Eroica Archive Entry
Hovering in the doorway, Dorian looked about apathetically, noting the changes in the room he had once known so well. Although little could be done to change its basic unwelcoming sterility, no longer was it quite the bare, functional place it had once been. Pictures hung on the pale walls and a photograph, presumably of its owner's family, adorned the desk, whilst standing on one of the filing cabinets was a vase of flowers.
It was the roses, more than anything, that brought home to Dorian that this was no longer Klaus von Eberbach's office. That a stranger sat in the chair where Iron Klaus, the terror of the German branch of NATO intelligence, had once sat and chain-smoked, glaring through the open door at his subordinates. And even they had changed. Some of the faces he recognised, Agents A, B, and Z and a handful of others - the inner core of Klaus' Alphabet Soup - but many of the others were new to him. He wondered briefly where they had all gone but he didn't allow it to matter to him for long. Nothing much mattered these days.
Not since Klaus von Eberbach had died.
Dorian felt the familiar pain at the thought, his mind flitting back the months to the day he had heard the news. Even though it was Agent Z who had told him, his fair face blotched with tears, Dorian had refused to believe it. Refused to contemplate a world without his beloved major in it but eventually he had had to. The proof was just too overwhelming.
Running a two-man mission just inside Russian territory, Eberbach had been captured, interrogated and then executed out of hand. The other agent, spared the torture that Klaus had undergone, had somehow managed to escape from his captors after the major's death and get back to the West. It was he, one of Klaus' own Alphabet Soup, who had identified the body when the Russians shipped it back to Germany. In the first madness of disbelief, Dorian had wanted the coffin opened to make sure that it really was Eberbach but saner counsels had prevailed. Z had assured him shakily that there wasn't much of Klaus' face left to recognise. A bullet through the back of his head had seen to that.
There could be no mistake. Even Misha the Bear Cub, Klaus' old adversary in the KGB, was convinced. Having no hand in Eberbach's execution, he had sent the Alphabet condolences that for once seemed almost sincere. The two men, although on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain, had been alike in many ways, though both had always denied it vehemently.
Forced to accept that Eberbach was gone, Dorian felt as though his life was over. Although Klaus had never allowed them to be lovers and had rarely even acknowledged that they were friends, still Dorian felt as though the bottom of his world had dropped out. He went through the motions of living, still flaunting the gay, playboy persona that was Dorian, Earl of Gloria, as well as his alter-ego, Eroica, international art thief and occasional outside contractor for NATO, but those who had known him before saw the awful blankness in his eyes and recognised his life for the sham it was. He continued to steal but, until today, had cut off all contact with NATO, unable to face the reminder of Klaus.
As if Klaus, even after all these months, was ever far from his mind.
Lost in his painful thoughts, Dorian jumped as a hand touched his shoulder. He span round and came face to face with A, B at his back as ever.
"It's good to see you again, my lord," A greeted him. "We've missed you. It hasn't been the same around here since..." he broke of abruptly, his smile wavering.
"Since Klaus was killed." Dorian forced himself to say it around the tightness in his chest, his voice and face expressionless. There was a brief moment of agonised silence, the words echoing around the room, as the three of them faced the loss again.
"What are you doing here?" B asked after a moment, trying to pull all their thoughts away from the major. "I didn't think we'd see you here again."
Dorian shrugged. "I didn't want to come but Z asked me to. It seems Colonel Uberall was most insistent. What's he like?"
A and B exchanged looks.
"He's courteous, efficient, by-the-book, fair, never looses his temper," B recited neutrally. "And I think we all hate him."
Dorian raised a brow in surprise at the vicious bite in the normally easy-going agent's voice.
"Oh, he's a good agent. Easy to work for," B admitted. "But he's not Major Eberbach. For all this temper, I'd rather have Iron Klaus any day," he continued. "He scared the life out of me but at least you always knew where you stood. He was never underhand about anything."
"Things have changed," A added. "Z and I are still senior but there have been a lot of new agents through here and it just isn't the same. Even G is different." He gestured with his head to where the petite agent was seated. Dorian hadn't even realised that it was G; he had never seen the young man dressed so soberly before or behaving like the well-trained, responsible agent that he was.
"He hasn't worn a dress once since Uberall got here," A continued. "And it's not because the colonel forbade it. He thinks it's rather amusing to have a transvestite agent. Not to mention useful. But G won't play along."
"I suppose we'll get used to it eventually but ... Ah hell, why did he have to go on that mission? Any of us could have done it," B mourned, his round face twisted with grief.
Dorian blinked back tears of his own, determined not to allow his emotions to overcome him again. "Because he was Major Klaus von dem Eberbach," he said simply as though it explained everything. Perhaps it did. To Klaus, duty had been everything, the be all and end all of his world.
There was a stir at the other end of the room as two men entered. Dorian recognised Z but the other was a stranger. He was a stocky man, maybe 5'8, sandy hair greying at the temples, probably about forty-five, Dorian judged. An ordinary enough looking man who could blend in anywhere.
"Colonel Uberall?" Dorian queried as the two men approached.
"Lord Gloria," the German nodded, holding out his hand. Dorian took it briefly and then let himself be ushered into the office. Z and A followed him in and they sat in the chairs carefully arranged in front of the desk as Uberall shut the door and pulled the window blinds before taking his own seat behind the big, battered desk.
"Thank you for coming, Lord Gloria."
Dorian inclined his head in acknowledgement but said nothing, his face deliberately impassive. The colonel studied him for a long moment, trying to reconcile what he had heard about this man with the one now seated in front of him.
Physically they matched; the long golden curls flowing riotously down his back; the flamboyant clothes almost indecently revealing but he seemed more sombre, less outrageous, than reputation had painted him. Doubtlessly gossip had exaggerated as usual. Eroica, as an outside contractor for the Bonn office of NATO specialising in high tech theft, had been almost as notorious in the intelligence community as his handler, Klaus von Eberbach. Eroica's unconcealed, and often violently unrequited, passion for the major might have made the pair a laughing stock had they not been so dangerous and, in spite of Klaus' publicly professed dislike of Eroica, they had been fiercely protective of each other, both meting out swift retribution to anyone who hurt the other. It had been the sort of partnership from which legends were born. There were few people brave enough to mess with both of them. Even though Eberbach was gone, NATO could still use the thief. It was time Eroica came back into the fold.
"NATO has a mission for you," Uberall said finally.
Dorian froze for a second and then got up. "Nice to have met you, colonel. I'll see myself out."
"Eroica, wait!" Uberall's voice halted Dorian with his hand on the door handle.
"I'm not interested. I don't work for NATO anymore," he said tightly. "And my name is Lord Gloria," he added.
"Please, hear me out. I think this is something you will want to be involved in, Lord Gloria." Uberall wondered at the Englishman's insistence on his title. Eberbach had always referred to the thief by his sobriquet and his agents did the same.
Dorian's glance flickered to the two agents still seated but it was clear that they knew no more about the job than he did. His curiosity piqued, the Englishman nodded and came back to his seat. "Very well, colonel, I'll listen to what you have to say but nothing's going to change my mind."
"Fine but what I'm about to tell you is strictly confidential. Top secret."
"Is that all?" Dorian asked flippantly. "I know how to keep my mouth shut, colonel," he assured the other man more seriously as Uberall frowned.
"You are aware of the political situation in Ruritania at the moment?" Uberall asked rhetorically, addressing all three men. Even Dorian, without access to NATO intelligence on the situation, knew as much as anyone who listened to the news reports from the BBC. Indeed, he probably knew more than the average person on the street as he and his staff had been there a couple of months earlier. It was not an experience Dorian would care to repeat. He thrived on danger and had been in war zones before but the explosive atmosphere in Ruritania had scared him, forcing him to leave the country, his theft undone. Corsca was a dictator of the worst kind, far worse than any other Communist leader that Dorian had ever come across, his excesses legendary. He cared nothing for his people, squeezing them for every penny they had to pay for his pleasures and those of his favourites. The ordinary people were sick of him and there had been an increasing number of clashes with the government forces. So far, through a policy of police brutality and terror, the government was holding its own but the situation was ripe for wholesale violence at any moment.
"Then you are aware that the likelihood of armed rebellion against President Corsca and the government forces is growing all the time. NATO intelligence has a number of agents provocateur in the country whose job it is to make sure that the government is overthrown."
Dorian digested the statement in silence, long acquaintance with the intelligence community leaving him unsurprised. "So?" he probed. "What's that got to do with me?"
"We have an agent, very highly placed, inside the Presidential palace itself. We want you to go in and bring him out when it's time. According to his reports, we have another week, ten days maybe, until the situation comes to a head. When it does, our man will be a target for everyone and he's too useful to just sacrifice."
"Who is he?" Z asked.
"He's Corsca's current favourite," Uberall said harshly.
Dorian's breath hissed sharply. Another reason for his hasty exit from Ruritania was the president's well known predilection for pretty men. That didn't bother Dorian in itself but it was rumoured that Corsca was not gentle and that his favourites had a distressing habit of disappearing suddenly and permanently after a month or two.
"Poor bastard." A spoke for them all.
"Precisely," Uberall agreed. "If the government discovers he's an agent, his life isn't worth shit and if he does maintain his cover, the rebels will shoot him on sight. If he's lucky."
Dorian reflected grimly on what the colonel hadn't said. Privileged though he was, he had seen his share of violence and cruelty. He knew what men could do to each other in hatred and fear. "That still doesn't explain why I'm here. Surely you've got other people who could get him out?"
"Yes, we have," Uberall acknowledged. "But he doesn't know them and, paranoid as he is at the moment, I don't think he'll trust them. You he knows."
"Me?" Dorian repeated in surprise.
"Yes. You're probably the only man he'll trust enough to even get close to him."
Dorian opened his mouth to speak and then snapped it shut, exchanging puzzled looks with Z and A. "Just who the hell is he?" he asked finally.
Uberall moved over to his safe and pulled out a single manila file. "He's been very careful to keep out of the public view in case he's recognised but one of our surveillance agents got these." He handed the two 10 by 8's to Z face down. "His appearance has altered but I think you'll still know him," he added soberly.
Z flipped the photos over and studied the grainy images in silence for a moment and then the colour drained from his face. "Sweet Christ!" he muttered. A, craning over his shoulder for a look, echoed the sentiment.
"What?" Dorian said sharply, reaching for the pictures. Z gave them to him reluctantly.
"Eroica..." he warned helplessly and then fell silent as the Englishman looked at the photographs.
