Waiting for the Hammer
Author's disclaimer and notes: I don't own them, I just dream of doing so. Feedback is better than Van Lys Belgian Truffles. 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. 3.058 words. Written in May 2007.
Betaed by Heather Sparrows and by Kadorienne. As always - thank you!
If you want you can also read/download the story as a doc file (without graphics).
SEQUEL: Best Laid Plans by Callahan (shiplizard)
Callahan (shiplizard) asked permission to write a sequel and then she did it. It is lovely! Check it out!
Klaus stood by the library window. He had pushed the heavy velvet curtain to the side, to survey the courtyard. The view had looked the same for decades, so he paid little attention to the landscape. He didn't even concentrate on the road, but watched the sky, which was a soft, sunlit blue. It was late May, a week after his birthday, but the sun shone as strong as mid-summer, gilding the leaves of the surrounding trees. A feathery cloud drifted lazily eastwards and was the only thing moving as far as the eye could see. In the window glass old and thick, yet as clear as any modern window making company could produce them he could also have studied the shadow of his own reflection, but he never bothered.
He had seen his face. Not when the doctor removed the gauze, reaching to offer him a mirror. "I'll see it when I shave," he said and so he had.
Every grey cloud comes with a silver lining. Or, at least, so some people claim. In this case, however, it happened to be true. Once Klaus had returned from the doctor's appointment, he had been summoned to a meeting with three of his superiors. He had noted before that they preferred to meet with him en masse, for some reason finding this easier than dealing with him one at a time. He went reluctantly, since he had been sure of what would happen.
Let them do whatever they want, it is too late for it to matter much anyway.
"You are too easily recognized now," one of the stern-looking men informed him.
As if he hadn't been easily recognized before? Quatsch mit Soße *! For the last decade or so, every Eastern agent worth his salt should have recognized Iron Klaus on sight. He was one of NATO's best agents as well as one of the organization's best known ones.
"You won't blend in with the population in general."
Well, that was true. His work didn't only centre around the enemies of the west he had to deal with civilians too querying them about things that had happened, sometimes cajole them to co-operate. Not that he had ever been much good at the latter endeavour, but ... true.
"Frankly, Major von dem Eberbach, you have - for many years now - been one of our best agents. Not always one of the most ... convenient ones, but there's no denying that you get things done."
Whatever. Just get it over with. Or did they aim to retire him with a promotion out of pity? Insult to injury not just one of the things I have been waiting for, but both. Now when neither of them will help me get what I want ...
"Besides, you've been rather ... keen on your work. We have discussed the situation before. To retire from the field has always seemed to be the last thing you wanted."
He didn't betray his surprise with even a blink. Retire from the field? That isn't sacking me! What on Earth is the man blathering about?
"But now that things are ... the way they are ... We have re-evaluated. We would like to move Major Birchwast to your current position. He has indicated that he is amenable."
Well, if I have to give the Alphabet to someone, Z is a good choice.
"You would be his immediate superior and in charge of handing out assignments to the teams stationed in Bonn. Your new title would be"
They're fucking promoting me?
The concept damn near stunned him, though he made all the right noises and gestures. Then he was radiantly happy for several minutes not that he let anything show. Only when he sat down at his desk again, feeling strangely disconnected, perhaps still in a bit of shock, did he remember his previous thoughts and closed his eyes, just for a second. He smiled wryly. Promoted. A real promotion, after all these years. And it still won't do me the least bit of good.
For, as Klaus privately thought more fitting for each silver lining, there's still a grey cloud ...
He had even planned how he would do it. When he had retired or been promoted, whichever happened first. Before then it just didn't feel like an option. Too dangerous for both of them. With a higher rank and less field time, though yes. Besides, he was no longer young. He wanted to retire with a higher rank, if possible. If things later on became too difficult, he could always just up and leave on his own. And if he was forcibly retired, well ... Same thing, really. So he had decided to wait. Besides, the blue-eyed Englishman was fickle; if Klaus waited too long, the man might just tire and leave. Though it would be better if he did that, rather than that they got together too early and the man flittered away, leaving Klaus with nothing but the shame.
The plan had come to him when he had followed a suspect into a flower shop and seen a rose being advertised; a huge, red one German-bred! The horror! - the Rose Eroica. Dark red, 25-35 petals, large, hardy and sweet-smelling. Or Rose Erotica, as it was also called, and who was surprised at that combination? Not Klaus. That was how he would do it, he had decided. Send Dorian one of them, with a note, "Follow the roses." Only that, but make the package traceable to Eberbach. Where a bush would bloom under Klaus's window (provided it was blooming season). Not that the Eroica Rose was a climbing one. Not that there would be a trellis that a nimble-footed thief could climb. Not that the window as well as the door to the room wouldn't be alarmed and barred and locked. If Klaus knew the man and after all these years, he did think he knew him Dorian would just find the challenge romantic. And once he had gained entrance as if there ever had been any doubt that he eventually would? he would be welcome.
