The Chief smiled. No, he wasn't smiling -- he was gloating. And Klaus was at the end of his tether, which wasn't all that long to begin with. The alphabets were all trying very hard to seem busy at their desks, and failing.

"Honestly, Major," the Chief grinned, "I don't see why you're objecting so much more strenuously than usual. You know damned well he's the best contractor for the job. A professional needs to put his own feelings aside in these circumstances."


The flicker of the Chief's gaze gave Klaus a split-second's warning before the drawling aristocrat accent sounded behind him. "Why on earth not, darling? Was it something I said?"

Klaus whirled to look at the Earl. He almost burst a blood vessel at the damned thief's outfit. A purple Greek tunic kind of thing, for God's sake, flowing to his hips over the skintight white pants, and sandals, and he had one of those bands like the Greeks wore tied around his forehead, somewhat restraining his abundant golden curls. Klaus spared half a second to pray that he never saw Eroica on Halloween. Though the stupid fop did manage to carry it all off as if such clothes were perfectly normal, and on him, they looked like they were.

Klaus did not say -- or shout -- a word. Instead he turned on his heel and marched into his office, giving the door a slam even more deafening than normal.

The door opened only a few seconds later. Klaus found that his only defense was a stony glare. No one else in the world would dare come in here while he was in a rage. Blast Eroica. Blast him.

Dorian closed the door quietly and gave Klaus a gently chiding look. "Major, really. People will talk."

Klaus sat down. He wished he could go over there and batter the idiot queer senseless, but he knew he couldn't. Not now.

"Refuse this assignment," he ordered.

Dorian had the effrontery to laugh, albeit softly. "Then people really will talk! You'd do best to act normally, darling. You don't usually hate me quite this much." He smiled winningly. "I'm taking the assignment. You must admit, it would look so odd if I gave up the chance to be near you."

"If you think--" Klaus began, but the words that would have followed had a built-in trap. He tried again. "Don't even try to--"

Dorian was watching him patiently. That patience was maddening. Klaus shot to his feet.

"Verdammt! Get mad! Yell back!" he shouted.

"But darling, you're so good at it, I'd be embarrassed not to do it as well," was the sweetly spoken reply.

Klaus spat out profanities in three languages before dropping back into his chair. Dorian's eyes widened respectfully at the varied oaths. Klaus stopped at three because he was too harried to remember more at the moment.

When Klaus was finished and had resumed silently glaring, Dorian sauntered around his desk, stood beside his chair, and then had the audacity to lounge casually against the edge of Klaus' desk. This office had not seen such conduct since Major von Eberbach moved into it. One almost expected the desk to throw Eroica off in outrage, but it did not.

The silence stretched until Klaus had to say something, anything, to end it.

"My Chief has chosen you against my wishes. It seems I have no choice but to work with you." The Major studied Eroica for some sign of a reaction, but the thief simply listened with polite attention. "This arrangement is purely business, you understand," Klaus said gruffly.

"Oh, I understand," Dorian said, tossing his golden mane over his shoulders. "You're saying that you don't intend to make love to me again."

The romantic phrase, applied to that night of brutal need a month ago, was only one of the things Klaus found outrageous about this statement.

"I suppose you've been shouting your conquest to the rooftops," he said acidly.

Dorian tilted his head, studying Klaus thoughtfully. "No," he said simply.

Klaus' face was still. His green eyes searched Dorian's face warily. He said nothing.

"My team knows," Dorian explained with unaccustomed seriousness, "because I wouldn't have been able to conceal it from them. But I haven't told any other soul. Your reputation is safe with me, Major."

Klaus' mouth was dry. After a long moment, he asked in a low voice, "Why?"

Dorian was looking directly into his eyes, his face still grave. "Because, darling, I knew you wouldn't want word to get around." He paused before leaning forward and running a fingertip over Klaus' cheekbone. Klaus tensed, but made no move to escape. Dorian let his voice drop so that, even if someone else had been in the room, only Klaus would have been able to hear. "I knew that if I kept our night secret, I'd stand a much better chance of having you again."

"Stop that," Klaus said tightly, his green eyes glittering. But he did not move to evade Dorian's touch.

"I will, if you'll have dinner with me tonight." Klaus shot him a questioning look. "Dinner for two, in my suite. What time shall I expect you?"

Klaus was silent and frozen for so long that Dorian thought he wasn't going to answer. But at last he grated out, "Seven o'clock."

Dorian straightened, letting his manner become frivolous again. "I'll be waiting, darling. Now, why don't you throw something at the door after I close it, for appearance's sake?"

Klaus only scowled at this nonsense. He wasn't going to take the suggestion, but Eroica paused in the doorway and whispered breathily, "Be sure to holler a few sweet nothings after me, darling." Then the damned pervert actually had the nerve to blow him a kiss.

"IDIOT!" Klaus bellowed, and threw the first thing in reach at the closing office door, which happened to be the telephone. It made a nice loud ringing crash, and the cord was ripped out of the wall. It had better be repaired before morning, or Klaus would know the reason why.

The collective cringe in the outer office was almost audible to Klaus' ears, and the Earl's light voice most definitely was. "There, you see? I told you he would calm down considerably if I talked to him."

Looking at the new dent in the already battle-scarred door, Klaus reflected that at least the damned pervert was discreet.