The Chase To Follow
It was a typical day for Iron Klaus of NATO and Eroica, the world's greatest thief. The stolen motorcycle they were riding was roaring along at the top speed it could manage; a bullet was lodged in Eroica's thigh; what passed here for civilization was miles behind them while the border they had to cross was miles ahead; and the KGB wasn't all that far behind them.
The motorcycle's engine abruptly coughed and died. Still a typical day.
With a curse, the Major braced his foot on the ground. He held it still so Dorian could dismount, which he did with a curse of his own. The thief sank to the ground, wincing.
Klaus swiftly dismounted, removed his tie, and used it to bandage Dorian's bullet wound. "I don't have a field medicine kit. I can't remove the bullet or clean your wound," he informed Dorian as he turned back to the bike.
"I know." Dorian bent to examine the wound. It was bleeding, but sluggishly. It hurt like hell.
"Don't mess with it," Klaus ordered, not looking up. "You'll make it worse."
"I'm not going to 'mess with it'. I'm not a complete idiot," he said, grouchily. Really, Klaus didn't believe anyone could cross the street without instructions from him. "I don't suppose you can fix the bike? What with no tools and all?"
"Tools wouldn't help. It's out of gas. Next time, steal one with a full tank."
"So sorry. I was a bit pressed for time." Dorian surveyed the landscape. Aside from the winding dirt road, there was no sign of human habitation in sight.
Klaus straightened and looked at Dorian grimly. "You can't walk, can you?" It wasn't really a question.
"Maybe very slowly, leaning heavily on the arm of a strong, handsome man," Dorian replied, fluttering his lashes. Klaus scowled, of course. Dropping the flirtation, Dorian said, "Help me find a place to hide until you can send someone back to get me."
Klaus snorted and examined the surroundings with suspicion. "I'm not leaving you here."
"Now who's being an idiot? I can barely walk."
The Major was squinting at the road in the direction they had come from. "You're my responsibility. I have a duty to every member of my herd."
Dorian quickly suppressed a smile. Klaus's English was as good as if it were his cradle tongue, but now and then some little oddity would show up. Herd indeed. "Major, they'll figure out which way we went soon. On your own you could run, but not with me leaning on you."
"They're in cars. I couldn't run fast enough like this to get to the border in time, even without you."
Klaus looked at him, his gaze penetrating, evaluating. Dorian held his gaze, taken aback.
It was a long moment before Klaus spoke.
"Can I trust you?"
Bewildered, Dorian nonetheless answered seriously. "You know you can."
Klaus finally removed that skewering stare from him. Dorian almost breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm going to have to," Klaus said, shoving the bike into some bushes until it was concealed from view. Before Dorian could ask what he was talking about, Klaus went on, "So I have only one more question."
Dorian thought of several possible questions Klaus might have and answers to go with them, but with a bullet in his leg, he didn't think he could dodge fast enough. "What's that?"
Klaus sat down on the ground and began unlacing his shoes. "Will your wound interfere with riding horseback?"
"Not to speak of. Too bad we don't have any horses."
Klaus did not reply. Instead he pulled off his shoes, then his socks. Dorian was puzzled, but when Klaus unbuckled his belt, his mind stalled in its tracks.
"Um... Major? What on earth are you doing?"
"Getting us a ride out of here."
Dorian's eyes bulged as the Major stood up and removed his trousers. Standing there in his suit jacket, shirt and white cotton boxers, he glared at Dorian. "Turn your head."
"Not for the world," Dorian murmured, dazed. If the Major had lost his mind, he wasn't about to miss it.
Klaus grimaced at him before turning his back. Dorian wasn't disappointed; either view of the Major was fine with him.
He had about a tenth of a second to enjoy the sight before what was left of his mind was abruptly shut down. In the place of the man he loved was a creature of myth.
"Ah...." Dorian said.
The centaur, who had Klaus's face, bent to gather up his discarded clothing. "Yeah, yeah."
