Disclaimer: “From Eroica With Love” belongs to Yasuko Aoike, and Fabulousman
belongs to Kadorienne, but she let me borrow him for a while.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
You Look Fabulous
“You look completely ridiculous in that outfit,” the Major observed in a low rumble.
For once, Dorian was forced to agree with him. He turned in place in front of the three mirrors, the frown on his own face deepening. Harlequin print did not a superhero make. Then he looked over at the man standing expectantly across the room. “No,” he said forcefully.
“But Fabulous—” The man’s words were cut off by a cold look. He cleared his throat, correcting himself. “Lord Gloria, that design—”
“Is hideous,” Dorian snapped as he disappeared into the dressing room. “I agreed to model new costumes, Carmen, but I didn’t agree to wear every single—Oh! I like this one!”
The Major recognized the tone and steeled himself for the reappearance of the thief turned superhero. Not for the first time he found himself wondering how the hell he had gotten himself talked into this mission. With Eroica. In London. A meteor enhanced Eroica at that!
It had all seemed rather straightforward at the time. A certain photographer was famous for staging photo shoots in off-beat locations, which more often than not were near sites where classified work was going on. One location in particular seemed to be a favorite. It also happened to be where a sensitive information leak had been detected.
The photographer in question had no ties to Eastern Europe, nor could any connections with foreign powers be found. However, those in his employ were a different story. This was where Eroica came in. Or rather, where Fabulousman came in, since everyone in the world was trying—and failing—to woo him into agreeing to an exclusive interview and photo spread. Failing because they all hit a brick wall that was Mr. James.
All except Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach, who had been ordered by NATO to personally request the Earl’s assistance. The Major agreed, but only under the condition that he did so as himself and not as the persona who had been dubbed with the irritating moniker of “Fledermaus.” NATO agreed, and, not surprisingly, so did the Earl, who jumped at the chance to work with his beloved Major once more.
James only made a minimum of fuss. Despite his employer’s enhanced abilities, James still found himself terrified of the unenhanced Iron Klaus.
The photographer in question, known by all as just Jeremy, worked freelance, which made his selection as the one to do the “shoot of the century” that much easier. Dorian selected the magazine that would have the honor of doing the interview in which the photos would appear. The Major’s part was that of manager and bodyguard. The Earl pointed out that the idea that he should need a bodyguard was ludicrous.
“You still think this is some sort of game,” the Major had argued. “Hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives are at stake. This is not a game.”
“I know that, Major,” the Earl had countered.
“Then for once in your life, be serious about something!”
The Major’s reverie was broken by the reappearance of the Earl. Unlike all the other costumes, that were so brightly colored that Klaus found himself wondering if they were powered by batteries, this one was completely black. In fact, it reminded him strongly of the catsuit the Earl used to favor when thieving. The only color was the gold lamé cape that shone the same color as the Earl’s mop of curls, and flared out dramatically as he walked across the room.
“Oh, yes!” Dorian cooed, turning this way and that before twirling in place. “I definitely like this one.”
“Very striking, sir,” Carmen oiled from the door. This was the same thing he said about every outfit the Earl had tried on.
Dorian ignored him and turned to the Major, putting his hands on his hips to strike a dramatic pose. “What do you think, Major?”
The Major’s eyes flickered. His rank had been explained as a professional nickname and no one had batted an eye. “You look less ridiculous in that one.”
This brought a dazzling smile to Dorian’s face. He knew it would be the closest thing to a stamp of approval he would ever get from Iron Klaus.
This went on for the rest of the day. Then came the final fitting of the selected costumes. After this was the interview and then the photo shoot itself. One of Dorian’s stipulations had been that he would have final approval over what went into print. He had also waved his fee, much to Mr. James’ horror, requesting that the money be divided amongst several charities.
* * *
Dorian wasn’t sure why the Major insisted on being present at the photo shoot. Surely the man would be bored to tears. Then he saw the location and realization dawned. It was a park-like area near an industrial park that was one of a number of “green areas” being created to give city workers a small taste of the country. In one area was a lavish rose garden.
The moment he saw the garden, Dorian stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes wide. The Major was at his side a moment later, a hand at his elbow.
