Touch the glowing spheres around the dragon!
Touch the glowing spheres around the dragon!

By Any Other Name

by Kay Reynolds


Chapter Nine


Upon reflection, Dorian had to admit that the situation with Klaus was proceeding along the usual lines of the first-stage love affair. The one moment making love to each other with their eyes, holding hands and planning early bedtimes. The next moment, circling each other like boxers in a ring searching for weak spots and bad habits with every intention of striking a fatal blow.

It was simply amazing the amount of things Klaus could find to fuss over while in the throes of a red-eyed sulk. Courtesy drove Dorian to offer to help only to have his aid promptly and not-so-courteously refused. The Earl buried himself in a corner of the couch, wrapped his arms around a threadbare throw pillow and did his best to keep warm and out of the way. He sulked a little himself.

Eventually, Klaus ran out of things to do - again - and, after surveying the safehouse with a hot eye of betrayal, announced that he would be taking a shower.

"Fine," Dorian agreed. "I'll join you."

"In the shower?" Klaus dropped a beat, losing his mad long enough to register surprise, discomfort and intrigue.

"We could both stand a clean up as I'm sure you're aware," Dorian rejoined without a hint of flirtation. "There's only enough hot water in the tank for one. As Mr. James would advise, it's best to utilize an economical standard."

"I do not intend to be bathing with Mr. James!"

"Good heavens, I hope not. The shock would probably kill one of you."

"Which one?"

Dorian disappeared into the bath. "I'm not sure. You're both equally mule-headed and disagreeable. Perhaps it would do you both in."

Klaus followed the thief reluctantly. He closed and locked the door behind them to keep in the steam and, besides, that was what one did in the bath. He felt tired again, strung out and weary. Part of him longed to be alone but that wasn't exactly possible. The other, more aggressive part of him, wanted to push the situation to the limits - to make it all explode and let the shrapnel fall where it could. There was another secret part, however, that wasn't talking at all.

Shivering, Dorian turned his back and slipped out of his clothes. Klaus watched warily, removing his sweater.

"You are still cold?" the Major asked.

Dorian nodded. He turned on the water and toyed with the faucets, adjusting the temperature. "I picked up a chill down in the basement. Can't seem to shake it." He darted a quick smile at Klaus. "I'll be all right once I get warm."

"Gut. It would not do for you to become ill here."

"Why not here as opposed to any place else?"

"I did not mean..." Klaus began, confused. Then recognized the teasing light in blue eyes and scowled. "Get in the shower, Dieb."

Dorian laughed softly and followed orders. He turned his face up to the hot spray and let the water wash over him. It felt deli-cious. He made room for Klaus as the Major entered the tub and drew the curtains closed.

"This is absolute heaven," the Earl sighed and ran his hands through his hair, sweeping it back from his face. Klaus made a little grunting sound of agreement, watching yellow curls extend to waist-length, glistening like captured sunlight against Dorian's back. Blue eyes peered a question over a slimly muscled shoulder. "You really don't feel it, do you?" he asked.

"Feel what?" Klaus demanded brusquely.

"The cold - heat - any of it. The environment never seems to make any impact on you."

"I have disciplined myself to disregard such things."

"You must have started your training very young."

"Ja. I did."

"Help me with my hair, please?" Dorian handed over a bottle of floral and spice scented shampoo. "It's so close in here, you're liable to get an elbow in the eye or something if I try it myself."

Klaus' scowl deepened. "I know what you are up to." He took the shampoo, opened it.

"Do you?" Dorian flashed him another quick smile through sheets of water and steam. Then turned away. "Nothing you can't handle, I suppose."

Klaus gave a derisive laugh. "You are insane to trifle with the likes of me."

"Who says I'm trifling? Tell me now, I'll correct the bugger at once."

"Do not exert yourself." Klaus poured a pool of liquid into his palms and soaped it into massive curls. "We are experiencing nothing but simple lust."

"There is nothing simple about lust." Dorian dropped his head back into Klaus' control. He could have moaned with pleasure. Was there anything more sensuous than to have one's hair washed with such strong hands? Those at the salons were always so gentle with him, treating him as if he were some Yang Dynasty relic, as if he would shatter at any touch stronger than a feather. The Major's hands were rough and unpracticed and very thorough. "There's nothing at all simple about lust," he repeated. "If that's all love was about, people would just have it off with one another and go about their lives. Obviously, that doesn't happen. It's more complicated. More complex." He smiled, more to himself than Klaus. "I used to get so angry with you, the things you'd say to me. The way you treated me.... We'd finish a job and I'd be feeling like - well, like, This is it ... he'll know I'm serious about loving him now ... at least we can be friends. It was like a cue for you to spit out something especially nasty. So I'd get angry and go looking for someone else, head for the bars, seek out introductions, trail after hapless strangers. You can just guess what happened."