"Who... what... how is this... You...."
Klaus's voice emerged from the fantastic beast before him. "Quit being an idiot. I'm a centaur, I'm descended from a long line of centaurs, you're not hallucinating." Klaus - it did seem to be him - reached down and pulled him to his feet, making Dorian gasp as new jolts of pain went through his leg. "Now get on my back. Use that rock to get a boost."
Too dazed to even think of the legion of obvious jokes the situation presented, Dorian stepped onto the rock, swung his injured leg over the horse part of the Major, and positioned himself.
"Hold onto these," the Major ordered, twisting to put the bundle of his trousers and shoes into Dorian's hands. Dorian automatically tucked them securely on his "lap". "Put your arms around my waist and hold on."
Dorian could only obey, and a moment later the two of them were galloping towards the border.
It was, in most respects, still a typical day.
Two days later, Dorian was lying in a hospital bed, relaxed from the morphine in his system, wondering dreamily if what he had seen had been a pain-induced hallucination. He didn't really think so, but the alternative was that....
...that the world was a far more interesting place than he had believed.
It was a pleasant possibility for a romantic.
The door opened, and the Major walked in. In human form.
"Are there mermaids, too? Or werewolves?" the thief asked at once. "Any other supposedly mythical beasties running about the world in human guise?"
"Not that I know of." Klaus's answer and scowl were both very prompt. Too prompt, enough that Dorian wondered if the Major were lying. Someday, he would find out.
Dorian started giggling.
"I always dreamed of being rescued by a handsome knight on a coal black charger," Dorian confided, giddy. "I never expected that my knight would be the coal black charger!"
"Can I trust you not to tell anyone about this?" Klaus's voice was very patient. Dorian tried to compose himself.
"Of course I won't, Major." He smiled drunkenly. "And now that I know your secret, there's no reason for us to remain apart, is there? Or was there something else?"
The Major studied him for a moment. "Find yourself a normal man," he said, and turned on his heel.
Dorian contentedly settled back for another nap as the door closed behind his beloved. He would be seeing his equine darling again very soon. Just as soon as the morphine was out of his bloodstream.
When The Education of Achilles disappeared from the Uffizi, Interpol suspected half a dozen world-class thieves, Eroica being only one on the list. Klaus could have told them who the culprit was, if he had wanted Eroica arrested, and if he had been able to explain how he knew.
The very evening after he got the report, he went into the library after dinner as usual. Eroica was waiting for him.
Dorian wasted no time on preliminaries. As the door was closing behind Klaus, Dorian was on his feet, and before Klaus knew it, he was being kissed. The dizzying suddenness of the assault threw off his usual reaction; instead of thrusting the thief away, he cooperated, letting his arms enfold him and responding to the kiss. He had wanted to do this for a long time. He would never have another chance.
The kiss ended too soon. Klaus stepped away. "This isn't going to work," he informed Dorian.
Dorian tried to embrace him again. "It will work just fine."
To forestall another liplock, Klaus seized Dorian's upper arm and held him away. "You don't understand. It never works - well, almost never. Centaurs are different from humans. We think differently. We act differently in relationships."
"We're very possessive and domineering."
Dorian blinked, then opened his eyes very wide in exaggerated shock. "Possessive and domineering? You? I don't believe it for a minute."
"Very funny. You don't know what I'll be like."
Dorian's body relaxed. "All right, then. Let's sit down and you tell me what centaurs are like in relationships."
Klaus released Dorian's arm and moved in the direction of the couch. The next thing he knew, the Earl's slim body was plastered against him, pressing in all the right places, his hands doing all sorts of sorcerous things, and his mouth leaving a trail of fire along Klaus's neck, awakening nerves he hadn't known existed. It was unlike anything he had ever felt before. Just like in all the cliches, his knees were weak and his mind shut down. Dorian had him half undressed before some part of his brain woke up enough to form a sentence.
"I thought you wanted me to tell you about my kind," he mumbled.
