A glanced out the window, did a double take, and cringed. "I knew it," he muttered.
"Knew what?" B asked, keeping his voice low even though he didn't know why. The tension in A's posture was a dire portent.
"That he'd be here today."
"Who?" B got up and looked out the window himself. When he saw the fire-engine red Ferrari parked below, he also cringed and quickly scuttled back to his desk. "Why today?" he whispered.
"Didn't you read the paper this morning?"
"No," B admitted sheepishly. "I slept late and...."
A shot a stealthy look at his superior, who seemed absorbed in his work, before leaning close to his friend. "As of today, gay marriage is legal in Germany."
"I thought we already had it." B kept his voice low.
"No, no, that was just registered partnership. Not quite the real thing. Until today."
B's eyes widened. He didn't much care one way or the other, but the change was going to give the alphabet a bad day. Maybe a bad week; the Major would be in a foul temper for days, most likely. "You think he's here to-"
"What are you two whispering about?" the Major demanded. A and B both jumped.
"N-nothing, sir," they stuttered in unison.
"Then get back to work!" the Major snapped. "There's a pile of stuff we have to finish today."
A and B bent their heads back over their desks, both silently doubting that much of anything would get done today.
Only a few seconds later, the door flew open, and the other twenty-four letters joined the first two in cringing. Eroica was standing there, posing in the doorway, and as always he had dressed for the occasion. A three-piece charcoal grey suit, for crying out loud, with a white rose in the boutonniere. Of course. Eroica would consider it almost an obligation to show up and create a scene today.
Eroica made straight for the Major, who hadn't even bothered to look up. All the alphabets gazed longingly at the open door, wishing they could bolt through it, but none of them dared. They settled for holding their collective breath. The Earl's expression was serene, urbane, as if he were unaware that he was about to ignite a tantrum of epic proportions.
Undaunted by being ignored, Eroica reached the Major's desk and sank gracefully to one knee. Ever the showman, he dramatically produced a small velvet box from his pocket. The Major finally deigned to look at him, and the alphabets goggled as the Earl opened the box with a flourish. Nested on the velvet was a ring - in thoroughly masculine style, with a wide gold band, but with a single gleaming diamond inlaid.
Even now, they couldn't quite believe the Earl was going to say it, but of course he did, smiling faintly. He had to know it was hopeless; if he had had any hope, he would have been shaking with nerves.
"Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach," he asked in ringing tones, "will you do me the honor of granting me your hand in marriage?"
"Yes," Klaus said.
Dorian's mouth dropped open. After a moment, he asked blankly, "You will?"
Klaus's eyes flickered, but his expression remained otherwise unreadable. He might have been accepting a sheaf of folders from a filing clerk. "Do you want to back out now? I could sue you for breach of promise."
"Of course I don't want to back out!" It was the first time any of them had seen the Earl without his usual poise.
"Well, then. What took you so long?" Klaus extended his hand, palm down. Dorian stared at it for a moment, flummoxed, before collecting himself enough to slide the ring onto the fourth finger of Klaus's hand. The Major's eyes lowered to the ring, evaluating its appearance on his hand for a second, before he turned back to his desk. "Now get out of here. I have work to do."
Dorian rose hesitantly, still bewildered. "But... Major - Klaus - you always refused my offers up till now."
"This is the first time you've made me an honorable offer," Klaus pointed out, not looking up.
"...Oh." Dorian seemed to be having trouble keeping his jaw off the floor. "Would - would it be honorable of me to offer you a candlelit dinner this evening?"
"Yes, yes, be here at the end of office hours to pick me up. Now go away so I can finish this."
As if in a trance, Dorian walked to the door, the alphabets all staring at him. The Earl paused in the doorway, looking back. "We, er... we can discuss the arrangements tonight?"
Without raising his eyes, the Major stated, "You are going to wear a suit, nothing foppish, and I am not going to stand for a big reception or any of that crap. Don't waste any more of my workday with this nonsense."
Eroica studied his betrothed for a moment, a slow smile spreading across his face, before closing the door behind him and leaving them to their business.
"What are you idiots looking at?" the Major yelled. "Get back to work!"
His subordinates obeyed with alacrity. As A bent his head back over his desk, he muttered, "Things aren't going to change a bit."