Chapter 1: The Curse
Part 1: The Curse. 1588.
Sinking into the Atlantic Ocean beyond the horizon, the sun created a spectacle of strong, vibrant colours: brightest yellow, striped by fire orange and circled by fresh blood red that gave way to royal purple clouds over a slowly darkening sky. Below, a mirror image made the sea shimmer like precious stones set in blue jade. The water lay mostly calm, but along the coast line steady waves whipped up pearls of foam to wash over the cliffs.
High above, on a mountain that abruptly ended in a steep cliff overlooking a small fishing village, stood the solitary figure of a tall, blond man. The setting dusk made his robes look pitch black, but in better light they would have glittered in patterns of silver and green. He had shoulder length, flaxen hair; sharp, proud features and eyes so pale blue that they might as well could have been called white. A talented observer, open for things beyond what is commonly known, might have noted that while the man did have black pupils, they were slightly elongated – not quite like a feline's but certainly not round. A ship sailing out from the small port held the man's fixed attention. The El Alcon was a grand ship, captained by the handsomest beast to ever grace the Spanish navy.
"'At dawn'," the blond man hissed. "'Meet me at dawn.' Oh, Tyrian, you faithless bastard, may the kraken squeeze your precious boat to splinters from under you! May the leviathan himself pull you down to your final grave! May Neptune raise and bugger you senseless with his trident rod! 'At dawn!' At dawn we would meet, you said! 'At dawn!'"
His voice rose in strength until he screamed the final words. As if in response a multi-forked lightning bolt momentarily bleached the sunset's colours, followed almost at once by the spreading rumble of thunder so close that the sound made the very air vibrate. A strong gust blew in from the west, whipping in the trees and pushing the man closer to the cliff's edge. "Yes! Thunderbolts to strike you down! Burn you like you burned my heart! No one makes a fool of me unpunished!"
More lightning followed – and more thunder. The flashes of light allowed the man – whose eyes were quick to adjust both to light and darkness – to see the ship more clearly. He also noted a second ship – no, that really was more of a boat – smaller than the first one, which had previously hidden in the semi-darkness. It had just left the shore in the same direction as El Alcon and noticeably had neither lights nor lanterns lit, as if hoping to avoid being spotted. Thomasin – for that was the man's name – spat into the grass. "Your whore still follows you, I see. You toy with him too – you toy with us all! You evil, black-hearted, depraved son of a donkey-loving cow! Burning would be too good for you! Drowning would be too good for you! I'd curse you with leprosy if I could but bear the thought of your lovely skin in ruin!"
A drop of water landed on his high, noble forehead, making him lose his momentum. Rain started falling and the sky quickly darkened. He could still see the ship, especially when the lightning struck, which happened so frequently that the air had taken on a strong, heady smell as if the fumes of Hell had clawed their way to the upper world. "Protego ab aquam," Thomasin said in a somewhat calmer voice. In a small area around him the rainfall ceased. "Everything is too good for you, you fickle-hearted rogue. Would you even know true love if it declared itself to you a thousand times, forsook all others and followed you from one end of the Earth to the other? No, no and no! You would take it, use it and throw it away – like you did me. Or laugh at it in scorn, rejecting it! You have no heart, Tyrian Persimmon! You're a rutting animal, seeking only your own pleasure! But by Merlin, this time you have gone too far! No one toys with the heart of a Slytherin and gets away with it! Oh, yes, a beast you are! A handsome beast for sure, but a beast!"
His right hand moved into his left sleeve, in a movement performed with such practiced ease that he must have made it thousand upon thousand times before. Out came a wand, seven inches long, dwarf birch around a core of basilisk fang. He aimed at the cause of his wrath. "I curse thee, Tyrian Persimmon! [Through to the last of your line: if you have not acknowledged your true love by your thirtieth birthday you will forever remain the beast you have shown yourself to be!]"
The magic, spurred on by both passionate hatred and a twisted kind of furious love, left the wand with such strength that the man stumbled back. A line of pale green – almost Avada Kedavraish in colour – shot towards the departing ship, but was soon lost to the approaching evening, so Thomasin could not see it hit its intended target. With a smug smile and eyes not quite as mad as before, he lowered his arm.
"Arrrre you finnnisssshed now? 'Tsssss coooold ..." a sleepy voice muttered from close to Thomasin's collar bone.
Smiling faintly, he sheathed his wand and reached up to caress the scales of his familiar. "Yes, I do think I am. For now, at least. I'll check up on him later. Hah! That'll be fun. And his son and grandson too, if I can manage it."
"He has a young son, that I know. Just a babe now, of course, but you just wait and see, sweet Ssssaaaaa, he's a rotten egg too, just like his sire. How could he not be, with that blood? No descendants of such a lecherous, lusty man can be anything but blights on humanity, lacking all morals and following in his perverted footsteps! They'll get what's coming to them, every single one of them!"
end part 1.
Chapter 2: Klaus Wakes Up
Part 2: Klaus Wakes Up. B-Day (1985) minus 13.
Klaus von dem Eberbach is standing on the deck of a ship under full sails, a sturdy four-master. The night is quiet, and only a skeleton crew is awake to hold the ship on its course. He looks around, at the billowing sails, the stars in the sky leading their way. The wind is brisk, but not rough - it ruffles his long dark hair only slightly, caressing his face. The waves breaking at the ship's body make a calm sound, together with the creaking of the vessel which ploughs through the sea in a regular, steady up-and-down movement.
His eyes fall on the man at the helm, a tall, willowy figure, a mass of golden curls held back from his almost too pretty noble face by a red bandanna. He has wide shoulders and long-fingered strong hands that hold the big wheel in a sure grip.
Why does this damned fop always strike a pose? Why does he look like the epitome of every pirate a romantically inclined maiden might have in mind – a bandanna, a white shirt open at the chest, a broad belt, billowing red pants embroidered with golden stripes? He does not need such foppish idiocies.
The Fop is a damned good pirate, and von dem Eberbach has to admit that the crew is disciplined and in very good shape, as is the ship. Damn, the man is good and fast and bold. Otherwise it would not have been possible for him to board von dem Eberbach's own ship and take over his crew without killing a single man, letting everybody go, except him, the captain, taking him captive for ransom.
von dem Eberbach has raged against the indignity, against the ropes which bind him, but he knows as well as the pirate captain that his resistance is strangely half-hearted, that his body soon begins to speak another language.
Oh, the beautiful pirate loves to play with the chained panther! How could he know? He must be a sorcerer, in league with the Devil, to know what would arouse his prudish, buttoned-up, inaccessible catch ... Having von dem Eberbach brought to his cabin, bound securely to a sturdy beam, asking him questions his captive answers with curses. Then the knife play, the bastard is good with a knife. Touching his captive's cheek with it briefly. Sliding it along without breaking the skin. Then slowly cutting away the buttons of von dem Eberbach's uniform, one by one ... He obviously enjoys the hatred and indignation in his captive's blazing eyes. Opens the shirt to let his long, beautiful fingers caress bare flesh in feather-light touches, brushing a nipple ever so slightly – no, he is a Gentleman, he does not get cheap – not this time. Next are soft kisses to von dem Eberbach's face, his lips, chaste at first, then more bold – and he is unable to resist. Oh, that blond Devil likes to play with fire! He likes it rough! von dem Eberbach's kisses become more and more longing, hungry, his body aching with lust – Devil from hell, I hate you! – and he has shown him his hatred and disdain when released from his bonds, has torn apart the foppish clothing, brutally taken the beautiful muscular and yet slender body, knowing that he does exactly what the Devil wants, and not caring, not caring then that his opponent has been well prepared for his onslaught ... All that matters is unleashing his lust and fury, enjoying ravishing this beauty, enjoying the delicious humiliation of having his own entrance invaded by a slick finger, adapting to the motion of his own body, a promise enticing him, urging him on to thrust even deeper and harder ...
His captor is no fool, though. When he wakes up from an exhausted sleep, he is alone ...
The man at the helm beckons to his first officer, a sturdy fellow with a moustache, who takes over the wheel. Now the pirate comes up to his captive, slightly swaying to adapt to the movement of the ship.
"A beautiful night," he says.
von dem Eberbach does not answer, he looks into eyes the same colour as the sea on an especially bright day – no, different – perhaps a bit like the sky – azure ... His smile holds delicious promises – full of sin, shame and humiliation, and yet sweet and delirious ...
The picture blurred in front of von dem Eberbach's eyes, and his body jerked involuntarily when he woke up.
Damn! These dreams became more and more realistic. He must be seriously overworked, because they had never bothered him during a mission before. Oh damn! That dream had been so realistic, he had difficulties to shake it off. His body, however, did not seem to have reacted this time ... A good sign? Well, at least he was not tempted to masturbate, a temptation he had withstood manfully so far ... And would never give in to. Dreaming of that mop-headed blond idiot was bad enough!
Damn those hotel beds! He must have lain wrong somehow during the night, his muscles felt locked. Not that he cared, he was accustomed to far worse than a bed in a mediocre British hotel. Too soft, that was all. He concentrated on summing up the necessary data of the report he would write this evening: "Second of May, 1985, Marshbone Hotel, London, England. On assignment to locate missing scientist Patrick Retty before he can spill the beans on the new NATO fighter plane he helped develop. Whereabouts of Infuriating Fop: unknown. Resources: Z, R, U, W, Q. And G. T, A, and B in Prague. D slacking in hospital. J sent to Alaska."
He opened his eyes.
Rather hot and smelly in here. Damn Brits. Thought I turned down the radiator before I went to bed. And these beds! Curse them. They pack the blasted sheets so firmly under the mattress that you feel like a mummy when you wake up!
He reached up to pull the sheet away from his head. At least, he tried to do so. Somehow, his muscles would not co-operate. Shit. He must have slept worse than he thought. He had never had such a dastardly feeling before – as if his body was all wrong. Damn it!
With more effort than usual, he managed to get the sheet away from his face, and saw ... something brown and hairy against the white sheet. A paw. Covered in short, dark brown fur. Short black claws. They looked non-extendable. A similar paw rested to the left of his head.
"Was zum Teufel ...?"
end part 2.
Chapter 3: Dorian Wakes Up
Part 3: Dorian Wakes Up. B-Day (1985) minus 13
Haaaaa-llee-luu-jah ... Haaaaa-llee-luu-jah ...
Rosewater and musk, layers of smells, a remembered scent of a childhood memory. Food too – the very best and spices enough to make his mouth water. Below them all, though – and far, far above them – the fresh, clean, oh so beloved fragrance of his dearest – some type of soap, military no doubt – NATO standard, perhaps. Divine ...
Intense red below, with spots of gold that fluttered through the air. Shimmering light as if through coloured windows. He couldn't see far beyond the bed and was only peripherally aware of the stronger sheen, also of unknown origins, coming from one of the sides.
The sight of Klaus stretched out before him, so much pale skin – skin protected from the sun, only ever shown to Dorian's eyes. Still a healthy spread of hues – faint blue bloodlines, white scars, a slight blush on his cheeks, a surprising number of pale brown freckles. Black hair - sparse chest hair and elsewhere, except for the thick, luxurious pubes and, of course, on his head. Eyes so green that nothing in nature rivalled them watched him with calm determination. Jutting up from between his lover's slightly spread legs, an erection much like Klaus himself – sleek and long, yet with a strong, powerful appearance – and tones ranging from pink across red to purple.
Dorian dipped his fingertip in a cup of melted white chocolate, then used it to paint Klaus's lips. The intense eyes studied him the entire time. A frown or a sneer seemed to lurk just below the surface, but in the end Klaus just shook his head ever so slightly, as if to say, "You are such a silly English fop, but I'll let you do what you want – for now." Dorian didn't mind. He leaned in and closed his eyes to fully savor the erupting flavours as he touched his tongue to the thin layer of chocolate he had applied – and the skin below. At first he just made light swipes, removing again the suddenly offending sweetness to delve into the far more precious taste below. Klaus finally cooperated – opening just a tiny bit, to let Dorian breech him. Dorian moaned as he explored the other man's mouth for every last possible variation of the faint spice that had already hooked him worse than any drug ever could.
He had to tear himself away and only managed as much by promise of the next sensation to come. Darting his tongue like a lapping kitten he worked his way down Klaus's body, lingering at the nipples – they added a salt tang to the mixture – until the body below him rocked from side to side and strong hands came up to push him away – or perhaps farther down. He eagerly followed the unvoiced appeal.
The first gentle swipe up Klaus's cock converted Dorian irrevocably. If he had thought himself addicted before, that had merely been a habit, whilst now he would cut off his hands to assure a steady supply of his most dear one's essence.
The shifting heat from an open fire warmed the area, though now and then a cooling wind swept through, unexpected yet welcome like a surprise gift. He knelt on soft velvet.
Klaus – who looked so cool and collected – had a smooth skin over firm muscles and his body burned to Dorian's touch. Dorian revelled in feeling him, in pressing his hands against those muscle bundles and tracing them with his tongue, the faint smatter of hair and soon enough the concentrated heat of his love's erect penis. He crawled up to catch Klaus's lips again, this time getting admitted right away and sending his tongue in to match its strength against Klaus's, scraping across teeth in the process. Unable to resist, he brought up a hand to twine his fingers into Klaus's hair. He had wanted to do that ever since he had first seen the man – before he had even fallen in love with him. Such beautiful hair, the perfect length to hold on to. He moaned at the thought of holding it as Klaus, on his knees before him, used those soft, perfect lips for something even better than kissing. Though since he had no doubt that would follow soon enough, he felt no need to rush things.
Never breaking the kiss he took hold of Klaus's cock and eased into a slow rhythm of pulls. Klaus's cock already leaked some and the slippery liquid eased Dorian's movements.
Soft music, barely heard, played in rhythm to his heartbeat – steady yet fast, urged on by his excitement and joy. Frail noises, from flutes, triangles and bells, created a base for the faraway chorus of schooled voices.
He heard his own breathing, sharp and fast. He even heard the soft sounds of his hands moving – one caressing Klaus's muscled chest, the other jacking him. Klaus had started to shift his hips in rhythm to the ministrations, obviously taking pleasure from the act, but Klaus himself remained silent. Dorian couldn't even hear the other man breathe, though he saw his ribcage lift and sink. Their eyes locked and Dorian swayed, wanting to kiss the man again – he thought that he would never get tired of kissing Klaus. Then he got a different idea and instead scouted further down, returning to suck the head of Klaus's cock. With his hands he pushed gently at the insides of Klaus's thighs, urging him to spread his legs. This time he got co-operation quicker than before and soon enough he had open access to Klaus's most vulnerable area. He went lower still. First he paid attention to Klaus's balls, blowing, licking and sucking at them, until he noticed how Klaus's thighs began to tense. Then he quickly bent his neck to tongue at the small opening below the balls, using all the skills he had learned over the years.
Finally, Klaus moaned. The sound was sweeter still than all earthly music.
Dorian's very soul vibrated in his effort to hold himself in check. All he wanted to do was to pounce; to bury himself in Klaus as fast as humanly possible and fuck him so hard that their bodies never would forget one another. His soul demanded that he did so, that Klaus was his dammit and that he had every right to claim what he had finally caught after such a long, passionate hunt. Only he couldn't, of course. He had no doubt that Klaus, his fierce, proud Klaus, could take everything he dished out, would bear it like a torture session courtesy of Mischa, and then Dorian would never, ever get close to him again. No, this had to be done right or not at all. Unfortunately, he felt so excited over the mere prospect that "not at all" might be the better option, at least in the long run.
"Are you going to fuck me or stare at me all night? Get on with it!"
Okay, so "do it right" it was. He met Klaus's annoyed glance and smiled. "In a bit, my darling, in just a bit." He went back to preparing Klaus. "Just a little more of this and we'll start, I promise."
Klaus snorted. He lay on his stomach now, having rolled over gracefully like a tiger when Dorian had urged him to. He had even spread his legs, to invite Dorian to start exploring. Which Dorian took full advantage of. Index finger and long finger on his left hand were buried in Klaus's body, slowly stretching and opening him. With the other he caressed all he could reach, revelling in finally being allowed to do so. He bent in closer and spread kisses along Klaus's spine. His own cock burned and to ease the near pain he pushed it against Klaus's thigh, careful not to start humping like a horny dog.
"Now then? Are you finished?"