Dorian didn't even pause. "Afterwards."
Klaus grabbed onto his melting rationality with both hands. "Afterwards it'll be too late! Once we've done this, it'll be much too hard for me to let you go. You might never escape."
The Earl laughed. "And you think that's a deterrent?
"I tried to reason with you," Klaus grumbled, and gave in to his own instincts. A few seconds later, Dorian was standing in shock, naked, surrounded by the shreds of his clothes. The next instant, the Earl found himself on his back on the fortunately commodious couch.
Dorian had been planning this for years. He had expected to have to coax his nervous, virginal Major, to move slowly, and above all, to take charge as he always did in these matters. He quickly discovered that now that they had started, there was no question of him taking charge.
He could tell that, as he had suspected, the Major was inexperienced. This didn't stop him from plunging right in to experimentation.
Apparently the Major had liked having his neck kissed, because he promptly set about returning the favor. He held Dorian close with one arm, and with the other pulled Dorian's head back to allow easy access to his throat. Klaus began by kissing Dorian's throat, his mouth slowly covering every inch of the sensitive skin with nuzzling kisses. From Dorian's response he gauged the most sensitive spots, and returned to those over and over again, varying the force and rhythm of his kisses, tasting the sensitized flesh, going from gentle to fierce and back. No matter how Dorian squirmed, moaned or gasped, Klaus continued the assault, intent only on escalating Dorian's reactions as far as possible.
Just when Dorian thought he was going to either pass out or else simply lose his mind, Klaus finally relented, but only long enough to change position. With a whimper, Dorian realized that his chest was about to be subjected to the same treatment. Nor was he disappointed. Mere moments later, he was helplessly arching his back, writhing beneath his beloved in almost more ecstasy than he could bear.
Dorian found it impossible to even attempt to reclaim the initiative. He could only give in to the shattering sensations. He was pleading for release long before Klaus was willing to grant it to him. After an eternity of pleasurable torment, Klaus finally claimed him, and they struggled together until at long last their journey was complete.
"You belong to me now," Klaus whispered, much later. The words seemed to speak themselves without his volition. Dorian thrilled to them.
"I always have." He tightened his embrace. "And now you belong to me, too."
Klaus was silent for a while before answering. "Well, yes. But it's not quite the same thing."
"Centaurs can't be owned?" Dorian wasn't at all concerned. It didn't really matter what notions Klaus had. The important thing was, they were lovers at last, and Dorian was never going to let him go.
Klaus sat up halfway, settled Dorian against him more comfortable position, and lit a cigarette. "I suppose I'd better let you know what you've let yourself in for."
"Mm, yes. What else, besides the possessive and domineering part? And the great sex?"
Klaus scowled. "Take this seriously. You've just taken a mate of a different species. You don't have any idea what you're doing."
"Let me guess. Centaurs mate for life."
"Good." Dorian sat up, stretched, and went to the sideboard. Pretending not to feel Klaus's eyes on him as he stood blithely naked, he selected two small snifters and unstopped the decanter."Tell me the rest over a drink."
"Not for me. I rarely allow myself alcohol."
"My love, this is our wedding night, for all practical purposes. You can allow yourself a drink."
Klaus shook his head very definitely. "No. It is not good for centaurs to drink."
Dorian glanced at his lover, and abruptly realized the man was right. Dorian didn't know what he'd gotten himself into. He certainly had no regrets, but he had better find out. He sat down with his glass, cuddling against the Major, and prepared to listen seriously. "Why not?"
"When we start to drink, it is hard for us to stop. We tend to continue until we become drunk and violent."
Connections were forming in Dorian's mind. "That time you got drunk in Spain, and brawled with Mischa. That... I think that's the only time I've ever seen you drink."
Klaus nodded. "I almost never do."
Dorian's mind was racing, making connections. He remembered some story about Klaus's ancestor getting drunk and going on a rampage. "Tyrian was a centaur, too, wasn't he?" At Klaus's nod, Dorian went on, "He certainly fits the legends. The legends all say that centaurs were fierce warriors - and given to forcing themselves upon human women."
