~12~

 Eroica ran, gasping in gulps of the warm humid air, the leafy branches he shoved aside scratching his skin, the muscles of his legs begging for mercy.

For once, he regretted getting himself tangled with the Major’s mission. The way those emerald eyes had gleamed — Dorian was dead for sure this time.

Pausing for an instant, Dorian glanced behind him. He could not see his pursuer, but the steady footsteps continued relentlessly in his direction.

Turning in a random direction, he fled.

 

Even when he could not see that brightly golden mane through the leaves, the sound of his quarry’s flight was simple to follow. And the faint scent of roses was quite distinct from the less subtle aroma of jungle blooms. He could follow without hurry.

 

When the team of American and Western European biochemists who had been doing field research in the jungles of Peru died in a mudslide, many people hoped that at least the fruits of their research could be rescued. The medical institutions which had funded their expedition, to begin with; the elusive native plants they were seeking were believed to have numerous medicinal properties, and the scientists’ last radio transmission expressed hope that a breakthrough in the treatment of cerebral palsy could be anticipated.

The KGB also hoped that the research materials could be rescued. If a dramatic breakthrough had been made, and the capitalist-collaborating Western scientists who had made it were dead through fortuitous accident, there was no reason that civilized Soviet scientists should not claim the credit for it. It would demonstrate to the world which was the superior system. Accordingly, Mischa and a few of his agents flew to Peru at once.

On learning this news, NATO also hoped that the research results could be salvaged. The USSR should not have the credit for the work of Western scientists, nor should they have the opportunity of keeping that knowledge out of Western hands. NATO would have to find the materials first.

Accordingly, Major von dem Eberbach and a few of his alphabets were sent to Peru hot on Mischa’s heels.

The problem was that no one was sure exactly where the biochemists had been camping; their bodies had been found by fishermen and taken to the nearest town for Christian burial. The fishermen’s report of the location was vague. Those who wanted the research materials, whatever notes or samples or experimental equipment might remain, would have to find them in a possible area ten miles long and two wide. Ten miles of jungle with a few tiny clusters of dwellings that could not even be called villages.

The KGB wanted to find them. NATO wanted to find them.

The race was on.

 

Dorian dared a split-second pause, looking up at the waning sunlight filtered through the thick leaves of the distant tops of the trees. It would be night soon. Night, in the jungle. It was perilous enough in the daytime, but at night, he would not even be able to see the venomous creatures that teemed through the leaves or the predators that lurked just out of sight — he knew it was only luck which had preserved him thus far. He expected any second to find a snake’s fangs imbedded in his flesh. Had he not been too terrified to think, he might have reflected that the peril behind him might be preferable to those towards which he fled. But one look at the look on Klaus’ face — he had never seen him looking that way before. All rational thought had evaporated at the sight.

 

Idiotic of his quarry to even bother fleeing. It wasn’t as if there were any chance of escape.

 

The only way to find whatever might be left of the scientists’ camp beneath the heavy leaf cover was to hike through the jungle, striking camp at night, walking all day, farther and farther from civilization.

Complaints about the living conditions abated very quickly. Not that the Major yelled at them for complaining. He simply hit them. Without rancor. Absent-mindedly. Everyone stopped griping.

The rugged environment had seemed to suit the Major. He hadn’t yelled as much as usual. The sanitized, misophobic Major had adapted to bathing in a stream and eating raw food as if Schloss Eberbach did not exist. The humidity and heat had not seemed to trouble him, but then, he had always said that heat and cold were a matter of discipline. He had seemed… almost cheerful.

Iron Klaus cheerful was no less frightening than Iron Klaus angry.

Still, it was a while before anyone found cause to be concerned.

 

Dorian’s panic abated just enough for him to reflect that hiding was probably his best option. But the leaf cover in the trees was insufficient to hide him until he was far off the ground, and Klaus would indubitably have caught up by then. Dorian didn’t even want to think about how Klaus would go about getting him down. No, he would have to find someplace else. He resumed running, having paused for perhaps two seconds. Two more seconds than he could afford.

Dorian was running so desperately that he brought himself up short on the very lip of the cliff. Before he could step back, the earth beneath his feet crumbled. As he went down and over the edge, he clutched frantically at the various tree roots and branches that protruded. His hands found one and clutched it and waited to see if it would hold.

It did. He dangled, bracing his feet against the cliff wall, not daring to try to climb up for fear his tenuous hold would crumble further.

In the sudden silence that fell, the only sound was implacable footsteps moving in his direction.

He closed his eyes for a moment, acknowledging defeat.

Well, I suppose I’ve made it easy for him, he thought.

 

With each passing day in the jungle, the Major had become more acclimated to a life stripped to its bare essentials. His patience with recordkeeping and paperwork, never very extensive, evaporated completely. His outbursts of temper were rarer, but his overbearing manner was greater. No one dared to approach him, whatever the reason.

In a couple of weeks, all the alphabets began to feel that this was what life had always been. Eating the simplest of meals, sleeping on the ground, and spending their waking hours hunting through the jungle for signs of the research team. They all hated it.

The Major never said anything about hating it, loving it, or any feeling at all. He simply adapted to it, as if he had been meant for it all his life.

Eroica had been monitoring the entire operation from Lima as a matter of course. He had followed the alphabets’ distress over the Major’s manically cheerful demeanour in the smothering jungle heat with much amusement. As he had hoped, the KGB had gotten to the research materials first, which gave him the perfect opportunity to annoy the man he loved by doing him a favor.

Stealing the notebooks from Mischa as the Russians made a stop in Lima had been a bit challenging and quite fun, as had been imagining the Major’s reaction when he learned that he was once more indebted to Eroica.