Despite himself, Klaus wanted to know. "What?" he demanded coldly.

"Absolutely nothing."


"As I said," Dorian glanced back again, his face framed with wet curls and bubbles. "Nothing. I am in love with you, idiot. It isn't right with anyone else. The whole situation was extremely frustrating as you can imagine. Made for a lot of messy scenes, too."

Klaus tried not to feel too pleased about that.

"Not that it bothered you any," the thief continued dryly. "No, I think that, right now, you're mad because you're not feeling as guilty about all this as you've heard you're supposed to be so you figure something's got to be wrong."

"How would you know anything about that?" Klaus gasped out, too shocked to hide his astonishment.

"You'd be surprised."

"So - you have all the answers. Why am I not feeling guilty then? Not that I am saying that that is the true case - or that I am angry either. Still, why should I not have reason to repent what I have done with you?"

"Because you're smart. You're a very intelligent man underneath all those layers of bluster and brag. You know you liked what we did together and you know it didn't hurt anything. It can't. So, now I imagine you're wondering what all the fuss has been about."

"You talk too much," Klaus complained. "Why does there always have to be so much talking with you?"

"Sorry. I can be quiet, too. If you like." Dorian turned around and leaned his head back into the spray, rinsing soap out of his curls. "All you have to do is ask."

The Major never simply `asked' when he could issue an order. "Shut up then," he commanded.

The Earl nodded complacently, wearing his enigmatic smile and little else. "Let me do you now," he murmured, reaching for Klaus' brand of shampoo. "No, you needn't turn your back. I can do it like this."

"You are talking again," Klaus objected sternly.

"Sorry. I promise to be very, very quiet."

The Major snorted and breathed in a bit of water. It stung his nose and teared his eyes but the next thing he knew, Dorian was scrubbing soap into his scalp, holding him in a near, front-to-front embrace. Klaus stood awkwardly, almost at attention. He couldn't think what to do with his hands so he finally settled them, lightly, on the thief's hips. He closed his eyes as Dorian worked the soap through, running his fingers through Klaus' wet, raven locks, entwining his arms around the Major's neck.

Klaus closed his eyes tighter, feeling Dorian urge him closer, stepping forward into the full force of the spray. He was aware of the play of flesh on flesh, slick and hot in the water. The thief pressed against him, then away. Hard to tell if it were a deliberate move or not under the circumstances. Still, Dorian kept true to his word - he wasn't talking. And Klaus deliberately kept his eyes closed....

... Even as more fragrant soap foamed over his skin, lathering along his chest and arms. Even as Dorian pressed his face into Klaus' throat, encircling, his hands moving in firm but lazy circles, scrubbing the Major's back, his shoulders and down over buttocks, the backs of upper thighs. Klaus allowed himself to be pulled under the shower head again and let the water sluice over him. Dorian held him closer still and he became aware of the barest flicker of tongue at the pulse of his throat, then beneath his chin, and jerked his head away. But the hands were there, holding him, uncompromising but soothing, working into his flesh. Klaus clasped onto Dorian in return - initially to thrust him away, to stop this nonsense - then in an effort to hold him still, to anchor himself against the madness of the sensations that had taken hold and would not let go. The lips returned, playing over Klaus' mouth, a kitten-tip of a tongue teasing for entrance. The Major opened his eyes then, glowering down - or glowering the best he could - and was met with brilliant and sparkling blue. The flesh under his hands quivered with barely suppressed laughter and Klaus could feel Dorian's breath against his face, quite different from the steam. He made a final attempt to resist that mouth, then gave it up with a sigh. He couldn't quite hang onto the point of fighting. At least, not this.

I could break him in two if I wanted, Klaus reminded himself, seeking reassurance, seeking control - but it was such a ludicrous concept, he could not entertain it for long. Why the hell would I want to do that?

Dorian sucked Klaus' lower lip into his mouth, bit down gently. No tonsil diving here - at least not yet. He tickled his way up along the roof of Klaus' mouth, behind the teeth. Felt Klaus hold him harder, his fingertips pressing into muscle - not hard enough to bruise or hurt ... just ... hard ... enough.