That last had been just to tease Klaus, but it irritated the Major, naturally. "That's why nowadays when a young stallion reaches puberty, we send him to a good boarding school where he will learn good morals and discipline," he said stiffly. "Nowadays we are taught to put our ferocity to constructive purposes."
Dorian took a swallow of cognac. "Why not just teach them yourself?"
"Because there can only be one stallion in a herd. When we reach puberty, we challenge the reigning stallion if we're not sent away. The instinct is too strong to be socialized away. In the old days, we let it happen, which meant that a lot of adolescent males got killed. Nowadays, a lone stallion will form himself a herd of humans."
"Wait, wait." This was too much to take in at once. "You're saying that a centaur herd is like a harem?"
"Well, yes, you could say that."
"Then your father...?"
Klaus scowled. "I have a lot of half-siblings, yes."
Dorian put a possessive hand on Klaus's thigh. "You had better not be about to tell me that centaur stallions aren't capable of monogamy. I am not sharing you with a harem."
"Of course not. The alphabet and the staff of the Schloss are my herd, and I certainly do not use them as a harem."
"So where do I fit in?"
"Ehm... now that we've mated, you are, well, the equivalent of... my lead mare."
Giving Klaus a playful swat, Dorian fell about laughing.
Looking even more uncomfortable, Klaus offered, "It means I will expect the rest of my herd to defer to you."
"Oh, well, that's all right, then." Dorian was still giggling. He tried to be serious. "You sound like you think you own them."
"You feel proprietary towards your team."
"I don't imagine I own my herd as one owns an animal. But they are my responsibility. I have to lead and protect them."
"And you expect them to obey you."
"It's their job to obey me," Klaus pointed out.
"And what are you going to expect from me?"
Klaus sighed. "I expect that we're going to fight a lot."
"Well, I always knew we would," Dorian said, composed.
"Remember, centaurs are possessive," Klaus warned. "Don't even think about dallying with any other man."
"Did you really think I would?"
"No. But... don't forget."
"Yes, dear. Anything else I should know?"
Thinking, Klaus frowned. "I've just told you how our social structures work. That is the really important matter. There are various quirks of our physiology, like the drinking, and that most of us can't stand heights."
"Heights? But I've seen you pilot planes!"
"I'm unusual in that regard."
Dorian mulled that over for a bit. "Are you unusual in other regards? Are a lot of spies centaurs?"
"More that a lot of centaurs are spies. Or soldiers, government agents, policemen, athletes. We tend to be aggressive, and to like organized hierarchy."
"I see.... Wait! Does this mean I know other centaurs?"
"Possibly. We don't have centaur-dar."
Klaus saw no reason to tell Dorian that he did know of at least one other centaur Dorian had met. Dorian did not need to know that Lawrence had once applied for the position of lead mare.
It was a month later that Eroica was needed to help NATO open a vault. He bypassed the security system with ease.
Discretion had been more difficult. The problem wasn't with Dorian; he staged the same hopeless flirting he always had. Klaus, however, had become as proprietary as he had warned he would be. He had earnestly grilled Dorian about his preparations and safety precautions and watched him every instant. He had also bitten Z's head off for being inadequately attentive to his "lead mare". No one could be in doubt that things had changed between them.
On the last evening, while his stallion was debriefing his herd, Dorian was sauntering through the hotel lobby to avail himself of the bar. He hadn't yet reached it when a jesting voice made him pause. "Where have you been all my life?"
Dorian stopped. The speaker was cute and obviously gay, a young man with dark blond hair and a winsome face. He was obviously trying to be funny, using such a silly line in such a silly tone, and his show of self-assurance wasn't entirely convincing. Dorian was charmed. If he had seen this young man before he had met Klaus, well.
He answered in kind, tossing his hair and giving the man a little smile. "The usual places."