Had any other man badgered him so, he would have been annoyed. In Klaus he just found it endearing. He looked into Klaus's deep, forest green eye – he could only see one from that angle - and told him, "Yes, my darling. I do believe I'm finished now."
For a moment the intense green changed to something cooler and some of the determined set of the other's mouth wavered. Dorian felt his very world tremble and he held his breath until Klaus's eyebrow went up and whatever hesitation had gone through the other man's mind had apparently been banished. "Well, get on with it, then."
So he did. He took just a few moments longer to make sure Klaus was nice and hard himself, and to rim him until he heard one more tiny, bit off moan. Then he straightened and, as slowly as he ever could, pushed his cock into the scorching heat. Muscles clenched around him and he half whispered, half groaned for Klaus to relax, afraid that he otherwise would both hurt the man and have a premature ejaculation. To finally – finally! – be within the other man felt unbelievably good – the heat, the tightness, the silken feeling all around him – but above and beyond that was the knowledge that it was Klaus – Klaus! – his very own Iron Klaus, NATO's green-eyed tiger, below him. "So good," he whispered. "So good, so good, so very, very good ..."
"You all the way in yet?"
He opened his eyes – when had he closed them anyway, of course he wanted to see!? – and noticed a minute tightening of Klaus's brow. Horror struck, he realised that he had neglected his duties. "Yes, my dear," he replied on realising that he indeed was, and that he had probably gone just a hint faster than would have been optimal. He tried his best to make up for it with altering soft and firm caresses, reaching under Klaus and jacking him again while licking the delicious, salty taste from his shoulders to give them both time to adjust.
"Do I have to belt you to get you to start fuck me, then?" Klaus hissed.
Ooops. Dorian realised that he had been wrong. Of course a little pain hadn't bothered Klaus. Perhaps even the contrary. He laughed, maybe the tiniest bit too loudly, and pulled out a little bit, only so that he could push in again, ascertain that the movement wasn't hindered by too tense muscles – which it wasn't.
"That's better," Klaus said and when Dorian looked at him again, something in his eye had softened and he was actually smiling, if only a little.
Oh my ...
He pulled out again, almost all the way this time, and kept his eyes trained on Klaus's face the entire time as he pushed back in, not missing a single nuance of the way Klaus's eyelids fluttered, how his breathing hitched for just a second and how the tip of his tongue touched his lower lip. Grinning widely, Dorian repeated the movement, this time with a little more force. A new wave of lust rolled through him at Klaus's response, even if it was limited to just the same tiny indications of pleasure. That was fine, no problem. Soon enough, he'd have the other man howling.
Oh, for the sight of Klaus prone before him! Those shapely shoulders tense – not with anger or stress, but with pleasure as Klaus's body worked in tandem with his own, pushing up when Dorian pushed in and down when Dorian moved away. They had built a good rhythm now, after a few false starts. Of course, the latter could well be forgiven, considering that Klaus had never done this before. Dorian groaned as the reality of it hit him – he was taking Klaus's virginity! For some it might not be a big thing, but it made him feel privileged beyond all others. He had never felt so close to another human being. Nor had any other human ever looked so beautiful to him, as Klaus in that minute, with his fists clenched before him and his wrists crossed as he rolled his forehead over them. He breathed loudly now, in rhythm to Dorian's thrusts. Now and then he twitched.
"Say my name," Dorian said softly, wondering if Klaus would even hear him.
"Do—" a moan broke off the middle of his name, before the other could continue. " —rian ..."
There was a faraway tone in Klaus's voice, as if he wasn't quite present. That wouldn't do. Dorian quickly pulled an unresisting Klaus up on his hands and knees, then draped himself over his beloved's body so that he could gain purchase to thrust harder, faster, towards the end he could feel coming in the pit of his stomach. At the same time he took a firm hold of Klaus's cock, pushing him along, and used his other hand to pinch his nipples. He had noticed before that Klaus responded well to such stimuli. The result stunned him – Klaus threw his head back, produced a low, long groan and came even as Dorian pounded into him.
Dorian felt himself be pulled along and after his powerful release slumped over the other's body, floating off ... and waking up.
Hallelujah indeed … he thought, with some dismay. Oh, that had been a glorious dream. One for the record, truly. "Though I'm sure the real thing will be even better ..." he said to the empty room. For once James hadn't been there to wake him, which was just as well. He loved the little man as he loved all his employees, but in the morning James could be just the tiniest bit difficult to manage. Since the day promised to be so good he wanted all of it to be nice. Dorian hummed a few bars of the barely remembered melody from his dream. Then he went on to quietly sing, " —for tonight's the night – and you can't say no ..."
The very notion made him smile. Not that Klaus couldn't say no – he could and he would – frequently, probably backed up with a Magnum in one hand and the other clenched to a fist. If necessary with two strong legs to kick Dorian with and in a pinch a sharp set of teeth as well. Dorian's smile widened. Not that Klaus would need to go through all that. Dorian well understood the word, "No," - when it was said with enough conviction.
He wasn't above a little push now and then, though, a little nudge to make Klaus aware of the possibilities and now Dorian was working up to just such a delightful little attention-getter. Klaus was in London, working on a case. A very important case, no doubt, involving some scientist and a plane. Mischa was probably about. All very exciting, Dorian was sure – but not as exciting as the thought of kissing Klaus. Which was just what he had in mind for the day's adventure. A kiss. Just a quick one. Lips meeting briefly, just a brush of skin, of being so close to his beloved that he could smell Klaus's own unique scent, maybe even time for a quick lick, to get just the tiny little taste of paradise.
The grand part was, of course, that Klaus would not be able to clobber Dorian black and blue for his audacity this time. No, Klaus would froth and growl and shake his fists, but he would keep still for the kiss and he would not beat Dorian afterwards. Dorian was reasonably sure he would today get additional information about that silly scientist boy that Klaus was looking for and he didn't at all consider using said information to gain a kiss as any type of blackmail. Klaus would be perfectly able to find out the things for himself – should he happen to have the same connections as Dorian did and not mind waiting - since it no doubt would take him longer than Dorian, since Dorian had a few ways of speeding things up that Klaus most certainly would never think of. Such as sweet talking a young man into letting Dorian peek at certain documents that probably ought to be under sharp surveillance.
"Ah, the things I do for love ..." he said out loud. Though the boy was rather sweet, all things considered and while Dorian's heart was well and truly caught by his tall German, he didn't see the harm in a tiny bit of flirting that wouldn't lead anywhere anyway.
Except to an afternoon meeting with my favourite von dem Eberbach, he thought and smiled. He really looked forward to his kiss. And who knew – maybe it would even make Klaus buy a clue!
Whistling, Dorian went over to his wardrobe to select proper clothes for the occasion.
end part 3.
Chapter 4: The Mirror/The Escape
Part 4: The Mirror. B-Day (1985) minus 13
The Major later had no idea how he had gotten out of bed and into the bathroom. He had never felt so awkward and groggy in the morning, and he wondered where and how they could have administered that drug which gave him such strange hallucinations. Possibly an odourless gas blown through the ventilation system to knock him out, then provoking that stupid illusion when he woke up again. Damn! He had to contact Z immediately to find out what had happened to his men! But first of all, he had to clear his head. No good stumbling around in a dazed, half-drugged state. Cold water would do the trick.
Verdammt, von dem Eberbach! Get up on your legs and turn the tap! You've learned to do such things a long time ago! Only – his body seemed to have other ideas. He remained on the floor, with the washstand above him and a mirror over the washbasin. It reflected the open door to the bedroom, the disorderly bed in the background, his clothes folded neatly on a chair next to the bed, his striped pyjamas and underwear lying on the floor in a disorderly heap. He did not remember having taken them off – now, what -?
Vorwärts, von dem Eberbach!
He finally managed to lift his body up and to look into the mirror. Pointed ears. The outside covered with dark brown hair. A dark brown forehead, brown eyes, the face set off with a mask of lighter brown. A pointed snout. An impressive set of teeth was bared. The Major growled, deep from his chest. He barked at the image in the mirror. The sound rang loudly in the small tiled room, hitting his sensitive eardrums almost like the shock wave of a detonation. Confused, the creature in the mirror licked its snout, and the Major felt a wet, rough tongue rasp over – his nose? Dark brown hairy paws on the white porcelain of the sink – realisation set in – followed by a nauseating wave.
"Ach du Scheiße!" the creature in the mirror said with a human voice, before its eyes rolled back, and about 80 pounds of fully grown male Doberman hit the bathroom floor.
Part 5: The Escape. B-Day (1985) minus 13
It took him a moment to identify the high-pitched, sharp sound hitting his eardrums at short intervals as the mechanical beep of an alarm clock. He had never been more glad to wake up. What a night full of strange dreams! Bah. The first one had clearly been the outcome of too much work. Those shrinks at NATO were constantly pestering him to take a few days off from time to time. He would think about it. Maybe in twenty-five years or so. He was not even thirty, for God's sake, and they were talking to him as if to a doddering old man, dammit! The second dream – obviously his mind had thought out a punishment for the forbidden kind of relaxation his body had craved in the previous dream. But now: time to begin another day and to put this nonsense out of his head.
Mercifully, the beeping alarm had switched itself off automatically. He opened his eyes. And looked at a dark brown paw on the white tiles of the bathroom floor.
Before the initial shock even could set in, there was a knock at the door, and someone called: "Sir? Are you alright in there, Sir?" It was a young female voice, with the typical soft lilt he had come to recognise in another voice, young and male ...
Oh, damn, stop it, von dem Eberbach!
It must be the girl from the reception, who looked a bit like G. When he had checked into the hotel yesterday evening, she had tried to flirt with him, possibly enamoured by a tall, broad-shouldered German with brusque manners. And now she had left her desk duties to look whether he was alright. Shit. She was persistent, knocking at the door and calling out again. Women ... Leaving her post instead of calling, possibly to get a look at him ...
"Yes?!" he roared back.
Thank God I've retained my human voice. And my mind obviously ...
"I'm fine! What's the matter?!"
"Sorry, Sir, but the lady from next door complained about your alarm clock. So I thought I'd better check if everything was alright."
"Fine!" the Major called back.
Must come up with some explanation, otherwise she won't go away ...
"I've forgotten to switch off the alarm before I went to the bathroom, and I didn't hear it inside. – Sorry about that, mein Fräulein, " he added as an afterthought, hoping this would satisfy her and make her go away.
"Are you sure you're alright, Sir? Would you need any help?"
She doesn't give up so easily. Would you believe it? That's what you get when you're trying to be polite, damn it!
"I told you I was perfectly alright, thank you. Now leave!" he snapped.
"Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir." Rudeness always did the trick. He heard hasty steps retreating on the corridor.
Fine. That was that. Now – what to do? He shook his head slightly and took a close inventory of the bathroom, then the bedroom. The smells were strong, much stronger than he remembered: of disinfectant, of soap, of sink, of the toilet, of the washing powder they had used for the sheets, of dust, of himself. Every item in the two rooms had its own smell, or in most cases more than one, but nothing, as far as he could make out, smelled out of the ordinary. Would a dog smell gas which was odourless to a human being?
Slowly, he began to accept the thought that he was not hallucinating. By some mean and dirty trick he actually had become a dog. A Doberman, to be exact. Those friggin' Ruskies or them bloody Yanks must have developed something really infernal. He must contact his men at once –
Wait, von dem Eberbach. You are a dog. First thing: You have no hands to hold a gun or a knife. Or to open a door, or handle a phone. Furthermore, if you contact Z and convince him it's really you, what will you do? Let him take you to NATO. Possibly some of the eggheads there would be able to find out what's happened to you. But most probably the process will involve you becoming a test animal in one of their labs, and finally – dissection. He was a soldier, and giving his life for the Fatherland might be part of the deal, but he was also an agent, and an agent's deal was to stay alive as long as possible and thus be useful to the Fatherland.
So, contacting his men and giving away what had happened to him was out of the question. Even if he was not in the game for the moment, there still was that assignment to be met, and he could not distract his men from it because of personal difficulties, provided they had not met the same fate. Be it as it may, in the present state he would have to solve this problem alone. And they would have to work on their own until he got his human shape back – which he would possibly be unable to do without help. Oh damn! Damn! Damn! Where to turn? His butler? His father? He was on a secret assignment, for God's sake! And what would they do? What could they do? Give him into the care of some scientists – test lab – dissection. His father would probably try to hush the whole thing, because it might besmirch the family name. Besides, he loathed dogs, would not want to have one around. It could not be excluded that he would give the Major to an animal shelter, denying that the dog had ever been his son. Animal shelter might mean to be given into someone's care – God forbid! – or being put down if no one would take him in. If they found out he could speak, they would probably sell him to a circus. And maybe someone at the shelter would even think about selling an unwanted dog to a test lab – dissection again.
It seemed as if no matter whom he turned to, his future would consist of either a circus, a life as an ordinary dog, or a test lab and dissection ...
Verflucht nochmal, von dem Eberbach, reiß dich zusammen! What about the option of staying alive, getting your human form back, and giving hell to the bastards who caused this mess? The problem is: I can't do this alone. So now, do the round again and think clearly, von dem Eberbach. Think hard. Thank God you can still speak like a human, and you've kept your human brain. So, whom do you know, who a) would believe this whole unbelievable mess, b), would probably give you shelter, and c) might want to help you to actually sort things out?
An image rose up in his mind and with it a name ...
"No!" he shouted and became aware he had called out loud.
Under no circumstances will I – The thought made him growl and pad the room restlessly. He caught himself panting, tongue out. A normal behaviour for a dog which was excited or upset ... but quite unusual for a NATO Major...
Beggars can't be choosers, von dem Eberbach. Well, coming to think of it, it's marginally better than dissection ... There is, after all, a small chance to stay alive and to complete your assignment ... He could turn the whole bloody mess this way and that, this plan remained the only workable option ...
He collapsed on the carpet, hid his eyes with his paws, groaned and muttered a tired, but heartfelt: "I need a smoke."
Now that he had a destination to go to, he had to plan how to get there without attracting too much attention.
Step one: The assignment must run as smoothly as if he was actually watching over every step.
So he had to instruct Z – and maybe find out if something out of the ordinary had happened to his men. Oh damn! He groaned. Things which had never been a problem when in a human body presented a lot of obstacles to a dog. But after all, obstacles were there to be overcome, whether in man- or dog-shape.
Step one a: dialling Z's room ...
The number was 399. The phone was an old-fashioned one, no keys to press, but a disc for dialling the number. Now how to dial without fingers, but with paws made for running and walking? Rather big paws at that? With short claws?
Shit. I wish I had become a cat. But wait ...
He remembered a wad of writing paper and a pen on the small desk near the window. Getting his front legs up on the desk was easy work, and after a few tries, he managed to get the pen between his teeth. Then he jumped on the bed and dislocated the receiver from its cradle. With some effort and a lot of support from his tongue, he managed to poise the pen over the dial disc, got the three, pulled the disc down, released the pen from the hole, found the nine, repeated the process, and, hoping the phone was patient enough for a slow dialler, dialled the nine again. With relief, he heard the beeps of a free line. His call had gone through, hopefully to the right room, and Z being there ... He looked at the electrical clock. 6:30. Still early enough for Z to be in his room ...
A clack from the receiver, then Z's voice: "Yes, please?"
Step one b: informing Z of the general circumstances.
The Major hummed the first line from "Muss I denn, muss I denn zum Städtele hinaus ..." followed by the first bars of "Ich hab' noch einen Koffer in Berlin ..." That was the code informing his men of the almost unthinkable fact that he had been called away from the assignment. The recipient of the call would lead the assignment now and proceed as planned. It furthermore contained the order that, should he not be back in two days, the man in charge was to collect his possessions from the hotel room.
"Ah yes, I see," Z answered. "Thank you. Bye-bye."
The Major put his snout on the cradle to end the call. That was that. Step one accomplished. Z had sounded quite normal, so he had reason to hope that everything was in order. At least his men would no longer be waiting for him.
Step two: getting out of the room ...
The window was latched shut. But even if he could manage the latch, his hotel room was on the third floor, and, alas, he was not a cat. In jumping out he would break at least a few bones. No good. Remained the door.
He would have to turn both the key and the doorknob. No way he would be able to manage with his teeth and paws, as much as he would have preferred to do so. So another call would have to be made.
Step two a: dialling reception.
The number was 100. He took up the pen and, with a lot of effort, managed the dialling trick again.
Step two b: chat up the receptionist.