Dorian moaned aloud then and felt Klaus begin his payback, thrusting into the dark cavern behind Dorian's lips, catching at him with his teeth. A trill of laughter locked inside his throat. The Wolf enjoyed biting, didn't he? Appreciated a bit of nibbling in return. And what else? Dorian wondered, captured in the delight of discovery. Klaus had raised his arms to play in streaming yellow curls again. No surprises there, all of his lovers had enjoyed his hair. And well they should, it was of no earthly good at all except to shake down over a lover's face or groin in the midst of passion. And, of course, it pleased his own vanity. Dorian chuckled. There were some other games they could play with it should Klaus demonstrate an inclination towards more exotic play. There were so many lovely games they could indulge in together if his Major showed an interest. Meanwhile, Dorian locked his hands onto Klaus' hips, moving to let their erections slide against each other, establishing a slow and steady rhythm. He ran his palms over buttocks, curving his hands to their shape, dancing along the crease. Klaus thrust against him more urgently, picking up the pace. Dorian circled the hidden entrance with his fingertip, brushing against the fine hair he found there - then probed ever so gently. Moaned again as it went in, easy and deep.

Klaus tore his head back. His breath hissed between his teeth. Green eyes went dark and glassy staring at him but there was no anger there, no fury - only passion. Dorian felt himself pushed back and turned against the tile. In the next instant, it was Klaus' fingers moving inside him, making him ready and quickly, too. Then Klaus himself. Dorian barely had time to prepare for him, couldn't keep still or quiet when he entered. He pressed his face to the wall, transfixed by the texture of the still cool tile against his face even as he pressed back into the Major's desire. Klaus reached down between Dorian's legs, captured and worked his cock even as he drove himself into pale and hungry flesh. They were both so highly charged, it took only seconds to finish.

As always, Dorian felt himself flying, soaring. For one long moment, he was absolutely free. He stretched his limbs out, grasping and gasping, longing for the moment to continue - willing it to go on for all he was worth. And when it ended, as it always had to end, he slid back into himself, blood pounding through every vein, heart beating and still racing towards escape, his every muscle transformed to the consistency of melted butter.

The front runner falls, still clutching at whatever music, whatever mystery hurtles just beyond reach - and, oh, what a race it was! What a delicious journey just to get to the start of it. It always left him feeling like a vanquished, although not unhappy child. Laughter bubbled up inside him again, falling from Dorian's lips in short, breathy gasps. He pulled Klaus' arms tight around him, both of them lying on their sides in the tub now. Hot water and steam swirled around them, gurgling down the drain at their feet. An odor of soap and sex permeated the room. Dorian shifted, moving back against the Major. Klaus' cock was still inside him. One day we might partner this dance differently ... the Earl thought, mischievous and happy. Or perhaps one night, once you're sure how I really, truly belong to you ... till then, darling.... He wriggled suggestively back against his lover.

Klaus groaned, too spent to move, waiting for his heart to stop pounding. "We are going to drown in here," he panted out, half smothered by trailing, sodden curls.

"Perhaps we will, lover," Dorian gasped back, still breathless. "But won't it be fun?"

But Klaus could not be persuaded. A convoluted twisting of limbs got him up and out of the tub. He reached back to drag Dorian along with him. The thief came along willingly enough, reaching up to wrap his arms around the Major's neck and depositing another kiss.

"That was so good..." Dorian purred, sliding his body against the Major's.

"Yes," Klaus agreed, matter-of-factly, and kissed him back. "It was. Still, the water is going cold now." He released the thief to sit him on top of the toilet lid, then dropped a clean towel over his curls. "Dry yourself off before you do take a chill."

Dorian beamed up at him happily. "All right, darling," he agreed and proceeded to do just that.

Klaus watched him, even as he began his own toweling-off activities. No so very long ago, he had been lurking about in the foliage, gathering evidence to have the thief put away for one hundred years. All that had changed and quickly, too. Although exactly how it had happened, he was at a loss to say. Beneath those seraphim curls, even soaked around the edges, Dorian continued to gaze at him like the cat who had made off with the canary, the goldfish and the cream as well. It was a confident and possessive look. Somehow Klaus had become permanently saddled with this stray cat.

And he still wasn't sure how he felt about it.