Stupid, faggish, fucking plan, anyway.
Finally there was a movement on the road: a hint of red, accompanied by the low hum of a really powerful engine. A hint of red, yes, he thought, not even smiling at the pun. A hint of Red indeed. Dorian Red, the Earl of Gloria. Not a Lamborghini this time, but a Koningsegg or whatever they were called, something Nordic, astronomically expensive and wickedly fast. The car slid to a stop by the stairs leading up from the courtyard, reminding Klaus of that very first time they had met. He had seen the flashy, red Lamborghini then, parked in that very spot. The left door opened and Dorian stepped out. He wore his hair long again, that ridiculous mass of pretty, blond curls that Klaus had, on occasion, desperately wanted to run his fingers through.
Just for once the normally so self-secure Earl looked hesitant. Kind of like a conquering army that, during the march towards the town about to be vanquished, had been intercepted by an invitation to do come on in for brunch.
If there was anything Klaus wondered if he perhaps ought to apologize for, it was for nurturing false hopes. Lord knows what Dorian must have thought when A had forwarded Klaus's invitation. "If you want to see the Major, go to Schloss Eberbach at once." Maybe not the most cordial invitation in the existence of mankind, but Klaus had no doubt that the romantically inclined Brit would spin all sorts of sordid fantasies around it.
Too bad all of them are wrong.
Finally, though, the Earl straightened squared his shoulders no doubt, though Klaus couldn't see that from the steep angle and went for the main entrance.
Klaus took a long breath while considering matters. He moved his head a little, to watch the cloud again. A strand of his hair fell down, covering half of his reflection. He focused his eyes on the image. Seen like that, he looked stupid, but normal.
Keep it like that? Just for a few seconds?
No, though. To avoid temptation he pushed the hair firmly back behind his ear. Maybe next time I talk to G, though? He wouldn't do it for the Earl, no, that would just be cowardly and humiliating, but to avoid having G crying on him again ... Yes, maybe.
The door behind him opened. "Master Klaus," said the butler's well-known voice. "The Earl of Gloria is here to see you, Sir."
There was a shade of question to the announcement. Understandable, as Klaus had left very firm instructions through the years that the fop would never, ever be welcome, not on pain of death. Not that it had always worked, as the Brit had often insinuated his way inside anyway, on several memorable occasions. This was not such a time, though, as Klaus had curtly rescinded his previous orders right after A had called to inform him of the Earl's arrival. "Just for today, Master Klaus?" the butler had asked. Klaus had just shrugged. Besides, after today he doubted that the man he had come to love would have any desire to visit again.
Unless you come to steal the one remaining attractive man in the castle, Klaus thought with a bitter smile. You always did want that painting.
"Show him in," he said out loud.
Moments later he heard the door close, but he knew he wasn't alone. A new presence had entered the room, almost magnetic in its intensity. He didn't bother to turn around.
"Major?" Dorian finally said, sounding insecure.
Still a major, yes. Not for very long, but for a little while yet. "Your Lordship," he replied.
The cloud had drifted a little further on its way. He felt acutely his own, measured breaths.
"Major? I ... I heard there had been an ... an accident? I was told yesterday evening. I came as soon as I could." The Earl still sounded insecure.
"There was no accident," Klaus answered. "It was on purpose."
It had been the last, desperate act of a man he had cornered. It might even have been effective, if Josefsson's aim hadn't been so bad. Instead of striking Klaus mid-face, the bottle had sailed over his shoulder and exploded against a column, splashing over half the room including Klaus.
"Oh? A said ... A said that I was to come here? That you told him to tell me that?"
"I did. What else have you heard?"
"Nothing. Just that you were alive, but ... I don't know ... wounded? You're up and about, so I am assuming and hoping - that it wasn't too bad?"
"It wasn't. I spent three hours at the hospital, mostly waiting for a doctor." He took another breath and then went on to say, "I thought you might barge in. I thought it simplest for A to send you here, if I wasn't there when you came." And that wasn't what he had prepared to say. He was stalling. Own up, von dem Eberbach! Don't beat around the bush! Get it over with! "I thought it best to inform you of the situation as swiftly as possible. The sooner you quit bothering me, the better."
Klaus was not a particularly vain man. His hair was his pride, that was all. However, for whatever reason, the Earl never wasted an opportunity to call him handsome beautiful, even, for fuck's sake! A good deal of his compliments were for Klaus's body, but it wasn't as if he paraded around naked! With time he had come to like the other's courting. Very inconvenient, often, yes, and he never let on, but to be so appreciated was kind of nice. However, he knew that for all of the Earl's declarations of love, the man was after one thing only.
"Major, you have tried to discourage me in the past. I think you have found by now, that I don't give up easily. I"
"You will shut up and listen!" Klaus growled.
There was no reply, but he heard a very low mutter that sounded suspiciously like "shutting up and listening."