The young flirt was still on duty, and the Major spit out the pen and spoke with all the old-fashioned charm increasingly despairing teachers had tried to instil into the stubborn head of the so far latest offspring of the old and venerable Eberbach family.
"Ah, mein Fräulein, this is Vornweg speaking, from room number three hundred and eighty. You see, there must be a problem with the lock, and I cannot get out ..."
"Oh, that's most awkward, Sir. Did you turn the doorknob to the left? Many of our guests turn it to the right, and it will not move then, you see."
"I did turn it to the left indeed, but it will not budge, and as I don't want to destroy anything, I'm a bit hesitant to use more force ..." He laid on his German accent a bit thicker than it actually was. Judging her right, it was his baritone voice, together with the clipped German accent and the old-fashioned charm that would do the trick.
Goodness – here I am, smarming up to a receptionist ... What next?!
"So I would be most obliged, mein Fräulein, if you could send someone up to have a look at the stubborn lock ..."
"I'll be with you right away, Sir. No need to trouble the caretaker!"
The Major put his snout on the cradle again. She would not miss the chance to help the tall, dark German. A bit of faked helplessness sometimes worked with a certain kind of women. Normally, he detested such treachery, he was more into ordering directly what he wanted and making people jump, but desperate situations called for desperate measures.
Now for the surprise effect. She will meet someone tall and dark indeed, he thought with a bitter sense of humour ...
He poised himself near the door. Time for:
Step two c: getting out.
The entrance in the main hall would present no great difficulties, he hoped. Even in dog form he would be able to push the revolving door ...
Hurried steps in the corridor. They stopped in front of his room. A female voice mumbling "Can't see what could be wrong now," a jangling sound, probably she had a bunch of passkeys ...
"I'm comin' in now, Sir."
A key was put into the lock from outside, and finally the door was pushed open. The Major shot past the surprised receptionist, along the corridor, down three flights of stairs, through the entrance hall – running on four legs was definitely faster, only you didn't have the overview – he jumped shoulder first against the revolving door, hurried through without getting stuck, and finally found himself outside. He did not stop running until he was a good distance away from the hotel.
Step three: destination Charing Cross station.
The trains going in the direction he wanted left from there. It would all be a matter of playing the well-behaved dog. A Doberman without a leash and a muzzle would attract attention sooner or later, and the last thing he needed now was being stunned and caught by the police. It would be best to walk behind or next to someone, as if he belonged to them.
Charing Cross was quite a distance. He thought of smuggling himself into the Underground, but the streets were nasty enough with thousands of different smells and sounds, people walking or running along, talking, shouting; cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles roaring along the streets, screeching brakes – no, he would rather prefer to walk than to be in a moving, shaking, clattering, smelly cage underground, crammed full with a lot of human beings who would not watch their steps. Besides, the danger of being noticed and getting caught would be greater in the Underground.
He walked briskly, and his trick of pretending to belong to the person walking next to him or in front of him worked well. A street sign said "Charing Cross 2 ½". Still two and a half miles to go ... One man he tried to walk next to had actually kicked him. He had bared his teeth and growled. Obviously an impressive sight, because the man had backed away, and the Major had run a bit and disappeared around the next corner. Now he was trailing behind a man in blue workmen's clothes. The man stopped and turned around.
"Eh, boy," He clicked his tongue, bent down and put out a hand. The mighty dog gave him a wide berth and trotted on. The Major heard laughter behind him.
"Well, George, 'ere you've got a dog with a purpose!" another voice said. "He don't talk to jus' anybody!"
"Maybe," George's voice. "Where ye're headin' today, Spike?"
"Delivery to Ashford," The voice of Spike again.
Had they still paid any attention to the big Doberman, they would have seen it stop in its tracks. When the man George had noticed him and spoken to him, they had been at the entrance gate of a truck station. Though hampered by the lower dog perspective and a dog's eyesight, the Major had not missed the big sign saying "Jack – Speedy Deliveries". Besides, the oily smell of the engines and of Diesel fuel had been overpowering. That guy Spike had talked about Ashford, which was just the right direction. And it would be easier to hide in a truck than to board a train, where people might sooner or later notice an unattended dog without a collar or a muzzle, even if it hid under some seats.
He ran back and saw George and the other man walk across the inner yard. Then George slapped the other man, who must be Spike, on the shoulder, and headed for a small building, probably to get a delivery order. The Major followed Spike, who would deliver goods to Ashford. Spike opened the driver's door of a small truck, then stopped to talk to another driver who had just come in.
Keeping out of sight, the Major trotted to the rear of the truck.
Lucky indeed. The truck's body was just a metal frame, covered with a tarpaulin, not a closed metal box. And one of the flaps was loose ...
With a mighty jump, the Major reached the lower edge of the truck's rear end and scrambled under the loose tarpaulin. He lay there for a moment, tried to keep still and not to pant. Then he looked around. The truck was only half loaded with large cardboard boxes. Thankfully, they were secured with huge straps to keep them in place. Spike might have been sloppy with the tarpaulin, but he had not been so with the cargo.
The conversation between Spike and the incoming truck driver had ended, the truck door slammed shut, and then the whole truck shook as the engine started. Diesel exhausts wafted in, and the truck began to move.
So far so good ... Now there's nothing to do but to wait until we reach Ashford ...
end part 5.
Chapter 5: Tyrian
Part 6: Tyrian. 1588, a few months later
He stumbled again and fell, slumping to the ground. Snow-mixed rain began to fall, pelting him as if urging him to continue. Luckily his thick fur protected him from the worst onslaught and, with a considerable effort, he pulled himself up and staggered in under a thick-limbed spruce. Something had died there not too long ago – a small animal, a rabbit maybe. There were still some bones spread; a few fluffy tufts of brown and white hair clinging to the carcass. No meat left though. "Hellfire," he muttered and collapsed again. Hunger tore at his innards, worse than he had ever felt before. Perhaps the body he was in experienced starvation differently, more acutely than a human?
Unexpectedly, a lump of snow crashed on his head, having fallen from one of the trees. Surprise made him jump back, scraping his head roughly against a low-hanging branch. More snow fell. He collapsed and curled up as tight as he could. If a dog could have done so, he would have cried.
Alone. All alone. Nowhere to go. They wanted to burn me!
About a week ago he had been rudely awakened by a shrill scream much too close to his aching head. The maid he had bedded the night before, a blond little thing with huge breasts, clutched the sheet to her bosom, stared at him as if he had shown himself to be the old troll himself and howled her lungs out. After that, things had gotten rather hectic, ending with him escaping with part of his tail cut off, a bleeding wound in his side and a badly burned paw.
The paw still hurt. He morosely brought it up to his snout and licked it. To do so didn't help much in the long run, but comforted him a little. He really should stay in one place for a few days, give it a chance to heal properly. He had run for nearly five days straight, to get to his lieutenant, a man he thought that he could trust above all others. Only to be chased out of the man's home with an axe.
Nowhere to go. Nowhere at all! What can I do? I can't live like this for the rest of my life!
But there really was nowhere for him to go. No name presented itself to him, no place that would welcome him – not since he had shown himself to be anything other than a stray, well-trained dog, anyway.
A howl cut through the cold winter air, joined by several more. Tyrian struggled to get up on his feet. He had heard the pack before, but now they sounded much closer. He crawled out from under the tree and started loping through the snow. At least the rain had all but stopped, momentarily no doubt. He hoped to get back up on the road soon, so that he could follow it to a settlement. If he would have to play stupid dog for a while, he could do that, at least until his paw had healed and he had thought out some plan, though for the life of him he could see no viable option left.
If only Heinz was older! he thought with some annoyance. His son was only ... what was it now ... a year? A year and a couple of months? Something like that. Had Heinz been older he would surely have cared for his father in his misfortune. No use going there now. There was no love lost between him and Hedwig, Heinz's mother, beautiful bitch that she was. Their coupling had been a business arrangement, nothing more. Heinz had been an unpredicted complication.
Another howl, much closer.
God's warty nose! He forced his legs to run faster. Just then a grey shape broke out from the trees to his left. He didn't hesitate, but dove straight at its legs, to throw it off stride and give himself time to roll and tear its throat. It still managed to bite him in the neck, going through even his thick, golden fur and nip through his skin. He yipped and tossed, finally managing to rid himself of the weight so that he could keep running – only to see a second wolf approaching. He was no expert on these animals, but it looked lean and wild. Probably the harsh winter had robbed the pack of many of their normal prey. He himself hadn't been able to find anything to eat, that was for sure.
Three more wolves suddenly appeared in his path and he quickly turned right, hoping to be able to slink past them. No such luck – within moments he found himself surrounded by a dozen of the shaggy beasts.
Had he been a religious man, he would have prayed, but God had never given any indication of having heard him before and could not be relied upon to help him now either.
"Stay away from me, you moth-eaten bedroom carpets!" he shouted and saw them startle, probably not expecting such sounds from something so close to themselves in appearance. He looked a bit like a big, heavy set wolf, albeit a golden one.
"If you come any closer I will tear you all to shreds, you howling fleabags!"
Only, there were twelve of them. Perhaps even more, he thought when he saw something move in the forest behind them. For a common yard dog he was gigantic and he was certainly bigger than the wolves and in much better shape than they were at that, except for his poor paw. Still. There was only one of him and he hadn't had any training in fighting as a dog.
I should have stayed with Benedict this autumn.
The image of the lean, blond pirate rose in his mind – the other's bright smile and twinkling eyes. Benedict had made it clear that Tyrian would have been welcome to join him over the winter, but Tyrian had had quite enough of rest and had been eager to see new parts of the world. There had been so much to do and so little time – less time than he ever could have imagined.
One of the wolves stepped closer. He yelled at her to leave, but this time the human voice didn't seem to frighten her. A packmate followed suit.
Very well then ... he thought bitterly. Once more he conjured up the image of his son – a cute little tyke he was – and, for whatever reason, the image of Benedict rose again. The man looked solemn for once, not smiling. With some regret Tyrian shook his head to clear himself from the distractions. Then he readied himself and took his last stand.
end part 6.
Chapter 6: Klaus Arrives At Ashford
Part 7: Klaus Arrives At Ashford. B-Day (1985) minus 13, afternoon
He must have slept a restless sleep, lulled by the steady drone of the engine – with some wild dreams about a huge gold-coloured dog and some wolves – when the slam of the truck door woke him. The truck had stopped, and there were voices. He recognised Spike's voice as one of them.
"You know where to go with this, alright?"
Steps heading away from the truck, while other steps rounded it. Someone was whistling.
The tarpaulin was lifted ...
Twenty years later, when Spike was laid off because of a bad back, and forced into an early retirement, he would still tell his grandchildren about that delivery to Ashford and his stowaway passenger.
"I lift that flap, and out it comes, like the Devil 'imself, or like one of them beasts in those werewolf flicks! A huge black beast, all teeth, and growlin' like the pits of 'ell!"
"Did it bite you, Grandpa?" little Cindy asked.
At this point of the story, Old Spike knew that he exaggerated, but it was so hard to resist.
"It tried to, luv, but I 'ad a huge wrench in me 'and – I swung it upward – and the beast jumped out, right over me 'ead, would you believe it?"
The Major jumped indeed, and then he ran, and he was sure he had never run like this in his entire life. In human form, he used to run long distances to keep himself in shape, and he found that his dog body was in good shape as well.
As far as he could make out, he was in a middle-sized town which he could only assume was Ashford. When he felt he had put a safe distance between himself and the truck driver, he slowed down.
A small park was just up ahead to his right, with a lake and ducks swimming around. He was thirsty, so he went down to the lake and lapped some water. The ducks near the shore fled, quacking angrily, some of them flew up, only to land on the water again, a distance away. Something in his brain clicked ...
He came to again when everything left of the unfortunate duck were a few feathers flying around in the bushes, where he had taken his kill to devour it. He had been hungry as well ...
Bleagh. His human mind shied away from how he had just sated his hunger. Not the hunt and the kill, but eating the bird raw ... Well, that was perfectly normal for a dog, wasn't it? They were descendants of wolves after all. And deep inside, there was a nagging thought: What if his dog instincts would take over more and more – which would most probably mean he would lose his mind?
Nonsense, von dem Eberbach. Better concentrate on how to reach your destination.
Step four: Reach Castle Gloria.
If this is Ashford, you have to go North ...
He trotted on, until he reached a region which looked somehow familiar. There was a big roundabout, and he remembered having passed through it in his car one day. So this was the town of Ashford after all. The direction he had to keep to was Faversham, and then midway turning left, going West. He would not be able to walk alongside the main road, of course, though he decided to stay as close to it as possible.
On your feet, von dem Eberbach. Or should I better say: paws? he thought grimly. Anyway –
Trotting along at a brisk, steady pace, he found he was craving a smoke very much.
Strange, he thought, my stomach doesn't mind the dirty water of the lake, nor the raw duck. A smoke would probably smell terrible to me now, and yet I'm dying for a fag ... Shit.
When he had left the town behind and reached the open landscape, he felt an overpowering urge to run, over the green meadows, through the small patches of wood, to chase the sheep grazing peacefully at a distance, to hunt some rabbits maybe ... and he called himself strictly to order. He would not allow his dog instincts to get the better of him.
Close to Ashford – Faversham road, he thought. Major Klaus von dem Eberbach in attempt to find refuge to get human form back to continue with assignment to locate scientist Patrick Retty. Time: about noon. Weather: fair.
He ignored the stink from the cars on the nearby road and also the very interesting smells of mice, rabbits, foxes and what not, and tried to keep out of sight.
end part 7.
Chapter 7: Castle Gloria
Part 8: Castle Gloria. B-Day (1985) minus 13. Early evening.
Dorian Red, the Earl of Gloria, was very content with his day. Not only was he presented with a marvellous sunset on reaching North Downs, not only had Bonham and James stopped bickering about the expenses of today's shopping spree, he had indeed found out the whereabouts of Patrick Retty, a piece of information he would sell to the inaccessible German Tank as dearly as possible tomorrow ... He had hoped to meet the forbidding beauty today, however, obtaining the precious information had taken longer than he had expected, and the pretty bird had flown for the day. So to go Klaus-hunting would have to wait until the next day. But this was only a momentary setback, as most probably tomorrow a kiss would be his for sure. Or perhaps ... a little more? Oh, it would be rewarding to make his outrageous offer, to see the indignant anger blaze in those emerald eyes ... He sighed happily.
Bonham turned into the driveway, and after another five-minute drive they reached the entrance to the main wing of Castle Gloria.
On the doorstep to the entrance sat a dog. A Doberman, to be exact, with the typical mixture of dark and reddish brown colours. Pointed ears erect, it sat upright, looking at the approaching car, but did not move.
As if it was expecting us, Dorian thought. He liked the large dog at first sight. A strong, muscular animal. He didn't know much about Dobermans, but he was fairly sure the animal would win a few prizes at every exhibition. It must have come a long way, though. Its fur was covered in mud, and it was bleeding from a gash in its flank.
"Looka that fellow!" Bonham exclaimed, killing the engine. "Must've lost its way!"
"We should see if we get a reward when we bring it back," James said from the back seat. "After all it is sitting on our doorstep. Only might be a bit difficult to find out to whom it belongs. It isn't wearing a collar."
"Well, then we'd better look after the poor thing." The Earl opened the car door.
"Better be careful, Guv'!" Bonham warned. "Fella doesn't look rabid, but it might have had a hard time anyway."
The Earl however had already left the car and was approaching the dog. It remained where it was sitting, looking at him approach, not coming up to him, wagging its tail, as friendly, playful dogs might do, even with strangers; nor did it growl, put its ears back, or show its teeth. Bonham was right. The dog generally was in a good shape, with the muscular body of a fully grown specimen of its breed, but it really seemed to have fallen on hard times lately. Apart from the bleeding gash in its right flank, there also was a wound on its left shoulder, nothing deep, probably from some barbed wire. It had stopped bleeding already.
Dorian spoke in a gentle, calm and friendly voice.
"Now, what a beautiful dog you are. Have you lost your master? You must have had a hard day, boy. Are you hungry? We'll find a fine steak for you, hm?"
He put out his hand slowly for the dog to sniff, which it did, carefully, then it pushed its nose against the back of Dorian's hand. Slowly and rather stiffly, it rose to its feet.
The Earl heard two people exhale behind him, when he opened the front door.