Klaus shook his head. Comparisons to the obvious angelic features aside, that was the blond's true persona - a sly, clever, mischievous, curiosity-driven, trouble-brewing (and affectionate, Klaus acknowledged grudgingly) feline bandit. The distinctions between Eroica the thief and Dorian the aristocrat had become irrevocably entwined. Inseparable. He never demonstrated the least repentance for his deeds. In fact, Klaus had every reason to suspect the creature was waiting to be congratulated for his tricks, the vain beast.

Still, if Dorian was a cat, he wasn't any pampered Persian. He was a swashbuckling Tom equally at home in the blackest back alley or the most elegant drawing room, on speaking terms with rogues and royals alike. He was a fighter, too, when he had to be. It was impossible to miss the bruises that darkened pale flesh at hip, back and ribs. Klaus recalled again how Dorian had wrapped himself around that child in Victor Marsh's apartment. How the doctor had beat him with his cane, trying to make him give up the boy. Those blows had hurt - that much Klaus knew. He'd heard the impact, hadn't he? Seen the force with which Marsh had struck him. Heard Dorian's own cries of pain even as he shielded the child against him.

But his thief hadn't let go and he hadn't given up. The fist of darkness began to close around the Major's heart again. It squeezed - just tight enough so there was no ignoring it. Yes, Dorian Red Gloria could fight, but so could Rudy Löwen. And so could Erich, the Professor, Mouser and Ludek, too. Their team had been nearly invincible, hadn't they? As far as he knew, and Klaus had made it a point to know, no other group had completed as many assignments as they had together. Their mission success rate remained unsurpassed until that last. Afterwards, everyone had congratulated Klaus for being the lucky one. He, himself, had not felt so very lucky.

Klaus' eyes returned to Dorian. Now there was luck on the hoof - or, more appropriately, paw. A man of nine lives if ever he'd seen one.

And he knew the work of Sun Tzu as well!

Klaus smiling did not make for a congenial expression. There was nothing cold or distant about his appearance. No, the Major looked quite vital, attentive and cheerful. He appeared eager to be of service, almost ingratiating. And he was helpful, too, when smiling - whether the job entailed assisting an elderly person across a busy intersection or blowing away some particularly vile bit of human vermin.

Actually, Klaus didn't much believe in helping anyone across the street. As far as he was concerned, it was their problem - they could deal with it.

Still, Victor Marsh would not be hurting anyone anymore.

Klaus took in a deep breath. Then let it out. He tried to be satisfied with that.

"Hey," he captured Dorian's arm and pulled him up to his feet. Without another word, Klaus put both arms around him and kissed him hard on the mouth. The kiss moved past post-coital languor, developed into something rather intense and then relaxed into a stimulating buzz of anticipation.

Dorian closed his eyes, swallowed, and pushed his face into the hollow of Klaus' neck and shoulder. Held on.

"God help us," he breathed, contented and aroused at the same time. "Do you think we should even bother with dressing?"

Klaus' concerns remained affectionate but practical as well. "Do you think there is anything left to eat in the kitchen?"

Touch the glowing spheres around the dragon!

Dressing, eventually, seemed the best idea and they went with that. They foraged the rest of the food out of the kitchen as well.

"We're going to have to go into town tomorrow," Dorian said, scouring the pantry. "If we're going to stay on here, we'll have to pick up more supplies."

"See what is in that tin there," Klaus urged. They had begun investigating the c-rations.

Dorian made a face. "I'll look if you want but the last one I opened was simply brown inside. Brown and lumpy. Our little lady wouldn't even touch it."

"That is no lady. That is a cat."

"She is the lady of the house, darling, and we're her guests," Dorian corrected firmly. "She hasn't told me her name yet."

"Excuse me?"

"Just you wait. You'll see what I mean. She'll name herself for us, never fear."

Klaus made a face of his own, torn between humor, disbelief and scorn. "When I hear that animal begin talking, I will myself put in for a medical discharge."

"We'll come visit you on sunny afternoons, bring you chocolates and flowers and tuna fish, won't we?" Dorian stroked the gray fur and grinned. The cat purred, pleased with developments in general, and scoffed down a piece of cheese.

"Please," Klaus winced. "Do not trouble yourself."

"It's no trouble, darling." Dorian grinned happily. He wrapped a chunk of feta cheese in a piece of bread, popped it into his mouth and chewed. He fished for the last ripe olive in the jar. "God, sex makes me hungry," he sighed. "Would you care for a game of chess? I found a set in the cupboard."

"How do you leap from sex to hunger to chess?"

Dorian shrugged and crumbled off another piece of feta. "Dunno. It's too early for more sex and you've got to keep up your strength if you're going to go for it again and it would be nice to have something else fun to do till later. You do play chess, don't you?"

