"Here's an address," said Dorian, pointing to a return address on an envelope pasted to one of the pages of Christine's book. Klaus had barely set foot on Swiss soil when he came to see Dorian. The Earl smiled proudly when he saw Klaus. Surely he found amusement in Klaus' desperate dependency. But Dorian never seemed smug in his new power over Klaus. Was it possible that he had no idea? Sending Klaus to do his errands. . . he had to know.
"In Oklahoma City. Hm. Must've decided to try the cowboy life."
"Maybe they have a ranch," suggested Klaus.
Dorian's face lit up. "Do you think so? I always wanted to own a ranch. I love horses. What a life for a boy!"
It didn't sound so great to Klaus. Dust, tumbleweeds, cow shit in the streets. Why couldn't it have been someplace more civilized? Oh, well. Maybe he'd get lucky and there would be a gunfight at a saloon or something. Surely cowboys hadn't changed that much since the West was won.
"They say if I keep getting better, I can leave by Thursday. That's only two days away!"
Klaus smiled down at him and ruffled the soft blond curls. "I am pleased. But do you really think you will be up to scampering about Oklahoma City?"
"Scampering? Hardly, we'll simply put the book in trust and dictate that it not be given to the boy till he turns eighteen."
Klaus was disappointed. That didn't sound much like an adventure to him.
"Of course," continued Dorian, "I may need some assistance in the kidnapping."
"He has to see his mother. He has to see her before she dies. "
"Kidnap a child across country borders? I think that is beyond even your abilities. After all, a kid is not a statue or a painting. He'll kick and scream."
"I've kidnapped before. Remember?"
Of course. That was how they met. A lifetime ago. The beginning of the greatest adventure of either of their lives. Full circle, they'd come, to another beginning, another kidnapping.
But Klaus was still a man of the law. "No, Dorian. No kidnapping. That wasn't part of the plan. We can't go breaking any laws."
"You can't. You work for NATO. But I'm a thief. Crime is my life. I break all the laws."
"Not while I am here to stop you."
Dorian gaped at him. "You'd stop me?"
"No. I cannot allow you to do such a thing. You know that. I cannot be a part of it. It would strain relations between the countries."
The Earl gazed at him soberly. "You cannot end my career either, Klaus. You cannot change what I am."
"I know. I would not change you. But I cannot get involved."
"Then I'll have to go it alone."
"Dorian..." Klaus was stuck. How could he abandon Dorian when he needed him? Yet he absolutely could not permit a kidnapping, no matter what the circumstances. "There will be no kidnapping. I am sure Christine would say the same."
The thief seemed to demur. "Yes, Major."
"Don't pout. You will do as Madame Sandler asked and nothing more. Perhaps she knew she would never live to see him. Perhaps it is their destiny. I do not think we ought to try and meddle with it."
"I don't believe in destiny. It is what we make it," Dorian argued. "I fought for you, Klaus. I held on for dear life. It wasn't destiny, it was an all out struggle. So there's no reason Christine shouldn't see her son. Even just to hear him. If he comes, she'll know. Maybe she'll even wake up."
Klaus took Dorian's face between his hands. I guess there are some things worth fighting for. "What would you have me do?" he asked. "I cannot let you go by yourself. But I cannot be a party to your crime. There has to be another way."
Dorian could scarcely think when Klaus was touching him. Warm hands against his face, beautiful green eyes pleading with him. "Oh, baby, I can't let you get involved. You mustn't come with me."
"I promised you I would help."
"But you can't. I am a thief. I'm a criminal. Working together for NATO is one thing, but to have you accompanying me on one of my own jobs will damage your reputation. I release you from your promise."
"No!" Klaus said sharply. "No more broken vows."
Dorian gazed at him thoughtfully. "Very well. You can come with me to put the book in safekeeping. Then you must go and leave me there as if you did not know what I was up to."
He could tell Klaus was troubled with the plan. Of course. He had vows to NATO as well.
"Darling," he said, sitting forward, "forget vows. Just follow your heart. I don't want you to ruin your career. I won't let you. I love you too much,"
Klaus suddenly grasped Dorian by the back of the neck and pulled him close into a kiss. A pleasant surprise. Dorian kept his eyes open. Klaus' eyes were closed modestly. His rows of thick black lashes made perfect semi-circles. The straight black eyebrows were drawn together as if in concentration. A warm, cigarette-sweet tongue invaded his mouth with new confidence. Dorian's eyes rolled back and shut. He laid his hands along Klaus' strong, sharp jaw. Klaus' own hands held him by the back of the neck and the lower back. A line of flame ran along his spine between the Major's two hands. He ached for Klaus with bittersweet desire. At least Klaus was a good kisser. Dorian just directed his passion to his lips and tongue, making love to Klaus' beautiful mouth.
Klaus broke the kiss and planted several shorter ones on Dorian's mouth and face.
"What do you feel?" Dorian whispered in a trembling breath.
"I love you," Klaus whispered back, between kisses. "I want to hold you close and safe."
Dorian would have broken all vows at that moment if Klaus had asked him to. But the Major did not.
"Oh, Klaus," he sighed dreamily, "if only you could kiss your own lips, you'd know how sweet they are."
Klaus gave a soft laugh. "That's all right. It's pretty good from this end."
Dorian chuckled and laid his head against Klaus' shoulder. As uncharacteristic as this new-found tenderness in Klaus was, it was not strange to Dorian. He'd fantasized about it all the time. That once the Major's iron shell was cracked, inside he was capable of the same intensity of love as hate. Klaus was a knight, a soldier, a protector. Now it was Dorian he defended and valued and the anger he used to vent against Eroica The Outside Threat was changed to protectiveness for Dorian The Beloved.
"What do we do?" Dorian asked.
"We do as we have always done, I suppose. You will probably try to kidnap the boy. It is in your nature. And I, in mine, will stop you."
Dorian giggled and embraced him tight. "It's all we can do, isn't it?"
In reply, Klaus kissed his hair,
There was a sound at the door. In a flash, Klaus was across the room, casually staring out the window. A doctor came in, listened to Dorian's lungs, made some notations on a chart, and left. Klaus remained at the window, looking both nervous and embarrassed. Another kiss was probably out of the question.
"It's getting late," said Klaus. "They will be bringing your dinner soon."
"Oh, please stay," Dorian pleaded. "The food here isn't to my taste. Maybe you could sneak something in?" He batted his eye lashed at Klaus.
Klaus rolled his eyes and shook his head, but he was smiling. "All right, but I get to choose what we have."
"Anything you like, Darling."
When Klaus was gone, Dorian got up and went into the bathroom to spruce up. He had to look good for his dinner date. Thank the Goddess that NATO had put Klaus on indefinite leave until he was deemed ready to resume duty. Of course, that meant the Major had to get a psychiatrist's O.K., and that meant someone had to get Klaus to go to a psychiatrist, which wouldn't be easy. Spilling his guts to Dorian was one thing, but telling it all to a stranger was another matter entirely. If his superiors insisted, Klaus would go, but it didn't mean he'd open up.
He dabbed rose oil behind his ears and on his wrists. Then he uncapped his bottle of rose water and sprinkled some in his hair. Klaus loved his hair. The Major was always grabbing it or complaining about it being too flashy on covert operations. Now he always stroked it or kissed it. Maybe under the blazing Oklahoma sun, it would bleach out to a brilliant golden like it did when he spent holidays in the Caribbean. As it was, London fog had let it darken to an ashen blond with only glimmers of sunlight here and there. With still-damp fingers, he smoothed and arched his eyebrows. Then he noticed a redness around his lips and on his chin. Abrasions from Klaus' face. He blushed. Surely the doctor had noticed. Oh well, there was nothing to be done about it. Besides, it had to be obvious they were in love, the way Klaus dropped in from morning till night. A Major in love was a devoted thing. He just hoped the attachment wouldn't become an obsession. Klaus was notorious for his obsessions.
Thankfully, Dorian didn't have to wear one of those ghastly hospital gowns with the split up the back. He was dressed instead in brand-new apricot silk pyjamas, selected by Du-Wissen-Wen. The color complemented his complexion, his hair, even his eyes. It was a color he'd worn only a couple of times before. Klaus must have remembered and liked it. Dorian would try to wear it more often.
He smoothed out the bed sheets and slipped back beneath them. Too bad there was no radio in the room. Soft music would add to the romance. Oh, well. He would just have to exude romance himself.
The nurse entered with the dinner tray before Klaus returned. Dorian rearranged the food and made it look as if he'd eaten. Then he put the tray aside and waited. Nothing would spoil his appetite.
Klaus entered with two take-out containers full of manicotti and garlic bread, a bottle of wine, and two plastic cups which he'd obvious1y filched from a hospital cart. Dorian giggled with delight. God, what could be more romantic?
"Oh, Klaus, this is wonderful! It's the first real food I've had since before the accident."
"Accident," Klaus snorted. "Is that what you are going to call it?"
"What would you call it?"
Klaus swallowed some wine. "I don't know. Dorian? Do you know what it seems like to me now? Promise you won't laugh?"
"I would never laugh at you, Darling."
"It seems like... well... the time we spent under the snow, the time I spent rediscovering myself, all of it... I feel like I am reborn. Like our little hole in the snow was a sort of womb. Please don't laugh at me."