“You knew those were here, didn’t you, Major?” the Earl said in a low voice.
“Yes.” The Earl turned sharply to look at him, and Klaus met his accusing gaze with a level look. “I also told the crew that I was allergic to the wretched things,” he went on. He could not prevent the small smile from coming to his face when Dorian’s mouth dropped open. “I would not be doing my duty as your bodyguard if I let you get into trouble.” He nodded in the direction of where the photographer had set up his equipment, which was on the opposite side of the green space. “Is that far enough away?”
“Should be. Just pray the wind doesn’t change.”
The Major’s eyes flickered but he did not reply.
* * *
“The interview went well, I think,” Dorian said as he sank into a chair in his hotel suite.
The Major lit a cigarette before sitting in a chair opposite. “I will confess to being amazed at your…restraint.”
The Earl laughed, tossing his hair back. “I told you before, Major, I’m not going to give the game away by telling everything that I can and can’t do.”
Klaus gave a snort.
“I haven’t forgotten why we’re here.”
“Oh?” The Major’s eyebrows went up. “What are you holding back?”
“Only my love for you, my dearest Major.”
“Don’t start that crap,” Klaus snapped. “You agreed to be serious.”
Dorian lowered his eyes and pouted in an overdramatic manner, which only caused the officer to sigh heavily. Then he laughed. “You wanted me to keep tabs on the gorgeous photographer Jeremy and his men, didn’t you?”
The Major rolled his eyes to the ceiling and silently started counting to one thousand.
The bright smile returned to the Earl’s face, growing brighter as he told the officer that he had observed a handoff of film after the photo shoot. “All this time you and your fellow spies were watching dear Jeremy,” he said with a sigh, going on to play with one of his curls. “And he had nothing to do with it.”
The Major’s eyes narrowed. “Then it is someone in his employ.”
Dorian nodded as he sat back in his chair. “That horrible little troll of an assistant.” He wrinkled his nose and waved a hand in the air. “He even smells like KGB.”
Klaus frowned. “Smells like KGB?”
The look on the officer’s face made the Earl laugh. “I don’t mean that way. I can’t literally sniff out spies.”
Too bad. It would make my job easier, the Major thought as he sat back and took another drag from his cigarette. Now that he knew who the inside man was, the next step was to follow him to the hand-off to the KGB courier. “We must not alert him before he makes the exchange.”
Dorian continued to smile. “Does that mean I can flirt with Jeremy some more?”
Klaus closed his eyes, putting a hand to his head. “Unfortunately…”
* * *
Several hundred flirtations later, the Earl returned to Castle Gloria to await the draft of the interview. Or at least, that was what everyone assumed he did. Instead, he continued to keep tabs on Jeremy’s “troll” assistant, whom he had started calling Mischa Jr. Within a few days, the arrangements for the exchange were made and the Major prepared his men, grudgingly coordinating things with Eroica. Enhanced or not, he was still the best thief in the world.
The meeting place was located, and checked over. It seemed to be just a regular country pub. Bugs were planted, tested, and then retested. Finally, the Alphabet took their places, inside and out. The Major waited impatiently in an unmarked van outside, chain smoking the whole time. Eroica waited with him. For the occasion, he wore the black catsuit costume with the gold cape, much to the Major’s annoyance.
Mischa Jr. arrived on time, taking a seat at one of the bugged tables. It was about this time that an alarm started to sound in the back of the Major’s head. An alarm that had alerted him to danger on more than one occasion. An alarm that had kept him alive for many years, earning him the name Iron Klaus.
The words had jumped from the Major’s mouth with such forcefulness they surprised even him. Eroica’s eyebrows went up. “Developing some enhancements, Major?” he quipped.
Klaus gave him a dark look. He was forestalled from giving a scathing reply by the sound of Z’s voice coming from the radio in his hand. Mischa Jr’s contact had finally arrived and was going to his table. The bugs picked up the conversation, despite its being held in low voices. It was very B-movie like, Dorian thought.
“You have the merchandise?”
“You have the payment?”
This was followed by the sound of something being slid across a wood surface, presumably an envelope of cash. “It’s all there. You’re getting greedy, even for a capitalist dog.”
