Good Old-Fashioned

by Heather Sparrows

Klaus von dem Eberbach consulted his watch and the digital display at Terminal 1, Cologne-Bonn Airport. Five minutes left, if the plane was on schedule, which it would probably not be, because of the extended security at London Heathrow. So he would have time for another cigarette. He went outside and enjoyed his smoke, scanning the newspaper he had bought earlier.

A front page headline caught his eye: “500 Euro Penalty For Smokers”.

//Oh yeah. Smoker Bashing. The new trend. The world is burning in several places, passenger planes are steered into skyscrapers, thousands of people die in terrorist attacks and wars, the air is polluted by cars, planes, chemical and nuclear plants and whatever – but smokers are treated like Satan’s minions. Oh, we have to begin somewhere? Sure. For my part they can all shove their hypocritical drivel up their fat asses!//

He folded the paper, consulted his watch again and went back into the Terminal hall.

The flight was delayed, of course. And patience for minor delays was still not one of Klaus’s virtues. He paced the Terminal hall like a caged leopard.

//Wonder what he looks like now, whether I’ll recognise him at all ...//

*****

“You are quite sure you want to do this, Milord?”

Dorian sighed inwardly.

“You are referring to what exactly, Jamesie?” he asked, a bit of irritation showing in his voice.  “Part with the Turner? Buy the Matisse? Sell Castle Gloria to the National Trust? Or fly to Bonn? You have prepared a file with all the necessary documents, and then you ask me whether I ‘want to do this’? To answer your question, yes, I intend to go through with all of these transactions.”

James pouted, and it still looked cute, the Earl thought. He still had a soft spot for his little accountant, although James and Bonham had been an item for – the last fifteen years. Or even longer?

“You know quite well what I mean, Milord.”

“Oh, for Heaven’s sake, Germany is not a wilderness!”

One large blue eye looked reproachfully at the Earl, and James took a deep breath.

“For how long – about twenty years now, if I’m not mistaken, His Lordship has avoided Germany like the plague! And all of a sudden, on a whim, you fly to Bonn Just like that! To meet the horrible Major!”

Dorian opened the file on his desk, took up a pen and began to read the documents his accountant had prepared.

//Surely he’ll no longer be a Major. Horrible? Well, we’ll see ...//

“Exactly. Just like that,” he answered. “Will you be a dear, Jamesie, and ask George to have the Rolls ready in ten minutes?”

“Fine. Very well. As Milord wishes!” James snapped and went over to the intercom mounted on the wall.

“Georgie, dear? Have the Rolls ready in half an hour, please.”

*****

//BA 655, London Heathrow. Scheduled: 4:30 p.m. Expected: 4:45 p.m. Landed: 5:00 p. m. Finally. I wonder what this is all about, wanting to meet me after – what? – twenty years? The Chief, God rest his soul, was right. After the public announcement of my marriage, the Annoying Fop vanished from my life. I thought I would be relieved. Geschissen. Too late ... I have never been able to forget him completely ...//

Dorian collected his coat and bag from the overhead compartment and filed into the stream of passengers leaving the plane. He smiled and nodded to the flight attendants who wished him a pleasant day. In the corridor to the airport building, other passengers hurried past him, in their minds probably already on the way to their cars on the park decks, to the shuttle buses, or to their loved ones, expecting them at the airport. Suddenly he was certain that the Major – who surely was no longer a Major – that Klaus would not be there to meet him. The doubts James had uttered about his endeavour caught up with him. Or had he not been so sure about his whimsy idea after all?

//He agreed to see you. He answered your note, and he agreed to meet up with you. He always kept his word. But what if I’d be looking into the barrel of his gun, and he gave me over to Interpol? What an irony of fate! Well, if he pulled that on me, it would become a little like the good old days ... I wonder whether he still is the ravishing beast of prey which broke my heart ... ? Oh, I can see Toby lift an eyebrow and ask me to cut out the melodrama ... I dreamt of Toby last night, and he told me to go ahead with my foolish idea, if I must – I should, however, not complain to him if things turned out a bit differently than I had expected ... What is there to expect? I don’t even know ... If Toby was still with me, I probably would not have contacted the Major again ... I wonder whether Klaus is still married to that woman? I’m sure he never told her about me. I told Toby. He would have learned about my passion for Klaus from one of my people anyway, and he deserved my trust. He put it bluntly. “I know you are not with me because of my good looks or my charming personality. You chose to be with me, though, and I will not tolerate anyone beside me. If you go behind my back and meet someone else, I’ll leave. I am nobody’s fool, not even the beautiful Earl of Gloria’s.” That was Toby for you ... And Klaus? What if he has become old and fat and boring? No, not Klaus, stupid ...//  Dorian smiled about his fears.