"Ach, ja." Klaus shouldered off a sense of discomfort. Playing chess had been a means of whiling away boredom back on those early missions. The Professor had been a master player and tried them all at the game. He'd beaten them all soundly, too. A competitive and determined spirit had led Klaus into further study. Once, the lot of them had even tried some covert methods of winning a round from the man. Klaus had taken the lead in that operation. Had NATO known what their equipment had been used for, they would have all been up on charges. Still, it had all been for nothing. In that last round, in Klaus' last move in a game that had gone on from dusk to dawn, Selig, the Professor, had looked up and said, "You're wearing a wire aren't you?"

It was true. The team had enlisted the aid of a grandmaster champion. They had studied the game from afar and sent their signals to Klaus through a series of tiny electric shocks. It wasn't a pleasant form of communication. Long before midnight, the game had lost its sense of fun and daring. All that had kept Klaus going was the thought of winning, of how they would all laugh at the trick played on the so-self-assured champion. Weeks ago, over many beers, it had seemed like a very entertaining idea and Klaus had kept reminding himself of that throughout the night.

Young Lieutenant Eberbach had only been able to gape at the man. "How long have you known?" he demanded, aghast.

"About an hour into the game," Selig replied casually. Then he moved his queen's bishop one final time. "Checkmate," the Professor said. He picked up Klaus' black king and laid it on the board on its side, the universal gesture that meant the game was over. The king was dead.

Well, there had been a good deal of laughing and celebrating afterwards, but not as Klaus and the others had expected it to go. The Major smiled a little remembering. His arm had been sore for days, a more psychosomatic pain than anything else. Klaus shook his head. Had he ever been that young?

"Klaus," Dorian's voice called him back from memory. The Major looked up and back into another face, younger and infinitely more beautiful than Selig Utech's but no less dear. His thief was smiling softly but there was trouble in his eyes. "Klaus ... am I losing you again?"

"Nein." The Major paused for a moment, then shook his head. "Nein," he repeated. "You are not losing me. I will be pleased to play a game of chess with you."

Dorian brightened perceptibly and Klaus allowed a smile to creep back onto his face. Perhaps this would be a game he could win.

Touch the glowing spheres around the dragon!

Some hours later, Klaus was wondering how he had ever dared hope such a thing. Initially, the Major had settled comfortably behind the board. He was an excellent tactician, a marvelous strategist, and it was easy to bring back the memories of those old games he had studied in order to defeat the Professor.

They had set up at a small table by the window where Dorian could gaze out at the moon-washed snowscape. The celestial orb was at first quarter and the thief had smiled up at it serenely as they'd set up the game pieces. Klaus had drawn the white; he had won the right of first move.

The only thing he'd won all night. The best he had been able to pull off against the thief was a draw.

"Tell me about Russia," Dorian said, studying the board. "What's it like there now?"

"It is chaotic, what else do you expect?" Klaus snapped.

"Just trying to get a feel for it," the thief said softly. "You know I'm curious about Sable Volovoi. Who is she? How did she get access to nuclear weapons? What's her history, her motivations?"

"Survival, I imagine, and greed," Klaus said. "Are you going to make your move or not?"

Dorian moved a pawn blocking access to his king. "I've heard rumors that Russia has applied for admittance to NATO."

"Yeltsin and his people have strongly indicated that they would embrace such an invitation," Klaus said. "Yes."


"The right wing organization, Red Banner, will have none of that. They want a return to the old ways."

"And `Mad Vlad' Zhirinovsky is ready to begin a new war."

"He is demanding the return of Alaska, Finland, Poland and the satellite countries. He is threatening to deploy nuclear weapons at Germany. He likes to think of himself as Russia's answer to Hitler. Zhirinovsky is connected to the KGB. He was recruited in his student days in Turkey, back in 1969."

"Do you think he knows Misha?"

"I have no idea." Klaus studied the pawns surrounding Dorian's king. Pawns were the weakest pieces on the board, an ignoble defense arrangement and meant to be sacrificed. After careful deliberation, he moved a knight forward and captured one of Dorian's pawns, breaking the barricade that had shielded the thief's king from the brunt of Klaus' attack. "Check," the Major announced. A wolf's grin split his face. This was more like it.

"Do you think they're aware of Sable Volovoi?" Dorian continued. "Could she be acting on Zhirinovsky's instructions - just to stir things up a bit?" He slid his queen all the way across the board to take Klaus' knight.