"Well, that's all right. You're in the right place now."
The young man was speaking with studied confidence. As approaches went, it wasn't bad. If not for Klaus, Dorian would have swept the cutie off his feet. As it was.... "I am. With my husband."
His suitor's face pinkened very slightly, but he took it with good grace. "I should have known a babe like you was spoken for."
Dorian was about to respond with some little compliment to give the lad some encouragement when his mate materialized. Before he could say a word, Klaus had seized the young man by the throat and slammed him against the wall.
"What the hell are you doing with him?" Klaus snarled at the lad. His eyes were blazing and his lips curled back.
Abruptly Dorian realized his mistake. He hadn't understood just what Klaus had meant by "possessive".
The young man was in shock, ineffectually clawing at Klaus's iron grip. Dorian seized Klaus's arm and tried to pull him off the man. It was like trying to move a brick wall. Finding no success, he settled for wedging himself in between the two.
"Major, we were just playing. It didn't mean anything. Now calm down."
Klaus's eyes narrowed. Dorian's words seemed to have no effect. He decided he'd better change tactics. Switching to German, he barked, "Major! Let him go this instant!"
Conditioned by years of military training, Klaus obeyed. Before the Major could recover from his surprise, Dorian got a good grip on his arm and insistently pulled him towards the elevator. "Let's go!" he ordered.
For a few seconds, the Major remained planted where he was. At length he allowed himself to be tugged away, but he did not take his furious gaze off the poor young man, who was now edging towards the front door and probably wouldn't try to chat up another man for months. When they got to the elevator, a couple of other people were waiting, but they took one look at the seething Major and decided to wait for the next lift.
Dorian practically dragged Klaus into his room. Inside, the Major prowled back and forth like a caged panther. Dorian reflected that shutting himself up in a room with a centaur on hair trigger might not have been the wisest move. He kept a prudent distance.
"Klaus. You know you're the only man for me. I was only trying to let him down easy. I even told him that I was with someone. It was just a little flirting. Now that I know even that bothers you, I won't do it again." Not when you're in the same country, at least. "Do you understand?"
The Major nodded briefly, but did not cease his restless pacing. He still looked like he needed to throttle someone.
Dorian folded his arms, exasperated. "Maybe I should get some brushes and curry you down."
Klaus stopped in his tracks and swung a suddenly attentive gaze onto Dorian. He said nothing.
Taken aback, Dorian said, "I was trying to joke. Do you actually want to be brushed?"
Embarrassed, Klaus glanced away. "Ehm...."
"Would it calm you down?"
"Yes." The answer was swift and definite.
Dorian moved to the door. "Don't go anywhere."
The hotel's gift shop didn't have horse brushes, of course, but it did have various hairbrushes and shoeshine brushes. Dorian bought one of each and hurried back to his room. Klaus was waiting.
Dorian didn't trust his lover's calm just yet. Trying to act as though he were a masseur in the local Currying and Brushing For Discerning Centaurs Spa, Dorian concentrated on unpacking the assortment of brushes and spoke briskly. "Take off all your clothes before you transform and I'll give you a back massage too, after brushing you down."
Slowly, Klaus reached for his buttons. "That won't be necessary," he said quietly as he shucked his jacket.
"Oh?" Dorian was rolling up his sleeves.
Klaus unknotted his tie. "By the time you're done, I'll be ready for a nap. It's how centaurs respond to being brushed."
Dorian moved over to help his beloved get undressed. He relished being able to perform such simple, intimate services for the man he loved. "Maybe you should get yourself brushed every night. You could certainly stand to relax."
Klaus hesitated. "Ehm... that's not all."
Dorian's fingers stilled. "Oh?"
"I'll wake up in about half an hour, and... ehm...."
Catching on as Klaus flushed, Dorian raised his eyebrows. "Should I take off my own clothes while you're asleep?"
"That would be a good idea." Klaus looked at the floor. "And, ehm, you might have the oil ready."