"Jonesy!" he called. "Jonesy, we're back! And we've got ourselves a visitor. Jim, Bob, Rudy!"
Instantly, a few of the good-looking young men who always flocked around the Earl filled the hall, ahing and ohing over the handsome dog.
"Now, where did he come from? Where did you get him, Lord Gloria? Isn't he beautiful? Is he a present from someone?" – "No, stupid, the poor thing is hurt, don't you see?"
Though it had followed the Earl into the entrance hall without hesitation, hearing all the fuss, the dog now growled and bared its impressive set of teeth. It did not back down, though.
"Shush!" Dorian admonished his men. "Look at him! He must be tired and hungry, he needs cleaning up, food, and a rest. Stop milling around! You, Rudy, find something to eat, a steak, probably; Jonesy, there is a dear, would you bring the first-aid kit to my room? Bonham, we need some dog food and some bowls, probably some toys for him to chew on, and an large basket. Oh, and probably your grandma's good salve!"
"Milord! This sounds as if you want to keep it!" James came forward, putting his hands to his hips.
The dog growled even louder, but James was in his element.
"I suggest we give it back to its owner. Someone keeping a dog like this one must be well-to-do. Such a big dog is expensive! There must be a good reward!"
The Earl's beautiful azure eyes rested on his pretty accountant in gentle indulgence.
"Very well, Jamesie. So why don't you try then and find out who in the vicinity might be missing a male Doberman? Don't limit your search to the near vicinity, though. He might have come a long way."
"I'll be off, Milord!" James said, sounding happy. His eye sparkled.
"And Oi'll be off, shoppin' again!" Bonham announced.
The Earl started for his room. Before he could say anything – and to the amazement of his men – the dog got up and followed him. It limped a little.
At the foot of the stairs, Dorian turned around, taking in his men and the Doberman with a sweeping glance.
"We will give him back, Jamesie, " he said. "But only if the person claiming him actually is his rightful owner. And by that I do not mean that he probably paid a lot of money for the dog. The poor thing might have had a reason to run away. Perhaps the owner died, and his heirs treat him badly."
The dog gave a snorting sound.
"It might take some time to find his rightful owner," Dorian continued, unperturbed. "Until then, I'll try to make him feel at home as much as I can." He looked at his men.
"Yes, Milord!" they chorused. Everyone of them knew the Earl well enough to think this was just like him: Caring for a stray dog as if it was his own.
Satisfied, Dorian turned and went up the stairs to his room. The dog followed.
"Now," the Earl said, walking up the corridor to his suite, the dog at his side, "we'll be in my room soon, and then you'll have some food and a nice rest. And we'll have to look at that nasty gash in your flank. That wound on your shoulder seems more like a scratch, but the other thing is a bite. Would it be better to see a vet? You are a brave boy. I don't want to know how your opponent must be looking. How strong you are. A chest like a tank."
They had reached the Earl's suite. Dorian opened the door to the large living room and let them both in.
"You know, you remind me of someone, a human. Hm. Strange I should think this – ah, there's Rudy with the steak and Jonesy with the first-aid kit. Thank you both, boys!"
The two men looked a bit sceptical at the dog, but it appeared only to be tired. And hungry, for it almost tore the large steak from Rudy's hand, threw it onto the carpet, sniffed and licked it, before it began to work on the meat, finishing off quickly.
Dorian meanwhile had filled the bowl Jones had brought as well with water from the tap in the bathroom.
"Do you need anything else, Milord?" Jones asked, eyeing the big dog warily, "otherwise Rudy and I could finish the sketches for –"
"Oh, sure, boys," Dorian interrupted them. "Thank you for your help."
They left, obviously glad to be out of reach of the Doberman's teeth.
"If you ask me, I don't like this breed," the Major heard Jones say. "Another dog will show when it's angry, but not a Doberman. You never know what's up with them."
"He doesn't look as if he'd take crap from anybody," Rudy answered.
The Major was satisfied. At least the Earl's minions would show respect. The Fop himself, however ...
"Oh, you've finished the steak already," Dorian said, closing the door behind his men. "You must really be a poor, hungry –"
"Shut up, you idiot," a familiar baritone said. "It's me!"
The Major had never seen the effeminate, elegant blond so taken aback, so utterly bewildered and at a loss, not even on the occasions when he had held him at gunpoint. It gave him a grim satisfaction.
The Earl was so surprised, he almost stepped into the water bowl, made a half-turn, stumbled and sat down on his butt.
"I must be mad," he said in a small voice, shaking his head. "Now I'm hallucinating. Have to stop being so obsessed about that German, I'm even hearing his voice –"
"You heard his voice, because I'm here! It's me! I'm the dog! Here! Hello!"
Dorian got up. He shook his blond mane and pulled himself together.
"Alright, whoever is doing this nonsense, imitating the Major's voice and involving a poor animal in his stupid prank, can stop now!" he announced to the empty room. "This is not funny, and I'm not falling for it!"
Oh, damn, he doesn't believe it! Well, how should he? Could hardly believe it myself this morning, and if it was the other way round, I wouldn't believe it either. Blöder Mist have to convince him somehow that it's really me, but how? Can't shoot a Magnum one-handed ... bit difficult with paws ... The Glare doesn't work on him, never did. Verdammt!
"Du Knallkopf what do you think how I feel about it?! Waking up this morning was no fun, I tell you! Don't ask me what has happened, because I don't know! And don't ask me how I feel about it! Beschissen!"
The blond stared at him, not very intelligently at the moment, but given the circumstances, the Major could not hold it against him.
"Klaus ...?" he asked in the same small voice as before.
"Ah, finally we're getting our little grey cells in motion!" the Major snapped, more from exasperation than anything else. "Well, who do you think I am, you idiot British fop? Rin Tin Tin, or what?!"
The Earl knelt next to him and sat back on his heels. The Major's dog instincts felt that the human was still bewildered, but he also sensed understanding, an acceptance that something unbelievable had happened to someone the human – held very dear. And that someone was he, the Major himself. He sensed that his idea to seek out the Goddamned Fop had been right. Dorian's feelings of worry, shock and compassion were genuine. If someone would provide shelter for him until he found out what had happened and would be able to regain his human form; if someone would even do anything in his power to help him, this would be the Earl of Gloria.
Less of a vapid airhead than I gave him credit for.
The Major was not too happy when Dorian enclosed him in his arms and whispered sweet nonsense in the vein of "My poor Darling, we'll see to it that everything will be alright again," in one of his pointed ears, but he could not very well bite the human, who provided his only hope at the moment, could he?
Besides, Dorian smelled good. Behind that nasty rose-stench, he really smelled good.
end part 8.
Chapter 8: Bonham Wonders What's Going On
Part 9: Bonham Wonders What's Going On ... B-Day (1985) minus 13. Evening.
Bonham eyed the small china jar with some hesitation. His old grandma used to swear by this salve as a cure-all for any kind of minor injury – from scrapes to rashes to paper cuts and bruises. He himself could testify to that it worked like a charm for aching and tired feet – "feet" being the operative word. Feet, not paws. Yet what could he do, with Dorian using his "do this for me and I'll love you above anyone not a German NATO Major"-eyes and asking him so sweetly? So he had whipped up a batch of Grandma's All Ache Cure Salve and even put it in the rose-decorated little jar he always used when giving it to Dorian. Which had happened rather often up until Dorian had met Uncle NATO. What Grandma hadn't known – at least Bonham didn't think that the old lady had known ... – was that the salve doubled as an excellent lubricant and since that fateful meeting Dorian's usual parade of lovers had petered off to a mere trickle.
If Eberbach ever lets 'imself get caught Oi bet 'is Lordship would even stay faithful, he ruminated as he walked up the castle corridors towards Dorian's bedroom. Not that Oi could foind fault wiv 'is Lordship. Soldier boy is about as handsome as they come, for all 'is chill and fast fists. Bonham's own inclination went to lithe and cute - Wonder 'ow dear G is doin'? If Dorian will go 'unting for old green eyes, maybe Oi'll have a chance to meet the little one again. - but he could certainly appreciate the sight of a well-built piece of manflesh. A real' 'ot arse, that's for sure.
Faint voices from his Lordship's room caught Bonham's attention. Doesn't sound like James. Who, then? Oi would've seen anyone go up, Oi fink.
One voice clearly belonged to Dorian, though Bonham only heard towards the end, "—if not, — welcome to stay here – know that – always happy to have you, Major—."
Funny, Oi didn't 'ear the door bell.
Bonham knocked perfunctorily before entering. Since Dorian had asked him to bring the salve – probably thinking that the first aid kit Jonesy had brought wouldn't be enough - he saw no reason to wait until Dorian let him in. "The salve, my Lord," he announced, while looking around to see who his Lordship had been talking to.
Dorian was all alone, except for the big dog they had found on returning to the castle. The dog was sitting next to Dorian on the sofa. Both watched him – Dorian looking startled and the dog oddly suspicious.
"Oh, excellent. Please put it there on the table. Thank you very much, you're a gem, Bonham, you really are."
He did as told, but couldn't stop himself from saying, "Oi thought Oi 'eard you talking with someone."
Dorian laughed, though there was a certain edge to the normally so carefree sound. "Me? Talking with someone? Oh no, no, no. Of course not. Who would I have spoken with? It's just little me here, Bonnie. Just little me."
"Oi thought Oi 'heard you say something 'bout the Major?"
Dorian blinked. His eyes darted to the dog, then back to Bonham. Then he laughed again. "No, no, no, that was just me. I was ... talking to myself. And ... to Major here." He reached out and, rather awkwardly, patted the Doberman's back twice. The dog made a grumbling noise. Dorian shot it another look, then smiled mischievously and scooted closer to lean his head against the animal's neck. His curls spilled all over it and the dog turned away from him, looking as if it wanted to tear itself loose. Dorian, apparently oblivious, still smiled up at Bonham with his "Everything is fine, pay no attention to the strange men hiding behind the newspapers"-smile.
"Only Oi could've sworn Oi thought Oi heard someone answering you," Bonham persisted.
Dorian sat up straight again. "Oh, that must have been Major. He makes noises sometimes. Dog noises, you know." One of his hands slipped to the sofa and then he, for whatever reason, pushed against the dog's hind leg.
The dog gave him a sharp look, then turned to Bonham and said, sounding rather bored, "Wau. Wau."
"Ah," said Bonham. "Well, Oi guess Oi'll be off then. See you in the morning, your Lordship. 'Ave a nice evening and just call me if there's anything else Oi can do for you."
"Yes, Bonham, thank you. Good night!"
Bonham left, but just as he closed the door he overheard Dorian asking, sounding very puzzled, "Wau? Wau?"
end part 9.
Chapter 9: Dorian
Part 10: Dorian. B-Day (1985) minus 13. Later in the evening.
"Ja? Would 'Bark. Bark.' have been better, then?"
"It's 'Woof! Woof!'. Dogs go 'Woof! Woof!'."
"You," Klaus said with great determination, "are an idiot." Then he snorted as if in sudden mirth. "You sound silly barking like a dog."
Dorian laughed happily and scratched Klaus behind the ears, earning himself a snap of the strong jaws – though the teeth never touched him. "Never you mind," he said, "Now on your back, my dear." Words he had wanted to say before, if not exactly in a circumstance like this one.
Dorian would never say as much, but he thought Klaus looked absolutely adorable with his lips pulled back as he growled, "Why would I? I'm not showing you my belly!"
Amused by the other's suspicion, Dorian reached over the bared teeth and smacked the dog – though very, very gently - on the head with two fingers. "On your side then, you proud beast. I'll take care of your poor paws and the rest of you too. You'll see, this salve of Bonham's, it's pure magic. You'll feel better in a heartbeat."
Klaus snorted and, with obvious reluctance, laid down with his paws hanging over the sofa's side. Dorian got the little jar and sat on the floor, so that he could start to massage the salve onto the sores and blisters on the paws before moving on to the scratches and the bite on the flank. "I've been wanting to use this on you for a long time, you know, my dear. Never imagined it this way, though."
"You're talking nonsense."
"Don't call me that!"
"Of course not, darling. Now, this Doberman thing? It is a new thing, I take it? You've never done this before?"
The dog huffed. "Of course not! This is ridiculous! Grown men don't turn into dogs!"
"No, darling. Though I have known several that I wouldn't hesitate to call dogs for all that they walked on two legs. However, and do forgive me for pointing out the obvious, you do seem to have a rather ... canine shape at the moment. My, what big paws you have, though. Say, does this feel any better?"
"It didn't hurt before either, it's you who insisted on this, you fop. Mischa is behind this, I know he is."
"Oh? The Russians have something that can do this?"
"We haven't heard about it, but they must. Or the damned Yanks. Or perhaps your frigging M16!"
"I suppose the KGB are the most suspect ones, since you're on a mission to thwart them now?"
"How do you know that?!"
Dorian couldn't resist a quick pat to the reddish stomach and deftly avoided another bite. "Ai haf mai vays, darling. Now, are you sure it is one of those abbreviation organisations that's done it?" A thought occurred to him. "You haven't been bit by a wolf under the full moon or something?"
"You idiot Brit! Do I look like a wolf? I'm a Doberman, plain as day!"
"Well, did you get bit by a Doberman then, darling?"
"Nein! There's no such thing as lycanthrophy! Besides, the moon is all wrong and if you haven't noticed, it's daytime now and I. Have. Not. Changed. Back!" He made a frustrated sound. "And don't call me that either."
"Of course not, my love. So, did you eat anything out of the ordinary yesterday? Or did you do anything out of the ordinary?"
"Nein. We ate at a restaurant, chosen at random. One of those chains, almost American. Damn Limeys, if you must import foreign food, why not good German food?"
Dorian let the insult slip, as he always did. "Well, since none of your Alphabets are affected I suppose we can rule that out. Ah ... Klaus, my love, none of your Alphabets are affected, are they?"
"I only spoke to Z, and just briefly. He sounded like himself, though I guess he might have faked it. The others ... I don't know." He started to get up.
Dorian, who had moved to Klaus's front paws, firmly pushed him back down again. "I'll send one of my men to make sure. Don't worry about it now, my love."
"Don't call me that!"
There must be something. Things like this just don't happen. It's like something out of a fairytale ... like magic ... Hmm ... "I wouldn't dream of it, handsome. Now, was there anything at all out of the ordinary yesterday or last night?"
The dog's head flew up and he got a haunted look. "Nein! Nothing at all happened! I didn't dream about—Ah ... I did dream something. There were ... wolves? And a dog."
"Wolves, huh? And a Doberman?"
"Nein. A yellow dog."
"You dreamed about a Golden Retriever?"
"Something bigger. I don't know. They were running in the snow, I don't remember anything else."
"Okay, handsome. I'm glad you're not a Golden Retriever, though. A Doberman is just ... so very you." Dorian giggled at the very thought of Klaus as a Golden Retriever. "Cropped tail and ears and all. I wonder why, though? They're not born that way, you know. Anyway, there, that's your last paw. All better now?"
Klaus quickly got up to a sitting position, then lay down on his belly so that they were eye to eye. He inspected his right paw visually, then sniffed. His ears went back and he sniffed again. Then he glared accusingly. "Lord Gloria - why do my paws smell of strawberry?"
end part 10.
Chapter 10: The Night / First Morning
Part 11: The night. B-Day (1985) minus 12.
The night had been quiet, although Dorian had not slept much. "Major" had refused to join him in the bedroom, had insisted on staying in the living room instead, with the door to the bedroom firmly closed. Dorian had given in to his demands, except for the firmly closed door, so he had heard his beloved restlessly pace the room, his claws clicking on the floor, then the tap-tap-tap when he had crossed the carpeted sections, the snuffling noises when he had examined something. Despite his exhaustion and his injuries, Klaus was restless. Small wonder ...
After a while, Dorian had heard the large dog jump on something, a chair or most probably the couch, mutter a heartfelt "Scheißdreck!" and then there had been silence.
Dorian would have liked to lie close to Klaus, to comfort him, and he had been sorely tempted to get up and sit next to his sleeping love, but then Klaus would have woken up again. He surely would not have wanted Dorian around when he was sleeping, and Hell knew, he sorely needed his sleep. So Dorian had stayed in bed.
Part 12: First morning. B-Day (1985) minus 12.