Dorian stared down at the picture in his hand and felt the room close in about him, shock robbing him of all coherent thought. He vaguely felt a hand on his arm and allowed himself to be steered into a chair before his knees gave way but couldn't tear his eyes away from the man in the image. One of the photos, taken at a distance, gave little detail but the other, although obviously blown up from a larger shot, had caught him full-faced. Although the eyes were an indeterminate colour and the short spiky hair bleached white, Dorian recognised him in an instant
It was Klaus von Eberbach. Very much alive.
"How?" Dorian croaked, looking up momentarily from the photograph he clutched, white-knuckled, in one hand. "The Russians killed him."
"It was a set-up," the colonel told him. "The whole mission was a fake, right from the start, including the Russians. They were actually Finnish security agents, friends of Major Eberbach."
"Why?" Dorian's voice was plaintive.
"So that he'd be safe," Z said slowly, thinking it through. "What better cover than being dead? No-one is going to suspect Corsca's latest whore of being Klaus von Eberbach because everyone knows he's dead."
"Exactly," Uberall agreed.
"But to leave us thinking he was dead." A shook his head in bewilderment. "Was P in on it?" he asked sharply, suspicious of the now departed agent.
"No. Major Eberbach arranged everything himself. P was just there to bring the news back."
"But if the major isn't dead, then who did they execute?" Z asked.
"It was a ringer. A terrorist the Finns were holding."
"I don't believe this," Dorian murmured to himself, eyes fixed once more on the picture in his hand. After the soul shattering grief of the last few months the knowledge that Klaus was alive, had always been alive, was almost too much to take in. It was unreal and Dorian felt as though at any minute he would wake up and discover that it had all been a cruel dream. Like it always had been before. He didn't think that he could bear that again.
Z came to stand beside him and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. "If you don't mind me asking, sir, why was Major Eberbach sent to Ruritania? It's not the sort of assignment we usually deal with."
At Z's tentative question, Dorian's head shot up and he stared at the young German in horror, the nature of Klaus' mission finally registering through the shock. Klaus, his beautiful, fanatically repressed love who backed away from even the mere suggestion of sex, who, even after all these years, still kept Dorian at arm's length, was playing whore to another man. Dorian had resigned himself, almost, to the fact that Klaus would never be his lover but he had never considered that the German would willingly give his body to anyone else. He hadn't thought that anything could hurt as much as the news of Klaus' death but this came close. Very close.
"Major Eberbach was considered to be the best candidate for the job," Uberall said blandly. "Besides, he volunteered."
"Volunteered?!" the three younger men exclaimed in unison.
"Once he knew the alternatives," Uberall admitted smoothly.
"You forced him," Dorian realised with horror.
"No," the colonel contradicted. "But he knew that if he didn't go, we'd have to find someone else. And we don't have that many qualified agents, or contractors, on our books." He smiled toothily and Dorian felt a chill run down his spine. The inference was all too obvious. Klaus had gone himself rather than let NATO send anyone else.
That anyone being him.
Dorian didn't doubt that Uberall would have had no compunction about using his identity as Eroica to blackmail him into doing what they wanted.
He understood now A's dislike of the man. His own feelings came closer to hatred, though he wasn't sure just who those feelings were directed at most strongly. At Uberall for the blackmail or at himself for giving the colonel the lever he needed to force Klaus into taking the assignment. For a moment he even hated Klaus for leaving him to mourn.
"Alright," he agreed tightly. "What do you want me to do?"
Klaus von Eberbach woke abruptly, all his sharply tuned senses screaming that he was no longer alone in the room. Sprawled on his front over the big bed and still feigning sleep, his hand crept under the pillow where his gun lay concealed. As his hand closed comfortably around the butt, he wished that it was his familiar Magnum but the Magnum was carefully hidden away, deemed unsuitable for his current persona. Still, at short range, the Derringer, popgun though it was by comparison, was lethal enough. Not that he wanted to use the gun if he could possibly help it. The sound of a shot would bring the rest of the household running, attention Klaus could well do without. His position was precarious enough already without adding the complication of assassins in the night. Especially as he didn't know who was gunning for him.
Through slitted eyes, Klaus could make out the silhouette of the intruder, a slightly denser patch of darkness just inside the doors that led to the balcony. Doors that he always ensured were securely locked from the inside. He waited tensely for the man to approach the bed, ready to spring into action the moment he was near enough to grab but the intruder just stood looking at him. Klaus began to sweat, expecting at any moment to feel a bullet in his back. He willed the man closer and after what seemed like an eternity, the man moved, catfooting it towards the bed, barely a whisper of sound marking his passing. Whoever he was, Klaus had to admire his skill. If his senses had been a little less sharp, a little less paranoid, Klaus would never have known he was there until it was too late.
Finally the intruder was within arm's length and Klaus surged up from the bed, one hand grabbing for the man's wrist, the other closing on his throat, and twisted, pulling the intruder's body over his hip. The man, surprised, sprawled spread-eagled on the bed, his stocking cap going flying. Klaus followed him down, still retaining his grip on the man's throat, one knee on his chest and the other on his arm. Keeping the stranger pinned to the mattress, Klaus reached out to flick on the bedside lamp.
In the sudden light he found himself gazing down into familiar blue eyes.
"Eroica?" Klaus said blankly, hardly believing what his senses were telling him, the hand holding his gun dropping away.
"Hello, Klaus." Eroica smiled up at him shakily through a curtain of tangled golden curls. Even though he had known that Klaus was alive, until this moment he hadn't really believed it. The sight and feel of the near naked body pressing into his made his heart pound erratically and Dorian felt his body react involuntarily to the long missed presence.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Eberbach demanded, shifting his weight off the Englishman. "Did anyone see you come in?"
"Well, that's charming," Dorian flounced, sitting up as Klaus released him, the familiar bright smile and manner covering the fact that he was trembling and wanted nothing better than to burst into tears. Or throw himself into Klaus' arms. He restrained himself with difficulty - Klaus wouldn't like either option. "No, how nice to see you after all this time? No, hello Dorian, I've missed you." The mockery lacked its usual bite and Dorian felt his smile waver. "They said you were dead," he blurted out, feeling the tears sting despite his best efforts.
A shadow passed over Klaus' face and he retreated to the top of the bed, pulling the sheet over him, his back to the wall, one hand going up to brush away hair that wasn't there anymore. He looked away from Dorian uneasily. "It was necessary. No-one had to connect Klaus von Eberbach with Gunther Mahler. Dying seemed the best way of accomplishing that."
Meeting the blue eyes, Klaus thought he saw a flicker of something that might have been pain pass across the expressive face but then Eroica's bright mask slid back into place and he wasn't sure. He hadn't considered what the news of his death would mean to Dorian, hadn't even thought that he would hear about it as it was often months between their meetings but thinking about it now, Klaus felt a stab of guilt. Although he still wasn't sure whether he really believed any of Dorian's frequent protestations of love, Klaus knew that, despite appearances, they were friends. He had spent so long denying what he felt for Dorian that he was no longer sure just what the Englishman did mean to him but he did know that, had the situation been reversed, the news would have devastated him.
Dorian gave a choked laugh. "Oh, I understand that. Your replacement made it very clear. But surely you could have trusted Z and A. And what about me? You know I would never do anything to hurt you."
Klaus stared at the Englishman blankly for a moment. "But..." he began and then broke off, his frown of puzzlement gradually replaced by Iron Klaus' familiar scowl. "Do you mean no-one told them? That everyone thinks I really am dead?" He came to his feet, absently dragging the bedsheet around him toga-style, too perturbed to stay still any longer.
Dorian nodded mutely, too engrossed in the rare sight of Klaus' half naked body as the enraged man's grip on the sheet loosened unnoticed.
"Bastards," Eberbach growled and followed it with an impressive string of guttural invective. He suddenly became conscious of the Englishman's fixed stare and stopped pacing. "What?" he barked.
Dorian smiled up at him mistily. "Do you have any idea how much I missed you, darling?"
"Eroica." It was a warning growl albeit tinged with indulgent exasperation.
"A lot," the Englishman continued blithely, his emotions in check once more. "And much though I appreciate it, the sight of your body is severely testing my self control, so I suggest you put some clothes on, for both our sakes. Unless, of course, you want to crawl back into that bed with me."
Realising his state of undress, Klaus flushed scarlet and retreated to the bathroom with a handful of clothes. He returned a minute later barefoot, clad in form-fitting jeans and a dark sleeveless T-shirt that clung to his muscled torso.
"You didn't answer my question. What are you doing here, Eroica? There's nothing worth stealing in this place."
"I'm not here to steal anything. I'm working for NATO," Dorian told him, with a regretful sigh for Klaus' now clad form. Despite the unfamiliar cropped and bleached hair, Dorian didn't think that he had ever seen Klaus looking so devastatingly beautiful before.
"NATO?!" Eberbach exclaimed, dumbfounded. "Since when do you work for NATO?"
"Ever since I met you."
"Eroica." Klaus glared at the irrepressible thief. "Be serious. You've never worked without me before." The German was perturbed by the thought that Eroica was apparently willing to work with someone else, though he was loathe to admit it even to himself. Irritating though he found him, Klaus thought of Eroica as his alone.
"Jealous?" Eroica quipped, more serious than he sounded.
"No," Klaus snapped immediately with a scowl.
Dorian merely laughed lightly, joy bubbling through him at having Iron Klaus back again. "Don't worry, darling, I haven't abandoned you," he assured the German earnestly. "I'm only here because you are."
"You'd better not be here to screw up my mission," Klaus snarled.
Dorian flinched inwardly at the major's choice of words but pasted a smile on nonetheless. "When have I ever screwed up your mission?" he asked playfully.
"Always!" Klaus insisted, ruthlessly ignoring the little voice in the back of his mind that reminded him just how often Eroica's interference, whether NATO sanctioned or not, had saved those same missions. And his life.
Dorian shrugged, unwilling for once to argue the point. "Not this time, love. Bonn sent me to help. Nothing else."
Klaus frowned thoughtfully. "Alright, Eroica," he decided finally, sitting down in one of the chairs beside the bed. "Tell me exactly what's going on. Why you're here."
Dorian's smile faded as he debated what to say. How much should he tell Klaus of that meeting in Bonn with Uberall? He suspected that Klaus would not react well to the truth. At least not the whole, unvarnished truth. But then, that had never been Eroica's style anyway.
"Colonel Uberall called me in to Bonn a few days ago," he began, settling for the basics. "He briefed me on your mission here. Z and A, too," he added, watching the emotions flicker across Klaus' face briefly, a faint tinge of colour touching his cheeks, before the German's professional mask came down.
"All of it?" Klaus asked through tight lips.
Dorian nodded but didn't say anything else. He didn't know if either of them were ready to deal openly with that knowledge yet. "He told us that you were running this operation solo and that, as things are coming to a head, you could probably do with some help."
Klaus frowned, shaking his head in perplexity. "Help? If I needed any help I would have brought one of my agents with me. Why the hell did he send you?"
Dorian ignored the implied slur on his usefulness. "He and the Chief thought that as I'm not an agent you'd trust me."
Klaus looked surprised. Eroica had never been entirely trustworthy as far as NATO missions were concerned; he invariably had his own agenda.
Seeing the look, Dorian shrugged. "Well," he defended, "it sounded logical at the time. Mind you, I was in shock. I'd just heard you weren't dead!" he quipped, the remembered pain washing over him again.
"You're not usually that naive, Eroica," Klaus told him. "What about Z and A? Surely they didn't buy it."
The Englishman shrugged again. "Maybe not," he conceded. "But Uberall did make the point that if I was spotted talking to you, at least I would blend in with your crowd better than any of your agents."
Klaus looked at him blankly for a second and then a sardonic smile crept onto his face. "Uberall's a fool," he pronounced savagely. "And a bastard. You wouldn't last a minute in Corsca's crowd."
"From what I hear no-one does," Dorian said quietly.
Klaus didn't contradict him. "Most of them were just in it for what they could get out of him. They pushed too far."
"Well, just make sure you don't."
"I won't," Klaus told him confidently, ignoring Eroica's dubious look. "I'm a trained agent. I know what I'm doing. Besides, Corsca's not the one I've got to worry about. He's convinced. It's ..." Eberbach broke off abruptly, head cocked to one side as he heard the faint sound of a door slamming somewhere close by.
"Klaus, what is it?" Dorian asked anxiously.
Eberbach waved him into silence and, drawing his gun, crept over to the bedroom door. He opened it a crack, peered out and then, locking it again, frantically gestured Dorian towards the balcony. Even as Dorian moved, Klaus hurriedly stripped off his tee-shirt and pushed his gun into his bedside table drawer. A minute later there was a knock at the door.
From his hiding place on the balcony, Dorian watched as Klaus opened the door and a man entered. With a silent snarl he realised that it was Corsca. He was a big man, much the same height as Klaus, but broader, outweighing him by at least a stone and not entirely unattractive, if you liked the hairy Eastern European type. Dorian didn't and hated him on sight.
Their voices were muffled but Dorian didn't need to hear to know what Corsca wanted; his actions said everything. He tried to block out the sight but his mind replayed the images behind closed eyelids. Of that man touching his Klaus, hands running up and down the naked back and dipping lower to fondle his backside and Klaus, leaning into the embrace, returning the kisses with no sign of reluctance. He bit down hard on one fist, trying to stifle the whimper of sound that escaped from him, using the pain to distract himself but it didn't work. How could Klaus let himself be mauled by a stranger who only wanted his body and yet always flinch away from his touch, caresses inspired by love as well as lust? Dorian didn't like the answer he came up with.
Sunk in misery, his attention was drawn back to the activities in the bedroom by a muffled thump and a breathless laugh. Klaus was sprawled on the bed with Corsca on top of him and, although Dorian couldn't see his face, he had no doubt from the sounds that Klaus was making that the German was enjoying the experience. Ordinarily, Dorian had a healthy streak of voyeurism in his makeup but he felt that if he was forced to watch Klaus and Corsca any longer he would be physically sick so great was his revulsion. He was just on the point on slipping away when unexpected movement in the room halted him and he watched as Klaus rolled the other man over onto his back and then come to his knees, leaning over him.
The German snatched a kiss and then spoke, the words coming clearly to Dorian. "Let's go to your room. The bed's far more comfortable there. Nice and big, plenty of room to play."
"And you do like play, don't you?" Corsca chuckled, hands toying with Klaus' body. He heaved himself off the bed, straightened his clothing and tossed Klaus' discarded shirt at him. "My quarters, five minutes. I'll have everything ready," he added with a smirk and then left the room with an unmistakable swagger,
Klaus took a shuddering breath as the door close behind him and swallowed hard against the feelings of nausea that threatened to swamp him. He redressed hastily, pulling on jacket and shoes, distressingly aware of Dorian's silent presence on the balcony. For a moment he considered saying something but in the end he remained silent, not knowing what it was he wanted to say, just that he wanted, needed, to say something to Dorian.
He closed the door behind him, knowing that after tonight his relationship with Dorian would never be the same again.
Klaus froze for a second as he entered his bedroom, immediately aware that the room was occupied and then realised that it was Dorian sitting in the pre-dawn shadows.
"You're still here," he said stupidly and then cursed himself for saying it.
"Yes." The word was bitten off sharply. "Where else would I be?"
Klaus didn't think he had ever heard Dorian quite so snappish and felt his own temper, already balanced on knife edge, rise to match. He made a conscious effort to curb it. The last thing he needed now was a fight with Dorian. "You shouldn't have waited," he finally growled, kicking off his shoes and shrugging stiffly out of his jacket.
"No?" Dorian got up and stood nose to nose with him. "What else was I supposed to do while you were with him?"
Close up, Klaus could see that the other man was upset, angry, a fine tremor running through his body. "Eroica, just leave it," he said tightly. "I don't care why you're here but my job does not concern you," he added, not wanting to even think about the previous few hours, let alone talk about them to Dorian. All he wanted to do was stand under a hot shower and scrub off the smell and feel of Corsca on his body and then crawl back into his bed and let sleep dull the memories and the pain. If sleep would come.
"No?" Dorian repeated sarcastically. "I suppose the fact that you're his whore has got nothing to do with me. I hope you enjoyed it," he said nastily and then reeled back, hand to his cheek, as Klaus, pushed beyond his limit, punched him. With a smothered sob he turned away, staring blindly out of the partially opened balcony curtains.
Klaus moved after him, horrified by what he had done. He hadn't meant to lose control and lash out physically. Dorian had only spoken the truth, after all. He was Corsca's whore, no matter what the reasons. Part of him, the part that he usually listened to, wanted to leave Dorian hurting, anything to keep the all too seductive Englishman at arm's length but he forced himself to ignore the long ingrained instincts of self-protection. If nothing else, this mission had made him face up to his own nature and the desperate craving he felt for Dorian. For his body and his friendship.
"Dorian, I'm sorry." Klaus lifted a hand to touch the bowed head and then dropped it uncertainly, hating himself for once again hurting the only person he had ever really allowed himself to care for.
"Why?" Dorian's voice was muffled.
Klaus was confused. "For hitting you," he said and then as Dorian remained silent, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that. Not for the truth."
"Truth?" the Englishman repeated bitingly. "That's never bothered you before. Or is this the one truth you can't face? That you really are a pervert." He spat the word out, throwing it back in Klaus' face as it had so often been thrown at him.
Klaus was silent, unable to answer the accusation. Unable, for once, to lie to either of them.
Dorian span round to face him, wiping impatiently at the tears on his face. "So it is true and you just let me eat my heart out over you," he snarled, realising what Klaus' silence meant. "I've spent years letting you treat me like shit because I didn't want to push, wanted to let you decide that loving a man wasn't wrong. And then I find out from some smirking colonel that you're cheerfully screwing a power-crazy dictator. Getting screwed by him, more like, and enjoying every damn minute of it." Dorian knew he was being unfair, that Klaus hadn't wanted the mission, but all the emotions he had buried over the last nine months, his grief and despair and jealousy, suddenly boiled up and came spilling out in a vicious torrent of abuse.
"Dorian," Klaus tried. "I..."
Dorian cut him off sharply. "Why him? Why not me?" The cry was torn out of him. "What the hell's wrong with me?"
"Dorian, I..." Klaus repeated again, helpless in the face of the Englishman's pain. "There's nothing wrong with you," he finally said, almost inaudibly. "If I chose anyone, it would be you. But I can't. I just can't let anyone get that close to me." He was almost pleading for understanding.
"You let Corsca," Dorian pointed out harshly.
"That's my job. It's always been my job," Eberbach said, a vicious note in his voice.
"Oh yes, The Job. Your all important mission," Dorian spat out, his pretty face contorted by the sarcasm. "I didn't think prostituting yourself was in the job description but, then, you'd do anything for NATO, wouldn't you? After all, you even deign to work with me sometimes."
Klaus looked away, unwilling to face Dorian but knowing that he had to try to make the Englishman understand. Somehow, he could no longer bear the thought of Dorian despising him. Once it wouldn't have mattered but this mission had forced him examine his feelings and accept them honestly.
"When I first joined the army, I was loaned out to various intelligence and security agencies," he explained in a tone suddenly devoid of all emotion. "My job was to seduce, spy on and sometimes assassinate, depending on what my masters wanted. There was a whole little department of us, except that my speciality was men. I did that for almost four years, Dorian and I got to hate every single minute of it." Klaus' face twisted, bitter memories running through his mind.
Dorian was silent, his anger defused, horrified by the picture that Klaus' quiet words were painting.
"When I finally got a transfer to NATO, I thought I'd left that life behind. Nobody in Bonn knew what I'd been doing and that part of my file is classified. And then you came along, offering me everything that a few years earlier I would have jumped at." Klaus gave a crack of ironic laughter that broke in the middle. "Then I would have been the one dragging you into bed but every time I even thought about it or you touched me, all I could feel was them."
Klaus sank down on the end of the bed, head sunk in his hands. Dorian watched him silently for a minute and then sat beside him, all too aware of Klaus' almost imperceptible flinch away from him. He felt his throat tighten with the roil of confused emotions running through him and blinked back tears, unsure whether they were for Klaus' pain or his own.
"Why did you do it?" he finally asked quietly, for once entirely sober.
The German took his time but then answered with a fatalistic shrug. "Because it needed to be done and I could do it. It was my duty."
Dorian took a sharp breath, aghast that, even with his over-developed sense of duty, Klaus could really believe that but before he could say anything, the German continued.
"Dorian, you've never hidden what you are, you've never had to but I've spent my entire life hiding. From my family, my peers, from the army. If it had ever become publicly known that I was gay, my career would have been over before it even started and it would have destroyed my father. And the dirty tricks department knew that. And used it against me. It wasn't so difficult at first - my preference has always been for men and I was no virgin - and then afterwards it was too late to back out. The dirty tricks departments don't like letting people go."
"But you got out."
Klaus shrugged again. "I gave them no choice in the end. It was either let me go or take me out of the game permanently. They decided I would be more useful alive."
"So that they could use you again," Dorian concluded cynically.
"Yes," Klaus agreed bitterly.
"You don't work for them anymore," Dorian pointed out. "You could have refused."