He had considered, at this point, just turning around and letting Dorian see. That would be simplest. Though perhaps cruel, if the man really hadn't heard? Also - if he did that ... All those times when he had purposely ignored the Earl's loving gazes haunted him now ... To see just one more, if only for a fleeting second or two, before the man really took in what he saw and the admiration turned to disgust and revulsion, would be ... nice.
Don't be a weakling, von dem Eberbach! he berated himself.
"I got acid splashed on me." He heard a sharp intake of breath. To protect himself he forged on in a mocking tone of voice. "The left side of my face got several drops. As did my shoulder and side. So I think that you will find your ... ardour ... quite firmly doused."
Then he waited another second or two, just to let the message sink in, before he turned. At once he sought out Dorian's eyes, hoping against hope to have time to catch just a hint of love in those eyes still. All he saw was a fright that bordered on panic. The Earl's handsome face, however, never even twitched. Oh, the man had always had that famous stiff upper lip of the English aristocracy, when he didn't pout artfully in disappointment when not getting his way. Slowly the fear was replaced, though and not by revulsion, but by fury.
"Who?" Eroica said. The one word rang loudly in the Eberbach library.
Oh, but of course. Someone had robbed the Prince of Thieves of something he considered rightfully his. Of course he was angry. Of course he wanted revenge. And wasn't it sad that Klaus found a bitter enjoyment in that? Dorian had killed for him in the past and perhaps it had been some animal instinct at work, but Klaus had never been so close to surrendering himself to the other man, as when Eroica came to him with blood staining his fair hands.
"He is under arrest."
The blue eyes never wavered, as if that statement had no relevance. Likely it didn't, in Eroica's world.
"He has valuable information that we are currently attempting to extract," Klaus added.
That earned him an almost imperceptible nod, as if the man before him had agreed to something. Klaus hoped it meant that no immediate retribution would follow. They really did need the information. Even if Z would take over the case soon enough, Klaus wanted the younger agent to start off right.
Dorian took a small step closer, studying Klaus's face intently. Klaus submitted to the inspection, taking the opportunity to watch Dorian in turn. The man wore tight, green-blue jeans; white sandals and a loose, purple shirt, open over something red and sleek. He looked good, as always. Older than the first time they had met, naturally, but not as much as the span of years should have him looking.
"Do you remember Achilles?" Dorian asked, his voice mild. His eyes were still focused on the three scars, crinkling and still dark red, that distorted Klaus's cheek.
"That nancying statue in the mini-skirt? You didn't get it."
"Yes, I did. The skirt is called a khiton, by the way."
Of course Klaus knew that. "Whatever. No you didn't. It's still at the Louvre." He had no idea why Dorian brought it up. Would Eroica go for the statue? Was he taunting Klaus about it?
Dorian flashed him a shaky smile. "You never had an eye for art. They have a forgery. A spectacular one, but still. It is mine. Whatever I want, I get. I have had it for four years now. Tell me, what do you remember about the statue? Apart from the ... mini-skirt?"
"Three meters tall, wavy hair, head-band, empty stare. No eyes. Shows most of everything, both legs and half the chest."
The smile returned to Dorian's face, if faint. "Oh yes. A real exhibitionist he is, our dear Achilles. And what other characteristics does he have?"
Klaus mentally conjured up the image of the statue. He had last seen it one evening at the Louvre where the guards had sniggered as he reached under the front of the khiton to acquire the hidden microfilm. "No arms. And one of his legs only goes down to here." He indicated the appropriate length with a hand to his own thigh. "Then there's nothing down to the foot."
The smile widened. "Signs of age, of authenticity. Don't you see? It just made me want him all the more, for his perfect flaws."
While Klaus stood there, not even blinking as he tried to assimilate the Brit's words, the man walked up to him. Slowly, as if not to frighten him, Dorian lifted his left hand to gently cup Klaus's right cheek before raising his right to let his cool fingertips skim over the tight skin on Klaus's left. The sparkling, blue eyes wide with something akin to wonder, but also with all the love and devotion that Klaus had feared forever gone looked deep into his.
"You didn't think this would change my mind, did you, my love? These little things?" He caressed Klaus's cheek and then dropped a light kiss over the mangled skin.
Klaus's heart beat much too fast. He felt weak with relief. His upper body started to lean forward.
von dem Eberbach! Control yourself! You're not some fainting heroine in some bloody Harlequin novel!
He brought up his hands to the other's shoulders and forcefully pushed him away. Eroica lightly danced a few steps backwards.
"Well, I had hoped they would!" Klaus growled. "I thought I was finally rid of you, you persistent, degenerate pest!"
If one makes a plan, one should stick to it. In June, he would have his promotion. In June, the Eroica would be in bloom. Hell, perhaps he would even leave his window ajar.
SEQUEL: Best Laid Plans by Callahan (shiplizard)
Callahan (shiplizard) asked permission to write a sequel and then she did it. It is lovely! Check it out!
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