A hallway, elegant with centuries of history and a decade or two of good taste. Priceless art hangs on the walls, and statues stand in the corners where suits of armor usually hide. This is the London residence of the Earl of Red Gloria: if the quality of the artwork didn't give that away, the raised voices from behind one of the doors would. James's high-pitched sobbing is easily recognizable; the other, rougher voice is Bonham. They both seem to be addressing Dorian, going by the repeated 'my lord's, but Dorian is either not saying anything or is too quiet to be heard through the closed door.
At last the door opens, and Dorian -- in dark draperies, an unusually ominous look for him -- steps out, with both Bonham and James close on his heels. "--not be persuaded," Dorian says lightly. "There's nothing to concern yourselves about. I can take care of myself for a few days. All you need to--"
"It's because of that Major," James says, bursting into fresh tears. "It's because he's in England."
"Jealousy does not become you, James," Dorian says. His tone is still light, but there is a thread of steel to it as well, now. "The castle needs renovations no matter where Major Eberbach is. If you'd rather Bonham carried them out without your supervision--"
James storms out in a huff, leaving Dorian alone with Bonham. Dorian turns to face his lieutenant, who is regarding him with a quizzical expression. "What's really going on?" Bonham asks quietly.
"Going on?" Dorian parries, wearing his most angelic expression. "The castle on the North Downs needs renovation, and I would be only in the way."
Bonham gives Dorian a long look, but Dorian's angelic smile doesn't waver. At last, Bonham sighs and shakes his head. "Right, my lord. Renovations."
Dorian laughs aloud and hugs Bonham. "Don't worry so. If anything like that were going on, you'd be the first to know, I promise."
"Yes, my lord," Bonham says docilely. He's smiling a little as he, too, heads off.
The afternoon progresses. The stripes of sunlight from the window over the front door slide from right to left, then fade into cool twilight. Dorian is in and out, upstairs and downstairs, humming snatches of song to himself. Finally, he steps out into the hallway again, glass of red wine in his hand, glances around himself, and nods, raising the glass in silent toast. Then he moves to the shadow of the staircase, lounging in the alcove where the Angel Gabriel raises his marble arms in silent benediction or plea. In the shadows next to this frozen perfection, Dorian looks like a fallen angel himself.
Finally, after true dark has fallen, the stillness is shattered by a knock -- say rather a battering -- at the front door. Dorian sips his wine and says nothing: his eyes glitter with anticipation. Again knocking. Dorian waits.
After a long pause, the door swings open and Klaus steps in. He moves cautiously, even uncertainly, and despite the warm spring weather he has armored himself in trenchcoat and scarf. He meets Dorian's gaze without flinching, proud and arrogant.
Dorian smiles gently and says, "Take your clothes off, Klaus. All of them."
Klaus closes his eyes for a moment, then opens them again and begins stripping.
* * *
It was supposed to be so simple. One night, in exchange for being left in peace for the rest of his life.
* * *
Memory: standing in the front hallway of Dorian's house, naked and attempting not to be ashamed. Klaus could hardly see Eroica - the thief's talent for concealing his brightness in shadow - but he could feel his gaze. Klaus had never thought of himself as beautiful: he was in excellent physical shape, and proud of that, but it was not the same thing. This silent looking made him feel...exposed. Vulnerable.
He stiffened automatically at the thought, then forced himself to relax. For tonight, he could allow it.
"Very good, darling," Dorian said. There was no mockery in his voice, nor even triumph. Klaus couldn't read what was there. Before he could examine it more closely, Dorian stepped out of the shadows and held out a hand. "Come upstairs."
Klaus took the hand and followed.
* * *
One night. A practical man, such as Klaus prided himself on being, would have made a similar bargain long since. How often had he thought that the only reason Dorian continued chasing him was because he kept refusing?
* * *
What had he expected? Something...not crude. Eroica was never crude. But quick, perhaps. Something desperate, as Dorian tried to slake his long hunger. Something Klaus could take and store away as reassurance that he really wasn't missing much.
When Dorian had him lie down on the bed, he'd barely stopped himself from smirking. Then Dorian lay down next to him, still fully clothed, and kissed him on the lips.
And again. Sometimes a faint brush of lips against lips, hardly more than the warmth of Dorian's breath against his skin. Sometimes a luxuriant deep exploration of his mouth, tongues lazily teasing each other.