Klaus woke up as he almost always woke up, instantly clear-minded and ready to face the day. Unlike most mornings, though, he kept his eyes closed for just a moment longer. Everything will be back to normal. It was just for one, horrible day. I will be myself again. Human. I can get the hell out of North Downs. Never set foot here again. For he couldn't fool himself into wishing that the whole horror story had never happened. The room was permeated with the sickly sweet, yet somehow familiar and comforting scent of the Earl of Red Gloria. He was also lying on a hairy rug. Naked!
The possibility that he might be lying nude in the Earl of Red Gloria's home, just an open door away from Dorian's bedroom, had him on his feet so quickly his head spun. All four of his feet, sadly, though he couldn't help but feel grateful that at least he had been spared the indignity of having to wrap himself in the velvet curtains or something. He padded over to the door and glanced over at the bed. All he saw of the Earl was a mass of curls. He looked over to the window instead. Bright light streamed in – too strong to be mere morning. A new glance towards the bed, this time to locate a clock, confirmed that he had overslept his normal waking time by over two hours.
Annoyed that even his body's normally so obedient rhythm had let him down he stretched as well as he could and then did an experimental push-up. The dog-body made it awkward and the motion felt pointless, so he didn't follow through with his usual program. Besides, the fop might wake up soon enough. I don't want to give that bugger a show with my arse up in the air. Sit-ups were out of the question, of course, so he would have to make sure he got a good run later on.
Part of his pelt didn't feel right, so he spent a few moments grooming himself. Then he looked towards the bed again. The fop still slept. The pervert actually wanted me to share the bed with him! Ha! As if I would sleep at his stinking feet! And as if he would need anything softer than a rug to sleep on! Granted, if he hadn't been in dog shape he probably would have felt a bit stiff after the past night, but as it was he had slept well. The fire that the Earl had laid before going to bed had been particularly nice.
Feeling restless he ran over to the window and leaned on the window sill to look out. Green fields, flowers and trees. Nothing useful. He padded over to the bowls Dorian's men had brought and slurped a little water. There was no food. He wanted food. Something nice and juicy, like that steak Rudy had brought. Or like the duck - crunchy and tender at the same time. He loped back towards the window to check if he could see any ducks, when a wave of cold dread washed over him and he slid to a stop. Birds? No! I'm a human! I don't eat living birds! That was a mistake! He quickly lay down on the rug again. The restless sensation remained, though he now felt fairly sure that it was something other than simple hunger. If only the fop would wake up so we can get started!
To return to sleep was impossible and besides, his bladder had started to make itself known. After a while he got up again to groom his pelt some more. His paws felt much better. The Earl had been right about that salve of Bonham's working miracles. Then his stomach twisted a little and he sighed. Enough is enough, he decided and resolutely trotted over to the bed.
Despite the bed's impressive width and length, the Earl had managed to sprawl himself over most of it, by lying with his head on the left pillow and his feet in the right lower corner. He lay prone with his arms akimbo and his head to the side. That's why he is hunting me – he needs someone strong enough to keep him from hogging the bed. Would it work to just put an arm around him and keep him in place, I wonder? Images detailing a couple of other suggestions rose to his mind and he hastily shook his head to clear himself from the momentary weakness. Concentrate, von dem Eberbach! Your mission is imperative! You've been lazying around here for far too long! Work! Besides, he had a rather ... pressing problem.
"Gloria? Wake up!"
Nothing. Not even a flinch.
"We are wasting time. I have a mission to get back to. Wake up!"
Finally! The Earl moved, tossing his head so that his mane of hair all rolled over to his left, away from where Klaus stood. "Just a few more minutes, Jamesie," he mumbled.
"Make sure the receipts add up, that's a dear, you know I love you."
The blanket had been pushed down over the Earl's shoulders to reveal a silk pyjama top in cyan blue with a pattern of gold roses. The toss of his head had bared his long neck line and part of a pale nape. With great relish Klaus firmly pushed his cold snout against the pinkish skin.
"Hey!" Dorian opened one eye. Through a curtain of blond curls, he looked into the face of the big Doberman to which the man he loved had changed. And if ever a Doberman had looked grumpy, it was this one.
"Oh, Darling." With a considerable effort, Dorian lifted his head to take a look at the electrical clock on his nightstand. 8:30.
"Did you sleep well?"
"No. And I need to take a fucking leak. Let me out. – Move it!" he shouted, when Dorian did not obey immediately. "Or do you want me to lift my leg at your sofa?!"
Dorian sat up in alarm.
"Oh my poor Darling!"
The dog looked as if he had a lot more to say, but refrained from it because of more pressing matters. Dorian left his room, went downstairs and opened a side door, which led into the large, park-like garden at the rear of the castle. He saw the huge, sleek form of the Doberman cover the lawn at an enormous speed and vanish somewhere into the bushes at the far end.
Dorian shook his head. A normal dog would have lifted its leg at the first tree or bush available, not have run down to the far end of the inner garden. But this dog was Klaus, who fiercely guarded his privacy ...
He watched the Doberman emerge from the bushes again, making the typical scratching movements with his hind legs that a dog does to cover its excrements. Then "Major" tore around the lawn, startling a squirrel, which fled up a tree, and a few blackbirds, which took to their wings with a noisy warning.
Dorian observed how the large dog ran; he admired the long, sleek muscles moving under the dark silken coat when the animal came close, just to tear away again until he had shrunk to a black spot at the farthest end of the wide area. He thought of the Major's habit of working out and running. It did not surprise him that Klaus had turned into a dog which would need a lot of exercise. He also knew that his beloved was an early riser. Small wonder that as a dog he would demand to be let out at the most ungodly hours, when usually no one would be up and about in his household ...
Well, I'll have to live with rising early when he is around, Dorian thought. Either in human form or as a dog. – How beautiful he is, how graceful ...
He stopped himself because it dawned on him that he was thinking lovingly about a dog. Or better: about a man who had become a dog, whose dog-state hopefully was only temporary ... What if not? What if Klaus remains a dog for the rest of his life ...?
Dorian shuddered, and not from the morning cold and the dew which had soaked his silken Turkish slippers. They would find a way to change Klaus into human form again ...
He was amazed at his own line of thought, amazed at how easily he had accepted the impossible fact that the man he loved had turned into a dog. Such things did not happen in real life, they happened in fairy tales or horror movies ... And yet, here he stood, Dorian Red, the Earl of Gloria, the Prince of Thieves, shuddering in his silken pyjamas, his feet soaking wet, because he had stepped out on the lawn to watch the man he held dear in his heart tear through the garden in the shape of a large Doberman. And it was real. Unmistakably real.
It took a long while, then the dog came back, panting, shaking itself.
"Lingering about outside, getting your feet all wet! Man, I'll need you as my human eyes! As my human shape! Can't have you lounging in bed, nursing a cold!" the Major said. He kept his voice low, so as not to wake anybody and arouse suspicion. Dorian, however, could not help laughing. This was the Major, no doubt. And especially bad-tempered, probably because he could not have a smoke.
"Stop braying like a silly ass!" the Major hissed angrily.
"Sorry, Darling." Dorian had a hiccup now.
"I could do with some caffeine, " Klaus remarked when he followed Dorian up to his room again.
"Oh, Darling, I don't think this is a very good idea ..."
"Black. And strong."
"It might upset your tummy, Darling."
"Verdammt nochmal, don't talk to me as if I was a bloody five-year-old, just because – because I'm a dog!" the Major exploded.
"Shhhh!" Dorian admonished him. They had just passed the corridor where Dorian's men had their quarters. A door opened and Bonham came out, dressed in his pyjamas. He went up to the Earl.
"Mornin', M'lord. Ev'rythin' alright?"
"Good morning, Bonham. Sure. I've just taken Major out."
"Thought Oi 'eard voices."
"Oh no!" Dorian said a bit too quickly. "I was just talking to Major here. I wonder, Bonham, could you make us some tea? And bring a cup of Nescafé and a large saucer?"
Bonham scratched his head.
"Very well, M'lord." He looked doubtfully at the Doberman.
"Ah, there's a dear. Thank you, Bonham."
For a moment, the stocky man watched his employer and the big dog following him, as he walked up the stairs. A lovely picture, the large, majestic dog and the tall man in his blue silk pyjamas, with his mass of blond curls.
Nescafé? Probably for "Major"? 'E's definitely pushing the parallels between Uncle NATO and that dog a little too far, Bonham thought and shook his head. Nes for a dog? But then, Grandma's tomcat, Ahasver, would take some tea from time to time. So anyway, Major won't take the Nes if 'e doesn't loike it. Hm. Never been sure about that cat. Could've been an unregistered Animagus ... Somethin' smells fishy 'ere. P'rhaps Oi should 'ave a closer look at "Major" ...
He shrugged and went down to the kitchen to prepare the ordered beverages.
As Bonham had guessed, the Earl poured some of the Nes into the large saucer, blew on it and put it on the floor. The Doberman sniffed it but refused to take any of the drink.
"P'raps if you added some milk, M'lord?" Bonham suggested before he left and closed the door behind him. The pang of guilt he felt when he pressed an ear against the door was only mild. He wanted to verify his suspicion. He was a bit worried about his employer. And, come to think of it, maybe even Uncle NATO had bitten off a bit more of the cake than he could swallow ...
He heard the clattering sound of a plate being pushed around on the floor. Apparently, now that he had left, the dog had taken the Nes. Full of thoughts, Bonham went down to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.
Dorian refilled the saucer, and the Major carefully lapped up its contents again, his big tongue working the plate energetically over the floor.
He looks so cute, lapping up the coffee, but if I tell him so, he'll probably get angry again ...
A third helping, then the cup was empty.
"That was good."
The damn fop was ogling him again with that strange, loving, genuinely worried look ...
"Lock the door."
"But why, Darling?"
"Once and forever: Stop this 'Darling' crap! I want a cigarette, and I won't have Roly-Poly or someone else barging in!"
"No way, dear!" Dorian shook his head vehemently. "A cigarette will smell horribly to you, and your – new body won't tolerate nicotine. You will get terribly sick."
Klaus growled. Probably the fop was right.
Shit. Now, that's a rather new and interesting way to give up smoking!
"Enough of this nonsense. I need you to talk to Z."
Dorian was not amused. "Why do you need me to talk to Z? I can dial for you, if you want?"
"No good. He knows I'm on a special mission. If I were to call he would be suspicious. You must do it."
Dorian gave in. "Very well, my dear, of course I will talk to Z. He's always such a nice boy to talk to."
Klaus felt his ears go down. Since he was cropped they couldn't move much, but he still felt the attempt. It was a very odd sensation; odder even than to curl up so tight that he could rest his head on his hind paws. "Don't talk about him like that," he growled, adding, as an after-thought, "He's a good German boy."
"Yes dear, that's what I meant. I like talking to nice German boys."
"Pervert! You keep away from Z!"
"I wasn't just talking about Z, you know. Anyway, of course I will talk to him for you. Just give me a chance to freshen up a bit first and dress. In the meanwhile you can tell me what you want me to say to him and ask of him."
By the time Dorian was ready to dial, Klaus felt ready to bite him. How could anyone – and especially a man – take so long time to get ready in the morning!? It wasn't even as if he was going out or to a fancy dress party or anything! It was just an ordinary morning! Granted, Klaus knew that he himself usually took a little longer time than the norm to get ready, since he kept his hair long, but that was a spit in the ocean compared to the Earl's leisurely preparations. Four times had he come out of the bathroom. Each time Klaus had been sure that they would now get on with calling Z, but each time Dorian had just fetched something and then disappeared again. One time he had only worn a towel around his hips and another around his hair! In fact, he still wasn't completely dressed. He wore a red, half-open blouse with ruffles to the point of ridiculousness. His white pants reached to just below his knees and left his strong, muscular ankles bare. No socks; no shoes. They had finally settled in the sofa next to the phone. "I'm not sure I quite got it. One more time, Klaus, just to be safe," said the Earl, sounding slightly troubled.
Klaus sighed, but complied. "[Ich bin ein Freund, Dir lieb und teuer, helf Dir finden Deinen Weg]," he sang. This was the second time the Earl had asked him to repeat the text and thus the third time he had sung it. Surely this time the Earl would get it right.
"[Ich bin ein lieb und teuer Freund, Deinen Weg helf—]" Dorian started.
"No! Listen to what I'm singing, you damn—" Klaus growled, before he finally noticed the sparkle in Dorian's eyes and caught on. "—perverted limey! You know the song fully well! Now call Z and hurry! I'm hungry!"
Dorian at once looked serious. "I'm sorry. Are you sure I shouldn't tell Rudy to bring food for you?"
"No! You must talk to Z now, before he heads out, if he hasn't done so already. You're wasting precious time, you git!"
"Oh. I'm sorry. I'll call him right away."
He actually did. Klaus scooted a little closer and could soon hear Dorian sing, in a close to flawless German, [Ich bin ein Freund, Dir lieb und teuer, helf Dir finden Deinen Weg] followed by, "Hello dear Z! It's me, Eroica."
"Oh, he thought you might need a bit of a helping hand. Do you, dear? Is everything going well?"
Klaus felt his ears go back again.
"No. No drop-dead gorgeous, tall German men with long, black, silky hair and eyes like emeralds around here, dear Z."
Klaus growled in warning. Dorian waved at him.
"I'm sure he'll show up any day now. A dog? How strange."
"Yes. Oh, yes, my dear."
"Aha. And how are you and the others doing? Lonely, is it?"
Whatever Z said had Dorian laughing. Klaus contemplated biting him.
"Aha. Yes, I think so."
"Yes. Very well, then, sweet Z, just be in touch if you need me to help you. Bye-bye."
"You flirted with him!" Klaus growled as soon as the phone was hung up.
Dorian patted him on the nose. "Don't be silly, dear, I was just being friendly with the poor boy. He sounded quite stressed, you know."
"Why? What has happened?"
"Oh, nothing in particular. I just think they weren't ready for you to disappear like you did."
"I told him I had to leave!"
"Yes, yes, but apparently the management spoke to them about ... odd behaviour from your side and a big dog at the hotel. Poor Z was so puzzled by everything."
"The mission, then? What did he say?"
"Oh, nothing new. They're still looking for the—oh." Dorian broke off the sentence with a distraught gasp, which made Klaus sit up and hastily look around to see if something threatening had appeared in the room.
"What? What are they looking for?"
Dorian rose and held up his hands towards Klaus, as if trying to keep him on the sofa. "Klaus – I want you to promise me that you won't be mad at me now."
Klaus reflected that this was probably the stupidest thing he had ever heard the Earl say. "Out with it! What?!"
"The thing is ... Patrick Retty? The scientist? Whom you're looking for?"
"I was going to ask you for a kiss and then I totally forgot about it and—"
Klaus jumped back. His lips pulled up and back on their own accord. "I'm not kissing you!"
"No, no, I just can't believe I forgot about it! Klaus – I'm so, so sorry!"
"You're not making any sense, you idiot! What are you nattering about?"
"With all the excitement I just plain forgot to tell you. I know where Patrick Retty is."
end part 12.
Chapter 11: A Walk In The Park Is A Bitch
Part 13: A Walk In The Park Is A Bitch. B-Day (1985) minus 12. Afternoon.
To lighten his love's mood a bit after the tantrum Klaus had thrown when Dorian revealed that he knew the missing scientist's whereabouts, the Earl had suggested a walk in the vast grounds surrounding Castle Gloria. Klaus had agreed, but insisted first that Dorian phone Z again with the information on Patrick Retty. While Dorian made that second phone call, he had torn to shreds a few of the sofa cushions and the Earl's silken pyjamas. That would teach the fop to keep information from him in the future.
Outside, he ran for a while. Pure speed and power. Pure joy of life, enjoying all the exciting smells. Dorian soon lost sight of him. He would not go running with the dog, because he was still a bit sulky about the cushions and the pyjamas.
But it was not in his nature to sulk for long. The day was too beautiful to be annoyed over such minor drawbacks. Not too hot; not too cold. He was walking through a small patch of wood. A light breeze ruffled his hair and made the sunlight paint ever-changing patterns on the path. Klaus was nowhere to be seen, although he heard him rustle in the distance. The sound came closer, and the large dog broke out of the underbrush right in front of him before tearing away again. Dorian was not worried about letting the dog run around unleashed. He had in person informed his groundskeeper, Mr Witherspoon, and his employees about "Major", so no one would mistake him for a stray and possibly shoot him. What worried Dorian more was that Klaus wanted to be with them when the Alphabet, led by Z, and the Earl would free Retty this very night ... A dog's nose would be very helpful in sniffing out where in the building the Russians kept the scientist, and he had powerful jaws and sharp teeth, but somehow Dorian had scruples about bringing an "innocent animal" to the battlefield. However, if he said anything more about the subject, Klaus would even more stubbornly insist on accompanying them. It was his mission after all ... Dorian decided he had said enough already.
