Written for: Tangerine in the Yuletide 2005 Challenge
The Chief wouldn't have minded yet another argument with the Major over Eroica if only the Major hadn't been so... well-behaved the last couple of years. For years the Chief had had to put his foot down firmly every time a safe needed to be cracked or a security system gotten through. One would think a ruthless realist like Iron Klaus would see the value of having such a highly skilled contractor develop a personal loyalty to him. Well, that was what section chiefs were for: to compel their subordinates into success even if they had to be dragged kicking and screaming.
It had been quite a relief when the Major had stopped having kittens every time he was ordered to hire Eroica. Oh, he groused and swore every time, but he did that anyway. Someone needed to put the man on decaf. The Chief was just glad to be spared the melodrama.
Until today, that was.
"That is going far beyond the call of duty, sir," the Major was saying stiffly. His voice was slightly rough; doubtless the hour he'd just spent yelling had given him a sore throat.
"I don't see why. You've done it before."
Eberbach actually blanched. Really, it was high time he stopped carrying on like a Victorian damsel. The Chief hadn't balked at such necessities, back when he was still in the field. So much for the Major's alleged legendary dedication.
Back when Eberbach had still been a captain, they'd had suspicions about a high-ranking government official. When the man's mistress had discovered he was keeping yet another girlfriend on the side, the Chief had wasted no time in sending Captain Eberbach to take advantage of the woman scorned. They'd gambled that the mistress would be angry enough to tell them what she knew about her lover's suspected activities. As it had turned out, a little more persuasion had been required, and Eberbach had dutifully allowed the floozy to seduce him. The result in terms of intelligence gathering had been well worth it, though Eberbach made sure to complain about her numerous personality defects enough to make everyone at NATO almost regret the assignment. Almost.
"That was different," Eberbach said through gritted teeth.
A few years earlier, the Chief might have tried to be tactful. By now, however, the Major had used up all of his patience. He didn't even try to restrain his smirk.
"Of course it was. This time it will be fun."
The Chief ignored Eberbach's maidenly blush. Well, it was more like a scarlet mottling of rage, but either way, he was bored with it. He shoved a manila folder into the younger man's hands.
"This is a list of the documents that have disappeared while Eroica was in their proximity over the last four months. You'll have to memorize it right here; I have to put it back in the vault immediately after our meeting. When I was your age, we called this classification `Burn before reading'."
Eberbach didn't crack a smile at the old joke. He was clearly marshalling angry denials which would no doubt be delivered at top volume liberally sprinkled with profanities in several languages, but long-standing professional habit made him open the folder and glance at it. Then give it a second glance.
"Eroica's stolen this?"
Thank goodness. Now that they were to the meat of it, the Major was realizing there was something more important than his precious chastity. "Keep reading."
The Major did. When he raised his eyes, he looked as if he'd just sustained a blow to the head.
"Eroica has stolen all of these documents?"
"We believe so. He was seen in the company of people who had access to them shortly before the documents disappeared. All of these people are highly suspicious, mostly suspected couriers or double agents. It's the pattern that really arouses suspicion, however. Eroica befriends suspicious person with access to top secret documents, documents disappear. And you see the delicate nature of some of this material."
The Major looked at the list again, nodding grimly. "So you think Eroica's been turned?"
"So it would seem. We need to determine exactly what he's up to. If he has, we'll need you to feed him misinformation."
Eberbach scowled. "I still don't see that it's necessary to - to...."
"If you're having an affair with him, you'll have access to his home and can search it easily. You'll also have innumerable opportunities to win his trust or trick him into accidentally revealing something."
The Major snorted. "And what am I supposed to do if he's occupied with some sissy artist or ballerina boy when I approach him?"
"That hardly seems likely."
"And you know this because?"
The Major's tone was sarcastic, but the Chief answered seriously, somewhat surprised Eberbach had been so lax. "You know perfectly well we keep tabs on him, just like on all our contractors. Don't you read the reports?"
"I don't want to know what that degenerate thief is up to."
"He's up to absolutely nothing. At least as far as `ballerina boys' are concerned."
"He hasn't taken a lover in years," the Chief told him, impatient. "Far as we can tell, the last one was just a couple of months after his first mission for us, breaking into the Vatican." The Chief, a Lutheran, disregarded the Major's reflexive shudder. "Nice young man, a very handsome classical musician. The affair was stormy and ended after only a couple of weeks. Since then, to the best we can tell, no one. There'll be no rivals on the field."
