Klaus lit a cigarette and laid back, relishing the taste of the smoke and the sight of his lover's naked body as Dorian rose and stretched before strolling across the room to pour more wine for them both.

A few months ago, at 45, Klaus had woken up to find that the reasons he had resisted suddenly seemed… inconsequential. When he had first met the thief, in his early thirties, those reasons had seemed of enormous importance. Remembering, he marvelled that he had ever cared so much. Now he never even complained about Dorian's profession anymore. He hadn't lifted a finger to stop Dorian from stealing that stupid poncy statue from a visiting ambassador last month. Really, why shouldn't Dorian help himself to any damned statue or painting he wanted?

He let his eyes follow the lines of Dorian's body as the thief poured the wine with his usual grace. The Major was a lucky man; Dorian must be near forty himself by now, but it hardly showed. His body was still taut and trim, his hair still like sunlight (perhaps he assisted it a bit), his face still beautiful and showing only a few soft lines around the eyes. The earl clearly had several years of good looks still ahead of him.

Dorian studied his face as he returned with the wine. "If I saw that expression on a cat's face," Dorian remarked, handing him a glass, "I'd check its whiskers for canary feathers. What did you do, beat up Mischa?"

"Blew a scumbag assassin to hell."

Dorian arched one dark-gold eyebrow as he settled himself against Klaus. "I didn't know you still did that sort of… wet work? Isn't that what you call it?"

"Didn't. Made the Chief let me. Let him watch the alphabet for once."

"'Made' him? Just how did you do that?"

Klaus's only answer was a brief grin. Maybe it was just that he had accepted being the Eternal Major, but his superiors had come to seem far more malleable of late. No, he had become more adamant, that was it. Solo sanctions were jobs usually given to younger agents, and he hadn't been assigned any since the age of 30, when he had been condemned to babysitting twenty-six petty agents on complicated missions. Not that he minded the complication, but single combat with a dangerous assassin was just so… straightforward. And bracing. He had applied ungentle pressure on his superiors to let him start taking such missions again. After a few days spent in some far-off place playing hunter-and-hunted with a Jackal or a Tinamou, herding the alphabet into competence wore far less on his patience.

"Well. If dangerous work has this effect on you-" The earl gestured with his wineglass at the rumpled, sweaty sheets, and the pillows they had knocked onto the floor. "-maybe you should keep on using whatever you have on your Chief."

"'Course I will. Haven't enjoyed my work so much in years. 's almost like having a new job."

The thief looked abruptly thoughtful. Klaus couldn't help but notice, again, how beautiful he still was, yellow curls tousled and slightly damp with perspiration, sky-blue eyes slightly widened in curiosity, the perfectly formed mouth faintly swollen from kissing. The Major was about to resume work on that when Dorian spoke. "My love… have you by any chance recently bought a shiny new red Porsche?"

"What! I'd never buy a red car." At least Dorian had stuck to German manufacturers. Had he asked if Klaus had bought, say, a Ferrari, Klaus would have known that either Dorian had been replaced by aliens, or else he thought that Klaus had.

"At the age of forty-six-"


"-you've gotten a more exciting job - sort of - and a beautiful blond lover. You're having a midlife crisis, dear. The only missing ingredient is the flashy new vehicle."

Klaus scowled, disgusted and unable to think of any counterargument. "Schiesse."

He wouldn't mention his new motorcycle just now, he decided.