The Major enjoyed himself. Sometimes it might not be so bad to be a dog, just running around, feeling the strength of your body, just enjoying the moment without any worries or thoughts of tomorrow ... However ...
That damn stupid idiot! Flirting with Z on the phone and forgetting the most important facts! I don't get it! And then objecting to me going with them to finish the mission!
He would be there, though, he would sniff out the Russian hideaway in the old warehouse near the London Docks ... but for the moment he was quite happy running around in the woods ... His paws didn't give him any more trouble, the gash from the barbed wire was no more than a memory, and even the bite in his flank did not keep him from running and taking in all these exciting smells – green and blossoms; sheep and cows; rabbits, squirrels; something bigger, living underground, a badger perhaps; water, birds, traces of humans –
A new smell hit him with a vengeance. It was different ... wild and sweet, overwhelming. And it spoke of –
Again something in his brain clicked, like when he had seen the ducks at the lake in the park at Ashford, and he ran, ran, ran, following that wonderful, luring smell, which spoke of need: a burning need to bury himself in the source of that smell until he would be satiated ... He reached the origin of the smell, and his human brain took over again. He saw her with human eyes: An aristocratic-looking bitch, tall and long-legged, with flapping ears and a thin, long tail; a wide chest and a short, light grey coat. Before she could say hello to the attractive male Doberman, who seemingly had appeared from nowhere, her potential suitor tore around and ran away as if the demons of hell were at his heels.
While running, the Major heard the bitch follow him; her exciting smell did not diminish, and damn, the canine lady could run! He heard the sharp sound of a whistle, and then the yell of a female human voice, no less sharply: "Nausicaa!"
To his utter relief the female dog was very well trained. Hearing the voice of her mistress, she stopped dead in her tracks. The Major ran on, back to Dorian's familiar smell, and found himself pushing his head between Dorian's knees, shivering ...
Shit, shit, shit ... instincts, just instincts ...
"My God, what is it, Darling? What?" Dorian was beside himself with worry, stroking the shivering Doberman's back. He looked around. Far off in the direction from which Klaus had come, he could see the tall, skinny shapes of a human and a long-legged dog, drawn behind on a leash.
"Hm. My immediate neighbour, Lady Fentimore. Walking Nausicaa on my grounds again. Witherspoon would have a fit if I told him."
"We should go home and have a rest," the Major interjected testily, shaking off the stroking hand. "After all, we'll have important things to do tonight."
"Nausicaa is such a kind and friendly dog," Dorian continued. "Her mistress is a fright, though. Thank goodness her daughter knew better than being after me. But what has shocked you so, Darling? It can't be that she tried to hit you –"
"Nonsense!" the Major snapped. "There was that smell. I can even smell it now. it made me run to her ..."
Dorian looked puzzled for a moment. Then he understood.
"I take it you are talking about Nausicaa," he finally said with a slight smile. "She must be in heat, then. My dear, that was the voice of nature –"
Klaus growled deep in his chest. Was there a certain mocking glee in the Fop's tone? The impertinent bastard was making fun of him!
"One more word, and you'll hear another voice of nature," the Major warned. "That of pain!"
Throwing his head back, golden curls flying in the sunlight, Dorian strode back to the castle, not caring for once whether the Major followed or not.
Touchy we are, Klaus thought. Impertinent and touchy ...
end part 13.
Chapter 12: Potatoes, Bestiality and Petting
Part 14: Potatoes, Bestiality and Petting. B-Day (1985) minus 12. Afternoon.
Being sulky for long was not in Dorian's nature, though. When they had reached the castle, he was his charming self again, filling "Major's" bowl with water in the kitchen, and watching him drink.
"You really are a proud beast," he remarked. "Very stand-offish. You would never ever wag your tail, would you?"
The Major licked his snout.
"What tail?" he grumbled. "And what for?"
"Just out of friendliness, Darling," Dorian answered lightly. "Well, at least the encounter with Nausicaa made you put your head between my legs –"
With the speed of lightning, the large dog tore around, impressive teeth bared. The impact of the heavy body slammed Dorian into the door of the storage closet. Powerful jaws grabbed Dorian's wrist in an iron grip; not hurting, not drawing blood, but hard enough to bruise and showing that they could easily bite through flesh and bone, if the dog wanted to. For a moment, the Doberman's eyes, normally the dark brown tone common in the breed, blazed emerald green.
As fast as he had attacked, the Major let go of Dorian's wrist and went down.
Scheiße, Scheiße, Scheiße! Continue like this, and you'll be cracking, von dem Eberbach!
"I'm sorry," he said aloud. "But this is not easy, for fuck's sake! Not easy –"
Dorian rubbed his wrist.
"I should say sorry, Darling. I'm not the one who's in this – predicament, and I should not have mocked you."
"Hmpf. Perhaps we'd better go to your room and go over the plans for tonight."
I don't get it. The fellow smells good. And he tastes good. His skin – da scheißt doch der Hund ins Feuerzeug! I like his smell, his taste, being around him ...
"A very good idea, Darling. But I'd like something to eat before." Dorian opened the fridge and rummaged around in the compartments. "Potatoes, onions, frying oil, bacon. What would you think of some fried potatoes for me and a steak for you?"
After those vitamin dog cereals Bonham gave me this morning ...
Nonchalantly, the dog walked over to the brand new basket in the corner and settled down there. He didn't answer, because Bonham had entered the kitchen. Curled up, head on his hind paws, he watched the two humans.
Never thought the fop could cook. Have to keep an eye on this Bonham. He looks harmless, but he's got sharp eyes and he's not stupid ...
Soon, a wonderful smell of fried steak and bacon wafted through the kitchen. The Major sniffed. Then he licked his snout angrily.
I'm almost drooling!
A few of the Earl's men came in, talking about this and that, and making a big fuss over their employer's cooking abilities. Two of them came over to him to try the "nice doggie" show, but he sat up and showed his fangs, so they thought it better to keep a respectful distance.
I'm really grateful I haven't become a poodle or one of these stupid lap dogs, a Shih Tzu or something like that. Bah!
They gathered round the kitchen table, and "Major" was served his steak by the Earl. It was almost raw, which he liked.
"Perhaps 'Major' would like some fried potatoes as well," one of the fops said. It was the one the Earl had called Rudy.
"Major, hey, Major. Look here, boy!"
The Major ignored him.
Just you wait, you insolent little sissy, just you wait until I get back my human body! 'Boy'!
A piece of fried potato landed near his basket. He ignored that, too.
"Don't throw around food! It's expensive!" James protested. Rudy made a face in his direction.
"Yes, better leave Major alone." This was the Earl. "He is a bit - tired."
The Major lay down again, fuming inwardly.
If you tell that story with the bitch, I'll get to your throat when we're alone again!
"Think of his injuries," the Earl continued, and immediately his assembled menagerie fell all over themselves with sympathy for the "poor doggie". Well – as long as they kept away from him ...
You're damn lucky, fop.
A bit later, after the Earl had given orders to prepare this night's "coup", the men left the kitchen.
The Major gobbled up the piece of fried potato Rudy had thrown to him. It had gone cold meanwhile, but tasted delicious nevertheless. After all, it would be a pity to let good food go to waste. For once, he almost agreed with the Stingy Bug.
"More?" Dorian asked.
The Earl threw him a few pieces of fried potato and bacon, which the Major snapped from the air. Dorian was obviously pleased. Then he kept one large piece of bacon in his hand. The Major sat on his hindquarters and looked at him, with a dangerous hint of green in his eyes.
"I will not beg for my food!"
"No, Darling, of course not." Sobered, the Earl let the piece of bacon drop to the floor. He looked crestfallen, and the Major's newly acquired dog senses told him that the fop was not playing games to get what he wanted, blackmailing him into co-operation for his help. The sissy was actually trying to cope with the whole goddamned fucking bloody mess ...
Damn idiot! Bloody fool! the Major raged inwardly, not completely sure whether he meant the Earl or himself.
"Oh well," he grumbled testily, "if you want it so much ..."
After all, I owe him a bit of co-operation after that bite ...
A smile lit up Dorian's pretty face, and he took up the strip of bacon from the floor, offering it to the Major again, who gingerly took it with his teeth. He could actually feel the Earl's joy about a Major, who showed himself a little bit more accessible ...
A piece of fried potato followed the strip of bacon, then even a piece of onion, another strip of bacon, a few fried potatoes more ...
Easy to please, those humans ... What was that though?! I am a human myself! What am I thinking? – Oh Scheiße, ist mir auf einmal schlecht ...
There was no time to excuse himself, or to run outside - the door to the garden was closed anyway. His stomach heaved and emptied quickly.
"Sorry." The Major had to admit, though, that the pretty Earl, staring at the expensive Italian loafers he had discarded beside his chair, folding his long legs under him, looked priceless. Unfortunately, as always, Klaus had aimed well ...
The Earl found his voice again.
"Oh deary, deary me."
"Oh my poor Darling!"
"Alright, I felt sick for a minute, but I survived. Now stop petting me!"
"You poor dear, I would never have –"
The Major growled a warning. As much as he – yes, well, dammit – liked the fop, his petting and stroking hand wandered too close to regions where Klaus would never have allowed a touch in his human form. He would not allow it as a dog either. The fop was going too far ...
"Had I known that the fried potatoes would upset your tummy so much! My poor Darling –"
"Stop groping me!"
"Do you feel better now that it's out? Perhaps a hot water bottle for your poor tummy –"
Like a striking snake, the big dog whisked around. Again, he had Dorian's wrist in his teeth, growling menacingly. Then, sobered by the shock in the Earl's eyes, he released the man.
"Well," Dorian said, "I better get myself a new pair of shoes, then, and clean up the mess." His voice sounded thin and subdued.
"Look at it like this, Lord Gloria. I don't like to be touched in my human shape, and this has not changed now that I'm in a dog's body! My butt is off limits!"
Dorian had taken up his soiled shoes with a lot of paper towels and threw the whole mess into the wastebasket. Then he took more towels and wiped the kitchen floor.
"Your butt, Major, is of no interest to me."
The Major snorted.
"At least in the present form of – a Doberman's hindquarters," the Earl continued truthfully.
The Major growled.
Dorian sat down again, propping both elbows on the kitchen table, folding his hands under his chin and sighing deeply.
"This whole affair is rather complicated, Major." He sighed again.
Now, don't you get into one of your bouts of melancholy, Gloria! This is the least convenient moment you could choose!
"Tell me about it," he answered grumpily. "It's most important, then, that you keep your head clear. Tonight we'll wrap up the mission. The next mission for me then will be to get back my human form."
And I haven't got the foggiest how to manage that "coup" ...
"We're both in this, Klaus." He heard the love in the fop's voice. And the concern ...
Determinedly, he strode over to his basket.
"Everyone with a part in tonight's mission should see he gets some rest now. Tell your men."
He curled up, put his snout on his hindquarters and closed his eyes. The parlay was definitely over.
Dorian shook his head.
I haven't felt so bewildered since I did Bonham that favour, stealing a strange dinosaur egg from the Museum of Natural History, when he said he owed a bloke something ...
end part 14.
Chapter 13: The Mission
Part 15: The mission. B-Day (1985) minus 11.
The sun set over North Downs, creating a spectacular variety of colours in the sky. A brief rain during the afternoon had left the air fresh and humid. Klaus had taken one last, quick run through the garden – though he kept within the close vicinity so he wouldn't run into the neighbour's bitch again. He had relieved himself, taking care to lift his leg at several trees circling the castle, so that any intruder would know who was in charge there. Now he waited for the fop to give the final instructions to his men, before they could leave.
Waiting, waiting, waiting ... I'm always waiting for him. They should already know this stuff – no need to tell them again. We're wasting time! And I can't even have a smoke while I'm waiting!
He barked once, to remind the thief that they needed to go. Dorian waved at him. Annoyed, Klaus trotted over to the bright purple Lamborghini. It had gold details. For once, he actually felt grateful for being in dog shape – he wouldn't have wanted to be seen going in such a car of his own free will. That pimpmobile in Rome was bad enough.
Eyeing the door-handle speculatively he judged that he probably would be able to open it with his teeth, but that he had better wait for Dorian since they were still in sight of the other thieves. A quick glance over his shoulders showed him that the Earl had backed off a step from his men, which presumably meant that he was almost done. On turning back, Klaus happened to glance inside the car. Then he quickly rushed over to the other side, feeling a little stupid – of course the Lamborghini was a British model, with a right-side steering wheel. Hopefully the fop hadn't seen him standing there like an idiot, expecting to get to sit in the driver's seat!
Through the windows he saw Dorian finally leave his men and jog up to the car. The thief had changed clothes to a relatively more presentable outfit – still with an outrageous amount of ruffles, but at least a sedate black. "There," he said. "All taken care off." He quickly opened the passenger seat door and Klaus jumped in, settling a little awkwardly in the seat not quite designed for canine bodies. Moments later Dorian sat beside him and buckled himself in. Then they were off. Not for long though. As soon as they were out of range from eyes spying from the castle, Dorian stopped the car again and began fiddling with a black bag he carried. To Klaus it looked suspiciously like a lady's handbag.
"What are you doing?" he asked. "We have to get to London!"
Still with his hand in the bag, Dorian turned towards him and smiled. Not the bright "Hello, Handsome!"-smile or even the "You just foiled my plans again, but I'm still happy to see you,"-smile, but one that rather alarmingly reminded Klaus of Dorian's "Yes, I did steal the Pope, but I didn't mean to cause any trouble"- smile. While Klaus would claim indifference to most of Eroica's expressions, that was one he patently did not want to see.
"Klaus, darling ... I'm not sure if we'll have time later, so I better do this now."
"Well, you see ... With you being ... canine at the moment, and such ... First of all ... I will have to treat you like a dog. You do know the commands that a dog should follow, right?"
"Of course I do! I'm not stupid! Just don't treat me like a bloody lap dog! Don't coo or try to make me do tricks or whatever!"
Dorian quickly shook his head. "No, no, no, my love, I would never do that. Ah ... Good. And then ... You see ... With being a dog owner – and I'm supposed to be your owner, at least as far as they all know – come certain responsibilities. Do you ... know what I'm saying?"
The only things Klaus knew was that there was something fishy going on and that he was fairly sure he wouldn't like whatever the fop had dreamed up. "No."
"Well, we don't want the dog catcher to try to capture you, now do we? So ... you'll have to wear a dog tag. And ... well ... if you need to wear a dog tag you need ... something to wear the dog tag ... on. So ... here. What do you think? Isn't it pretty?"
What was retrieved from the handbag was green and golden and glittery. It looked like something a gaudy whore would wear – or the Earl himself, come to think of it, in one of his more elaborate get-ups.
"I always thought this would look lovely on you," the Earl continued. "It really goes well with your colour - even now, and—"
Klaus felt himself start moving in for another attack and had to use all his will-power to remain still. "That looks like that tacky necklace you gave that stupid punk in Iran! Forget it! I'd rather be caught by the dog catchers! Get it away from me! I'm not wearing it!" He growled hard to make sure the fop knew he was dead serious.
The emeralds quickly disappeared into the bag again. "Yes, darling," Dorian said meekly. "How about ... this one, then?"
The next offering was made of black leather with steel spikes.
"I don't want to wear a fucking necklace!"
"It's not a necklace, my love, it's a dog collar. All dogs have to wear one, with their tags. It really can't be helped. Ah ... And Z will get suspicious if you don't wear one. I'll take it off you the minute we get back to North Downs, I promise. Oh, and look – see here, the ring where you attach the leash? Hopefully I won't have to put one on you, but if I must, I've cut up the leather here, so you could tear yourself loose without any problem, all right?"
Klaus growled again. "You showed me the emerald one just to make me agree to this one, didn't you?"
"Is it working?"
"You're an idiot."
"That wasn't a no, I think?"
"You're right. Z would wonder. I'll wear it, then – but you take it off when we get back or I'll bite you for real this time."