"Could I? And let them put some other poor bastard through this?" The major shook his head. "I'm not the first agent in Corsca's bed," he confided. "The last one was a young French kid. He blew the back of his head off with one of the bastard's hunting rifles after three months. I hate it but at least I know I can live with it. He doesn't do anything to me that hasn't been done before. So, yes, I could have refused, have resigned from NATO if needs be but I don't know if I could have lived with myself afterwards. Not if you'd..." He stopped abruptly, suddenly aware of what he'd been about to say. And to whom.
Dorian, however, refused to let it drop. "Uberall told me what the alternative was," he admitted.
Klaus looked stricken. "I couldn't let him do that to you. I couldn't bear it." It was the nearest Klaus had ever come to admitting his feelings for Dorian, even to himself.
Dorian swallowed hard past the knot of tears that tightened his chest and looked tenderly at the bowed head, aching to put his arms around the German and soothe away the misery with a hug but, remembering how Klaus had flinched away from even casual contact, didn't dare. Instead he reached out to still the restlessly knotting hands with one of his own, hoping that Klaus could at least accept that much from him.
For an instant Klaus' body froze and then his hands turned and clutched at Dorian's as though it were a lifeline.
"Dorian," he said huskily, looking up from their entangled hands to meet the Englishman's gaze.
Dorian felt his breath catch at the sheer naked vulnerability on Klaus' normally shuttered face and read the unvoiced plea in his eyes. Casting caution to the winds, he pulled Klaus into his arms, rocking him as the first shuddering ripples tore through his body.
"It's alright, it's alright," he crooned softly, feeling his own tears trickle down his face again "I've got you, love. Just cry it out. Just cry it all out, I'm not going anywhere." He ran a soothing hand through the spiky hair, wishing that it was still the familiar long, silky black locks that he had fantasised about so often before.
Klaus turned his face into Dorian's shoulder, stifling harsh sobs as he finally let go of control, crying out all his accumulated pain and misery in the arms of the one man he trusted never to hurt him. It was true as he had told Dorian that what Corsca demanded of him in bed was nothing new but it had been years since he had had a man and Corsca got his kicks from pain. Normally when Corsca had been away from the capital for a week, as he had just been, he was even rougher than usual and Klaus could barely move for days after, his body covered in bruises and bite marks. It was only by virtue of the fact that Klaus was currently sharing his favour that he had got off lightly tonight. His body was sore and he would be stiff in the morning but the bruises would heal in a day or two and this time, at least, there was no blood. He was grateful for that. He didn't think he could have borne facing Dorian in that state. It was hard enough now, with the stink of Corsca's sweat and semen still on him.
Eventually the sobs died down and Klaus pushed himself away from the haven of Dorian's arms. Dorian let him go reluctantly, he would gladly have spent forever like that, but settled for pulling a large and surprisingly practical handkerchief from one of his pockets as Klaus wiped a hand across his blotched face.
"Here." He proffered the handkerchief.
Klaus took it and blew his nose, then sat twisting the cotton restlessly between his fingers. "I'm sorry," he muttered, his face colouring with the embarrassment he felt at his breakdown. It had been a long time since he had allowed himself to cry, even longer since he had trusted anyone enough to see it.
Dorian wiped away his own tears. "Don't be," he said fiercely. "It's not your fault. You're the victim here."
Klaus shook his head in mute denial, still refusing to look at the other man. How could he be the victim? He had willingly accepted the assignment, knowing what he could expect at Corsca's hands.
"You are," Dorian insisted again. "What he's done to you, what they all did, no man should have to accept that." When Klaus just shrugged, Dorian reached out and cupped his face in both hands, pulling him around firmly so that the other man faced him. "Look at me, Klaus," he demanded softly, waiting until Klaus raised bloodshot green eyes to his before continuing. "I don't know how to make you understand this, to accept that you're not to blame but whatever you've done, whatever's been done to you, I love you. I will always love you, no matter what." He stroked a gentle hand down his cheek, thumb coming to rest of the tightly closed lips, caressing there for a moment before sliding away.
"You can't..." Klaus blurted out before freezing up but Dorian didn't need to hear the rest. He knew exactly what Klaus had meant.
"Yes, I can," he insisted fiercely. "I have been in love with you for the most of the last decade, Klaus. Nothing can change how I feel about you, least of all this. I haven't exactly been a plaster saint either. I've never taken money for sex but it's felt damn close sometimes. Sometimes when just any body would do, just to scratch an itch."
"That's different," Klaus said stubbornly.
Dorian shrugged. "Maybe, but then, I was never forced to do it and none of them ever took joy in hurting me just because I was there," he said, feeling the rage coursing through him at the thought of the pain Klaus had suffered. He had always found it hard enough to deal with the injuries Klaus suffered in the normal course of his duty - the beatings, the bullet and knife wounds, the near-lethal cocktail of drugs that had been forcibly pumped into him more than once, the torture that had masqueraded as interrogation - but this was somehow worse. More personal and intimate and degrading.
Before, he had dealt with his feelings of anger and outrage with swift but short-lived revenge. Revenge that was rarely either fatal or even physical. He usually preferred a more subtle approach, abhorring as he did wanton violence. But this time he wanted to make someone pay for Klaus' hurt; make them pay in blood and fear and pain. A lot of pain. No one would ever hurt his love again in that way, he vowed fiercely, not even if it meant going up against NATO itself.
He pushed his anger back, banking it deep down into a smouldering rage, knowing instinctively that Klaus, despite his tough as nails exterior, needed to be handled with kid gloves until this was over. That he needed the care and love that he had never allowed himself to accept before. It was something Dorian prided himself on being an expert on giving but Klaus would have to be handled with extreme care. In the short term, Dorian had no doubt that the other man would accept whatever he offered and he suspected that if he pushed it Klaus would even allow himself to be taken to bed, but he was afraid of what would happen afterwards. Klaus hated feeling vulnerable and needy and reacted to it with brittle anger and armour a mile thick. The one thing Dorian did not want to happen was for Klaus to hold it against him, to hate him for taking advantage of him in a time of need.
Better then to continue to keep their relationship on a platonic level, maybe even back off a bit, until Klaus was emotionally stronger. If the German still seemed to feel the same way then, then Dorian would joyfully drag him onto the nearest bed.
"So, darling, what now?" he asked brightly, deliberately resurrecting his flippant playboy persona. Klaus had had just about as much soul-searching and misery as he could cope with for the moment. There would be plenty of time later for them to sort out their relationship, after this cursed mission was over and they were safe back in Bonn or London or wherever in the West. What Klaus needed now was a healthy dose of normality. And what was more normal than an irritating Englishman?
His emotions tangled and raw, Klaus was glad to have something concrete to focus on, something that he could take action about. Action that was preferably physical and violent.
Snuffling inelegantly he mopped at his nose and eyes one last time with Dorian's handkerchief and sat up straighter, visibly pulling himself together. When he finally looked at Dorian again his familiar barriers were back in place, albeit shakily.
"Now you leave the way you came," he instructed, "while I complete my mission."
Dorian shook his head decisively. "No."
Iron Klaus scowled at him. "It's not open for debate. I want you out of here now, Eroica. The last thing I need is you screwing this up for me."
Dorian raised an aristocratic eyebrow. "In case you've forgotten, major, you are my mission here," he pointed out mildly. "And my brief says that your job is over."
"Don't be ridiculous," Klaus shot back.
"It's not ridiculous. For God's sake, Klaus, there's nothing else for you to do here. The revolution is coming. Nothing is going to stop it now. What more needs to be done?" he asked in exasperation.
"Corsca needs to die." It was said with a deadly lack of inflection.
Dorian couldn't argue with the sentiment. He too wanted nothing more that to see the bastard dead, and preferably painfully so but he was realist enough to know that neither of them had a hope of killing him and getting away. Besides, the revolutionaries would deal with Corsca. They had reason enough and more to grant the tyrant a lingering death.
"Major, it's crazy. You'll never get close enough to do it."
"Yes, I will," Eberbach contradicted flatly. "He and his cabinet meet every morning in the State Office. It's an easy shot with a high-powered rifle from the roof opposite."
Dorian stared at him thoughtfully for a long moment. "You've got this all planned, haven't you?"
Klaus nodded. "That's why I'm here, Eroica. Corsca's death is the signal for attack on the palace to start. It won't be safe for you then."
Dorian was warmed to realise that Klaus' concern was for him. Though he could recall a precious time or two when the German's actions had proclaimed his concern, it was the first time that the major had ever said it so openly. Dorian's smile beamed and then faded rapidly as another thought struck.
"So how are you going to get out?"
Klaus was silent for a moment and then shrugged. "I'm a trained soldier. Getting out will be no trouble," he said firmly.
Dorian's heart clenched painfully as a nasty suspicion rose to the front of his mind. "You haven't got a way out, have you?" he accused. "This is a one-way mission."
"Don't be ridiculous," Klaus immediately said again but Dorian, knowing him so well, knew that the protestation lacked conviction.
"Don't lie to me!" he flared, worry and terror and love clashing together and coming out as anger. "Klaus, if you care anything for me, don't you dare lie to me now. Not about this."
Eberbach blinked, taken aback by the passion. "I don't do suicide missions," he insisted.
"Fine. Prove it to me then."
"If this isn't a suicide mission you won't mind if I stay with you then, will you?" The Englishman's jaw was set in stubborn clench that Klaus had rarely seen before.
Roused at last into a familiar state of irritation, the major came to his feet and stood glaring at the thief still seated casually on the bed. The bed where not ten minutes ago he had allowed himself to be held and comforted by the other man, a man who meant more to him than anyone else. "Eroica..." he growled.
"Don't, Klaus," Dorian warned in a low voice.
"Goddammit! Alright, so I haven't got an escape route planned," the major snarled. "But that doesn't mean I won't get out. I'll just take my chances as they come."
"Then I'll come with you," Dorian repeated.
"Dorian!" It was a heartfelt groan and Klaus threw his hands in the air and then clenched them in his cropped hair is despair. "Haven't you listened to a word I've said?"
The Englishman shrugged and came to stand beside the other man. As Klaus lowered his hands from his tussled hair, Dorian laid a hand very gently on his cheek, the same gesture as he had made earlier. "I heard everything you said, darling but it's you who isn't listening. I am not leaving you here alone." His other hand came up to join its mate cupping the beloved face. "You don't understand, love," he continued earnestly. "This last year, thinking you were dead.... I don't ever want to feel like that again, Klaus. I don't think... no, I know I couldn't survive it. So don't ask me to go. I love you. And if you don't make it out of here then I don't want to either."
Dorian's soft spoken words dropped into silence, their impact hitting harder than his anger had ever done.
Klaus' capitulation was inevitable.
Eberbach took careful aim, reaching out to tweak the scope, until the cross hairs of the sight were dead centre on his target. Refusing to think of anything but the mission he squeezed the trigger gently, already lining up on his next target without bothering to check whether the first was dead. He didn't need to. He knew all too well what a hollow point did to a man's head at that distance.
Corsca was well and truly dead, just as he deserved. No longer would he be able to abuse his power, to hurt anyone else as Klaus and countless others had been hurt. He felt a moment of satisfaction at that thought but it soon faded.
Corsca didn't matter anymore.
His finger tightened on the trigger again and another body fell, this throat shattered. Chancellor Kruptchin would be giving no more orders sending people to their fate at the hands of his death squads.
Even as he sighted on his next target pandemonium broke out amongst the rest of Corsca's assembled cabinet and Klaus cursed virulently as they scattered and he lost his shot. Grimly he shifted target, catching one of Corsca's former bodyguards in the back. He felt no compunction about his targets, as far as he was concerned all present in the room were fair game, each as corrupt as the rest. Especially when they were shooting back at him, ingrained training and pure self interest having rapidly taken over from the panic that his first two shots had caused.
He was searching for the next exposed body when he became aware that Dorian was still beside him. He had been peripherally aware of the Englishman's presence all along but had deliberately blocked him out, unwilling to take his mind off his mission but even more unwilling to let himself think about Dorian. About what had passed between them during the night and how everything had now changed.
"Get out of here," he growled, barely flinching as another bullet sent up a puff of brick dust close beside him. The range was too far for the bullets to do much damage but he didn't really care anyway. As far as he was concerned they could shoot all they liked as long as it left him free to pick them off one by one but he knew from long experience that the earl didn't like firearms, especially when he was in the target area. He tore his gaze away for a moment and glared at Eroica.
"Go on, get out of here," he repeated harshly, not pausing to wonder at his concern.
Dorian shook his head, crouching lower still beneath the cover of the ornate balustrade as another rain of bullets clattered towards them. "No," he said shortly, his jaw clenched tightly.
Dorian glared back at him. "No. Not unless you come with me. I'm not leaving you up here by yourself."
They traded glares for a moment, each gauging the other's determination in an almost familiar battle of wills, a battle which, somehow, Dorian more often won than not.
"Fine," Klaus snarled breaking the gaze, his hands automatically racking another bullet into his rifle's chamber.
Dorian let out a breath he had been holding but his relief was short-lived as Klaus turned away from him and moved back to the balustrade, the rifle going up to his shoulder.
"Major! What the hell are you doing?!" Dorian leapt forward, his fears for his own safety forgotten. He grabbed the German by the shoulder and pulled him back sharply. Surely Klaus wasn't going to carry on, putting both himself and Eroica into danger?
Klaus cursed as his shot went amiss, flying uselessly into the air and shook Dorian off roughly. "What the fuck...." He snarled, his face a mask of rage.
Eroica refused to back off. He had faced Klaus' rages before and survived. "Christ, Klaus, leave it! You can't do anything else from here. They know where you are, they're going to be coming for you." He willed Eberbach to listen to him this time. Surely the major could see the sense of relocating? Much though he sometimes hated the militaristic side of his beloved, Dorian had always been forced to recognise that Klaus was a good soldier, a fine tactician, a leader who never lost his head under fire. Surely he couldn't ignore that training now?
"Oh for Gods sake, Klaus. What do you want me to do? Stand around while you get yourself killed?" Dorian glared at him.
Klaus glowered back silently, the urge to say yes sounding ludicrous even in his own ears.
Seconds passed in what seemed like hours and then Klaus broke away from him again but this time Dorian had seen the submission in his gaze. He closed his own eyes in thankfulness.
"Well, come on then." The snarl was welcome and Dorian gladly followed at Klaus' heels as the older man ran for the roof hatch, disappearing down the stairs rapidly.
As they bolted downwards, Dorian was confused by the sounds of gunfire and fighting echoing through the building until he realised that the rebels must have stormed the palace. In his preoccupation with Eberbach he had forgotten that the whole point of Klaus' mission was to enable an attack on the palace and the overthrow of the government. The word of Corsca's assassination, rapidly and mysteriously spreading as such knowledge always does, had been the signal for the fighting to start, the rebel fifth-columnists amongst the president's own troops storming bloodily through the palace. They had to get out of there before the rebels spotted Klaus and he became a target.
Glancing around continuously as they ran, Dorian found himself colliding with Klaus' back as the other man suddenly stopped short at a corner of two intersecting corridors.
"Whoa!" Dorian yelped, hands reaching out to clutch Klaus, steadying them both.
Klaus glared at him over his shoulder. "Watch what you're doing!" he hissed, peering carefully around one wall, scouting out the way ahead of them. "There are guards at the bottom of the corridor," he informed the thief quietly.
"Whose?" Dorian asked urgently.
"Government," the major answered shortly.
"Will they recognise you?"
Eberbach shrugged. "Probably. Just follow me and don't say anything," he instructed, regretfully leaving his rifle propped up against the wall and stepping resolutely around the corner.
Eroica scuttled after him, butterflies dancing in his stomach as the four guards brought their guns to bear. Eroica didn't care for staring down barrels of machine guns much but it didn't seem to phase the German as he hurriedly approached.
Dorian blinked in admiration as between one step and the next Eberbach seemed to transform from the dedicated, expert soldier that Eroica knew he was into what he currently appeared to be: a dead dictator's whore terrified for his life. Klaus' acting skills had definitely improved over the last few months.
The guards, recognising Klaus, relaxed, their weapons dropping. The sergeant stepped forward, a recognisable sneer on his face.
"What do you want?"
"Please, let us past. We need to get out of here," Klaus entreated, his whole manner proclaiming nervous terror.
"What, no trade anymore?" The sergeant laughed, casting a look at his fellows. "I'm sure we could find you some work if you'd like to stay." He ran his eyes over Klaus appreciatively and then switched his gaze to Dorian. "Both of you," he added with a leer.
It was only because Dorian had spent so many years studying Klaus that he saw the barely perceptible stiffening.
Klaus shook his head. "Please...." he asked, taking a step forward, trying to slide past but the sergeant grabbed his arm.
"Not so fast, my pretty. There's a fee to pay first," he leered suggestively, his free hand running down Klaus' chest to grope at his crotch.
This time Dorian wasn't the only one to see Klaus stiffen.
"Get your hands off me!" It was Iron Klaus' growl but the sergeant was either too stupid or too fogged by lust to pay heed. Instead he tried to muscle Klaus backwards against the wall, determined to take by sheer strength what he wanted from Corsca's pretty whore.
It was his last mistake.
In a blur of movement the major broke his hold, one knee going for his unprotected groin even as the side of his hand connected viciously with his throat, one blow crushing the man's windpipe. Whirling around, Klaus launched himself at the next man before even the sergeant's corpse hit the ground.
For a split second both Dorian and the two remaining men were frozen and then all hell seemed to break loose as Dorian threw himself into the fray, narrowly missing be brained by one of the guard's guns.
Dorian had never been a particular devotee of brawling but fuelled by desperation and a need to keep Klaus alive, he held his own against one man whilst Klaus took on the other two. He was thankful at least that, in such close-quarters, the guards couldn't effectively use their weapons, having to rely instead on fists and gun butts. Struggling valiantly, he was peripherally aware that Klaus had disposed of a second man, one sharp twist breaking his neck and was making good headway with the third but then his attention was pulled back to the man he was facing.
Eroica was lithe and stronger than he appeared but still the guard was a trained professional and he was slowly beating the Englishman back. Feeling the man get a hand around his throat, and knowing that it was only a matter of time until the breath was choked out of him, Dorian dropped the stiletto in his wrist sheath into his hand and stabbed upwards. He felt a sickening jolt run through his arm as the razor sharp blade slid through his ribs, instinct and long unused training finding the man's heart. He pushed the body away in revulsion as dark blood began to spurt. Dorian hated to kill, had only done so once before and then, too, in defence of Klaus von Eberbach. Before he had met the major it had never occurred to him that he would ever become a murderer as well as a thief but faced with losing Klaus it was something he had learnt that he could live with. The alternative was even worse.
Shuddering, he turned to aid the major but discovered that Klaus was even then dropping the last man. "Are they all...?"
Klaus shrugged one-sidedly. "Dead. At least two of them," he replied indifferently, kicking at the third. "This one's still alive. We'd better get going," he added, stooping to relieve the dead men of their weapons. He held out a machine pistol to Dorian while taking another one for himself.
"Take it," he snapped as Dorian backed away. "Eroica, there isn't time for this. Take it!"
Reluctantly Dorian took the weapon, his distaste for firearms showing clearly.
"If you have to use it, just point and pull the trigger," the major instructed. "Don't bother trying to aim." He slung a second weapon across his back, his breath hissing harshly as he moved his shoulder.
The machine pistol instantly forgotten, Dorian grabbed the older man's arm and swung him round. "You're hurt," he exclaimed, worried blue eyes scanning the blood rapidly soaking the back of the major's t-shirt.
Klaus pulled free. "It's nothing. He had a knife, got me in the shoulder." He dismissed the wound unconcernedly. "I've had worse. Now come on before the next lot arrives."
He caught Dorian by the arm and pulled him away from the sprawled bodies. They had survived one encounter with Corsca's men but they were still in danger. By dint of quick thinking and lightning reactions on Klaus' part several times they managed to avoid any other contact but Dorian was getting progressively more worried about the major. Although the bleeding had finally stopped, Eberbach had lost a considerable amount of blood from his wound and he was white-faced and grim. Dorian was afraid that unless they reached safety soon Klaus would collapse, the blood loss only augmenting the strain the man was already under.
They needed to get out now.
They hurtled around another corner straight into the arms of a group of armed men coming the other way. Dorian had time for an unfinished fleeting thought that at least he wouldn't have to go through the pain of losing Klaus again in the bare split-second of frozen panic and then both sides brought guns to bear, preparatory to blowing each other to kingdom come. It was the end of the road for them. They stood no chance against a group of heavily armed men, not with Klaus already wounded and Dorian unskilled with guns. His hand tightened on the butt of the gun Klaus had thrust at him. He would at least try to take some of them with him.
"Hold your fire!" The shout was familiar but the shock of seeing Agent Z, closely followed by a number of other Alphabet agents and - Bonham? - startled Dorian so much, his nerves ragged with tension and fear, that his finger inadvertently tightened on the hair-trigger. In the bare instant before the bullet exploded from the chamber with lethal consequences, he felt a body career into his and a strong hand grab his wrist, pulling the gun up until the muzzle pointed at the ceiling.
"Oh shit!" Dorian's words fell into silence as he sagged against the solid weight of Klaus' body still clutching his.
"M'lord," the ever unflappable Z greeted him as though he faced such situations every day. Perhaps he did, Dorian thought a touch hysterically. Life with NATO intelligence was rarely safe as the Englishman had discovered so often in the past. "In here." Without waiting to see if either of them agreed or not, Z hustled them into an empty room.