* * *
Instead, like a fool, he'd resisted. He'd tried to ignore Dorian. He'd shouted. He'd threatened. He'd fallen back on physical violence.
None of it worked.
* * *
He didn't dare open his eyes. If he opened his eyes, he'd see Dorian - that Dorian was -
- oh, god, yes -
His hands were clenched on the sheets, while Dorian tormented him with fingers and mouth. When at last Dorian took him in fully, Klaus thrust upward involuntarily, eyes opening. Dorian was smiling, as much as he could with his mouth full. He moved his hands to Klaus's hips, encouraging him with a little push to thrust, to fuck Dorian's mouth.
* * *
One night. One night only. He should have thought of this long ago.
* * *
Klaus was trembling. His mouth had gone dry. But he couldn't look away this time, couldn't close his eyes as Dorian, wearing nothing but that curious smile, knelt up over him and slowly, slowly lowered himself down, taking Klaus into himself in terrifying increments.
* * *
His peace would be restored, his questions answered, and his curiosity slaked.
* * *
He couldn't seem to remember words. They'd vanished into Dorian's smiling eyes, when he'd pushed Klaus's legs back and up - or when his clever fingers, slick with something, had found that place inside Klaus that awakened a feeling of emptiness that had to be filled. All he could do, as Dorian thrust into him, was move with him - move into it - beg without words that Dorian continue, just a little longer, just a little more.
* * *
One night. He himself had set the limits.
Klaus stubbed out his cigarette, and rose to go take his morning shower. He hadn't been able to sleep - again. They went to Chicago tomorrow.
The God he did not believe in must be laughing.
* * *
First a week passed. Then a month. Then two.
Constrained by his promise, and sheer stubbornness, Dorian tried to find things to occupy his mind. The National Museum was having an exhibition of illuminated manuscripts. The Louvre had finally relaxed their guard around Achilles. Yet another dreadful Lloyd Webber spectacular had just opened in the West End.
Where was Klaus?
* * *
Klaus had expected the memories. He hadn't anticipated the dreams.
Dorian kissing him. Dorian looking up at him through lowered lashes, purring something outrageous. Dorian quiet, listening thoughtfully to something Klaus was telling him. Dorian sated and half asleep.
He told himself they were dreams. Perhaps they were - the ones that came at night, as he lay in bed, eyes closed, hand slick with his own fluids as he worked himself. But 'dreams' did not excuse the remembered sensations that haunted him in the shower. Certainly 'dreams' did not explain the stray images that teased his mind whenever he relaxed his concentration.
Enough was enough.
* * *
Dorian had had excellent intentions about awakening before Klaus and leaving his beloved to wake alone. His poor Major would probably panic when he woke to the realization of what he'd done, despite -- or because of -- the glory of the night before. No, Dorian would deny himself the pleasure of dozing in his lover's arms, and rise early for once.
But good intentions, as so often, went astray. Dorian had opened his eyes to find Klaus beside him, propped up on one elbow, and watching him with that intent green-eyed look that seemed to go straight through him and back again. Dorian had blinked, then stretched and smiled up at his beloved. "Good morning," he'd said.
"Good morning," Klaus had said.
Nothing else. He rose when Dorian did, dressed, even ate breakfast with the Earl, but responded to all of Dorian's conversational gambits with monosyllables. Dorian, still in an excellent mood, was inclined to be forgiving. The poor darling had had a shock last night, after all. Dorian himself was yet giddy from the passion they'd unleashed. Klaus would relax eventually.
The next time Dorian had seen him had been at the Tagariello Institute. Klaus was still unnaturally quiet. When James pitched a jealous fit at exactly the wrong moment, Klaus silenced him with merely a glare and a few words. A and B kept giving the Major nervous glances, and Bonham confirmed that A had told him Major Eberbach had been like this for the past few days. But if the memory of their night together was disturbing Klaus's equilibrium, the Iron Major did an excellent job hiding it. Even when they were nearly caught, Klaus got Dorian and his team out of there with his customary ruthless efficiency. Then Dorian headed back to Europe by one plane, and Klaus by another.
Dorian had seen his beloved one more time, at the debriefing. Except Z had conducted the actual debriefing. Klaus sat in the background and smoked one cigarette after another.
Since then, nothing.
* * *
There was a certain...restfulness...to having made his decision. He had his objective: now it was merely a question of strategy.
