so he left.
Klaus stared in disbelief at the retreating figure. However, he could neither move nor say a word to stop him. Not until the door had already closed and the thief was long since gone. Then he, frowning, moved his right hand up to touch his kissed lips.
"But ..." he said with a slightly plaintive tone to his voice, even if no one could hear him. "I ... I think I might have wanted you to stay."
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