"M, watch the door," the blond agent ordered as soon as they were inside before turning to look at Eberbach. A smile lit up his face. "Major."
Dorian had the distinct feeling that if it had been anyone else, Z would have thrown his arms around the major and hugged the stuffing out of him. But it was the major, Iron Klaus in the all too delectable flesh, and Z managed to restrain himself. It didn't, however, stop the tell-tale shimmer in his eyes or the wide, almost demented smile.
"Major," he repeated again, seemingly unable to say anything else as the other Alphabet agents, A, B, G, J and L, crowded at his shoulder, each as equally tongue-tied. When he had been their superior, all of the Alphabet agents had been in mortal fear of Iron Klaus but they had discovered when they were mourning him that they did, in all honesty, mourn him. He had been a harsh taskmaster, an unforgiving, bigoted, perfectionist bastard, but he was still theirs and would stand with them against anyone if need arose. And given the alternative, they had realised that he wasn't so bad after all and that they missed him. Missed the man as well as the officer.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Eberbach demanded, his astonishment at seeing his men almost greater than theirs at seeing him. They, at least, had known that the major was in the palace, even if his actual appearance was somewhat startling to them. "And wipe that smirk off your face, you're a soldier not a bloody clown!" Klaus added sharply as Z just grinned at him. "Well?" he prompted, a scowl consciously fixed on his face to prevent his own smile. Wild horses would never had dragged an admission of fondness from Klaus for his agents but he had to admit that it was good to see them again. They had gone through a lot together over the years and he was closer to them than to most of his fellow officers, especially Z whom he privately thought of as his successor.
"It is good to see you again, sir," Z finally managed. "I didn't think we'd get here in time."
"To get you out. We're your rescue team," he explained.
Klaus shook his head. "I'm not going," he stated simply.
"You're not going. What do you mean you're not going?" Dorian squawked.
Klaus shrugged. "My mission isn't finished yet."
Dorian shook his head in disbelief whilst privately thinking that he should have expected this. After all, he had known last night that Klaus had had no escape plan, that, to him despite his protestations, this was a one-way mission. What he hadn't realised was that, even given an escape route, Klaus wouldn't take it. Despite everything that had happened to him, he hadn't really believed that Klaus was truly suicidal until this moment but he was forced to re-evaluate now. It seemed that Klaus really was that far gone.
"Are you that crazy?" Dorian demanded angrily. "You can't do any more here. Everyone is gunning for you. The government troops want to kill you because you're picking the cabinet off and the rebels want you to string you up because they think you're....." he trailed off, grimacing, not wanting to say what the rebels thought Klaus was. Z and A were the only two agents who actually knew what part Klaus had been playing and they had agreed with him silently and tacitly that the fewer people who knew that Eberbach had been whoring with Corsca the better. It would be hard enough for Klaus to readjust to life in the Bonn office without the rumour mills tearing him to shreds too. Eberbach was an intensely private man and Dorian had known all along that Klaus would not want his mission known, that he couldn't live with others knowing. What he hadn't expected was that Klaus couldn't live with the knowledge himself either.
What Klaus was proposing with suicide. Suicide by default. By someone else's bullet.
"Z," Eberbach turned his back on the Englishman, ignoring him as though he was a gnat, an irritant of little concern, just as he ignored the looks on the faces of his former squad. "Make sure the earl gets back to England safely," he instructed, his voice flat and toneless.
Eroica gaped at his back and grabbed a shoulder to swing him round face to face once again, obscurely glad at Klaus' flinch as his fingers dug into the wounded arm.
"Don't be so bloody... macho, Klaus," Dorian snapped. "You're hurt. You don't stand a chance. Hell, you can hardly stand straight anyway. For god's sake...."
"What do you know about god?" Klaus retorted scathingly and irrelevantly. "I haven't finished my mission until all of Corsca's cabinet are dead. And I'm going to see it through."
"Like hell you are. I know why you're doing it, Klaus. And it's got nothing to do with duty, so don't you use that bullshit on me. I know you," Dorian emphasised, too angry and afraid to care what he was saying. It seemed that in the few hours since Klaus' revelations of his past, his barriers had gone up again, more solid than ever. Objectively he knew that Klaus needed to distance himself from the physical and emotional turmoil that he'd suffered until he had time to deal with everything but it still hurt and angered him to see Klaus shutting him out too. He thought they had gotten past that now. That Klaus' self-hatred had been disarmed. His fingers dug in tighter and he shook the German, resorting to one of Iron Klaus' methods.
"Get your hands off me, pervert!" Klaus hissed reflexively, old instincts coming to the fore as pain clawed through his body.
"You can talk..." Dorian flipped back, his nerves and anxiety freeing his tongue to say something he regretted the moment it was out of his mouth.
Klaus froze, the sting of Dorian's thoughtless words lacerating his already tattered self-worth, his face blanching white. His green eyes blazed for a moment and then the light in those too died, leaving him an cold, unfeeling parody of a man under Dorian's hands.
"Yes, I can, can't I?" he finally said bitterly. "You know all about me. All my secrets. Everything. Why do you think I'm staying? There's nothing left," he snarled softly, his voice only carrying to Dorian and no further. "Nothing," he repeated bitterly.
Dorian was silenced by the terrible empty bitterness reflecting in Klaus' eyes. How could Klaus live like that?
But that was the point. He couldn't. He was so afraid of people discovering what he was, of really facing it himself, that he would rather stay and die. Better to throw his life away in a fight that was not his own than live with the knowledge. Gutted, Dorian let his grip falter.
Klaus pulled away from him, facing Z again. "Make sure the earl leaves," he instructed once more, the oft-repeated order falling easily from his tongue.
Z nodded silently. He had been with Iron Klaus for a long time, since before that first meeting with Eroica, the Prince of Thieves, and over the years had learned to read his commander. Eberbach always wanted Eroica out of the way but this time the order had a different edge despite the harshness of the tone. An edge of concern rather than the usual irritation. He studied the two men intently. Something had happened, something between the two of them alone. He didn't fool himself into thinking that they had finally `done the deed' as the betting pools around headquarters called it but something had changed. And he wasn't sure that it was for the better. A trained observer, he too could recognise a man on the edge of self-destruction.
"I'll make sure he leaves, sir. When you do."
Klaus scowled thunderously. "That was an order, captain."
Z blinked. Eberbach never used their military rank, never needed to use that prop to enforce his orders. "Yes, sir. But I was ordered by the Chief to bring you home too," he insisted stubbornly. Behind him he could almost feel his fellow agents cringing in expectation of an Iron Klaus outburst but he held his ground.
"I don't care what that... that piss poor excuse for a man told you. I am under orders from the highest source. They supersede anything he ordered. Do I make myself clear?" he snarled, the very quiet of his voice far more effective than any of his yells ever were.
Z set his jaw. "I understand sir but in that case we'll stay with you. As Eroica said, you're injured. You'll stand a much better chance of completing your mission with us."
Klaus' jaw ticked ominously. "Capt..."
One moment Z was looking into the major's angry eyes and the next he was looking into Eroica's. His mouth dropped open and he stared at the Englishman almost stupidly. "You hit him!"
Dorian shrugged, a feeble half-smile tugging at his lips as he waved a silver candlestick negligently in one hand. "Yup. I don't think I did too much damage but he is going to be rather annoyed when he wakes up..." The smile disappeared as he crouched down beside the prone form of the major, long fingers running through the cropped blond hair searching for blood. "It was the only way, Z," he said seriously, seeing the understanding in the other man's face. "He wasn't going to leave."
Nothing more needed to be said. They were probably the two people who knew Klaus von Eberbach best in the world. They knew what Klaus' intention was.
It was acceptable to neither of them and, not for the first time, Dorian was left wondering just how much of a rival he had in Agent Z.
Klaus von Eberbach stubbed out his cigarette and, almost without conscious thought, lit another one. He ignored his Chief's glare as the haze of blue smoke thickened above him just as he had ignored most of what the fat little man had said. Despite being once again his direct superior, Klaus despised the man, considering him a toad-eater of the worst degree, an incompetent brown-noser whose only claim to the job came through his wife who was favourite aunt to the Minister's son's wife.
Klaus despised the Minister, too and ignored him as often as he could on their blessedly infrequent meetings. In fact, there were very few of his superiors that Klaus didn't despise for one reason or another and a some of them he actively hated.
Colonel Uberall for one.
It was all his fault the mess with Eroica. Uberall had gotten the Englishman involved in his mission in the first place, he was to blame for Dorian discovering Klaus' weakness, his shame.
For the disgust in which the thief now seemed to hold him.
"....so, I suggest you brief G and whichever agents you choose to take with you."
Klaus forcefully pulled his mind away from that pain-filled thought, only then becoming aware that the Chief had just finished briefing him on his next mission and that he hadn't consciously heard a word of it. Cursing himself for his inattention, he hurriedly raked through his subconscious and brought the details to mind.
"I am not taking G! I absolutely refuse to take that.... that pervert with me," he stormed as he realised what the Chief was suggesting. Bad enough that the rogue agent the Paris office had asked Bonn to help apprehend was meeting his contact on the Orient Express but that it had to be the honeymoon special was adding insult to injury. And the Chief - smug little man that he was - wanted Eberbach to spearhead the capture and to do that he needed to get onto the train. And the only way onto the train at this late date without tipping anyone off was as a passenger. A passenger who had to have a wife in tow.
As the Chief had just pointed out, Klaus had neither wife nor girlfriend for cover and all his agents were very definitely male. All except one.
"But he's the nearest thing you've got to a female agent," the Chief continued persuasively, enjoying Eberbach's discomfort hugely. He knew that the major despised him and fully returned the sentiment. Eberbach was a good agent, probably the best Bonn had but he was a prickly bastard, far too arrogant for anyone's good. It always pleased the Chief when a mission took him down a peg or two. Just like his last one had. Pity the details were classified, it would make such juicy gossip at the Club.
"I am not taking G," Klaus repeated stubbornly. On one of his first missions for NATO intelligence the pretty young man had been forced to impersonate a woman and G had discovered that he liked wearing drag and now chose to do so much of the time. Eberbach had long since given up trying to change him and now merely avoided working closely with him whenever possible. He would have sent G to Alaska long since but he was forced to admit that in all honesty the young man was, despite his peculiarities, a very good agent and had become an integral part of Klaus' inner core of agents within the Alphabet Soup.
"Very well, if you won't take G, then I'm afraid it will have to be Eroica." The Chief sat back and waited for the Eberbach fireworks to begin. Forcing Eberbach to work with the thief was like waving a red flag at a very irate bull, it never failed to produce a burst of Eberbach rage, liberally salted with foul language.