Eberbach nodded slowly, obviously surprised. It seemed he had accepted necessity.
"Of course, it's possible he's been working for the other side all along, and has been pursuing you as part of his work for them."
Eberbach frowned with what looked like genuine puzzlement. "Why would they assign him to chase after me?"
The Chief just looked at his subordinate. For such a smart man, the Major could be utterly obtuse sometimes.
Realization began to dawn on the Major's face. The Chief rose, snatched the file from him, and said, "Dismissed" over his shoulder as he walked out to the hall where two armed guards were waiting to escort the list back to the vault. He didn't feel like watching the Major's reaction. He wasn't as young as he used to be.
Klaus spent the rest of the week trying to decide how to commence the operation. Not many people would have applied this particular word to the fearsome Major, but the plain truth was that he was shy. Oh, not in situations where he could punch or shoot people who didn't do what he wanted, but neither reaction seemed appropriate if a sexual overture didn't come off right.
After discarding several possibilities, it occurred to him that the best way would simply be to put himself in Eroica's vicinity and wait. It was never long before the verdammt pervert made a move. This time he just wouldn't say no. It'd be simple.
Thanks to NATO's constant surveillance of those who interested it, only a couple of phone calls had been required to learn Eroica's current whereabouts. He was staying at his castle in Portugal, and his team had been left behind at North Downs. This suggested, to a spy's eye, that he was planning another document theft; what else was so illicit that he wouldn't even want his troupe of criminals along?
On the plane to Portugal, Klaus pondered the best way to begin. He'd been to the Earl's Portuguese castle once before. It wasn't bad, considering it was Portuguese; only Germans really knew how to make a castle.
He'd needed to question the nuisance of an Earl, so he'd simply let himself in and made himself at home. He'd been watching the news about those idiot seajackers who'd taken over the Michaelangelo when Dorian had returned.
"I'm watching it, if you don't mind," he'd told the thief when he'd tried to turn it off. "My job requires me to keep up with what's happening in the world, you know. Looks like some idiots are causing a problem out there."
The thief had been wearing one of those flashy red sleeveless shirts again. Form-fitting, and open at the throat to show some of the pervert's toned chest. Show-off. And of course, the usual painted-on pants and even a flowing scarf.
Klaus had made some derisive remark about the shirt, and pointed his Magnum at the thief to buttress his point, but all Dorian had done was smiled sunnily and said, "I'd have bought some wine on the way if I'd known you were coming."
Klaus had shrugged. "I don't care for the pink Portuguese stuff."
The thief had actually fluttered his lashes, the first time he'd seen a man do that. "Knowing you, you'd prefer Mosel's Wehlener Sonnenuhr, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah, I like the color of the bottle," Klaus had conceded, and then insisted on coming to the point.
Eroica hadn't forgotten. Later on, flirting, he'd compared the color of Klaus's eyes to the vivid green Mosel bottle. Which was ridiculous; green eyes were more the color of peas, or of the muddier varieties of jade. But romantics like Dorian had no trouble in making the leap from peas to emeralds. Idiots.
Given that Dorian didn't forget silly things like that, Klaus reflected, he probably would respond favorably to a bit of déjà vu.
Dorian entered and went right to the sitting room, where Klaus had settled in. This time, however, unlike that time so many years ago, he didn't blithely stroll in to turn the television off. Years of association with spies had taught him more caution. Klaus was not surprised that his first sign of Dorian's presence was find a long blade intimately pressed against his Adam's apple. Indeed, he'd expected this and in an instant his gun was poking into the thief's flat stomach. But the safety was on.
"Put it away, Dieb," he said, bored.
Dorian hesitated only an instant before doing so, and Klaus sheathed his Magnum in concert with him.
"You can turn it off if you like," he offered, indicating the television with a nod.
Taken aback, Dorian did so, then leaned against the set, arms folded loosely, watching Klaus. Today's shirt wasn't red, but it was skintight as usual, a white T-shirt that fit him snugly and blue jeans that did the same on those narrow hips and long slender legs. Boots with high heels. A black ribbon choker around his throat. A simple and not particularly foppish ensemble, not counting the choker, unless it was worn by Dorian Red Gloria, who couldn't look drab if he tried.