It was amazing that Klaus could be so wonderfully shameless between the sheets and then bashful as a schoolboy when it came to actually talking about the things they did.
Klaus finished undressing and transformed. Dorian chose a brush whose blunt plastic bristles were the closest thing they'd had to a curry comb and started at his beloved's shoulders. He knew how to groom a horse, naturally, and the nap of the hair and so on seemed to be the same.
As he began, Klaus was still on edge, every muscle tense, shifting restlessly from one hoof to another. Dorian started in as if unconcerned, moving the brush in small, unhurried circles. Next he picked up a brush with stiff bristles and flicked it through his centaur's fur.
As he worked, he could almost see the tension leaving Klaus's body. After a couple of minutes, his hooves stopped their shifting. Dorian watched in amazement as, for the very first time, he saw the man he loved truly relax. By the time Dorian was smoothing Klaus's fur down in flowing strokes with the softest of the brushes, Klaus's eyes were closing. Dorian was kneeling to brush Klaus's hind legs when Klaus abruptly began to move, startling him. The Major returned to his human form just in time to collapse on the bed. He was asleep instantly.
Dorian put the brush onto the dresser and removed all of his clothes in happy anticipation. He got the oil out of his bag and, on second thought, went ahead and applied it to be on the safe side. Then he slipped into the bed beside Klaus, his blood already warm.
Fifteen minutes later, Klaus opened his eyes. Without preamble, he rolled on top of Dorian and kissed him crushingly. Dorian found he had been eminently sensible to prepare himself. Klaus filled him almost immediately, and Dorian had to gasp for breath as his stallion claimed him fiercely.
When they were both lying exhausted, trying to breathe as the sweat dried on their skin, Dorian rasped, "I'm buying a set of brushes for you tomorrow."
"You'll be well rewarded," Klaus mumbled.
Another month later, Klaus showed up at Castle Gloria for a weekend with Dorian carrying a briefcase full of papers. He insisted on delaying the candlelit dinner Dorian had arranged, much to Dorian's irritation. Instead he dragged Dorian into the library and plunked the briefcase down. "We need to talk."
Dorian sat down reluctantly. He had expected this for years. Klaus's rigid morality wouldn't allow him to be a thief's lover without trying to reform him. Dorian wasn't going to quit, there was no question of that, but the Major was going to take a lot of convincing. It might cost them a lot of fights and many nights apart. He sighed as the Major pulled out a sheaf of folders.
"I've run background checks on all of your employees," Klaus explained. "Bonham is fine. All Interpol has on him is his association with you. John Paul has a record, he could be a liability. Christophe is the one I'm really concerned about. There's no proof he's up to anything, but he used to associate with a police detective."
Dorian had already known about that. A policeman was in no position to have his ex-boyfriend arrested; Scotland Yard wasn't ready for queer cops yet.
"Hold your horses, darling." It was a Yank expression he had never used before, but he'd been saving it to tease Klaus with. "Just what are you getting at?"
Klaus gave him that what-kind-of-idiot-are-you frown, as if the answer should have been obvious. "You have to know that all of your team - and your household staff, for that matter - are trustworthy, that they're not going to turn on you or get in trouble which could compromise you. For the most part, your team seems ideal for your profession, but there are three who might be liabilities. You-"
"Wait, wait. Do you mean to say that you, a NATO agent, are trying to keep a band of thieves out of jail?"
Again, the wasn't-it-blindingly-obvious look. "It is my duty to my mate. Your safety is my responsibility."
Dorian was still digesting this when Klaus continued.
"You should fire Christophe, John Paul and Stephen. They could endanger you." Klaus started to pull out papers, no doubt documentation of the black marks on their records.
Dorian put his hand on Klaus's, interrupting their shuffling through the papers. He waited for Klaus to meet his gaze before speaking quietly. He had to get this right. To stave off his centaur's natural dominance, he was going to have to draw the line firmly. And in a way a centaur understood. Klaus might be the herd stallion, but Dorian was going to have to show him who wore the spurs in the family.