As he had only a small bag, he went straight through the baggage retrieval area and up to customs. Showing his passport – his real one – he could not avoid thinking how “straight” he had become. Respectable. And on a walk down Memory Lane at forty-eight. Still a bit young perhaps, for this kind of pastime?

//This insight comes a bit late, Dorian.//

He left the customs area and entered the Arrival hall.

*****

Klaus scanned the passengers coming through the opaque glass doors from the customs area very closely, on the lookout for a tall, probably slender, middle-aged, aristocratic-looking gent. He cursed the spontaneity with which he had reacted to Dorian’s short letter, agreeing to meet him in Bonn in two days.

//Should’ve ignored the damn note, should’ve thrown it into the waste paper. The goddamned idiot should at least have sent a recent photograph, so I can recognise him! – You should have suggested that to him two days ago, Eberbach ...//

As it turned out, a photograph would not have been necessary. When the Fop finally came through the automatic doors, Klaus recognised him at once, and for a moment he felt as if Mischa had punched his stomach. Except that Comrade Mischa was dead ...

The Earl of Gloria was very much alive, though. The tall, slightly tanned man looked still youthful, slender and muscular at the same time. And still people gave him admiring looks. His hair was cropped shorter than he had worn it as a young man, but it was still a shining halo around his head. He was dressed casually in jeans (not as tight as he used to wear them), matching blue loafers, a white shirt of fine, very thin linen and a matching off-white coat.

Dorian looked at the people waiting at the exit. A tall, wide-shouldered, long-legged figure standing on the left, at one of the big windows, caught his eye. The man pushed away from the window and went up to Dorian. The Earl caught his breath. Klaus still wore his hair long, bound together with a piece of string. Chestnut twenty years ago, it now was almost completely grey. The new colour accentuated Klaus’s sharp, tanned features even more: the face of an imperator – noble, bold and handsome.

//Emerald eyes, as I remembered them ... but their sadness is new to me ... He still looks ravishing, though ...//

“Earl?”

//His beautiful voice ... not as cultivated as Toby’s voice, but similar ...//

“Major -?” Dorian hesitated.

“The official title is ‘Generalmajor a. D.’ now,” Klaus said, slight sarcasm in his voice. “But ’Major’ will do.”

//So he is retired ... Strange, thinking of  Iron Klaus as retired ...//

They shook hands. The sharp green eyes mustered Dorian.

//Strands of silver in his hair. A few wrinkles around the eyes. Gives his face more character.//

Dorian took a deep breath.

“Well, thanks for agreeing to see me.”

“I keep my word,” Klaus answered brusquely. “Come.”

He turned around and went to the exit. With an amused smile, Dorian took up his bag and followed him.

//Still the old Klaus ...//

*****

Ten minutes later, they were on the motorway in Klaus’s car. The Major had been silent since they had greeted each other, and Dorian was a bit worried.

//What if we don’t have anything to say to each other any more?// he thought. //I would like to tell him so much, to ask so many things – and he will probably tell me it is none of my business ...//

“Hast du keinen Blinker, du Armleuchter?!” the Major suddenly barked. “Du kannst gleich was erleben!”

Dorian smiled. With the Major ranting at other motorists, he instantly felt more at ease. Some things never seemed to change.

“Really!” Klaus grumbled. “Swerving in front of me all of a sudden without indicating! Dickhead!”

“I see you’re still driving a Mercedes,” Dorian remarked.

The Major snorted.

“Everything today is full of some shitty electronic parts, which give you trouble all the time. A few weeks ago, a red lamp indicated something wrong with the passenger airbag. Got the car to the garage – you can’t do much yourself these days. Of course nothing was wrong with the airbag itself, only with the goddamned computer chip controlling the airbag signal – five hundred Euros! More than three hundred Pounds!”

“Modern technology,” Dorian agreed. “Tell me about it. These modern security systems –“

“You’re still thieving?” the Major interrupted him.

Unperturbed, Dorian shook his head.

“Eroica has retired, Dar – Major. At forty-eight, climbing walls and jumping about on roofs proves more of an effort than at twenty. I have conceded the field.”

No reason to tell the Major now that he sometimes still did a little job for NATO ...

A sidelong glance from emerald eyes.

“And what do you do for a living now?”

“I’m an art dealer, Darling – oh sorry, I mean Major.”

“Hmpf.”

Klaus let the Earl’s glitch pass. //Strange,// he thought. //It seems as if the last twenty years had never been ... Almost scary ...//

Dorian cleared his throat.

“Ah – where are we going, at all?”

“Oriental restaurant in Bonn-Oberkassel. I suppose you’re hungry?”

“A bit.”

//Actually, I don’t think I can get down a bite ... It is as if twenty years had been blown away ... yet I know they have passed, and I would not miss them ...//

“An oriental restaurant? You have developed a taste for oriental food?”

Another “hmpf” from the Major.

“Doc told me to give up smoking and to go a bit easy on the fried potatoes.”

He lit another cigarette.

“I see,” Dorian said.

*****

The oriental restaurant was a small, intimate, unpretentious affair in one of the more village-like parts of Bonn. The service personnel was friendly, the food – couscous, falafel, differently cooked vegetables, salads, bread, and lamb chops, was very good. Dorian felt his appetite return.

“Tell me,” the Major demanded over the Turkish mocha, when they both had finished their meals, “why did you contact me all of a sudden, after twenty years?”

Dorian looked straight into the familiar and yet so unfamiliar face of the man sitting opposite him.

“When I learned about your marriage, I was – very sad and hurt,” he answered. “If you expected a daring Eroica stunt to prevent the marriage – I simply did not feel up to it,” he added defiantly.

“I was astonished that you gave up so easily,” the Major admitted.

“I had a car accident which put me out of touch with everything for about half a year,” Dorian explained.

“I told you you’d break your neck with that fancy Italian piece of crap one day,” Klaus grumbled, but Dorian saw the worry in his eyes.

“Well, I was glad that I had hurt nobody, and that I recovered fully,” Dorian went on. “When I had recovered, I was still hurt and sad, but it would have felt stupid to go after you again. Besides, it would have been too late anyway. You had been married for half a year. So I tried to forget you.” He shrugged. “I haven’t been very successful with it, I’m afraid. Although a few years later, I met Tobias.”

“Tobias?”

Dorian took two photographs from his wallet. One showed a man in his late thirties with a long, sallow face framed by greasy strands of black hair falling down to his shoulders. He had a big beak of a nose. Dark eyes glared at the spectator. The mouth was set grimly.

“I like them tall and dark,” Dorian remarked off-handedly.

“He looks as if he’s got a brain, “ Klaus said.

In the next picture, the man was together with Dorian. The photograph showed he was tall and very thin, all dressed in black. His hair looked much better. Freshly washed and cut to collarbone length. Both men were smiling at each other, sitting on a bench in a park. The Earl had his hair cropped shorter already and presented the perfect picture of aristocratic British elegance in a light grey suit.

“Tobias was no beauty,” Dorian said. “He had a fierce temper and a vicious tongue. He was abrasive, brave, loyal, sarcastic and matter-of-fact. His voice could mesmerise an audience. Very good for his lectures in Chemistry at Cambridge .”

//Apparently he managed to bring you down to earth without clipping your wings,// Klaus thought. A pang of jealousy made him comment gruffly: “You could have brought him along. I’ve always looked for a man with a brain near you.”

He noticed Dorian’s azure eyes become a shade darker, as they always did when he was sad.

“Unfortunately not. He died two years ago. Car accident.”

//Wunderbar. You’re a bumbling idiot, Eberbach. He used past tense in regard to his lover, as you should have noticed.//

“I’m sorry.”

Dorian shrugged. “It was good as long as it lasted. Fifteen beautiful years.”

“Good to hear.”

Klaus emptied his wine glass, chasing the wine with the rest of his mocha.

Dorian hesitated for a moment, fiddling with the stem of his wineglass.

“Your wife – does she know about our meeting?”

“She died last year.”

//Touché.//

Without a word, Dorian took Klaus’s hand into his own. The Major did not pull away.

“Susanne was a good wife. A brave woman.”

Dorian heard the pain behind the plain words. He felt compassion for the man who had suffered, losing a loved one, and a pang of jealousy at the same time. For a long time, he had clung to the childish hope the Major had just married to spite him – stupid and preposterous - before he had been sure Klaus had forgotten him completely, not because of his wife, but because of the satisfaction to have fulfilled his duty to his family. Now he saw clearly that Susanne as a person must have meant a lot to Klaus, more than a means to satisfy his father, to play the good son and the respectable married man.

Despite his sadness and jealousy, Dorian smiled.

“She had to be brave. She lived with you.”

“I wasn’t much at home,” Klaus reminded him. “My family did not see me very often.”

The way he said “family” struck Dorian as particular.

“You mean – immediate family? You have – children?”

//I should have thought of that possibility ... it was part of what Old Eberbach demanded ...//

“A son, Bernhard,” the Major confirmed. “He’s nineteen. Works as a lifeguard with the public pools at the moment. Intends to study garden and landscape cultivation.”

It comforted Dorian a little that the Major volunteered a bit more information than just the name and age of his son. Now the took out a photograph and shoved it over to the Earl. It showed the Major himself, a tall, blonde woman and a young man who looked so much like a very young Klaus it made the Earl’s heart ache. Though still gangly, Bernhard obviously had inherited his father’s well-built physique, long legs, and sharp features; his mother’s blond hair and dark blue eyes. Klaus’s wife had been a beauty, with a sharp, intelligent face; though she looked very thin in the photograph and had dark shadows under her eyes.

Dorian looked up. The Major stared out of the window, although it had become dark outside, and all he could see was the reflection of his own face.

“The cancer developed rapidly,” he said. “The doctors couldn’t do much about it.” He paused for a moment, before he spoke again. “What remains is gratitude. And a lot of regret. I haven’t been the husband and father I should have been. So often, Susanne had to cope alone ... When Bernhard was still small ... later on, he was on drugs at a time ... But with my son, I am luckier than I deserve.”

“He has come clean?”

“Not only that. Somehow we managed – to become friends.” The Major smiled. It was a strange smile for the man Dorian had always known as forbearing: sad, even rueful. And it went straight to Dorian’s heart.

He took a closer look at the photograph. Bernhard von dem Eberbach’s features appeared more gentle than those of his father, but the strong chin and determined mouth showed that no one would boss around this young man either. Not even his father. The stubborn Eberbach streak was definitely there. Surely a hard lesson for “Iron Klaus”, who had been accustomed to giving orders and seeing his subordinates falling over each other to obey.

“What’s there to smile about?” The Major’s voice woke Dorian from remembering the Intrepid Alphabets, working under the constant threat of “ Alaska ”.

“Oh, I just thought that your son probably is as rebellious as you were at his age,” he remarked.

Klaus snorted, but did not volunteer a comment on Dorian’s remark.

“Well, I have no children, but Tobias was not the one to suffer my whims gladly, either,” Dorian continued soothingly, recounting an episode early in their relationship. He had been an hour late for a rendezvous, and had found Toby in bed, soundly asleep. Toby had never wasted his time with waiting and pining for Dorian...

“Thought as much,” the Major confirmed. “Now, let’s talk about the people from the good old days. What about the Stingy Bug? Roly Poly? Jones? That Mafia boss?”

“You even remember the nicknames you gave my men!” Dorian was amazed. “Well, James still keeps an iron rule on my finances. He is together with Bonham.”

“No longer screaming for ‘Miloooooord’?” the Major remarked sarcastically.

Dorian smiled.

“That was probably Toby’s doing as well. If James was even more frightened of someone than of you, this someone was Toby. Well, he made a lot of people feel like rabbits in front of a cobra.”

//Guy must have been a piece of work,// Klaus thought. //I would have liked to meet him.// Imagining the dour man in the photograph fiercely defending the Earl against the fairies fluttering around him, he felt a kind of respect. Living in a relationship with this whimsical butterfly for fifteen years; as it seemed, even getting a bit of sense into that stubborn head, without going batshit insane in the process - this demanded respect. He was also amazed to hear about the Stingy Bug’s loyalty to his employer. No question about Bonham, but he had harboured his doubts about James.

“Jonesy still is a valuable member of the household. – Oh, and the Godfather? The old shark settled down with my youngest sister, would you believe it?”

The Major’s face remained deadpan. Volovolonte was not gay. But his platonic passion for the Earl had always shown in his choice of tall, blue-eyed blondes ... So choosing one of Dorian’s sisters was only a logical consequence.

“Gianbattista, their eldest son, is five now. Dorienne, the little princess, my godchild, by the way, is three.”

“Well, if you see them again, give them my regards.”

“Will do. Oh, Old Bakchial, the lecher, is pushing ninety and still well. His son meanwhile has three wives and is busily enlarging the family.”

“Hmpf.”

“You asked me, Major. And what about the Alphabet? What became of them?

Klaus lit another cigarette.

“When I retired last year, the Alphabet Unit was dissolved. Most of the former Alphabets are still with NATO Intelligence, in other sections. The agents you have come to know as A, G, and Z lead their own units now. B is retired and lives in Alaska .”

Dorian laughed. A pleasant sound, Klaus thought.

“You are having me on, Major!”

“Not at all. He met a woman from Anchorage , and it was love at first sight.”

“How cute!” Dorian wished the chubby, curly-headed agent only the best. “And G? His own unit?” He suddenly remembered how Klaus’s superior had lusted after the pretty young transvestite agent. “Not the Chief -?”

Klaus snorted again.

“The Chief has been dead for three years. I promoted G. He is – very capable –in his way.”

“You promoted G? Good to hear.” Dorian seemed relieved.

“Mischa, too, is dead,” the Major continued. “Went to visit him and his wife shortly before he died. His daughter is with the Bolshoi Ballet, Jekaterina Michailowna Andropowa.”

“What, the famous prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet is Mischa’s daughter?! Would you believe it?”

“Hard to believe, if you saw that bull, but it’s true. – What else? A few months ago I ran into Lawrence in London. He’s retired to the beautiful British countryside with a young lady half his age. – But you haven’t answered my question yet, Lord Gloria. Why did you want to see me again, after all these years?”

Dorian’s smile about the SIS agent vanished quickly.

// I should have kept in mind that he always was a master at interrogating people.//

He looked at his hands. And decided to be brutally honest.

“It was a whim. Perhaps I wanted to see whether you had grown old, fat and bald like your Chief as a respectably married man, and I would have been able to feel glad not to have won you over. Perhaps I wanted to finally close a chapter in my life. – And you, Major? Why did you agree to meet me?”

Klaus’s blazing eyes met Dorian’s. Obviously he was angry about being compared to his hated superior. It made him human. And Dorian felt himself  fall in love all over again.

“Perhaps for the same reasons,” the Major answered. He waved to the waitress.

*****

Despite the Earl’s protests  Klaus paid the bill, and they left the restaurant.

“Let’s walk a bit,” the Major said when they were outside. “I know a shortcut to the river.”

It was dark, and a cold drizzle was coming down. Dorian shrugged and followed Klaus, who walked ahead with long strides. For a while, neither of the two men spoke.

The Major lit another cigarette, looking at the man walking next to him. An annoying fop, when he had first met him, whose chatter about some long-dead painters or writers or whatever could drive you up the wall. Fearful to soil his beautiful hands, to break his manicured nails, to get his artfully coifed golden curls turned into a mop by humidity. Hopeless with a gun. And yet, when the shit had become really deep: Strong and resourceful. A wizard with knives. An absolute professional in his job as a thief – and attractive. So goddamned attractive ... Waking deeply hidden desires, Klaus could not live with, then. It had become so hard he could not bear it any longer, had to put a stop to it ... foolishly believing that it would help to be with a woman ... Oh, he had been fair. He had told Susanne about his desires for Dorian before their marriage, so she would have the change to annul their engagement. He also had told her about his hope to forget the Earl. Susanne had been much wiser than he had been ... She had known right from the start that he would not forget. And yet she had agreed to marry him, had kept his secret, never tried to bind him. And because of all this, he had begun to love her ... as much as he could love a woman ...

//Well, Eberbach, you old fool, will you get up your courage today? Will you finally own up to yourself?//

Dorian was following his own thoughts.

//It was a bad idea. A very bad idea to come here. I had hoped for him to be so much changed I could have said: “Well, nice to have met you again, Retired Major General or whatever. Good-bye. “ But – Of course he has changed. So have I. To think he has a grown son, for God’s sake! The Iron Klaus I knew challenged the Evil of the world. I was Eroica, the Master Thief, who thought the world was his very own playground ... Slowly but steadily I realised that this was not the case, and I did not get everything I wanted ... The Klaus I see now has become steel, hardened by so many more battles – in war zones as well as in his own life... He appears sad and a bit cynical. The world has not become a better place despite his efforts... Who believed such a thing at our age would be a fool... And yet, I do not see Iron Klaus defeated ... I hoped he would be, and then I hoped he would not be ... I wanted to close a chapter; but everything seems to begin all over again, instead ...//

“Perhaps,” Klaus interrupted his thoughts, “perhaps I – thought of another possibility why you might want to see me again.”

Dorian understood. Even if you had faced Death a lot in your daily life, like the Major, you viewed things from another perspective when you became a bit older... He spoke what he feared.

“Perhaps the same reason played a role in contacting you as well. I thought – I thought, what if he has become ill, maybe terminally ill?”

“I had the same idea,” Klaus confirmed brusquely. “Had to think of Mischa, inviting me to Moscow after so many years. Come to think of it, I was glad I went there. – But rest assured, I’m not ill.”

“Good. Neither am I,” Dorian said. “Klaus, I could not bear the thought –“

The Major stopped abruptly, turning to him.

“As I said: I’m not!” he repeated sharply. “But maybe there was still another reason I foolishly agreed to meeting up with you again. Despite being married, despite being a father, I could never stop thinking of you! Dammit, I tried, God knows I tried, but I couldn’t!”

With these words, he closed the distance between them. His fingers dug painfully into Dorian’s shoulders when he pulled the Earl into a rough embrace and kissed him hard.

“Major – Klaus –“ Dorian felt overwhelmed, frightened, but then he gave up resistance, surrendered to the embrace and answered the kiss.

//After all these years ...//

For an endless moment, they stood, holding each other, unaware that the drizzle had become a veritable downpour. Then Klaus broke the kiss. Dorian saw anger and bewilderment in his eyes, before his expression changed to fierce determination.

“Let’s get out of the rain.”

They ran back to the car, and Klaus steered the Mercedes through the wet, empty streets onto the motorway. Dorian had reserved a room at the Bristol , close to the centre of Bonn, but the Major left the motorway at the junction leading to the Southern part of the city.

“We’ll go to my house.”

A small turn-of –the-century villa in a quiet side street was their destination. Klaus let them into the apartment on the ground floor. It was small, but comfortable for someone with the Major’s Spartan tastes, Dorian thought. He liked the big overstuffed leather chair, the shelves full of books, the heavy old oak desk –

Then he was pulled into another embrace, and there was only Klaus, “his” Major. A mass of grey hair falling over muscular shoulders; emerald eyes hungry, wanting; strong hands, hesitant, awkward at first, becoming bolder, more demanding; hard, unskilled, honest kisses; a body Dorian had seen only in glimpses twenty years ago, dreamt of and fantasised about – and it was every inch as beautiful as he had thought: perhaps no longer the body of a young warrior, but the athletic ideal of a man in his prime ... There was surprise in his eyes when Dorian brought him to completion ... and the joyful, almost tender look when he satisfied Dorian’s need in return ... Afterwards they were just lying next to each other for a while, talking, then sleeping a little; waking up again, exploring their bodies ... gently bringing each other to climax again ... Klaus seemed relaxed and happy, as Dorian had never seen him before.

“I want you, Lord Gloria,” he said. “But we’ll take all the time we need.”

Dorian had no objections.

*****

The very first seconds after waking up the next morning gave Klaus a start. Someone was lying next to him, and this was highly irregular. Through all the years of their marriage, he had hardly ever shared a bed with his wife. Let alone with someone else ...

He remembered the last night. Oh yes. Sometimes being  no longer thirty had its merits. There was no need to jump out of bed, yelling at the Idiot Fop. Or taking any other action immediately, for that matter ...

He saw the shock of blond curls next to him and the slender body firmly tucked in the bedcovers, his bedcovers, occupying them fully for himself.

Of course, heat and cold were a matter of discipline. Nevertheless, Klaus felt a certain draught in his back. Besides, it was a matter of principle. Determinedly, he pulled at the tucked-in bedcover roll next to him. Dorian moaned in protest, but finally yielded the blankets without waking up.

“’S too early, Darlin’,” he murmured.

Klaus pulled the blankets over his legs and covered Dorian again, but now the Earl kicked the blankets away.

“You don’t know what you want,” Klaus  gently said. Dorian turned his back. Klaus looked at the slender curve of his buttocks, the long legs, the wide shoulders.

//Old fool, you had to become fifty-six to wake up next to a naked, gorgeous man in your bed! But you have the advantage of being able to look at him in peace, without the urge of ravishing him immediately...//

He bent over and studied Dorian’s face, the noble profile. A few wrinkles round the eyes, two sharp creases in the corners of the mouth – that was new to him. The Earl held his arms close to his chest, his hands folded. Somehow, the sleeping man still managed to look innocent ...

Klaus felt no regret about what he and Dorian had done last night. He had learned to do what had to be done, and to carefully weigh the rest of his actions. In cold blood. This was why he was still alive, and NATO still called him in as a consultant on special missions, or for training young agents. He was glad he had finally shed his inhibitions. Regardless of how they would decide to proceed after yesterday evening, he felt free –

“Guten Morgen, meine Damen und Herren. Es ist fünf Uhr dreißig. Hier ist Radio Bonn/Rhein-Sieg mit den Nachrichten. – Beirut ...”

//Shit. The radio alarm.// Klaus turned the volume down.

Dorian grunted and grabbed the blankets again. Klaus frowned and listened to the news. This was not the station he normally tuned in to. Bernhard must have fiddled with the stations when Klaus had been away a week ago on a training for NATO. His son had slept a few nights in the Major’s apartment, “to get a bit more of a distance to Sven”, his boyfriend –

The news were over. Klaus extended a hand to switch off the radio, and stopped in mid-movement, when a young man’s voice began to sing.

“I can dim the lights and sing you songs full of sad things,
We can do the Tango just for two.
I can serenade and gently play on your heart strings,
Be a  Valentino just for you.”

Klaus sad rigid. Dorian stirred.

“Oh love – oh lover boy,
What’re you doin’ tonight, hey boy?
Set my alarm, turn on my charm.
That’s because I’m a good old-fashioned lover boy.”

For a moment, Klaus actually thought someone was having him on. Then he recognised the old Queen song.

“Oh, let me feel your heartbeat
Go faster, faster.
Oh, can you feel my love heat?
Come on and sit on my hot-seat of love
And tell me how do you feel right after all.
I’d like for you and I to go romancing.
Say the word – your wish is my command.”

Dorian sat up and yawned.

“... Write my letter,
Feel much better,
Use my fancy patter on the telephone.
When I’m not with you,
I think of you always ...”

“Good morning, Darling Major. Oh, Queen, isn’t it?”

Klaus snorted.

“ ... I learned my passion in the good old-fashioned
School of lover boys...”

Dorian smiled into Klaus’s grumpy face and began to sing along:

“Dining at the Ritz we meet at nine precisely ...
I will pay the bill, you taste the wine.
Driving back in style in my saloon will do quite nicely,
Just take me back to yours, that will be fine ...”

The song fitted the situation like a glove. It was almost grotesque.

Klaus snorted again, but answered the embrace when Dorian pounced on him, hugging him fiercely.

“Everything’s alright,
Just hold on tight.
That’s because I’m a good old-fashioned lover boy.”


Illustration by Nina

THE END

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