"We've done this before, haven't we? Now I'm supposed to say that if I'd known you were coming, I would have bought some wine."
"I brought some." Klaus jerked his head at the table, where a bottle of Mosel's was chilling beside two glasses. Dorian stared.
Klaus stood and opened the bottle, not sure what else to do. Gruffly he handed a glass to Dorian, who took it as if he weren't quite sure what to do with it. Eroica's puzzled expression was becoming; his already wide eyes opened even more, and his well-formed mouth was more attractive when it wasn't twisted into some kind of affected smirk or simper.
Dorian took a nervous sip of the wine and put down the glass. "What do you want me to steal?"
"'M not here about that."
"Then what...." Dorian's voice trailed off. Klaus put his glass down and forced himself to look the thief in the eye. He couldn't conceal his nervousness, but he supposed that was all right.
He reached out, then found himself pausing. After a minute, he awkwardly took Dorian's hand between both of his, very gently, and looked down at it, trying to think of something to say.
Klaus swallowed. All the silly things he'd thought of to say on the plane went through his head, but he retained enough sense not to say any of them.
"Can't you guess?" he mumbled at last.
Dorian inhaled sharply. A moment later, he slowly, cautiously put his free hand on top of Klaus's.
"Klaus?" he whispered, using Klaus's first name this time.
Steeling himself, Klaus met the other man's eyes. He made a tiny movement closer, but couldn't quite follow through. As it turned out, he didn't have to, because Dorian needed no more encouragement to sway closer and press his lips to Klaus's.
After that, it was easy.
Klaus opened his eyes the following morning to find Dorian watching him happily.
Before he could say a word, Dorian kissed him, then hopped out of bed. "I'll get us some coffee, darling. Don't worry, I have Nescaféé. I wouldn't inflict good coffee on you, love."
Klaus sat up, rubbing his eyes and trying to order his thoughts. If the thief had been half as pleased as he was with the previous night's events - and all indications were, to say the least, quite favorable - then he should now be in a good position to begin his campaign to win the thief's trust. He had already planned several leading phrases to drop into conversation when occasion allowed, to see if the Earl would slip up and reveal something.
However, it might be too soon. If he moved too quickly, he could ruin everything.
Dorian interrupted these musings by bustling back in with a tray holding two cups of coffee and a medium-sized box with a bow on the top. He laid the tray across Klaus's knees.
"I have a present for you, darling," he said, his eyes glowing with happiness. "I was going to give it to you on your birthday, but why wait?"
"Oh! Er, thank you," Klaus managed, surprised. He took a sip of the Nescafé before taking the lid off the box, hoping it wasn't some sort of foppish clothing the Earl would expect him to wear.
It was a sheaf of papers. He took the top one out and examined it, frowning. At first he assumed the "TOP SECRET" stamp across it was a joke. Then he realized it wasn't.
Galvanized, he fumbled through the other papers. Most of them had similar stamps on them.
Every item on the list he'd been forced to memorize was there.
"Is this all?" he asked. Seeing Dorian's crestfallen expression, he quickly amended, "I just meant, you're not saving anything for Christmas, are you? Keeping this kind of stuff around could be dangerous," he added.
Dorian's smile returned. "No, my love, that's all of it."
Klaus scrupulously gathered every paper back together and stacked them carefully back in the box. Then he looked at Dorian. "I know you must have stolen these, but why? We didn't hire you."
Dorian's smile, impossibly, grew even wider. "Oh, I had a diabolically clever plan to lure you into a romantic setting this May. When I had you alone, I was going to lay all of this at your feet. I thought that after seeing all this, you'd have to believe I really do love you." Dorian smothered Klaus briefly with yet another raptuous kiss. "But you beat me to the punch, didn't you, darling?"
"I'm going to beat my Chief to the punch, I'll tell you that," Klaus grumbled.
Dorian blinked. "What are you talking about?"
"Never mind." Klaus took another swallow of the coffee, set the cup back down onto the tray, and carefully put the tray onto the bedside table. Then he pulled the thief closer.
"Don't you want breakfast?" Dorian asked, sounding as if he very much hoped the answer was no.
"It can wait." Klaus kissed him. "And so can taking these to the office." Klaus untied the belt on Dorian's bathrobe and tugged it off. "And so can a certain call I have to make."
"Can you tell me to whom?"
"Oh, I have a few names to- er, things to tell my Chief."