"Anything is certainly possible but, no, I do not believe Volovoi is anything more than an opportunist. She has demonstrated a talent for independent action throughout her career, such as it has been." Klaus scowled with triumph. Dorian's black queen was in his reach now, the most valuable piece on the board. With her gone, it was only a matter of time before the game would fall to his hands. "Volovoi is reported to be an attractive woman, little more than a shill for the KGB. Intelligence was never actually her strong suit. Still, perhaps she resented those assignments."

"You mean they used her to seduce Marines for their secrets?" Dorian asked. "That sort of thing?"

"Yes," Klaus agreed.

"There's something more, isn't there?"

"Volovoi demonstrated a special talent, a gift for cruelty," Klaus advised reluctantly. "She made quite a reputation for herself with acid as I understand." Zap - the black queen was history.

"Acid...?" Dorian shifted another pawn into place and looked up, alarmed.

"Any caustic substance." Klaus shrugged and brought a bishop in closer for the kill. "Nail polish remover, gasoline, cleaners found in a kitchen or bath. Pour it onto a handkerchief, a napkin or stocking, any absorbent material will do. Restrain the subject, then secure the cloth across the victim's eyes or force it into his mouth - except if you are wanting him to talk right away. Pass the time with cigarettes against the skin. Simple but effective. Eventually, the subject will become cooperative."

"Oh." Wide eyes blinked. "But can you trust information produced through such methods?"

"You have studied Sun Tzu and Musashi. The use of torture has its strong and weak points. However, as to your question, reports indicate that Volovoi is always enjoying that aspect of her work, yes." Klaus looked up, captured by Dorian's continued silence. "There have been many KGB operatives who have departed from Mother Russia to explore opportunities on the free market. Arms are stolen from their military depots every day. You could set up shops on every street corner in Moscow. Sable Volovoi has her sources in the nuclear divisions, a series of lovers as we understand. Most of them have been taken and the arms as well. Still, there are significant weapons that remain at large. Volovoi has been smart enough or lucky enough, if you will, to evade capture so far. Still, her activities have not gone ignored. We will find her. It is only a matter of time before this is accomplished."

"You sound very confident, Major."

"How else should I sound?"

Dorian sighed. He started to speak, then let it go. "You sound fine." He moved his last rook and took Klaus' bishop. "It's just me. I wish there was something we could do to stop her before anyone else gets hurt."

"Before Charlie Kello gets hurt?"

"Before anyone gets hurt, just as I said. Watching people suffer and die has never been my idea of a good time. It's not my game." Dorian hesitated briefly. He reached over and covered Klaus' hand with his own. Then smiled. "Better watch your next move, darling, or it's check and mate in three turns. I've got you here - here - and there." He laughed at Klaus' expression of confounded fury.

Klaus glowered at the board, betrayed again. He couldn't understand it, he had kept control of the white pieces, he had formulated a strong attack. Still, he could follow the lines Dorian indicated. He knew how the game would go.

"How do you do it?" the Major sighed, defeated. "Where did you study? What masters do you follow?"

"My own." Laughter became amusement in blue eyes. "Why should I want to replay any dead genius' game? I move a piece where I want to move it, same as you."

"No." Klaus shook his head, more puzzled than angry. "This is not the same as me. I do not understand how you do this."

"You have to give the pieces their head, let them go the way they want. You can't force them into action," Dorian explained. "They'll only muck up if you do. You just have to know what drives them." He picked up his fallen queen. "She's such a fine lady, don't you think? Proud and capable. She'd do anything to protect her king. Love makes her the strongest piece on the board. And look at these pawns, willing to take up against any foe -" He broke off, caught by Klaus' expression.

"Do you mean to say they are like people to you?" The Major was astounded. "These are plastic pieces - it is not even a good set."

"That doesn't make any difference, they've got heart. You only have to know what drives them." Dorian placed his queen back beside her king.

"You are insane, Herr Dieb."

"But basically harmless."

"No - not even that. Never harmless."

"Mm ... you could be right...." A slow smile spread over the thief's lips. "But I bet I know a game you can win at, Major. In the next room. Check and mate." Dorian lifted a speculative eyebrow. "Perhaps we could try out those handcuffs you were talking about?"

Klaus could feel the blush start down at his toes, spreading over his body like wildfire. "Impossible...." The Major groaned and shook his head.

"Not at all." Blue eyes widened, considering. "The headboard should be quite strong enough."


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