"Major, I have a responsibility to the members of my herd, too."
"Those three could endanger the others-"
"To every member of my herd," Dorian repeated firmly.
Klaus nodded reluctantly. Dorian was speaking his language.
"Now, do you have any more unpleasantness to air, or are you ready to get back to our romantic weekend?"
"That was all."
It wasn't all, of course. Klaus didn't waste any more of that particular weekend on unromantic things, but the next time they were together, out came the briefcase again. First he insisted that the law firm Dorian had on retainer wasn't the best one in England. They had an excellent acquittal rate, but Klaus had dug up a firm with a better one. Dorian admitted that he was right and switched.
Next Klaus was dragging out specs of all the latest alarm systems. Dorian explained patiently that he had been keeping up with these things for years and he already knew everything there was to know about all the systems Klaus was presenting to him, and scores more besides. Klaus accepted this, but couldn't refrain from bringing him more specs almost every time they met. Each time, Dorian would thank him politely and make a show of spreading it out on the desk right next to the copy he already had - and he always had one. It made no difference, Klaus kept right on bringing new ones. On a subconscious level, Klaus really didn't believe that anyone could get anything done without his direction. He seemed haunted by thoughts of his mate helplessly trapped by an unfamiliar lock.
Dorian thought he had adapted to his beloved's mother-henning until one Saturday morning at Castle Gloria. He woke up alone, which wasn't unusual; Klaus generally rose before him, no matter how Dorian wore him out the night before. But when he looked out the window, he didn't see Klaus taking a run on the grounds. Instead, as Dorian made his way to the dining room, he heard voices coming from the library. Klaus was in there.
"You've concealed all your assets in only two Swiss banks," Klaus was complaining. "You should use at least one more, plus another one in the Caymans. It's too risky to keep all of the Eroica team's capital in just two places."
"I have been doing this for a while, you know," James retorted, his tone verging on a whine. Dorian sighed and continued to the dining room for breakfast. He couldn't deal with the two most difficult people in his life at once on an empty stomach.
A short time later, with a nourishing English breakfast inside him, Dorian squared his shoulders and marched into the library. Klaus and James were at the long table, surrounded by bank statements and account books and all sorts of other boring papers.
Klaus was saying, "Furthermore, you're wasting an unconscionable amount of money here. If you use this supplier - here's their address and phone number - they'll only charge you eighty percent of what you're paying now."
James was livid, predictably. He looked, Dorian couldn't help but reflect, like a centaur whose mate was being trespassed upon.
"Major," the Earl said sweetly.
Klaus glanced up briefly. "We're not finished here, Liebling."
A smile spread across Dorian's face at the endearment, which Klaus probably hadn't even noticed himself using. Probably Klaus thought that it was simply proper behavior to address one's mate that way, and it was now Dorian's title in his mind, just as his military superiors were "Sir".
"Klaus, it's time for me to brush your hair," Dorian insisted in a silky tone. As he had hoped, Klaus understood the implication and forgot about covert banking on the spot. He left a grumbling James to put the books back in order while he followed Dorian to the bedroom.
"Centaurs are certainly high maintenance," Dorian complained cheerfully as he got the set of grooming brushes out.
"Hah," Klaus snorted, taking off his shirt. "Look at how hard I'm having to work looking after you."
Author's notes: Centaurfic is a small but existing fanfic genre. It originated in the Houston Knights fandom and spread from there, though not very widely. Once Grey Bard introduced me to it, I couldn't allow Eroica to go on without its own centaur story.
The centaur social structure and personality
were invented by James and Wolfling, the authoresses of the original centaur
fic. In mythology, centaurs are prone to drunkenness and seizing human women
from mythology. I added these elements because they fit Tyrian and aside from the
drunken brawl with Mischa, I can only recall Klaus drinking in canon once.
If anyone likes this microgenre, here are links to some other centaur fics: