He felt the Presence as he strode into the Schloss, a tickle down senses he preferred to ignore. Some sort of Fae, very nearby, probably the supposed ‘English gentleman’. Some sort of de Danaan perhaps, although why the fuck the English Sidhe would involve themselves in the affairs of the German Fae Klaus couldn’t guess. He’d taken himself out of that mess when he was a boy, and he wasn’t going to get involved now.
He opened the door to the gallery room, and saw Him.
A man. A beautiful man, golden curls cascading down his back, long legs encased in tight jeans, and wearing a flashy red sleeveless shirt that only accentuated the sleek muscles of his back. Precisely the sort of man who would drive that fucking Lamborghini parked outside, the sort of man who flaunted everything and unmistakably, terrifyingly Fae.
Klaus wrenched his eyes away from the stranger. At least this Fae, whoever he was, hadn’t been keeping watch for him, a courtier of some kind, rather than a warrior. And Klaus himself had a mission to concentrate on. “Mr. A, prepare the items on this list.” Where had they put the butcher paper? They’d need to wrap the paintings for transport. No matter, he’d send the butler for it while A gathered the paintings they needed. “We’ll take them to the British Embassy-”
“So, you’ve come home,” interrupted an unfamiliar voice the Fae. Klaus gritted his teeth and turned around. The British Fae smiled at him. “I’ve been so engrossed in the paintings that I didn’t hear you. I am Dorian Red Gloria, Earl of Gloria. How do you do?”
Courtier of some kind, Klaus thought, deciphering the double meanings silently. Title might even be real. No hint yet of his real purpose. “Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach,” he said brusquely. “I am the present head of the Eberbach family, a German branch of the Hapsburgs.” Human, he thought at the Fae furiously. I am human, I am tied to the human world, leave me alone!
The Fae didn’t take the hint. Instead, he actually offered his hand to shake. “Well, it’s nice meeting you, Klaus Heinz...”
Idiot, presuming like that. Perhaps not a courtier: what courtier would be so fucking stupid? “Just call me ‘Major’,” Klaus snapped, and turned his back on the Fae to concentrate on his real mission.
A hand closing on his arm was his only warning: the Fae pulled him around and grabbed his hand. Klaus felt the connection spark and try to take hold. Godfuckingdammit, not a courtier after all, some sort of fucking mage - what did the de Danaan want that was so fucking important they’d send a magician to try to yank Klaus around?
“It’s very nice to meet you, Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach,” the Fae - Dorian, he’d called himself - Dorian Red Gloria said politely, smiling a close-lipped smile. Klaus pulled his hand free, too late, mind sputtering for an insult terrible enough to drive this ‘Dorian’ away.
Dorian’s smile never faltered. “Pardon me.”
Klaus stepped back and turned his back on the fucker again, taking out his cigarettes and tapping one out. A wisely wasn’t paying attention to any of this, merely going from painting to painting and consulting against his list, making little notes as to which ones they needed. Wise man. It took Klaus a moment to find his lighter: the metal burned against his hands like the flame itself, but he’d be damned before he’d fall back to using matches, especially in front of a Fae.
Dorian didn’t try to push things this time. Klaus heard his footsteps wander off a little way, and then that light tenor voice again. “I’m not surprised this is called one of the best collections in West Germany.” (It fucking well should be, Klaus thought grumpily. Between the von dem Eberbachs themselves, and their Fae connections, they’d been working at it for several hundred years.) “Your collection is wonderful.”
“It’s not I who collected it,” Klaus corrected him aloud, around his cigarette.
“I like this painting especially,” Dorian rambled on. “It really appeals to me...”
Klaus tuned him out, as A came to him with the list, neatly marked. Not all of the desired paintings were in this room: he’d have to go upstairs to storage. Maybe then this Fae would take a fucking hint and go away. He nodded to A and gestured for him to start gathering the paintings he could from this room.
Trying to get his attention again? “Be quiet,” Klaus said without turning around. “I’m busy.”
“I want this painting,” Dorian said.
“What?” Klaus’s cigarette fell out of his mouth as he turned to stare at the Fae, who blandly smiled back. A painting? All this was about a painting? Then why the fuck had the de Danaan send a magician? “You must be joking,” he said. A painting? What sort of arrogance was this? “The Eberbach collection is a cultural inheritance of the nation.” Maybe they were trying some sort of national ploy.
“But I am completely fascinated by this painting,” Dorian protested, gazing up at ‘The Man In Purple’ with wide eyes. “It’s a wonderful painting.”
Decent enough, Klaus supposed. He knew nothing of art and cared less. Of course a Fae would find the subject fascinating. “I also know its value,” he said dryly.
The Fae’s smile widened a bit. “So you understand it too?”
Understand it? It was a painting of a distant ancestor, important only because of its age and its vivid proof of the Eberbach connection to the Fae. Tyrian Persimmon had been the first to forge that link. Value? “I could buy-” Buy what? Iron, something of Cold Iron. Klaus hardly hesitated. “-a Leopard tank with it.”
He’d finally wiped that fucking smile off Dorian’s face. “A tank...” the Fae repeated, as if dumbfounded. He found his composure again rapidly, and mustered up a faint smile again. “I’m amazed that you could convert this beautiful work of art into a mass of iron.”
I can convert anything to Iron, Klaus thought but did not say. He kept his face blank.
The Fae studied him for a moment. “I suppose you and I have completely different value systems.”
Finally, he began to understand! “Of course!” Klaus said, unable to resist a faint smile of his own. “I’m not a dissipated aristocrat with too much time and money.” He straightened a bit, so his officer’s tabs caught the sunlight. If the Fae had been a warrior of the de Danaan, he wouldn’t have dared, but with a mage? The idiot probably spent all his time in some sybaritic palace.
“You are a model officer, I’d say,” Dorian agreed thoughtfully, sitting down on a convenient chair. “Complete with uniform in this heat and you’re not even sweating.”
“Heat and cold are a matter of discipline.” Everything was, in the end. “I would never wear a red, sleeveless shirt.” He’d given up the flashy dress of the Fae when he’d given up the Fae themselves all those years ago.
“I think I agree with that,” Dorian murmured, and lounged back in his chair. “I also like military uniforms, in a way. They make me think of an abstinent beauty of a man, of the passion hidden inside. It has a certain erotic beauty that makes one want to strip off the uniform that’s worn so neatly.”
Klaus’s entire body felt as though it seized up. He’d let himself be distracted by all that babble about the painting, forgotten what he’d felt when Dorian seized his hand. The de Danaan didn’t want any painting they wanted him. And they’d somehow figured out to send this beautiful man rather than some woman. Fuck, fuck, godfuckingdammit. “I’m sorry, “ he said as calmly as he could, “but I don’t have any wish for you to strip off my uniform.”
“Don’t worry,” Dorian said, watching him through long lashes. “I don’t care for a man who’s like wire rope.”
Of course you don’t, Klaus thought furiously. “I don’t care what kind of taste you might have,” he began furiously, abruptly remembered A’s presence in the room, and changed direction: “But I dislike what I dislike!” Let them think it was homophobia. Women he could resist. This one...he could almost regret, if he let himself.
“And I like what I like, as well,” the Fae purred, rising to his feet. “And I always get what I like.”
Klaus’s breath caught. If the fucker tried anything, here and now… Klaus had abandoned that side of his heritage, he couldn’t defend against a magical attack
But Dorian turned away. “I like this painting!” he said, looking up at ‘The Man In Purple’ again.
Klaus breathed again, leaving him both giddy with relief and irritable at the nonsense about the painting. “Cut it out! Everything here is mine, and I will never give anything to a man like you.” Not the painting, and not himself. “Even for a thousand million marks! NEVER!”
Dorian turned back to look at him. “My principle is to get what I like, no matter who the owner is...and to get it cheaply, as well.” Those large blue eyes for one whirling moment Klaus thought the Fae was going to throw caution to the winds and ask him outright. But no, Dorian spoke again. “This painting is worthless to you. It’s a pearl before swine!”
Back to the fucking painting again. Klaus met Dorian’s eyes unflinching, and watched as the smile faded again. Never, he thought fiercely. Not the painting, not me, go back to your island and leave the von dem Eberbachs out of whatever stupid little political game you’re playing.
(But oh, he was beautiful, even among the Fae whose beauty was a byword...)
“I hate you very much,” Klaus heard himself say. He made himself stalk over to the door, and fling it open. “Now, get out.”
“So do I, Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach,” the Fae said, eyes narrowed. “Excuse me.” He left the room head held high, as befitted a noble lord.
Klaus didn’t watch him go.