"Of course, dear. Sit still – ah, there you go." After having fastened the locking mechanism, he gave Klaus a quick pat on the shoulder. Then he turned back to the steering wheel. Moments later the engine spun to life.
When did he have time to get an actual dog collar? Klaus wondered, turning his head and neck around to get used to the weight.
"I always thought this would look lovely on you as well," said the Earl in a light tone and then they drove off.
A few minutes into their drive Dorian couldn't resist lowering the windows, just to see if Klaus would lean out. Which he did, but only briefly. Mostly he contented himself by looking at the passing landscape, now and then turning his head to keep a cow or sheep or something else in sight for a bit longer. At one point Dorian thought he heard him muttering something about ducks. Dorian felt at peace at the wheel of the strong car, with his beloved at his side – if perhaps not quite in the shape he would prefer him in. As they slowed down for a turn in the road he was about to suggest that Klaus could sleep for a while if he wanted – the curled up dog looked kind of sweet and Dorian found himself speculating how flexible a fully human Klaus would be – when the Doberman suddenly jumped up with his front paws on the window frame, letting loose a series of sharp barks.
Barks ... which were answered from outside the car. As he changed gears Dorian glanced past Major and caught a brief sight of a grey and brown house. In the yard, which was surrounded by a fence, a massive Boxer came towards the road. It moved fast, but with a slight wobble to its gait.
Klaus turned with the Lamborghini as it smoothly rounded the curve. The car picked up speed, but he kept barking. Only when they were well out of sight did he get down and face the other direction. Still standing on his seat – taking up almost all free space in the small car – he looked down at Dorian with such an obvious smirk that Dorian actually recognized the Eberbachian features in the proud animal. The dog barked again, in a demanding tone.
"What do you want, darling? I can't understand you."
The smirk vanished as the dog pulled back, still staring at him. Then it quickly sat down and turned away to look straight out the window.
No answer. An ugly little sensation that something was wrong moved in Dorian's stomach.
"Klaus?" he tried again. "Is something the matter?"
"I ... forgot to speak like a human," said the dog. It sounded hesitant, almost lost.
Dorian frowned. "Well ... I suspect that easily happens. You were ... talking ... to that dog and you just kept talking ... doggish, I suppose? Like when I speak French for a long time, sometimes I forget to switch back to English when I speak to one of my boys." He decided to risk another pat to Klaus's shoulder. When his touch wasn't at once rejected, he let it linger. What he really wanted to do was to stop the car and hug the other, but he knew it would be neither accepted nor helpful. He cast about for something else to comment on, to try to cheer his Major up. "Do you understand what they say?"
This coaxed the dog to at least partially turn away from the window. "Not really. It's not like human speech. The words are more emotions and intents - you can't spell them. If I wanted another dog to come to me I would make sounds that say that I'm good where I am and act inviting for him to join me. It's complicated."
"That sounds fascinating, really. What did you tell him now, then?"
Klaus turned fully towards him, raising his head. A bit of the smirk returned too. "That's the dog I met on my way to you. I had to pass there to get to North Downs. We fought. He gave me this bite—" he nodded towards his now all but healed wound, "—and I almost bit his leg off. Did you see he was limping? Loser! Big and strong, but he can't fight worth a damn! He tried to be all, 'Stay away! Stay away! I'll bite you if you come back! I don't want you here!'" To Dorian's secret amusement Klaus shifted from paw to paw, lifting them a little as if illustrating the Boxer's agitation. "Ha! He all but piddled himself when he saw me again! So I told him! I told him I'm strong! I can fight! I'm better than he is! And if I ever go back there he better show me his belly or I'll tear his throat out!" He didn't stand up, but he definitely stretched. Again he looked at Dorian expectantly.
This time the Earl understood what the dog-side of his Major wanted – and what the human Klaus had never seemed to seek. Something tightened in his throat, but he never hesitated. "Of course you did! That's so you, Major! And he was such a big Boxer too – I'm so very impressed that you could fight him and beat him! You're so strong and so skilled! Very well done, Klaus, very well done!"
To be driven in the Lamborghini was far, far nicer than hitchhiking in the bed of a truck. He had slept a bit, but most of the time he and the Earl had talked about the night's mission and lots of other things as well. They had both stayed clear off the subject of Klaus's transformation. He didn't want to be distracted by it prior to what would hopefully be the end of the mission and Dorian seemed to realise this. So instead they had spoken about the differences between the English and the German landscape; about odd things their respective group of subordinates had done and – of all things – football. When he had the chance, Klaus liked to watch football, especially when Germany was in an international competition. He hadn't expected Dorian to enjoy such a masculine sport – though perhaps he should have. Dorian freely claimed ignorance of the actual rules of the game, but now and then found it a fun pastime to admire the athletes' skill – and their bodies. Or, as he said, "Besides, love, if I didn't watch it I simply wouldn't be British."
The drive only took a couple of hours. There was still some light in the sky when the 'ghini slid to an elegant stop outside a Youth Hostel near the London docks. The posh car looked decidedly out of place in the neighbourhood, but they were still some distance away from the night's final destination, so there was no need to fret that one of the Russians might get suspicious.
"Remember to 'heel' now, Major, at least until we get inside."
Klaus didn't bother to acknowledge Dorian's nagging. He was one of NATO's finest agents, for God's sake; he had training in going undercover and knew fully well how to keep a role under high pressure.
They got out and walked up to the unassuming building. Once upon a time it had been painted white, but now grey showed through the fading colour. As they approached, the door opened and Z emerged. Klaus felt a surge of ... not joy or happiness, but definitely something positive. He found himself halfway up the narrow stair on his way to greet Z, when he simultaneously saw the young agent blanch and heard Dorian yell, "Major!" He froze and then a strong hand pulled hard at his collar. Another hand grabbed his snout.
"Major! Be still! Still, I said! Oh, I'm so sorry, Z! I don't know what came over him. Normally he's much—" Dorian tugged at the collar again, "—more well-behaved than this!"
"No harm done, Lord Gloria," Z said quickly. "Though perhaps you should put a leash on him."
"Perhaps I should," Dorian replied.
Klaus heard the clear warning in those words. He felt ashamed. Dorian had even warned him and at the sight of Z he had forgotten everything he had been taught. Fuck! I hate this! What am I doing? I know better! What was I going to do anyway – fucking lick him in the face or something? Fuck! I'm supposed to be a professional!
"It's a beautiful animal, though. Where did you get him, Lord Gloria?"
"Oh, he's mine."
Klaus shook his head, not so much in denial of the words as to get Dorian to let go of his head. He tried to make a softer sound than a bark, but it came out almost as a whine. I won't do it again! I'm all right now – I'm thinking like a human again! He butted his head against Dorian's hand, but the Brit didn't take the hint.
"I didn't take you for a dog person, Lord Gloria."
Dorian laughed: his brightest, happiest laughter which Klaus would never admit to liking. "I'm really not, you know. I'm much more of a cat person. But he is a gift from an admirer and I thought he would come in handy tonight."
We're switching stories? In the middle of a mission?! Your men will know that isn't true, you idiot! He yipped and stepped hard on Dorian's foot. Finally he turned his head and licked quickly at the fop's hand. That got the wished for reaction as Dorian pulled away as if the wet touch had actually burned him.
"Come on in, Lord Gloria," Z said and backed off to hold the door open while Dorian and Klaus entered.
"A Youth Hostel? How quaint. Don't the tenants get suspicious?"
"Don't worry about it, Lord Gloria. This is a NATO run operation. We never know when someone will need a place to stay."
Klaus felt a little growl start rumbling in his chest. He made a mental note to chew Z out for that later. Eroica might be on their side this time – all right, so he was on Klaus's side most of the time – but even so there was no need to hand over any NATO secrets to him.
The place was abandoned, apart from B, who sat in the reception. He smiled, nodded at the Earl and gave Klaus an admiring glance. He has a dog, I think he mentioned it once, Klaus recalled. B made no move to join them as Z led the way to the second floor and their current "headquarters". It was an unassuming little room, with a window, six chairs and a large table covered with maps.
"Ah, you got the blue prints," Dorian said as he sat down.
Z took the chair next to the Earl. "Yes, Lord Gloria. I thought we should go over them together, just to finalize things? Where are your men, by the way?"
"Oh, they're coming. The van is a bit slower than my car. They should be here in, oh, 45 minutes perhaps. An hour, tops. And your fellow Alphabets? Apart from dear B?"
"Staking out the warehouse. So, let's have a look."
Klaus cursed the fact that because of the dog shape, he could not oversee the table. The maps were just too spread out and he couldn't believably stretch enough to see everything. So he stood between the two men, trying his best to visualise what they discussed. Dorian was being remarkably professional, for which Klaus was grateful. He did use "dear" and "sweet Z" and made a few queer comments, but all in all he concentrated on the mission. He did keep one hand on Klaus's collar, with his fingers leaning against Klaus's neck, but since he didn't pet or anything Klaus ignored the liberty. When Dorian moved his hand to shift a map, and instead Z scratched his neck, Klaus startled, but then kept still anyway.
He's a good boy, he reminded himself. Too trusting at times, but a good boy.
His collar shifted and he looked up at Z. The blond German had pulled up Klaus's tag and studied it. Then he, for whatever strange reason, blushed. "'Major von dem Eberbach'," he said.
Klaus's heart skipped a beat. How could he—
His thought was interrupted by Z continuing, in the same steady tone, "'Property of Earl Dorian Red-Gloria.' Oh, Herr Gloria, you don't deny yourself, do you?"
Z had been reading. On his tag! 'Property of—'! Oh, that bastard! I'll—!
Dorian laughed and the sound both stilled Klaus's rising fury and fuelled it on.
He's laughing at me! I'm going to kill him! Rip his throat out! Bite through his belly! Bastard!
"Oh, dear Z – yes, I know I'm stupid. Pathetic, right? And obsessed, I know, I know. A weak moment of wishful thinking. But a man can dream, can't he? The dog's name really is Major, so I just amused myself. Please don't tell Major von dem Eberbach, that's a dear. No harm done, but he would flay me alive if he saw it."
You're bloody hell right I will! If Z wasn't here I'd give you something to scream about!
Z leaned closer to Dorian. Their shoulders brushed. "I won't say a word, Lord Gloria. You can trust me. It'll be our little secret."
I'll piss in your bed when we get back to North Downs! Stupid bloody fop! I'll dig up your precious rose garden!
As he stood there, silently fuming over the indignity the Earl put him through, Klaus noticed a new smell in the room. It was warm and a little sweet. Not very noticeable at all, really, yet very distinct. He associated it with something pleasant, but there was also something about it that bothered him. It's nothing dangerous, he decided and sniffed some more, trying to pinpoint where he had smelled it before. Then it occurred to him.
He had been having one of those dreams. There had been Dorian, sitting astride the Eberbach boar. For whatever reason his hair had been long enough to cover most of him, but there was no use denying that he had been fully nude. Klaus had been running, trying to evade them both, but the boar – and it was a beast of a boar, a giant among its kind – was faster than he was. Soon enough he had been caught. After that things got a bit hazy and some images contradicted one another, but an early morning call had woken him up mid-dream and with his cock in hand. He had answered the phone with his hand slick with pre-cum, feeling mortified and at the same time resenting the Chief for disturbing him.
He was more used to the mustier scent of cum, but he had sensed it then, even as a human, with his damp hand so close to his face. Arousal. Excitement. Pre-cum. Not even a fraction of the scent that had enthralled him so, coming from the bitch, but there was no refuting it.
His entire body shivered with pent up rage. I knew it! He wants to pervert the youth of Germany! Shallow wanker! I haven't been a dog for two days yet and he's getting turned on by Z! So much for his 'oh, I'll love you forever and ever, no matter what, darling'! I'm not good enough for you any longer, am I? Treacherous slut! Maybe I'll bite your balls off!
He had to get Z away from the amorous, deceitful Earl! Since he couldn't very well give verbal warning – not that doing so had ever worked on poor, innocent Z – he decided to at least get some more space between the two of them. He turned towards Z, intending to bodily push the boy's chair away from the pervert. That's when he realised that in doing so, he exposed himself to more of the warm smell, rather than the less that he would have expected. For the second time in a very short while, Klaus froze, unable to move further. The smell didn't come from Dorian! It came from—
That ... insolent little pup!
That he on some level still considered Z not quite an adult was probably the only reason why the next couple of minutes didn't end in bloodshed.
"Not yours! Not yours! Mine! I'm the leader! Mine! Pup! I'm above you!" he yelled so loud that his barks echoed in the tiny room. Standing on his hind legs he towered over the sitting Z and he tried to push the young man to the floor so that he could dominate him properly.
A hand grabbed under his collar, while another went around his chest and then he was forcefully thrown back. A moment later Dorian blocked his way to Z. "Bad dog, Major! Bad dog! Z – get out of here! Run! I'll take care of him! Out! Bad dog! Bad dog!"
Dorian sounded furious and he looked it too. But as soon as the door fell shut after Z, the Brit's annoyed mask fell and he just looked tired. "For god's sake, Klaus – what's the matter with you?! Why did you attack Z that way? I thought you liked Z?"
Klaus slumped to the floor and looked away. "I ... just snapped again. Something about him just ... rubs me the wrong way when I'm like this. I can't stand the way he smells." He wanted to explain, but at the same time he couldn't bring himself to mention the sudden possessiveness that had prompted him to defend his human against the would-be usurper.
Dorian sat down cross-legged next to him. Clever fingers began to scratch behind Klaus's left ear. That felt nice.
"Darling ... I know you want to be in on this, but perhaps it would be best if you stayed here while we get the scientist."
Klaus pulled back in alarm. "No! I can— I will do better! That'll be on a mission, it'll be completely different – I swear I won't be any trouble then!"
"I don't know ..."
"Do you want me to beg!? What!? Dorian – I need to be there! I must! Don't make me wait here like a useless pet spaniel! Dorian ..." Since he knew he couldn't force himself into the mission he took a deep breath and said the hated word, "Please?"
The Earl went up on his knees and leaned over, giving Klaus a hug. His blond hair fell all over Klaus's head, forcing him to blink and then close his eyes.. "Of course you can come," Dorian said. "It's just ... You're acting so weird. I worry about you, Klaus. I worry a lot."
Klaus didn't pull away, as he would have done if the Earl had tried to hug him while he was in human shape. In fact, he had to strain himself not to lean in further. I know, he thought. I worry about myself too.
end part 15.
Chapter 14: After the Heist
Part 16: After the Heist. B-Day (1985) minus 10
Dorian had to smile. There was simply only one word to be used for the Major's current behaviour. Klaus swaggered. Oh yes. You knew we couldn't do it without you and you were right. Of course you're swaggering, you proud thing, you. And how happy you look. It feels good to see you so happy. Not to mention that a swaggering Klaus was just about the cutest thing Dorian had seen – ever.
He sat in a corner of the warehouse, watching the surrounding activity. The mission had gone well – or at least for most part. A bit of distraction by Dorian's men here, a bit of sleeping gas there and then the Alphabet to take care of the result. A rather good co-operation, all things considered. Too bad we're normally not working for the same goal. Together we could ... do anything we ever wanted, I suppose.
Only they hadn't found Mr Retty. Not at first. They had looked everywhere in the warehouse, with no success. Until Klaus had hooked his teeth into the arm of Dorian's cat suit (the black outfit, sans the ruffles, served as official evening clothes) and pulled him along to a seemingly innocent wall. A few whispered words had Dorian looking for a secret entrance, which soon enough yielded to the thief's superior skill. Unfortunately, the area within hadn't been permeated with the sleeping gas and only Klaus's quick reflexes had saved Dorian from an early grave. Retty had been found. Mostly unharmed too, just a little roughed up.
Klaus, who had sniffed around the other parts of the area, came back to him, still holding his head high and lifting his paws proudly. Dorian welcomed him with a smile. "Hello there, my brave hero," he said.
The dog glanced around, then rose on his hind legs and leaned his front paws on the big box Dorian sat on. Bringing his snout to Dorian's ear, he grumbled, "When we get back to North Downs I want you to help me brush my teeth."
Dorian couldn't help but to giggle. "I'll do you better than that. Nothing's too good for my knight in ... shining pelt. We'll stop by my London apartment before going back. And I'm sure there's a club open somewhere – no, don't look at me like that. I'm not suggesting that we go partying. As I was going to say, I'll get you some ox filet or something. You've certainly deserved it. That should get the taste out of your mouth."