He had never needed -- never desired -- to woo someone before, and the prospect of sending roses and foppish verses made him shudder. But neither could he imagine saying anything to Dorian without sounding like a fool. He could all-too-easily imagine Dorian's arch amusement at his fumbling attempts to admit that no, one night was not enough, and his pride rebelled at the image. Nor could he simply wait for Dorian to make an offer. The Earl had his own variety of honor. He would keep his promise, once made. And even if he could not, he would not risk Klaus's wrath at the broken vow.
It was one thing to admit the truth to himself, Klaus decided gloomily. It was another thing to admit it to someone else.
* * *
Klaus was thinking, Dorian assured himself. He hadn't truly expected Klaus to be climbing the arbor into Dorian's bedroom. Not literally. Not this quickly, at any rate.
What if he'd been wrong?
What if Klaus was content with a single night?
Dorian paced, and fretted, and tried to find something to occupy the hollow feeling in his center.
* * *
Klaus stood in front of his superior's desk, listening to yet another lecture. The Chief was supposed to be telling him about his next mission, but somehow had gotten sidetracked onto the subject of vacation. Klaus had accumulated too much time -- again. Having failed to make an impression by extolling the virtues of occasional relaxation, the Chief had now descended to threats.
Klaus flipped through the thick folder of papers he'd just been given, ignoring his superior as well as he could. Descriptions of the objective. Descriptions of the gentleman who'd intercepted the objective before it reached its intended recipient. Excerpts from NATO's file on the gentleman in question, including past employment history, marital status, and his extensive collection of --
Klaus slowed, and re-read that paragraph twice. Then he closed the folder, and met the Chief's gaze. The Chief ground to a halt, wetting his lips nervously.
"I shall take vacation after this next mission," Klaus said calmly, then saluted and strode out, leaving the Chief gaping after him.
* * *
Three and a half months after returning from Chicago, long after the apple blossoms had given way to shaded green leaves, the phone rang. Bonham came to where Dorian was poring over the security layout for the Louvre and half-heartedly talking with Jones about going for the Achilles again. Bonham cleared his throat, then said, in that impersonal-butler voice he'd perfected for exactly such occasions as these, "Major Eberbach on the phone, m'lord."
Dorian stared up at him, certain he had to be joking. Then he took the phone Bonham handed him. "Klaus?" he said, feeling the fizz of nervous anticipation rise in his belly.
"Eroica," Klaus -- no, Major Eberbach said. "NATO has need of your services again."
"Of course," Dorian said, feeling the fizz flatten into twisting confusion. "Complications from the last time?"
"No. They appear to still be ignorant of our previous interest. This is something else. You will be briefed upon arrival in Athens. How long until you can reach here?"
"Er--" Dorian muted the phone and asked Bonham to check. It gave him a moment to slow his whirling mind.
One night and then leave me alone. Klaus had been quite definite upon the subject. Dorian had agreed, with the private certainty that of course he would see Klaus again, that one night would never be enough.
He'd never thought about his professional interactions with Klaus.
He wondered if Klaus had.
Once in Athens, the mission was very much as usual. A lot of chasing about after some very unattractive photographic negatives, evidence of war crimes in the Balkans, and the original Salvador Dali in whose frame the negatives had been hidden.
Klaus was very quiet. Efficient, good at his job, but quiet. He didn't shout even once.
At last the negatives were recovered, and sent back to Germany in the care of NATO. Dorian arrived at the airfield to wave good-bye, discreetly late, only to find that Klaus had not accompanied the Alphabets after all. Instead, he stood there, watching the plane take off, smoking a cigarette. He wasn't paying any attention to Dorian coming up behind him...but he wasn't stalking off, either.
No reaction. Damn him.
Dorian wondered if he dared lay a hand on Klaus's arm. "Klaus?"
Klaus tossed his cigarette to the tarmac, ground it out with his heel, then turned and kissed Dorian.
Dorian melted before the sensual assault. Klaus kissed him like one starved. One night hadn't been enough after all, never enough. This wasn't what he'd hoped for, but --
Dorian laughed through the kiss. Klaus finally let him go, far enough to breathe, and gave him a stern look.
"Nothing, darling," Dorian assured him, unable to stop smiling no matter what his beloved might think. "I'd hoped to find you climbing in my window. But you would never climb a rose trellis when you could storm the battlements."
Klaus almost smiled in return, and kissed him again. "Idiot," he said.