Still. Perhaps having Jones helicopter him out to the jungle to give the Major the news in person — and having Jones leave him there — had not been the wisest course of action. Perhaps if the alphabets had not been half a mile away, still searching for the scientist’s leavings while Klaus scouted the surrounding territory, it would have been all right.

But the alphabets were even more afraid of the Major than usual. The jungle had done something to Klaus. His men were finding excuses to be away from him. Dorian didn’t blame them, not when he saw his beloved’s face. He wasn’t sure what was so different, at first. Then he realized. Klaus looked so… relaxed.

It was chilling.

But Dorian had behaved as if everything were normal as he revealed that his team had the notebooks and would turn them over — for a reasonable consideration, of course. Given the Major’s state of mind, perhaps making that coy little joke about payments other than monetary ones had not been a prudent move. But really, he made remarks like that often. Klaus should have realized that he was only joking.

But apparently not, because the Major had just charged right at him. And even though no threats had been voiced, those unnaturally intent green eyes would have petrified anyone.

 

Had the terrain cheated him of his prey? But no, there it was, still alive and intact for him. Now trapped, waiting for him to claim it.

 

Dorian looked up into that same green now. He shivered. Those intense eyes belonged in the eyes of some predatory animal, not a human being.

A large hand was extended to Dorian. Dorian hesitated. He looked below him, something he had not dared to do before. The bare rocks far below proved that he had been right. He glanced around, searching desperately for some other escape. There was none. Defeated, he reached for Klaus’ hand. It immediately closed around his wrist in an iron grip and he was hauled to the ground beside the Major before he knew it.

The Major drew his Magnum and pointed it at Dorian. It was scary, but not as scary as those unnaturally steady eyes.

"Beweg dich."

The tone was quietly commanding, as if there was no doubt that he would be obeyed. If Klaus was too far advanced in whatever mental state the chase through the wilderness had put him in to remember any English, Dorian was having also trouble retrieving the German he had studied so diligently for his beloved’s sake. But after a moment, he realized that he had been ordered to move.

Dorian walked. Maybe Klaus wasn’t going to kill him after all. Maybe he was just going to ransom him for the notebooks. Good thing he’d left them with Bonham instead of James. Klaus stayed right behind him, the muzzle of the Magnum occasionally prodding Dorian’s back.

"Halt."

Dorian obeyed, not daring to look around. They were in a clearing, a small one, but the first spot they’d walked through with more than a foot free of tree trunks.

"Ausziehen."

Unable to stop himself, Dorian glanced around. Klaus’ eyes were still gleaming like a jungle cat’s.

He knew that phrase. He had paid special attention to the phrases he had hoped to hear. He knew at least a dozen ways to tell someone, in German, to take their clothes off.

With shaking hands, Dorian obeyed. Then, every muscle taut and every nerve ending hypersensitive, he stood waiting, naked under that penetrating gaze.

"Hinlegen!"

Dorian drew a long breath. "Lie down" was another phrase he knew several versions of.

 

The man who stretched out tensely on the ground before him was beautiful. Perfect.

The corner of his mind that retained some rationality only wondered why he had not done this sooner. Years sooner.

It was the law of the jungle, after all, that the strong took what they wanted.

 

Klaus’ disconcerting gaze did not waver. With an unhurried, deliberate gesture, he holstered his Magnum. His eyes narrowed as he regarded the man prone before him. Dorian had a fleeting instant of wondering if Klaus meant to kill him after all, but then Klaus was undoing his khakis. He did not undress, merely opened his clothes enough for his purpose.

The animal grace with which Klaus dropped to one knee awed Dorian, as his Major’s easy mastery of his own body always did. Klaus got right to the point, covering Dorian’s nakedness with his solid weight.

Dorian bit his lip. For a less experienced man, this would be highly painful. For him… his body would take a few minutes to adjust, and then, then….

It was a bit painful at first, and Dorian could not stop a whimper low in his throat. But this was what he wanted, had wanted all along: not to be wooed and coaxed, but to be taken, brought to heel by an unyielding strength, rose petals crushed under a boot… possessed, pressed into hard ground, made to stop his airy dreaming and be dragged, for a few minutes, into sternly hard reality.

He braced his arms against Klaus’ chest, trying to make the Major ease up just a bit. Klaus responded by wrapping his own, stronger arms around Dorian’s ribcage, effectively imprisoning him, and swallowing Dorian’s moan in his own mouth.

There was nothing left to do but close his eyes and give himself up to the sadistically wonderful combination of pain and ecstasy to which he was being subjected. And so he did.

 

When the moon had risen, Dorian opened his eyes to carefully examine the face of the man who was still lying half atop him. The closed eyes, the sculpted mouth. Never had he seen Klaus so free of tension — as if this was what he had always been restraining himself from.

Dorian watched the rise and fall of Klaus’ breath warily. For years he had been speculating about how Klaus would behave after their first time. He could very well, in disgust at what he’d done, beat Dorian senseless. He could simply zip up and retreat into denial. He could even, Dorian feared, have a complete breakdown, now that his defenses had been demolished.

Or he could face up to things squarely, with the courage that had made him Iron Klaus. And then the rose vine and the wire rope could entangle wonderfully.

Which was it to be?

Klaus’ eyes opened. Dorian held his breath.

Without a word, Klaus put his hand on the inside of Dorian’s thigh and began to stroke the sensitive skin there.

Dorian smiled as he put his own hands to work. He had no idea, he reflected, how to get back to the alphabets, or how to get back to any human settlement. After their long chase through the dense jungle, Klaus probably didn’t know either. It could take them days to find other humans.

If Dorian was lucky, at least.

 

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EROICA