Breaking Point


Fandom: Eroica
Written for: Laura Kaye in the New Year Resolutions Challenge 2005
by Kadorienne


When Dorian entered the office, he was prepared with a charming smile to answer Klaus's usual glare and insults. So he was rather at a loss when neither was forthcoming.

The alphabets cringed and the Chief smirked. "You're looking well today, my lord."

That much was normal. So Dorian fluttered his lashes, perched fetchingly on the edge of a desk, and studied his Major as if nothing was different.

Something was, though. Klaus was looking at him differently. Usually his eyes were hot and full of rage, and scorn, and sometimes grudging respect, and occasionally even a hint of fear. And now and then, yet another emotion flashed through, almost too quickly for detection, and yet Dorian saw it and knew, he was certain, what it was. And those flashes renewed Dorian's hopes and kept him coming back for more snarls, more insults, and more contracting jobs for NATO.

Now he looked into a pair of jade-green eyes which had lost all their accustomed fire. The only thing Dorian could detect in Klaus's shuttered gaze was a sort of brooding curiosity. A question.

But Klaus only turned that oddly inquiring gaze on him briefly before looking away, back to the files in front of him.

It was left to the Chief to ask charmingly, "I presume you have no objection to working with Eroica again, Major."

Klaus closed his eyes briefly. "If I had any say about it, I'd never work with the damned Limey again. He causes more trouble than he's worth." He did not lift his gaze from the papers. With no change in tone, he went on, "The operation is scheduled for twelve midnight tonight. A and B will be stationed by the rear entrance...."

As the Major went on, Dorian scrutinized him. He seemed a little paler than usual, and there were faint circles under his eyes. The tension of his posture was also subtly different, as if it were not going to be shed the instant certain perverted amorous thieves left the room.

Fascinating.

With the council of war over, the Major was the first to the door. "Major!" Dorian trilled after him. "I have a few more quest-" As he'd expected, Klaus ignored him. The alphabets all had that uncomfortable look they always wore when Dorian flirted.

For their benefit, he heaved a melodramatic sigh and declaimed, "Faint heart ne'er won fair Major," before sweeping out.

He spent the rest of the day resting up for the night's work, but he could not put Klaus's odd mood out of his mind.

Dorian opened the safe and extracted the documents in question at precisely half past twelve, according to plan. D and Z were on the job and thanks to them, Dorian was able to make his exit without a hitch. If only his love life ran as smoothly as his professional life.

Then again, up until he had met a certain German closet case, it had.

Klaus was in the office with G, monitoring the operation, when Dorian arrived with his catch. He proffered the documents. Klaus took them, looked to see they were the right things, and put them down on his desk, one strong hand pressed down on them. "You may go," he said curtly.

Dorian widened his eyes as if hurt. "Darling, you've hardly sworn at me at all tonight. Are you angry at me?"

Klaus raised his eyes to Dorian's face. He seemed to consider before asking, "Why in the hell do you keep - propositioning me, you - idiot?"

As Klaus's insults went, it amounted to a pat on the head. "Because you're a gorgeous hunk?" Dorian suggested.

Irritation crossed Klaus's face. "What I meant was, why do you waste your time on me?"

Now Dorian answered seriously. "I don't consider it a waste of time."

He had hit a nerve. He wasn't sure how, but something about this statement had struck a vital point, and Klaus was staring at him with revulsion.

At last Klaus said two words, very low.

"Get out."

Under the circumstances, Dorian deemed it best to comply.

Dorian spent the next week at Castle Gloria except for a brief trip across the Channel to liberate a little-known Renoir. Even as he was climbing out the window with the painting safely rolled up in its protective tube, however, Klaus's oddly calm demeanour would not leave his mind. He made up busywork to keep his team out of the way so that he could brood undisturbed. He could think of several possible reasons for the change in his beloved, but no supporting evidence for any of them.

Only one thing was certain.

Klaus needed him.

One week after leaving Bonn, Dorian flew back.

Dorian considered marching right into Klaus's office to announce himself, but in the end subtlety won out, and he simply made certain that when Klaus reached his flat that night, he was there waiting for him.

Klaus flipped the light switch and stopped in surprise when he saw Dorian perched on his favorite chair, but it was the mild surprise of a man who has come upon someone in the kitchen who he believed to be in the parlour. He did not seem in the least angry, but only regarded Dorian with an oddly attentive look.

"Yes?" Klaus asked.

Dorian smiled easily, as if he were at a cocktail party. "Oh, I just realized I haven't seen you in simply ages and decided to drop 'round."

Klaus was studying him, intently but with the detachment of a scientist. "Is there a reason you didn't go to the front door? Or to my office?"

"Too dull," Dorian explained charmingly.

Klaus seemed to accept this. He locked the door behind him and went to a cabinet.

"Drink?" he asked.

"Love one. Whatever you're having."

Dorian watched as his beloved poured two drinks and brought him one. Klaus himself sat on the couch, and after a minute of sipping in silence, Dorian came to sit beside him. He left a reassuring distance between them, but Klaus did not seem concerned.

"How often have you broken into my home?" Klaus asked suddenly, without rancor. When Dorian hesitated, he added, "I'm not going to hit you."

"A few times," Dorian admitted.

"And why are you here tonight?"

Dorian only considered for a moment before deciding to be honest. With that level gaze trained on him, there wasn't much else he could do, really. "You've seemed... different lately. I wondered if there was something I could do."

Klaus looked at him for a moment before pulling out a cigarette. As he took out his lighter, he remarked, "So you noticed."

"Yes," Dorian said hesitantly. When Klaus said nothing else, he asked slowly, "Can you tell me what's happened?"

"No." Klaus sounded like the old Iron Major again for the first time. "If you are going to ask, you had better leave."

"If I don't ask, may I stay?"

Klaus shrugged. "If you like." He stopped toying with the unlit cigarette and dropped it into the ashtray, setting the lighter down beside it.

Who are you, and what have you done with my Major? Dorian thought, but seized the unusual privilege and sat back.

"Major... I won't ask what the problem is, but is there anything I can do to help? Anything at all?" At Klaus's suddenly attentive glance, he flushed and backtracked quickly. "Oh, I didn't mean-" He groped for words that would not set off that hair-trigger temper. He didn't trust the Major's odd calm.

"No?" Klaus asked quietly.

Dorian's mouth was open to issue an emphatic denial when he stopped. The level way Klaus was looking at him, faintly inquiring, not nervous at all - could it mean...? But if he were wrong....

After a few tries, Dorian managed to reply, "Anything you want. You know that, Major."

Klaus was still giving him that even look, still not moving. "I'm not sure how to go about this." There he broke off, and for the first time looked slightly uncertain. Though not as if he wished to back out.

"It's all right," Dorian whispered, afraid that speaking too loudly would ruin things. Slowly he moved his hand to cover Klaus's. When Klaus did not rebuff him, only lowered his eyes to their clasped hands for one second, Dorian learned forward, again very slowly, and finally, finally kissed Klaus.

Who kissed back. A bit uncertainly - he didn't kiss much, most likely - but without any reluctance.

When the kiss ended, Dorian studied his beloved's face. It was still oddly intent and oddly calm, and he felt more shut out from what went on behind those jade eyes than ever.

"Darling, are you sure you-"

His words were cut off by a sudden emphatic kiss and a crushing embrace.

Dorian found himself slumped in Klaus's embrace, yielding easily. At the clumsy probe of Klaus's tongue, he parted his lips and gave himself up.

Klaus clutched him as if afraid he might get away. His earlier unnatural calm was gone, leaving behind a frenzy. Klaus was pulling off Dorian's clothes as if he could not bear to wait even one more minute. Dorian fleetingly considered trying to slow the pace, then came to his senses and helped, stripping his beloved efficiently and enthusiastically. Klaus's hands were all over him, unpracticed but demanding. The instant their clothes were off, Klaus pushed him onto his back.

Dorian closed his eyes. He had no idea why his beloved had finally stopped resisting, but the man's urgency now made it clear that it had been a hard struggle. But now, now he was claiming Dorian at last. Dorian scarcely did a thing but surrender. It was completely lacking in finesse, and utterly wonderful.

It became a silent prayer he did not dare to say aloud: Please, don't stop, not now, whatever you do five minutes from now, just please please don't stop now....

"Am I hurting you?" Klaus whispered huskily.

He was, a little, but Dorian was enjoying it too much to risk having it stopped. He smiled and tightened his embrace. "No," he gasped.

Klaus needed no further encouragement. Within moments, Dorian was gasping desperately for breath, his fingers digging into Klaus's shoulders. And at last a choked cry escaped Klaus's lips.

Klaus's eyes were closed as he tried to catch his breath. Dorian could not prevent himself from smiling in triumph - at last the unattainable Major was his. Gently he reached up to brush Klaus's hair, damp with sweat, out of his face.

He was about to tell him he loved him when Klaus pressed his face into Dorian's neck once more, twined his arms around him... and burst into tears.

For a moment Dorian was too stunned to react at all. Automatically he went into soothing mode, stroking Klaus's disheveled dark hair and whispering nonsense - "It's all right, love. You'll be just fine. I love you. Everything's all right."

Klaus's sobs were shaking his entire body.

For once in his life Dorian was starting to doubt himself, even as he continued to make his comforting gestures. He had been so certain this was the right thing to do, and now, it seemed it had all fallen apart.

He had prepared himself for all sorts of contingencies, but not this one. He would have thought it easier to wring blood from a stone than tears from iron.

And if iron were to lose its iron-ness, that would be the end of the world.

For one fleeting moment, Dorian felt vengefully glad. He had shed more than enough tears over this man. But that ugly emotion evaporated quickly, leaving worry in its wake. What had he done to the man he loved?

"Klaus?" he whispered at last. "Can you tell me what's wrong?"

Klaus quieted for a moment, trying to catch his breath. He gave a sort of ragged gasp. Then, still hiding his face, he managed three words before the sobs wracked his body once more.

"I knew it."

Dorian could only clasp his beloved close.

Several times the tears seemed to have come to an end at last, only to begin afresh. Klaus did not speak again, nor did Dorian try to ask him more questions.

Klaus only stopped crying because he fell into an exhausted sleep. But Dorian lay awake for a very long time, worrying.

When Dorian opened his eyes at a harrowingly early hour the next morning, Klaus was moving quietly about the kitchen area, gathering breakfast. Rubbing his eyes, Dorian sat up quickly, looking at Klaus anxiously. There were shadows under Klaus's eyes, which only made sense considering how late they'd been up, but other than that he had returned to his peculiar calm of the day before. He met Dorian's eyes evenly.

"Are you all right?" Dorian asked softly.

"Yes," Klaus answered, as if there could be no question about it. "Will you join me for breakfast, or are you going back to sleep?"

Dorian was still for a moment. Over the years, he had played out dozens of possible scenarios for their first morning after. The variations had ranged from sentimental declarations from each of them (sometimes accompanied by a touchingly old-fashioned proposal) to panicked flight on Klaus's part to physical assaults of varying degrees of brutality. The one thing he would never have expected was to have his presence accepted as if they had woken up together many times before.

"Um," said Dorian. "I'll join you."

Klaus nodded and pulled out two plates. Dorian blinked at him for a minute before walking dazedly into the bathroom to wash up.

When he emerged, he joined Klaus at the table and nibbled nervously on some toast.

"What are your plans now?" Klaus asked. "Will you be leaving Bonn soon?"

"Do you want me to leave?"

Klaus considered this. "No," he said simply.

Dorian briefly considered dumping his scrambled eggs onto Klaus's lap. "Um, Major."

"Yes?"

"Would you mind telling me why?"

At least Klaus didn't pretend not to understand. "I've wanted to for a long time," he admitted simply.

"So why didn't you?"

"I believed it was wrong."

"And now?"

A dark cloud settled on Klaus's brow with such suddenness that Dorian moved back involuntarily. But all Klaus said, morosely, was, "I'm not sure of anything anymore."

Good God.

It had to be far worse than Dorian had imagined.

For the next week or so, Dorian tried not to be disappointed. Klaus made love to him every night, what more could he want? But Klaus still avoided any mention of what was troubling him, and the barriers were such that Dorian did not dare to pry. Nor had Klaus become less troubled. The love Dorian lavished on him with words and touches seemed to leave him almost unmoved.

After a couple of weeks, Dorian went back to England. He had spent every night in Klaus's bed for two whole weeks and considered himself securely anchored there. Now Klaus should have a chance to miss him. Besides, there were paintings to steal.

He let ten days pass before learning, through his discreet grapevine, that Klaus's work had taken him to Venice. The Major in Venice! It was too lovely a prospect to miss. He hopped on a plane and positioned himself outside the obscure hotel Klaus was staying at. Late that evening, he heard familiar firm footsteps before his love came into view, hands in his pockets, cigarette in his mouth, his expression abstracted.

"Hello, handsome," Dorian said softly in Italian. "Looking for some company?"

Klaus's head whirled to him. Whatever Italian phrases of disgust were forming on his curled lip were stopped when he recognized the earl. "What are you...." He stopped, seeing the obvious answer to his own question.

Dorian smiled. "Do you dare be seen in the lobby with me?"

Klaus shrugged. "There's a side door. Italians. They never think about anything else."

"I've often wished I had been sensible enough to fall in love with one of them," Dorian agreed cheerfully, and laughed at Klaus's snort. He took the German's arm. "But they're just not enough of a challenge."

"Is that what it is?" Klaus asked, sounding more serious than Dorian would have expected. He opened the aforementioned side door and held it for his lover. Dorian squeezed his arm as he passed through.

"What, you thought I only wanted you because you were so hard to get?" Dorian started up the stairs Klaus indicated. "Of course. It had nothing to do with the fact that you're gorgeous, or smart, or brave, or your little hobby of making the world safe for democracy."

"Oh, shut up." Klaus said it without rancor. He took out a key and unlocked the door to his room.

Dorian waited till they were inside and the door locked before he continued. As he spoke, he took out the bottle of Mosel's he had hidden under his coat and opened it. "Or maybe it's that I imagined that you needed me."

"Needed you? For what?" Klaus sounded alarmed. Dorian smiled at him. Klaus glared.

Dorian poured two glasses and handed one to his lover. "No, not exactly for that. But I thought...."

"Thought what?" Klaus asked tensely.

Dorian dropped his eyes. "That you might be lonely," he murmured.

"I didn't ask for your fucking pity," Klaus snarled.

"Too bad, love. I've been ravishing your hunky body out of pure selflessness."

"Idiot."

Dorian took off his coat and shook his hair out, showing off before sitting down and making himself comfortable. Klaus watched him, then set down his own glass and went through what looked like a nightly routine of removing his tie and jacket, emptying his pockets onto the bureau, washing his hands in the tiny bathroom. He kept his watch on. Dorian now knew that he only removed it in the shower. He smiled to himself.

Klaus returned and sat across from him, lighting a cigarette and picking up the wine again. They sat in mostly comfortable silence.

"How did you know?" Klaus asked after a long hesitation.

"How did I know what?" Dorian asked, though he already suspected the answer. When Klaus only looked at him, he relented. His Major wasn't ready to put it into words. Now that he was in his love's bed, he could be patient about the rest. "I didn't, not really. Sometimes I suspected, but I was always afraid it was just wishful thinking. And sometimes you were so icy, I was sure you didn't have a sex drive at all." He paused. "What you really want to know, love, is, does everybody know. And the answer is no, they don't. You're not at all obvious, unlike me... and straight people can be incredibly clueless."

Klaus drew more smoke into his lungs, obviously thinking.

"How's work been?" Dorian asked.

Klaus shrugged. "Boring. Paperwork, debriefings, fetching sensitive material. Things any private could do."

"What a shame. So you haven't gotten to beat anybody up in weeks." Dorian was teasing, but at his words Klaus's face clouded over. Damn. "You still seem awfully gloomy," Dorian ventured.

"I'm always gloomy," Klaus snapped.

"Not like this. Something's different, the last month or so." Dorian leaned forward, frowning. "My love, I want to help. Isn't there anything I can do?"

Klaus gave a short bark of laughter. "I suppose you thought that sleeping with you would fix me?"

That was exactly what Dorian had thought. He reddened, unable to find an answer.

Now Klaus was looking at him. "I did not mean to insult you by saying that. It is just... like you. To romantically assume that love - or sex - conquers all."

"Then what does conquer all?"

"Strength."

"Then you should be fine. You've got that in spades."

At these words, Klaus retreated into introspection once again. But Dorian didn't want his love thinking of other matters when there was a highly beddable art thief right here all ready to be taken advantage of. He stood and started moving about the room, reaching for the supplies in his capacious coat pockets.

Klaus looked up, startled. "What are you doing?"

"Lighting some candles," Dorian said matter-of-factly. "Have you ever made love by candlelight?"

The Major's surprise was replaced by embarrassment and impatience. "If I had, you would know about it."

Dorian paused at that and turned to look at Klaus. Now Klaus was reddening. Those Mosel eyes actually lowered. If it didn't seem outrageous to describe the fearsome Major with such a word, Dorian would have called his expression bashful. Dorian had never been so charmed in his entire life.

Well, he always had preferred virgins.

He walked over to Klaus and gently tilted his head back to look at him. Klaus met his eyes warily, but Dorian's expression was one of pure happiness. Dorian kissed him, long and lingeringly, before resuming lighting candles and turning off electric lights.

He turned on the radio and fiddled with the dial. "They should be playing `Le Sacre du Primtemps' about now. I've always thought that piece was wonderfully sensual, don't you think?"

"Why didn't you bring a heart-shaped box of chocolates?" Klaus grumbled.

"Because you said you didn't like sweets. But I'll bring one next time if you like." Dorian turned back to face him in the golden light and smiled. Klaus was still sitting in the drab chair, his wine in one hand, an almost finished cigarette in the other, watching him. His eyes were now fixed on the earl's face. "Klaus?" Dorian murmured.

"Candlelight suits you," Klaus admitted. Then got that self-conscious look he got whenever he forgot to be a tank instead of a man and said something "foppish".

Dorian smiled and began to strip, putting on just a little of a show. "How do I measure up against highly polished steel?" he teased.

"I'm not sure." Surprising them both, Klaus grinned back. "Sometime I'll have to put you up against some and see." With that he stood and started unbuttoning his shirt.

Maybe Klaus had missed him. Or maybe he liked the look of Dorian by candlelight even better than he was willing to admit. Or maybe even iron wasn't impervious to the spell of Venice. Whatever the case, he seemed keener tonight than usual. More adventurous. More willing for both of them to draw out the act with artful caresses.

That was what emboldened Dorian to ask for what he really preferred to do in bed. With a light touch, he stroked the back of Klaus's thigh, then slowly moved his hand up. He kissed the other man's earlobe before breathing into his ear, "Klaus, would you like to--"

Before he could say more, Klaus had gripped his wrist painfully and pulled away from him. It was an action done with the swiftness of instinct, and it reminded Dorian that his lover was in fact a very dangerous man.

"I'll take that as a `no'," Dorian said, reaching for some of his usual aplomb.

Now Klaus looked discomfited. "I didn't mean... that is, I would like to, later, just...."

That was when Dorian understood.

Oh, my God.... Who did this to you?

"It's all right, love," he said casually, trying not to let his sudden comprehension show on his face. "It's all right if you never decide you want to. Just tell me when you do. In the meantime, I think some of the bones in my wrist might not have been crushed completely. Would you mind finishing the job?"

Quickly Klaus released him. "I did not mean to hurt you," he said, now more embarrassed than ever.

"Forget it," Dorian said, gently pushing Klaus back on the sheets and doing his best to make Klaus do just that. Forget.

Much later, when he had worn Klaus out and held him while he drifted off to sleep, Dorian lay awake beside him. It was getting to be a habit.

Now that I know what the problem is, what the hell do I do about it? he asked himself.

"How long will you be here?" Dorian asked the next morning as they drank their coffee.

"I have to do something this afternoon, and something else tomorrow. My flight back to Bonn is in two days."

"Do you want me to stay, or would I be in the way?"

Klaus looked at him. "Are you telling me that you'd actually go away if I told you to?"

"Well, yes," Dorian replied, composed. "Now that we're lovers, I know that I'll see you again later if I leave now."

Klaus actually pinkened just a little at that. He took a nervous sip of coffee. "You can stay. If you want to. So long as you stay out of the way while I'm working."

"Yes, sir," Dorian replied, smiling impishly. Klaus did not bother to acknowledge the sally.

Dorian spent the day amusing himself, easy to do in a city like Venice. Never far from his mind, however, was his love's new dilemma.

It must have happened on a mission. There was no other situation that would have made such a thing even possible. It would have taken multiple opponents, probably heavily armed, to bring down his Major. And then? What exactly had those beasts subjected him to?

Dorian shrugged to himself as he wandered the city's ancient streets. He would probably never know the details. And really, he didn't need to. What he needed to know was how he could help the Major put it behind him and be his old cantankerous self again.

Deductive reasoning pointed the way to only one logical solution. It didn't hurt that the logical solution would probably be a lot of fun.

That evening, after two stiff drinks and a fair amount of necking, Dorian made his move. "Would you like to do something different tonight, darling?"

Instantly Klaus's eyes were guarded. "Like what?"

Dorian smiled, half-closing his eyes. "I was hoping you would tell me, love. I'm offering to fulfil your fantasies."

"Oh." Even in the dim light, Klaus's blush was visible.

"Well? Is there anything you'd like me to do that I haven't already?" When Klaus did not reply, he went on, "Or anything you'd... like to do to me?"

Klaus looked away. "I've always... tried not to think about these things."

"But you must have had some thoughts." Dorian leaned close and whispered. "Tell me. I promise I won't laugh."

Klaus said nothing. This was proving even more difficult than Dorian had expected. He never had really understood how anyone could be so repressed, and he certainly had no idea how to overcome it, save by constant bombardment.

Dorian tried again, keeping his voice soft and husky, his expression one of loving lust. "Then maybe I could guess. Would you like to tie me up?"

Klaus gave him a derisive look. "Pervert."

Given the circumstances, Dorian couldn't offer the reverse. He tried again, this time joking a little. "Chocolate syrup?"

"I detest sweets," Klaus said automatically.

"Hmm. Is there something special you'd like me to wear?"

Klaus's eyes went to his, very briefly. Spot on, Dorian thought. He zeroed in.

"Lacy lingerie, perhaps?"

Klaus looked irritated again. "No," he said with scorn.

"Really? I always wondered about that. You took it surprisingly in stride when I got up in drag."

This time Klaus's frown was puzzled. "It doesn't bother me nearly as much as it should when you do that. But it isn't...."

"Isn't a fetish?"

"Right."

"Then what would you like me to wear?"

It took some time and several more queries, but eventually Klaus swallowed, then put his mouth next to Dorian's ear, hiding his face in Dorian's hair. His voice was barely more than a mumble. "One of those... those black burglary outfits of yours."

Dorian grinned, knowing Klaus couldn't see. It was all he could do not to break his promise and laugh aloud - in delight. And poor Klaus, so utterly embarrassed over what was probably the most conventional fetish on earth: one's lover in form-fitting black. The Major could hardly have been more bashful if he'd been confessing to something utterly bizarre.

When Dorian could control his expression, he drew back, kissed Klaus firmly, then stood. "I'll be right back, my love."

Klaus looked startled. "You have one here?"

"I always come prepared. It's in my room."

"You're staying in this hotel?"

"Under a false name, don't worry."

"Don't do that again. We can't take more chances with discretion than we have to," Klaus ordered, but he didn't look angry.

"Yes, dear. But for now, why don't we continue this in my room? It's much nicer."

Klaus snorted. "I don't doubt it." But he stood up without further complaint, straightening his clothes and putting his jacket back on. "We shouldn't be seen in the halls together. I'll follow you in a few minutes.

"Suite 32. The door will be unlocked."

By the time the Major joined Dorian in his suite, Dorian was in his black catsuit and had the room blazing with candles. Klaus glanced at him briefly as he closed the door behind him, then averted his gaze.

"You're allowed to look at me, love. There's no one here to see."

Clearly embarrassed, Klaus looked at him, then let his eyes travel up and down Dorian's toned form. He slowly moved towards Dorian. Dorian unhurriedly turned around, preening a little. When Klaus reached him, he pressed close.

"Do whatever you want to me, darling," he breathed.

And Klaus did. His hands couldn't get enough of the smooth fabric, it seemed. Dorian just allowed him to do as he liked.

"It always amazes me what you can do," Klaus murmured after a while, his hands continuing their reconnaissance.

"Oh?"

"This suit reminds me of the things I've seen you do while wearing it." Klaus started nuzzling his neck, making Dorian's knees melt. "I've never seen an alarm system you can't sneak past. Never seen a lock you couldn't open. No place you've ever wanted to get into has ever been able to keep you out."

Klaus stopped abruptly, and Dorian grinned. Just like the man to make a series of innuendos like that and not even realize what he was saying till it was already said. To smooth over his beloved's embarrassment, Dorian said, "It isn't like you to compliment me."

"Not to your face," Klaus grumbled, at ease again, his face still hidden in Dorian's hair, his hands still straying. "You're too conceited already."

"Would you have settled for less?"

"No." The reply was prompt. "I do not approve of your profession at all. But it would be intolerable if you were bad at it."

"Oh, Major. Everything you say is very, very like you. Shall I tell you how wonderful you are now?"

"No. You'll be quiet now."

"I doubt that."

Klaus shucked his jacket and tie. Dorian started to unbutton his shirt, but Klaus stopped him. They remained fully clothed, only undoing their trousers. It gave the occasion an illicit feel, as if they were snatching a fleeting moment of privacy in the middle of a mission, with others perilously close to discovering them. And Klaus's enthusiasm was unmistakable.

When it was over, Dorian fell into exhausted sleep immediately with a triumphant smile on his face.

Score, he thought.

A week later in Bonn, Dorian was less smug. As usual where his Major was concerned, he had miscalculated. Klaus's masculinity was about as reaffirmed as it could possibly be - Dorian allowed himself a little smile, thinking about that - but Klaus himself remained morose.

Covertly he studied his lover's face. Klaus's attention was on the road and on the smooth operation of his precious black Mercedes. His jaw was set, lips thinned, and those hard green eyes still had that remote, brooding look that had become all too familiar. Dorian looked back at the road. He thought a bit of brooding of his own was in order. He wanted his irascible grouch back, but his trump card had failed and he didn't know what else to do.

"You don't know what kind of safe it is?" he said, more to break the silence than from curiosity.

Klaus shook his head once, not taking his eyes off the road. "Our informant knew nothing about safes. Just that there was one."

Dorian shrugged. "Not a problem. I can open it."

"I know you can."

"Of course, I'd do it better if I were wearing my catsuit...."

"Shut up."

Dorian smiled. Klaus was now flushing and had forgotten to brood for the moment. A small triumph, but one seldom got any other kind out of the Major. But it didn't last long. A couple of minutes later Klaus was back to gazing glumly at the horizon.

Dorian was casting about for another excuse to distract his lover when the portable radio suddenly spoke. It didn't crackle as the ones on TV did. Dorian supposed NATO could afford better ones.

A's voice was clearly recognizable, despite the tinny sound the tiny speaker gave it and the urgency that reached out and twisted Dorian's gut.

"We've just heard from Biermann. He needs to be lifted now." A spoke rapidly, not even pausing between the sentences.

"Where is he? Do you have the address?" That sounded like Z.

A answered quickly, but not before Klaus had executed an illegal (and very nearly disastrous ) U-turn. Dorian gripped the arms of his seat and held on.

"G's getting it," A was saying, and then he rapidly recited the address.

"Idiot. Why didn't he have it memorized?" Klaus muttered, speeding down the road. He seized the radio without taking his eyes off the road. "I'm on my way," he snapped into it. "Get there on the double." A chorus of frantic Yes, sir's answered.

"You know where it is?" Dorian braced his feet against the car's floor for good measure. He liked fast driving, but only when he was the one at the wheel.

"Of course."

"Who is... never mind." Dorian knew better than to expect Klaus to tell him anything about his work. He watched the other cars jumping to get out of the way and found that he was clamping his jaw. "Do we have to hurry like this? The alphabets must be on their way by now."

Klaus's intent eyes hadn't stopped boring onto the road as if it were a high-powered microscope since the radio had spoken up. "We're closer."

"A lot closer?"

"At least two blocks closer."

"Then perhaps we could...." Dorian's voice trailed off. There was a light in Klaus's eyes that had been missing for some time. He looked at the road ahead hurtling to meet them and bit back the drawling protests that were itching to be said.