"I'm not. I don't see anything wrong with the analogy. You are reborn."
"But I am not completely changed."
"No. Not completely. You are still my darling Major, only more so. I like you." He raised his cup. "To you, Klaus. Happy birthday."
Klaus looked down and tried to suppress a smile. Dorian was astonished. His surly Herr was blushing!
The dinner was delicious. Afterwards, Klaus put Dorian's uneaten hospital food in the containers to be smuggled back out.
"You get some sleep," Klaus said. "Is there anything I can bring you tomorrow?"
"I don't need anything, as long as you're here."
Klaus smiled and bent to kiss him good-night.
"Sweet dreams. Major," Dorian sighed.
"Sweet dreams." Klaus gave Dorian's hair a parting pet, then went, leaving Dorian to shiver with delight.
He hadn't slept in thirty-six hours, and yet he knew he could not sleep now. There was something he had to do, but couldn't quite find the nerve to. Maybe if he just got in the right part of town. Hell, he was in a place where no one knew him, it was late, and it was Tuesday night. Surely he could just go in and out of the shop and no one would notice or care. His stomach fluttered. No, he was too nervous. Maybe Dorian could just explain. But why should Dorian have to do it all? If Klaus was really serious about being a true lover to him, shouldn't he take a little incentive himself?
"For Dorian," he sighed aloud and stopped the car across the street from the all-night porno shop. He sat in the car for a long time, summoning the courage to go in. There were five cars parked out front, and a man leaning against the building, flipping through a magazine. Men went in and out of the red front door.
Fine, thought Klaus. If I just act casual, no one will pay me any attention. He took a deep breath, steeled his nerves, and got out of the car. The walk across the street seemed to take forever. He mustn't walk too fast and draw attention to himself. At last he reached the door. The man with the magazine glanced up at him with feline disinterest and went back to his girlie rag.
The shop inside was dimly lit and crammed full of shelves. Scrunched in between two stands of videotapes was the cashier's desk. A smarmy-looking middle-aged man stood behind it, eating out of a little crinkly bag of sunflower seeds. He looked up as Klaus entered, taking in the sight of the Major with suspicious, piggy little black eyes. Klaus resisted the urge to turn and flee. He had to think of this as a mission, not his own personal business, or else he wouldn't be able to go through with this.
Other customers stood or squatted around, flipping through magazines and ignoring everyone else. Klaus kept his eyes to the shelves, scanning the titles. He was amazed at the selection of vices displayed. There were magazines for transvestites, she-males, S and M freaks, pedophiles, leather freaks, as well as magazines devoted to women-with-women, women-with-animals, even women-in-impossibly-tight-corsets. Eventually, he worked his way over to the section for gay men. The variety there was no less impressive. His face grew hot. There was no way he could just walk up to the cashier and buy one.
Just then, another man came up and plucked one of the gay rags off the shelf and began flipping through it, right there next to Klaus. At first Klaus was stunned. Then his curiosity got the better of him and he began to peek over at the pages. There was nothing even slightly sensual or romantic about what those photographs displayed. It was just as base and vulgar as Klaus had always suspected it would be.
The man slowly turned and looked Klaus over from head to toe, then cocked an eyebrow at him and smiled. Klaus returned a look of horror.
"NEIN!" he shouted and took a big step backwards, kicking over a little pile of magazines one of the other customers had set on the floor. His foot slipped, and he grabbed a wire rack of paperbacks, but the rack was not sturdy enough, and fell over on top of him.
"Let me help you up," said the man with the gay magazine.
"No, thanks," Klaus snarled, clambering to his feet. Everyone was staring at him. He made for the door, but the wire bookrack was caught on his jacket. One of the metal feet snagged on a free-standing set of shelves, pulling it over and yanking Klaus off his feet. He kicked over a video display and landed on his back in front of the cashier's desk. The cashier looked down over the edge of the desk at him. A single sunflower seed shell fell onto Klausí chest.
"Will there be anything else?"
Klaus gave the man a large sum of money and left.
He sat in his car, shaking, then began to laugh like a loon. God, he couldn't believe what he'd just done. It was ludicrous expecting to learn anything from a porno magazine. It was so ludicrous that he couldn't even be angry with himself. Just embarrassed. He would never tell Dorian about this. Ever.
He was giddy with nerves. Dorian was right, he did thrive on stress. He started up the car and drove back to his suite. Maybe he ought to try the library instead. There had to be at least some respectable books dealing with the subject of homosexuality. He would go tomorrow afternoon, when Dorian was taking his nap. Yes, libraries were safe. No one would know. He could find some little corner to read in and no one would give him nasty looks or undress him with their eyes. He felt alive. He wondered if he would ever get to sleep now.