Contrary to custom, however, the Chief was startled when his words produced no reaction. Or rather, the reaction was the total opposite of what he had expected. The major froze in his seat and the Chief could have sworn that he saw a flash of something that looked like anguish flash over his face. Except that Iron Klaus didn't know what anguish was, and certainly not over that English pansy.
But what Klaus was feeling was indeed anguish. A frozen misery that had become his close and relentless companion since waking up in the safehouse in Ruritania. Once back on his feet, they had parted company and in the two months since Klaus had neither seen Dorian nor heard from him. Under any other circumstances the silence would not have been unusual but now all Klaus could think was that he had finally succeeded in driving the Englishman away.
Deep inside, he had never really believed that anything he could do would be enough drive Dorian away but he had been wrong. Dorian had abandoned him not because of his uniform or his temper or his all too ready fists but because he was disgusted by him. By what he was and what he had willingly done in the name of duty. He had destroyed Dorian's image of him as the strong man with the iron-cast principles that he was not prepared to break for anyone, least of all himself and instead he had shown the Englishman what he really was. A man who was prepared to trade his body, not for money or to survive but merely to keep his good name intact, for promotion. Dorian now knew that his vaunted morality and stated reason for despising Eroica was nothing more than a lie. A front so that he could hide what he was.
And to make matters worse, not only had Dorian seen the whore with his own eyes but Klaus had also broken down and cried in his arms, showing him just what a spineless creature really existed behind the walls he had spent all his adult life building. True, Dorian had comforted him then, holding him close and assuring him that he still loved him and at the time Klaus had finally allowed himself to believe it but since waking in the safehouse Dorian hadn't touched him once.
Even when he, in his clumsy way, had offered Dorian what he had spent most of the previous decade chasing.
He'd woken in a bed in the safehouse, the familiar woozy sensation telling him that he was still feeling the effects of drugs, probably strong pain killers if the dull ache in his shoulder was anything to go by. He'd lain still for a while, his mind pleasantly floating in cotton wool until he'd become aware that someone was holding his hand. Opening his eyes he'd seen that it was Dorian and with that realisation came the memories of the previous 24 hours. His first reaction had been anger - how dare Dorian knock him out and have him carted away like so much baggage - but that was soon superseded by an unfamiliar feeling of warmth. Dorian loved him and he, he could finally admit that he returned the thief's regard.
"Dorian," he had murmured, smiling sleepily up at the Englishman as Dorian noticed that he was awake. Refusing to allow his inhibitions to sway him this time, Klaus had tugged on the hand holding his, pulling Dorian down onto the bed and into his embrace, wincing slightly as the movement pulled at the stitches in his shoulder. He wanted, needed, to feel the hard warmth of the other man in his arms, to know that, despite what he was and the harsh words between them, that Dorian really did love him.
This kiss was to be the first moment of his new life.
But it hadn't happened. Instead Dorian had pulled away, refusing his kiss and all that it implied.
At that moment Klaus had known just what a fool he had been. In the heat of the moment and the unexpectedness of their meeting, Dorian had proclaimed his love, just as he did every time they met whether he meant it or not. But obviously he had had a chance to think about it, to let Klaus' revelations really sink in, and Dorian must have discovered that what he had really felt was nothing more than infatuation, mixed with a dose of lust that had died a swift death when he found out that Klaus was little better than a whore.
It was what Klaus had been expecting but it still hurt like hell. He had closed his eyes then, pretending to sink back into sleep, waiting until the door closed behind the departing Englishman before allowing the tears to fall.
It seemed that the Earl didn't even want his body now and what else had he to offer Dorian?
No, whatever the Chief said, Klaus didn't think that NATO would be seeing Eroica again.
Klaus was certain that he wouldn't.
Across the channel in his elegant London flat, Dorian Red, Earl of Gloria put the phone down with a pensive look on his face and turned to look at his trusted aide, Bonham.
"Who was that, m'lord?" the stocky Englishman enquired.
"The Chief. NATO has a job for us."
"The Chief?" Bonham checked. "Not the major?"
"Mmm," Dorian responded, sharing the other man's surprise. Normally when NATO had a job for Eroica and his team it was Major Eberbach who approached them and if not him then one of the Alphabet. For Klaus' Chief to ring up was unprecedented and rather worrying.
"Did he say what sort of job?" Bonham ferretted.
"A simple infiltration by person or persons unknown. It's a rush job - I've got to be in Bonn by tomorrow morning,"
"Are you going to take it?"
Dorian unconsciously twisted a long blond curl around his finger, chewing his bottom lip as he considered the question. He paced over to the big bay window overlooking the street below, staring out sightlessly. It had been two months since he had last seen the Klaus but, much as he wanted to, he still wasn't sure that going to Bonn was a good idea.
After getting the major out of the president's palace he hadn't really known what to do. His first instinct had been to hold onto Klaus and not let go, to smother his uncertainty and misery in an all-consuming blanket of his love but he had resisted that temptation. Klaus was too proud, too independent to accept such treatment and Dorian had been afraid that Klaus would come to resent him, hate him for having seen his moment of weakness. Emotional weakness, for Klaus, was to be despised.
Added to that was the physical trauma that Dorian knew Klaus had been through. No matter that he had done it willingly, Klaus had still in effect been raped repeatedly by Corsca. The last thing he needed was for Dorian to force his attentions on him too. Even in that moment in the safehouse when Klaus had offered him his body, Dorian had seen him flinch away, the in-built reluctance for anyone to touch him. Klaus' mind, his conscience, might have told him that he was willing to let Dorian make love to him but his body had decided otherwise.
It was that, more than anything, that had decided Dorian that the best thing he could do was leave Klaus alone for a while, give him a chance to heal in both body and mind before seeing him again. If Klaus was still willing, then and only then would Dorian take him to bed.
And if Klaus decided that he wasn't willing, well Dorian was determined that what Klaus had already given him was enough. Even if he had doubted Klaus' motivations, the reasoning behind the action, Dorian would always treasure the memory of a half-doped Klaus waking to see him sitting beside his bed and using their joined hands to bring the Englishman down onto the bed and Klaus' embrace. Unbearably moved by the gesture, a complete refutation of all the hard words between them in the palace, Dorian had nonetheless pulled back, smoothing his hand through the cropped hair and along Klaus' cheek in lieu of the kiss that he had wanted to give the older man, knowing that if he did so he would be unable to keep to the decision he had made whilst Klaus was unconscious.
But he was beginning to think that he had made a mistake.
Although he hadn't seen Klaus he had nevertheless keep discrete tabs on the man. Bonham's long and sympathetic association with Agent A had paid dividends and, consequently, Dorian had heard all about the major's recovery. The news had, frankly, not been reassuring. Because whilst physically fit again, Klaus obviously wasn't dealing with the emotional fallout.
He turned away from the window, casually resting against the high sill.
"Tell me what Mr A said again," he instructed Bonham, even though he had heard the news a number of times already in the week since Bonham had last spoken to A.
Bonham sighed but repeated it all again. "Mr A's worried, m'lord. He says that the major is acting funny. One minute he's shutting himself off, all quiet and morose and the next he's Iron Klaus, screaming temper and everything, nastier than ever. A says he swings from one extreme to the other. It's like the major realises he's not acting normal.."
"And then puts on the Iron Klaus mask but overdoes it," Dorian finished.
Bonham nodded and continued. "A said he must have passed the obligatory psyche review but he thinks the major bullshitted the shrink into clearing him so that he could go onto back onto active status."
"Just in time for this mission. The one that the Chief wants us on."
Weighing everything up, Dorian was rapidly coming to the opinion that perhaps he should have taken Klaus up on his offer and forced the matter between them instead of letting him retreat behind his walls to recoup.
If Klaus couldn't, or wouldn't, deal with the emotional fallout from his mission in Ruritania, then it was time for Dorian to take a hand in matters.
He nodded decisively and looked up at Bonham. "Summon the team. We're going to Germany."
Eroica looked around the big grey room, mentally comparing it to how it had appeared the last time he had visited Bonn nine weeks ago, just before the mission to Ruritania. Then, if he had been in any real state to have noticed, he could have cut the atmosphere with a knife and still not have really penetrated to the heart of the change. It had been both more and less than grief. Certainly that inner core of the Alphabet who had been with Klaus for as long as Eroica had known him mourned the major's loss but much of the emotion in the room had been aimed not at Eberbach but at his replacement, Colonel Uberall. Mourning had been exacerbated and concealed by the dislike in which many of the agents held their new master.
At times he still couldn't believe how quickly things had changed. When he had arrived at NATO Bonn then he had been numb, still stricken by the loss of Klaus. Yet now, a few short weeks later, it was as though nothing had ever happened. The atmosphere was still sharp and tense but underlying it was a kind of serenity that had been absent while Colonel Uberall had been in charge. Working for Major Eberbach was never a particularly soothing occupation but there was a pervading feeling that everything was in its place now Iron Klaus was back. The room held an atmosphere that was intimately familiar to Dorian - this was the Alphabet in terror of Iron Klaus and a one-way trip to Alaska.
He laughed out loud, the peal fading to a bright smile as a startled silence fell over the room and, one by one, agents turned to stare at the exotic creature once more in their midst.
"My lord." Agent Z appeared from behind a stack of paperwork that teetered precariously on the edge of his desk.
"Mr Z," Dorian returned, some of his joy fading as he met the other man's gaze and recognised the edgy tension and worry in his stance. "How are things going here?" he asked quietly, eyes discretely checking out the rest of the agents around the room, making sure none of them were close enough to overhear the two of them.
Z grimaced. "They've been... better," he said neutrally, the under-statement ringing loud in both their ears. "The major's... well, not himself. He's acting the major well enough to fool the Chief and the staff psychiatrist but he's just not himself." Z shrugged. "It's really hard to explain. I think some part of him died in Ruritainia," he continued astutely. "I just wish I could do something for him but you know the major, he won't accept help even at the best of times..."
"And he certainly won't accept it now," Dorian concluded.
Z nodded, his own depression showing clearly on his fair face. Dorian felt a pang run through him. He couldn't help but feel sorry for the other man - he knew all too well what it felt like to love Klaus von Eberbach and to be pushed away by him, frozen out beyond his barricades - but he pushed the feeling away. Klaus was his and he was determined not to let the man push him away like he had Z.