“This wasn’t an easy delivery. The shoot was of Fabulousman. What if he suspected something?”
An amused grunt. “We know all about that flying fag. He’s too busy looking in a mirror to notice anything we mere mortals are doing.”
There were further sounds of things on the table as the KGB man went on. “Did he fly for the pictures?”
“Um, no. Why?”
“I wanted to know if it’s true that his ass whistles when he flies.”
The Major heard a low growl rising in the Earl’s throat that ended in a roar of “Bastard!” Then, before Klaus could stop him—as if he could—Dorian was out of the van and storming toward the pub.
“Major?” came A’s voice on the radio. He had obviously seen the caped figure emerge from the van.
“Prepare to move in. That idiot Eroica’s taken matters into his own hands.”
Z’s voice followed. “Sir, the courier’s exiting through the back.”
It was then that the Major knew why the alarm had sounded in his head. During the initial sweep of the pub, he had taken note of a fence covered with wild roses. Dammit! Why did the idiot have to tell me his weakness? Why do I even care?
Klaus was halfway to the back of the pub before he even realized what he was doing. He could hear the Earl’s voice as he circled round the building. The Major called into his radio for his agents inside to take “Junior” into custody. Then he put the radio away and pulled his gun, moving with his back against the building to cautiously look around the corner.
The courier didn’t seem in the least perturbed by the presence of the costumed man screaming blue murder at him. In fact, he seemed bemused by his upset.
“Aren’t you going to bloody say something?” Eroica demanded, taking a threatening step forward. It was at that moment that a light breeze wafted over the garden, bringing the heavy scent of roses with it.
At the same time, the courier pulled a large green stone from his pocket and held it out, the expression on his face growing into a sneer as Fabulousman staggered. “I know all about your weakness around emeralds, Fabulousman!” he said, as the Earl dropped to his knees.
It was all Dorian could do to breathe at this point, and he closed his eyes when he heard the unmistakable sound of a gun being cocked. This was followed by the equally unmistakable sound of the Major’s voice. “If you so much as twitch, I’ll kill you.”
“Not before I kill this freak of nature,” came the defiant reply.
“Are you meteor enhanced in your speed?” Klaus asked conversationally. “Can you run faster than three hundred and sixty metres per second?”
“In case you didn’t know, that’s the average speed of a bullet fired from this gun.” Klaus paused a beat. “And I never miss at this range.”
As the KGB man thought this over, Eroica seemed to weaken further, slumping to the ground. It was diversion enough for the Major, who fired, shooting the gun from the other man’s hand. Dorian used the last of his strength to grab at the man’s feet, pulling him to the ground. The next thing he knew, the Major’s men were surrounding them.
“Someone get that thing out of here,” Klaus ordered, waving a hand at the emerald that the KGB man had dropped.
Dorian felt strong hands lifting him from the ground, pulling him to his feet, practically dragging him from the garden. As soon as he was in the open, his strength returned with a jolt. “I’m alright now,” he said firmly, extracting himself from— “Major!”
“Shut up and sit down,” Klaus ordered, trying and failing to pull the Earl forward.
Dorian stood rooted to the spot, staring open mouthed. For a few brief minutes, it had been like old times. Before the meteor changed him. Before he was super strong and the Major could push him around with ease. Or rescue him. He had forgotten about that. How could he have forgotten about that?
When the Major gave his arm another tug, more urgent than forceful, he did not resist, moving to the back of the van and sitting down. He watched in silence as the officer lit a cigarette and paced, although it was unclear as to whether he was waiting for his men or trying to figure out why he had just done what he had for the Earl.
“Thank you for keeping my secret, Major,” Dorian said at last. “And for rescuing me.”
The Major looked up sharply. “I told you to be careful, you idiot thief!” he snapped angrily. He did not understand why he was so angry. Nor did he want to.
A small smile played at the edges of the Earl’s mouth. I love you too, Major.
Klaus stopped when he saw the familiar look on the Earl’s face. “What are you smiling at? You almost got yourself killed playing hero!”
“Yes. And you saved me. Iron Klaus, my faithful bodyguard.” Dorian grinned. “Or should I call you my Flederklaus?”
The Major’s reply was not repeatable in polite company.