Cage of Many Rooms

by Kadorienne

 

This takes place right after "Veni Vidi Vici".

 

The Major had pressed himself against the metal wall of the plane as if for support. His knuckles were against his lips in an unconsciously defensive gesture, and he knew his voice had gone at least an octave higher than his usual baritone.

The alphabets were staring.

With a quick glance around at them, he forced himself to straighten. His eyes had widened when he had realized what that bloody thief had done; he deliberately narrowed them, and the usual scowl settled on his features more from habit than conviction.

Seeing the Iron Klaus with whom they were familiar, the alphabets quickly stopped staring and started looking intimidated. Good.

"IDIOT!" Klaus roared hoarsely out the door at the parachutes falling rapidly away beneath them, for form's sake. Then he absentmindedly launched into a recital of his favorite profanities, while his thoughts strayed.

His belt. The damned queer had taken his belt right off him, and he hadn't noticed a thing.

What else could the thief manage without him noticing?

He turned away from his subordinates abruptly. He was starting to sweat. Well, small wonder, after having to be around that incredibly sexy criminal for an entire week, constantly sitting on his hands and trying to look anywhere except at those long, taut legs, that firm chest, that mouth that seemed to have been shaped especially for a particular purpose….

Had the thief guessed? He had been confident enough to make that brazen attempt in the Roman bath, but maybe he had just been taking advantage of the opportunity. But that declaration, right in front of everybody — what had been behind that? Surely the damned Limey couldn't seriously mean he….

Klaus stopped swearing and pulled out a cigarette, fuming at his own hands for shaking.

Obviously he was due for a "vacation".

***

Two days later he was in a booth in the back of a gay bar in Barcelona, letting a man he'd known for all of five minutes buy him a beer. They sat across from each other as they waited for the drinks, studying each other frankly.

The man had given his name as Rafael — one of Spain's most common names, naturally. His cheekbones were high for a Spaniard's and his complexion lacked the usual hint of olive, but his eyes were a pleasant light brown that matched his hair. He was somewhat older than Klaus generally preferred, perhaps a few years older than Klaus himself. It was his build that had caught Klaus's eye, slender and trimly muscular. He moved well; he must have been highly trained in some sport, or perhaps in dance. Regardless, he had the slim grace Klaus looked for.

The English thief had it. In spades.

"Are you here on business?" Klaus asked in Spanish, to fill the awkward silence. And to distract himself from thoughts of that verdammt thief, whom he would never see again in any case.

Rafael began a desultory account of his work, which Klaus did not believe a word of. Men who came to this place never told the truth about who or what they were. Klaus doubted that he had ever known the real name of any man he had bedded.

As he let Rafael recite his lies, Klaus allowed his own mind to wander, remembering the first time he had dared this.

***

It was his first year at university. He had known what he desired for some years, and that that desire was unacceptable. What little of his mind was not consumed with becoming the soldier he had known he was destined to be, was occupied with keeping his secret.

It was this obsession that had made it impossible for him to demur when a few of his classmates had proposed a visit to a brothel in the nearby city, conforming as he never did under normal circumstances. An upperclassman, wise with the two years of experience he had over them, condescended to show them the way and to give patronizing advice about how to conduct themselves once there.

It was perhaps the only time in his life that Klaus had been as nervous as his companions.

When they had reached their destinations, he had done what they were there to do, with no less success than any of the other green, uneasy boys that night. Perhaps a secret hope had lurked in his mind that this would expunge the unwanted desires.

Of course, it didn't. It was an experiment he never repeated.

But for him, the most significant event of the evening happened on the way back to the dormitories, when the older lad had pointed out another building and made some profanely phrased remarks about the services provided there. Klaus had obligingly joined the others in derisive responses.

He spent the next four months thinking about that place.

Eventually, the pent-up speculation drove him back to the city, alone this time. He spent half an hour standing in front of that building before he could bring himself to knock on the door. The older man who opened it had let him stammer for a minute before taking pity on him and waving him inside. "Your first visit?" the man had asked euphemistically. Klaus had nodded, his throat tight. The man had asked a few surprisingly tactful questions about his tastes before sending him into a dimly lit room with a winsome lad about Klaus's own age.

In spite of the expense — considerable, as the procurer had accurately gauged how Klaus was placed in the world by the quality of his clothing — Klaus had spent the entire night with the lad, experiencing everything he had been trying for years not to think of. Like the proverbial child unleashed in the candy store, Klaus at last realized years of frustrated longings and guilty fantasies.

He had hoped he would be able to forget. Of course, he hadn't. He had spent the next year fighting with himself constantly, waking each day with the goal of making this a day when he would not go into the city again. He tried long hours of study, excessive exercise, and even the proverbial cold showers to tame his cravings. Nothing worked for long. Four times that year, he found himself in front of that same building with his stomach tied in a knot and his mouth dry — and other parts of him urging him to go inside, choose a companion for the evening…. Each occasion was the result of weeks of sleepless nights and battles with himself before the need broke him down, bit by bit, and drew him to this place again.

That second year at university, his grades had dipped — they were still good, but not up to his usual standard. His father was not amused. A few harrowing hours in his father's study, being subjected to a lecture of epic proportions accompanied by an eagle-like gaze which seemed to know just how guilty Klaus was, proved to Klaus that he had to make treaty with his desires, since he patently could not defeat them.

He would indulge himself… on rare occasions. He would take the utmost care not to be caught. And knowing that his desires would have their moment made it possible to ignore them most of the time, and to do what must be done.

He graduated at the top of his class.

And thus his life had been ever since: duty, work, achievement… and, a couple of times a year, a few furtive hours as a reward.

It was… sufficient.

***

So here he was again, granting himself this rare night of indulgence that he might be able to do what he must do the rest of the time. He let his gaze travel over Rafael's form, not bothering to hide the look, and Rafael smiled at him.

The waiter appeared with two foaming steins of beer on a small tray. Rafael fell silent as the waiter rested one edge of the tray against the table, bracing it against his waist. He set one stein in front of Rafael, but as he reached for the second, the tray slipped and the stein headed for the floor.

Klaus's hand shot out without thought. Deftly it intercepted the stein before it reached the floor and turned it instantly upright. Only a few drops had time to spill.

The waiter stared. "Damn. Some reflexes. Sorry about that."

Klaus shrugged, trying to dismiss it. "I got lucky."

The waiter ambled away, shaking his head. Klaus met Rafael's eyes.

Which were opaque and intent now, not flirtatious.

"Who are you?" Rafael demanded. Not in the flawlessly accented Spanish he had been speaking till then… come to think of it, too flawless… but in Russian.

Well. That explained the cheekbones.

Klaus was so startled at hearing Russian from a supposed Spaniard in this setting that he said, "Ehm," before he could stop himself. Rafael's gaze sharpened further.

"Spaniards don't say 'ehm' when they think," he accused. "That's a German habit." His eyes widened with sudden comprehension. "You're Iron Klaus!"

Years of intense training and practice made Klaus reply with a slight, derisive smile. Not a hint of his own surprise showed through.

Rafael took a quick glance around the bar, seeking escape. Klaus shook his head once.

"Don't bother, Comrade," Klaus said in Russian. "We have you now. Things will go better for you if you come quietly."

The KGB agent looked at him ruefully. "It's flattering, at least. I didn't think I was important enough to merit being chased down by Iron Klaus himself."

"You aren't," Klaus said coolly, as his mind raced, trying to guess the man's identity. "I happened to be in the neighborhood."

The man drew a breath and met Klaus's gaze again. "Would you mind telling me… how you knew about this?" He waved a hand around at the bar. "I was sure my superiors didn't know."

"We know you better than they do," Klaus said indifferently. "Go ahead and drink your beer. It'll be a while before you get a chance at another."

The agent gulped some of the beer down before pushing the stein away. "Thank you," he said, trying to retain some dignity. Klaus could respect that, to an extent. They stood, and Klaus rested a hand firmly on the man's shoulder.

"I recommend you not try anything," he advised, composed. "My men are watching." He observed that the agent seemed to believe him. The man was trying to appear calm, and not quite succeeding. Apparently he was right, he wasn't someone important enough for Iron Klaus to be sent after him.

Good. That would make this easier. Already Klaus was planning the lies he would tell, the false sources for a nonexistent tip which had led him to a KGB agent while he was on a brief vacation. Lies, as usual. Like most of his life.

That thought, and a sudden glimpse of shoulder-length yellow curls on one of the patrons as Klaus and "Rafael" passed him, made him suddenly wonder.

Was he so accustomed to lies that he saw them even when they weren't there?

But as he gripped the KGB agent's upper arm and escorted him towards his rented Benz, he put that thought resolutely out of his mind. The one thing he could not afford was to believe that any man — especially a highly flamboyant criminal — actually loved him.

Inside the Benz, Klaus handcuffed the agent to the door handle. He hadn't been sure he would have occasion to use handcuffs this evening, but he always came prepared for anything.

The agent darted a glance around the parking lot, trying to get comfortable as Klaus slid into the driver's seat. "Where are your people?"

"Watching you, Comrade," Klaus said curtly. "Pipe down. You'll be doing plenty of talking later."

The agent sighed and fell silent. Klaus smiled grimly as he put the car in gear. He was leaving the bar with a prize. Even if it wasn't the kind he had hoped for.

 

 

My cage has many rooms,
Damask and dark.
Nothing there sings,
Not even my lark.
Larks never will, you know,
When they're captive.
Teach me to be more adaptive.
~"Green Finch and Linnet Bird", Sweeney Todd

 

 

Eroica