The spurious feeling that all was right with the world was dispelled completely as the man in question stormed into the room trailing agents in his wake and Dorian took his first look at his thundercloud love in two months. Dressed in his familiar button-up dark suit, Klaus looked more like himself than he had dressed to tempt in Ruritania, even his hair, thankfully, was it usual shade of black, albeit lying in a short glossy cap. For a moment it was like looking at a reverse image of Z, or even, Dorian thought with an inward burst of hilarity, like a refugee from the eighties when that particular hairstyle and severe black suit had been all the fashion amongst the New Romantics set, but that image and the desire to giggle was rudely shattered as the major caught sight of him lurking in the middle of the room.
Klaus froze mid-stride as he caught sight of the Englishman, feeling himself flush and then pale as instinctive anger warred with the pain that never seemed to leave him these days, no matter how hard he tried to ignore it. He couldn't deal with Dorian, not here, not now. Not ever, a little voice whispered in the back of his mind. He abandoned you. Left you alone when you needed him, it continued to taunt as their eyes met and locked, spearing Klaus to the heart even over the six feet separating them.
He was vaguely aware that the two of them had become the sinecure of all eyes in the room, conversations trailing off as the agents present watched them with baited breath, waiting nervously for an explosion to happen but he couldn't move, caught by the other man's gaze, frozen to the spot by the laser-like intensity in the blue eyes.
The tension rose to snapping point as they continued to stare at one another for what seemed like hours but was merely seconds and then Klaus forced himself to break the lock the Englishman had on him and moved. The tableau shattered abruptly and normal time resumed.
Klaus pushed past Dorian without a word, heading towards the sanctuary of his office at a determined pace. He really couldn't deal with Dorian now. He had been so convinced that he would never see the Englishman again that he had deliberately never thought what he would say to him if the opportunity arose and he knew, from bitter experience, that anything he said the other man would twist to his own meaning, confusing Klaus so that he ended up saying something that he didn't mean, had no intention of ever saying. Better that they not talk then lest it end up as one more screaming match between the two of them. With what little objectivity he could muster Klaus knew that it was all over between the two of them, ten years of an acquaintanceship that had blossomed into a strange kind of friendship and, yes, if he was honest, ten years of attraction on both their sides, over before it had ever had a chance to become something more. He didn't want to end it with yet one more bitter quarrel.
He slammed the door behind him, waiting for the crash that would tell him it was finished but it never came. Instead the door rebounded and then was closed with a soft snick. He moved over to the window, staring out blindly at the grey building opposite, refusing to acknowledge Dorian's presence, hoping that if he ignored the man that he would go away. Again. Just as he had known though, it didn't work. It never worked with Dorian. The man could outwait the Buddha when he wanted to.
He felt the tension in his body pull even tighter as Dorian spoke and wished desperately for the prop of a cigarette but the pack in his jacket was empty and the next one was on his desk. Reaching them would mean turning to face Dorian and he didn't want to do that, to let the other man see just what he was doing to him. The thief had always been able to read him better than anyone and he didn't think he could bear to see pity on that pretty, expressive face. Anything but that. Even an argument was better than that.
"Klaus, please turn around and look at me," the soft voice asked again.
Knowing that capitulation was inevitable, Klaus turned, his back still pressed up against the window defensively.
"What do you want, Eroica?" he asked harshly, using thief's sobriquet deliberately. "NATO doesn't have a job for you at this time."
Dorian blinked, Eberbach's choice of topic catching him unawares. "That's not what I heard, major," he replied, willing to follow Klaus' lead as long as the man actually talked to him. He could steer the conversation into more personal channels when he wanted to. "From what I hear, you have a perfect job for me. Honeymoon Express, isn't it?"
Klaus scowled. Someone had been talking out of turn and one of his agents - and he had a pretty good idea just which one it was - would catch hell for it. "Well you've been told wrong," he snarled. "NATO doesn't need you on this mission. I don't need you on it."
"Really?" Dorian needled him, delighted to see the old Iron Klaus back. Perhaps it wouldn't last but at least it was a step in the right direction, to getting Klaus back to his old self again. Healthy, sane, infuriating. "That's what you always say but you always need my help in the end, don't you?"
"No," Klaus contradicted flatly, ignoring the voice that told him just how useful Dorian usually was. "I never need you on my missions. You always screw them up," he repeated the familiar refrain, willing himself to believe it even though he didn't, and hadn't for a long time.
"Huh." Dorian snorted. "When did I last screw a mission up?" he challenged, daring Klaus to think of one.
"The last one," Klaus shot back immediately and then cursed himself for mentioning it. The last thing he wanted to talk about to Dorian was Ruritania. Hell, it was the last thing he wanted to talk about to anyone. All he wanted to do was forget that particular mission, to push it to the back of his mind along with all the other experiences in his life that he couldn't face, couldn't handle. The department shrink had wanted him to talk about it, to `work it out', face the demons and overcome them but Klaus had managed to avoid it, just giving the man enough to satisfy him and then slamming his mental doors back on the rest. He didn't want to talk about job stress, rape trauma and he certainly didn't want to talk about Eroica's part in the whole mess to anyone.
"Right," Dorian said sarcastically. "And I suppose you had that whole mission planned out, right down to the little details. Give me a break, Klaus..."
"I did," Klaus protested sharply. "I knew exactly what I was doing. Your presence there screwed my plans up."
"Yeah," Dorian broke in, an unfamiliar sneer plastered on his face. "And I suppose you knew exactly what you were doing when you decided to make it a suicide mission, didn't you? If it weren't for me you would never have got out of there alive."
"Yes, I would." Klaus glared at him angrily, Dorian's doubt needling him, poking at his professional pride where a more personal attack would have left him cold, in control. Why was Dorian always able to do this to him? To make him lose his cool.
"And I suppose you were still in control when you were flat on your back under Corsca?" The taunt was out before Dorian could stop it, one hand flying to his mouth as though to take it back but Klaus didn't see the Englishman's horrified face. All he could see, could feel, was Corsca. The touch of his hands, his body. The pain and humiliation of repeated violation. And following hard on the heels of that the debacle with Dorian, the most painful aspect of all.
How dare Dorian throw that in his face?
Before he was aware of it, he was across the room and Dorian was reeling back, clutching at his cheek as the sound of the slap reverberated around the room. They stood staring at each other for a bare moment and then Klaus bolted, mindlessly forging his way across the big squad room, not even seeing the horrified, gaping stares that followed his precipitous flight.
It really was over now.
Dorian paused on the top step, peering through the gloom of the smoke filled bar. It was a dive, a hole where anonymous people came to drink alone and drown out the sorrows of the world.
Klaus sat in a small booth near the back of the bar. Dorian had people out scouring Bonn for him but this was the last place he had expected to find the major. He sidled through the room, ignoring everyone until he was standing over Klaus, looking down at the man he loved.
"May I?" he asked, slipping into the free seat opposite before Klaus could deny him. A waiter approached. "Two of whatever he's drinking," he ordered, casually nodding towards the half empty glass that Klaus clutched in both his hands.
After the waiter had returned with their drinks and departed Dorian said, "Drinking alone, major? How German."
"What do you want?" Klaus asked, his gaze still fixed on the glass in his hand. Somehow he wasn't surprised to see Dorian, had half-consciously been expecting him but he couldn't summon the energy to be annoyed. He was just tired. So very tired.
Dorian looked away, hurt by the expression on the other man's face. He had never wanted to see such a look of defeat on Klaus' face, never wanted to know that there would ever be a time when Klaus was not fully in control.
"I'm sorry," he finally said, not really sure what else he could say, wanting desperately just to reach across and crush the other man to him and let his body say everything that suddenly he couldn't.
"No," Klaus corrected tightly. "It is I who should apologise... you were right... I was only in control of that mission when I was flat on my back..." He paused, not really sure that he could continue but the alcohol that he had consumed, and the sheer hopelessness that he felt, gave him the courage to ask the question that had been haunting him since leaving Ruritania
"Why?" he asked almost inaudibly. "Why didn't you want me... was it because of what I did... what I am?" he continued, his gaze once more fixed on his hands, his fingers knotting together as he tried to still their agitation.
"What you are...?" Dorian queried, confusion clouding his face. "What do you think you are, major?"
Klaus flinched.. Did Dorian really need him to spell it out for him again? Surely he had seen for himself just what Klaus was, had become. He finally looked up at the other man and saw only confusion and a painful concern on his face. "I'm a whore... Flat on my back doing what I have to to get my own way... nothing better then a who..." he grated out, self hatred lacing his tone with acid.
A hand reaching out and gently touching his lips stilled any further words as Dorian insisted, "You are the man that I love. The man that I always have and always will love. I told you that in Ruritania. Nothing's changed since."
Klaus grabbed at the hand that still lingered on his lips as though it was a lifeline and he was caught in the middle of a raging sea. "If you really love me, then why did you refuse to show me that love when I needed it? Why did you turn from me...?" he asked desperately. "If I didn't disgust you then ...."
"Disgust me," Dorian repeated, unable to believe what he was hearing. "No.." he stuttered, slowly shaking his head, "I could never be disgusted with you. You are my life... I... I just." He stopped, unsure just how to convince Klaus that he was sincere. For years he had played the fool, teasing and confusing the German with words. How could he now make the man believe just how much he really was to him? With sudden insight he realised that only the bare, unvarnished truth would bring this man back to his side.
"I love you Klaus... more then I can possibly express, words could not even manage to convey..." he paused, seeing that Klaus was starting to pull away from him. The older man was not hearing what he needed. Dorian began again. "I did not want you to think that I only wanted you because I knew that you were capable of sleeping with another man. I wanted you to come to me, when you wanted to... not because you felt that you had to.... You were shot, hurt and had been working under a tremendous amount of stress. I didn't want to take advantage of you... I wanted to wait until you were certain that it was me you wanted," he finished. If Klaus didn't believe him he really didn't know what else he could say.
The silence between them stretched interminably and then Klaus finally broke it, his voice husky, almost a whisper
"I was certain."
"And now?" Dorian probed, needing to hear Klaus to say it.
"And now," Klaus looked up, his gaze locking onto Dorian's, the mask stripped away for once. "If you really mean it... God help me, I'm still certain. I want you. I love you."
Dorian's eyes grew impossible large and he swallowed hard. For years he had waited for Klaus to say those words and to finally hear them was a culmination of a decade of wanting. Of loving. "Oh, I mean it, love. Now I've got your heart, I definitely want your body," Dorian said, joy bubbling through him, his face etched with lust and love.
Klaus looked down at his drink, his lips pressed together as he thought back. So often in the past he had slapped the other man down, both verbally and, much to his shame, physically for saying such thing but now the words sent a swirl of heat through his body, desire flickering at his nerve endings. He smiled, anticipation and something that could even have been happiness permeating his body.
Dorian smiled back in return, his thumb gently brushing over the hand that still held his tightly, hearing the affection in the familiar insult. "Take's one to know one," he grinned.
From Eroica, with love