It was probably only a couple of minutes before they braked in front of one of those old Tudor-ish houses that was now divided into flats, but Klaus's driving made it seem much longer. When the Benz finally stopped, Dorian jumped out only half a second after Klaus did, looking forward to KGB guns after that ride.

"Stay back!" Klaus shouted at him, running to the front door, Magnum already drawn. The front door was unlocked, saving it from being kicked down. Dorian paused a second for stunned admiration of the sight before hurrying after him. Pursuing the Major was never a smart move, but Dorian never had been able to refrain.

Dorian reached the top of the stairs in time to see the first KGB agent fall under Klaus's fist. Klaus kicked the door of one of the flats open, half-entered but swiftly stepped back to avoid a blow he had obviously anticipated. Before the Russian could recover from having dealt a hard blow without a target to receive it, Klaus had coshed him in the stomach with the butt of his Magnum. Briskly he struck the man again on the back of his head, then gripped the Magnum in both hands.

As the hapless Russian crumpled to the ground, Klaus spoke to a nervous middle-aged man who was standing, almost hiding, behind a large wing chair. "Are you well, Herr Biermann?"

The man stood up straighter, trying to appear calm, and opened his mouth for a brave answer. He was interrupted by Klaus's Magnum shooting another Russian who had abruptly appeared behind him. Biermann looked at his fallen assailant, stared at the gun still half-held in the dead man's limp fingers, and realized it had been aimed at him.

"Ehm, very well," he said faintly, his attempt at courage under fire shattered.

Klaus paid him no attention. He was looking at his own hands, one of them holding the Magnum, the other balled in a fist, as if he'd never seen them before. No, as if he had misplaced them and just gotten them back. It wasn't like Klaus to waste precious seconds this way, but when he lifted his gaze, his eyes were full of a hot jade fire Dorian had missed terribly.

Klaus took another step into the room, swiftly pulled the door half closed, and shot the agent behind it. This one was luckier; the bullet lodged in his right arm, making him drop the gun he had been about to use on the Major.

Dorian cautiously pushed the door back open. He hadn't even known there had been anyone lurking on that side of the door. The poor man must have been half-crushed by the door when Klaus had come crashing through it. Leave it to the Major.

The Major Dorian knew and loved.

In one fluid motion from shooting the lurking agent in the arm, Klaus had half-turned and aimed at the one he'd already pistol-whipped. The man had crawled towards the phone and his fingers were barely an inch away from it.

"I wouldn't," Klaus said cheerfully.

The Russian froze. Klaus smiled. "You may sit on the sofa, comrade. You as well," he nodded towards the one with the wounded arm, who made his way over, holding his arm with a grimace of pain. Biermann remained in his spot behind the chair, alternating his stare between the dead agent on the floor behind him and his rescuer, who he didn't seem to find much less intimidating than his would-be captors.

Dorian looked furtively to the fallen agent on the landing. He had had the sense to stay fallen.

From outside came the sound of at least three cars screeching to a halt, with the din of several alphabets charging up the stairs following close behind. Dorian stepped into the hall, smiling.

"He's got them, lads," he said cheerfully. "I expect he'll want you to collect them all."

The alphabets looked duly impressed but not particularly surprised at the havoc their superior had wrought single-handed. In a matter of minutes, they had the KGB denizens bundled into a secure van and Herr Biermann spirited off to NATO headquarters.

Klaus rattled off a few last orders concerning Biermann to B before letting him leave. With that, only he and Dorian were left in Biermann's formerly-crowded flat.

Klaus reloaded his Magnum and holstered it with a fond pat before turning to regard the thief.

Dorian was already feeling a little breathless at everything he had witnessed over the last twenty minutes. What little breath he had left was taken away by the expression on his beloved's face. Considering he wasn't even wearing a black catsuit, it was eminently flattering.

"I can't compete with beating up a room full of bad guys, can I?" he asked ruefully, but without looking away from Klaus's gaze.

Klaus smiled slightly, his eyes alive as they hadn't been in weeks. "You don't have to, now do you?"

Slowly, Dorian returned the smile. "I suppose not."

Fortunately, Herr Biermann had a very firm mattress.

 

 

Eroica