"Ja, that'd be good. Bloody Ruskie mustn't have bathed in a year."
"He certainly smelled as if he hadn't. Darling ... should we worry about rabies, you think? Have you had your shots yet? Should I take you to a V-E-T-E-R-I-N-A-R-I-A-N?"
The Doberman glared at him. "Don't be an idiot! Of course not! I don't have rabies!"
"I was actually thinking about the Ruskie, oh love of mine. He did look rather ... disturbed." Then Dorian giggled again, feeling a little drunk on simply being alive.
end part 16.
Chapter 15: Nerves / On The Run
Part 17: Nerves. B-Day (1985) minus 10
"Here doggie," someone whispered. "Here doggie, doggie, doggie. Doggie? I have this nice, juicy bone for you, doggie. Come here, doggie."
What a strange dream, Dorian thought.
The sharp sound woke him fully and he sat up, looking around. "James? What are you doing in my room at this hour? I was out late yesterday, working – you know that. We have an agreement – you always let me sleep in when I work late."
There had been heists he wondered if he had done them simply to get a nice snooze.
"I was just giving the doggie a bone, Milord."
His accountant stood in the room's door and he did clutch a large bone. The "doggie" stood between James and the bed, but a bit to the side so that he could keep both humans in sight without having to move his head much.
"You were giving the doggie a bone. Jamesie, my dear little one, are you by any chance telling me a tiny fib now? Why were you going to give Major a bone, Jamesie? And in the middle of the night ... That looks like a very big bone, too – that must have cost a lot of money."
James clutched the bone even closer. "It didn't cost anything at all!"
"You found it?"
Found it, all by its lonely self, at the butcher's shop, perhaps? The thought made him smile.
"And why where you giving it to my dear Major?" He looked James straight in the eye and raised an eyebrow, waiting.
The small man fidgeted for a few moments, before he broke. "You shouldn't call him that! He's just a dog! You shouldn't keep him in your bedroom! It's not good! He's just a dog! You don't keep me in your bedroom! I want to sleep at your feet too, Milord!"
"Oh Jamesie ..." Dorian got up and crossed the room so that he could put his arms on his accountant's shoulders and pull him to his chest. After first having made him drop the bone, of course. "Major doesn't sleep at my feet, Jamesie. He sleeps in the other room, over there." He waved vaguely in the right direction. I wish he would, though ... Not at my feet, perhaps. And not quite in this shape. Though he would be welcome now too. "See, Jamesie? You have nothing to be jealous of."
He rocked the small man and gave an inward sigh. I have neglected you lately, haven't I? I'm sorry, my little one. Something had to be done about that. I've seen how Rudy looks at you sometimes. Maybe I should have a little chat with him.
It took almost ten minutes before he managed to extract himself from comforting James and usher him out the door. When he finally turned back towards his bed, the sight that met him made him wince. "Klaus! Really! In my bed?"
The large dog had, while Dorian had been otherwise occupied, snatched the dropped bone. Now he laid on his belly across the bed, with the bone under his front paws. He held his head high, almost defiantly. "t's good for my teeth."
"It's perfectly disgusting and Rudy got you bite toys for your teeth."
"They go 'squeak'. I feel stupid."
"But in my bed?"
The dog made a derisive sound. Dorian sighed. Then he returned to the bed, pulled up the covers and climbed back in. He sat with his back against the headboard and pushed his feet in under the dog's belly.
On being poked Klaus leaped to his paws. "Hey!"
"It's my bed and you're in my way."
Giving Dorian a definitely annoyed look Klaus repositioned his bone and lay down again – facing Dorian this time. Then he took the bone between his teeth and there was a crunching noise.
"Oh, I can't watch that," Dorian conceded and abandoned the bed. "I'm freshening up, then we can have breakfast and go for a walk, all right, darling?"
If he had turned around to see he would have seen the Doberman, tongue hanging out and mouth open in dog-amusement, smirking at him.
Walking through the North Downs garden, Klaus reflected that while the mission was accomplished, he hadn't felt the brief moment of satisfaction he usually allowed himself after a successful wrap-up. In the normal cause of things, he and his men would return to Germany, shaking the Annoying Fop off their tails on the way, be debriefed at NATO Headquarters and get new orders. Only this was not the normal course of things. His men had left for Germany without him.
Before they had gone for their walk he had made another brief phonecall to Z. The agent had informed the Major about the successful end of the mission. Maybe this was what frustrated him most about the situation: he had been there, but officially Major Klaus von dem Eberbach had not been there. Iron Klaus had abandoned ship. Unthinkable! And now he would not return with his men, "due to another commitment", as he had brusquely informed Z.
He had also called the Chief and had asked for a few days off, "due to important family matters". Yeah, "family matters". It would have looked more credible had he returned with his men and asked for the days off in person, but for obvious reasons, this had been impossible.
His whole situation annoyed him more and more. It even – frightened him. His suspicious nature made him think that merely being outwardly changed into a dog was not the end of the line of events ...
The Fop's stupid teasing about taking him to a vet had done nothing to calm him down. Sure, it had only been teasing. Dorian would never think of actually gelding him, and teasing was merely his way of coping with the goddamned mess, but the Major was not in the mood to take any joke at his expense at the moment.
Too bad the Fo – Dorian – never knew when to stop! He should know him better by now! But no – during their walk through the fields, Dorian had to chatter about what if he had become a dog as well. Thinking about it later, the Major took it as Dorian trying to learn more about the nature of what had befallen Klaus. Asked his opinion, however, what kind of dog Dorian would have become, he took it as one of the Earl's stupid games.
"A poodle!" he snapped.
Dorian pouted and then pulled himself up straight. "No, no," he said haughtily. "Something elegant. Noble. One of those Salukis, perhaps, they're the princes of the dog world."
"Whatever!" Klaus barked, annoyed with the nonsense – couldn't Dorian see this was serious?
Dorian bent down and grabbed him, shaking him in a way that perhaps was meant to be playful. Next thing Klaus knew he tasted blood and Dorian's shocked yell of pain rang in his ears.
Mortified by what he had done, Klaus crouched, feeling his tail strain to move to a down position. "Lord Gloria – Dorian – I'm so sorry ... My God, I didn't ..."
"It's alright, Major," the Earl assured him, but in his eyes lay the deep fear of something unknown, a fear the Major himself shared ... the fear of having to face an uncontrollable animal nature ...
The Major was seized by a feeling which he normally kept under such iron control it had become fairly unknown to him: panic. He was not afraid of pain, he knew of torture, bodily and psychologically, he knew how a person could be broken ... he even knew that he himself, Iron Klaus, was not infallible. He lived with these things, otherwise he would be unfit for this line of job. But no training had ever prepared any NATO agent for being turned into animal shape, having to live in a dog's body, with a dog's acute senses, a dog's instincts ...
Besides, he had begun to like the Brit, and on the other hand the man drove him crazy, as usual. It was not easy for the Major, who normally divided the people around him into idiots and less idiotic specimens, with a capable person between them every now and then, to admit that he actually liked someone ... even to the point of finding him attractive somehow ... he must be as close to cracking as he had never been before ...
And Dorian seemed to notice that something was wrong, definitely wrong. He relented.
"Oh Klaus – I know it was an accident, dear. Don't worry. Please, don't worry. After all, it was you biting me." He smiled. "If you ever did it during sex, I would not mind!" Apparently he was waiting for one of the Major's usual sharp, angry retorts, but none came. The Major did not feel like it.
"You know, " he said instead, "if I ever regain my human shape, I will kiss you."
What the hell am I saying? Mein Gott! But it is true – I can't lie about it. I would like to find out what it's like to kiss another man ...
"Klaus –" Dorian seemed as surprised as the Major himself, but rallied quickly.
"But a nice kiss?"
"Yes, yes, yes, but a kiss ... with tongue?"
"Don't push it!"
"Klaus," he said softly, "forget about the kiss. Forget about our stupid banter.. When you regain your human shape, you don't owe me anything. Don't fear I'd abandon you if you don't make promises now that your sense of honour would bind you to later. I know a friendship does not work that way, Klaus. It is enough for me that you let me take care of you while you're in this shape –"
"Oh mein Gott, shut up!" Klaus yelled. "Now that I offer you what you want, you won't take me up on it! What in hell do you want, then?!"
With these words, he stormed off, into the fields, well knowing that even someone as fast and agile as the thief would never catch him on two legs. He ignored the human calling his name and the despair in Dorian's voice.
Part 18: On the Run. B-Day (1985) minus 10.
Should never have involved him in the first place, Klaus thought while he was running through the fields. Idiot notion. Blöde Idee. Und das hast du jetzt davon. Steckst tiefer in der Scheiße als vorher. No results since wrapping up the Retty mission. And that has been over two days now. How could there be results anyway? He's as much at a loss as I am regarding my condition. So why bother him? He can't help me anyway – On the other hand he gives me food and shelter and honestly wants to help me. Shit. I don't know what to think anymore. Must clear my head! Run for a bit. Then we'll see ...
The path through the fields ended in a small village. No more than a few streets and two or three farms, actually. Neat, whitewashed cottages with flower gardens in front, a small church, a children's playground, a little roundabout with a modern sculpture in the middle, a main street with a few shops ...
The Major was not very interested in his surroundings, noticing them automatically, out of habit. He wanted to get away from Dorian and his men, from humans in general. So he dove into a narrow lane, almost running into a young woman who had a toddler on one hand and manoeuvred a pram with the other. Confronted with the big, dark-coated dog, she screamed, and the toddler began to cry. Startled himself, the Major bared his teeth and growled, then slipped past the frightened mother and her children, disappearing round a corner.
Shit. I needed that.
He rounded another corner and startled an elderly gentleman with a walker.
Gottverdammte Scheiße! Bloß weg hier!
If he went left now, he must come back to the small road he had come in on, but he would have to cross the main road.
Careful of the goddamned cars, von dem Eberbach ...
He reached the main road, and who of all people was just chaining an old, battered bicycle to a lamp-post?
No chance the little pest would not have seen him. He ran across the main road, dodging a car, which stopped with screeching tyres. The driver shouted something. The Major wanted to turn into another small side street, but almost ran into another car. He turned again and intended to run back, when he felt a sting in his flank. Angrily, he turned around to see a small dart in his haunch.
Damn it to hell! They've tricked me ...
Everything went black.
Under the curious glances of a few bystanders, two men secured the unconscious dog's snout with a muzzle and lifted the big Doberman into the back of their van, putting him gently on a blanket.
"Why didn't you shoot the rabid bastard?!" a fat man, who had come from a bakers' shop, demanded.
"Aw, t'would be a pity! Such a fine dog!" a sturdy middle-aged woman cut in.
"He doesn't look rabid," one of the dog catchers said, closing the door to the van. It had "Thorpesmeade Animal Shelter" written on it. "A vet will have a look at him. Back up, please!"
Reluctantly, the people made way for the small van.
end part 18.
Chapter 16: Revelation Time
Part 19: Revelation Time. B-Day (1985) minus 10.
Everything had happened very quickly. James had seen a big Doberman run past him, and the animal had looked very much like the Earl's "Major". Could the dog have run away? Ungrateful beast! Feeding on all the expensive food, and then running away again! James ran up to the main road, only to see a group of people standing around.
"What happened?" he gasped, as he hurried up to them.
"Show's over, Buddy," the fat man answered. "You've just missed it."
"Rabid dog. They took it away."
"Aw, nonsense, Greg! You heard the man! 'T wasn't rabid at all!" a woman in an apron chimed in.
"Where's the dog?! Who took it away and where?!" James shouted.
The woman with the apron looked a bit worried.
"Are you alright, dear?"
James breathed deeply.
"I'm fine, thank you. Can you please tell me what happened to the dog?"
"Ah well, two guys from th' animal shelter came –"
"They've stunned him with one o' those stunning guns," the fat man interrupted her. "Took him away in a car and left, you just missed them –"
"Animal shelter?" James asked, grabbing the man's sleeve. "Which one?"
"Thorpesmeade, it said on the door," another man volunteered.
James would have liked to cycle up straight to Thorpesmeade to claim the dog, but had his doubts about being able to handle it on his own. It would be better to inform His Lordship and let him deal with the situation.
He ran back to his bike and pedalled furiously back to the Gloria Estate. A quarter of an hour later, he stumbled into the vast entrance hall.
If he had harboured any doubt that the dog he had seen had actually been the Earl's dog, it was dispersed now. Never before had Dorian reacted that quickly, hearing his accountant's alarmed cries.
"What is it, Jamesie?"
"The dog – " James gasped, "they've taken the dog!"
Bonham hurried into the entrance hall.
"M'lord, I've sent all th' boys 'avin' a look –"
He stopped when he saw that the Earl had grabbed James's shoulders, shaking him.
"Who?! Who on Earth?! Speak up, man!"
"Don't tell me you've seen 'im, James! Where?!"
James took a deep breath. Normally he enjoyed being the centre of attention, but now the Earl was digging his strong fingers into his upper arms, and his beautifully manicured fingernails at that, and for once it was not so pleasant being in Lord Gloria's arms ...
James breathed deeply again.
"In the village. He ran past me and vanished into a side street. Someone must have alarmed the Animal Shelter. When I went after the dog, people told me that it had already been taken to Thorpesmeade Animal Shelter."
Dorian released James.
"God have mercy on us! He must really have been very upset. Poor dear, we had a quarrel and he ran away –" The Earl stopped himself, putting a hand over his mouth. James did not believe his ears.
"You had a quarrel? With a Doberman? You say, the dog ran away because you 'quarrelled' with him?" Hands on his hips, James stared up into his employer's face.
He hasn't been the same since that damned dog showed up! And now he has lost it completely ...
Lord Gloria sighed.
"Alright, Gentlemen, confession time."
He herded Bonham and James into the Morning Room and closed the door. Then he went over to the fireplace and sat down on one of the chairs, motioning his accountant and his second-in-command to follow suit.
"What I have to tell you will sound as if I was joking, or worse, my dears, as if I was one card short of a full deck. I swear to you that neither is the case. What I'm telling you is the truth." Nervously, Dorian fiddled with a strand of his blond curls. "'Major' is the Major."
"Oh no! Just as I thought!" James put a hand over his eyes. "He has lost his mind over that bloody German Tank!"
The Earl shook his head.
"I know it sounds crazy. But how would you explain that he talks to me in Major von dem Eberbach's voice, that he behaves like him? This dog is Klaus von dem Eberbach in a Doberman's body! He himself told me so."
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! What will happen now? He has lost his mind! Definitely. Can we cover this up, somehow? I'd hate the thought of putting him into an asylum, apart from the expenses ...
James got up.
"Alright, Milord. The Doberman is the Major. Of course we will do everything to get him back from the animal shelter. But you must promise me that you never will tell anyone else what you've just told Bonham and me ..."
He looked at the stocky Cockney for support, and found him lounging relaxed in his chair, an amused smile on his lips.
"The Earl's roight, Jamesie."
For a moment, James believed that Bonham actually was agreeing with him, not the Earl. But Bonham's next sentence squashed his hopes. The Cockney had lost his mind as well.
"He must be roight. I've heard the Major's voice when His Lordship was alone in a room with th' dog. And why would he order Nescafé for 'Major'? – No, Jamesie. I believe 'is Lordship. Uncle NATO must have pissed off the wrong guy."
"Who turned him into a dog? Simsalabim, just like that? Have you all gone mad? Come on, this isn't funny!" James began to pout.
The Earl, however, looked first surprised, then hopeful.
Bonham remained serious.
"I don't know the exact spell to turn a 'uman into a dog, but a fully trained wizard might know it."
"A wizard?!" James snapped. "What are we talking about now? Merlin? Or wait, what's the other guy's name – Gandalf? A fairy tale?"
"Gandalf, no. Merlin, yes. I'm from a family of wizards. Remember that I told you, Jamesie, I was thrown out of school? That was a school for witches and wizards."
The Earl jumped up from his seat, hugging his surprised second-in-command.
"Oh Bonham! Could you help the Major?"
James threw his hands up in a gesture of resignation.
Bonham shook his head, ignoring him.
"Not me, M'lord. Me magical powers aren't much to shout about. But I know someone who might be able to 'elp."
"Oh Bonham!" The Earl hugged the man again.
"You believe this?!" James cried, jumping up.
"Rest assured, James, it did not come easy to me. When I first heard the dog speak with the Major's voice, I thought someone was playing a stupid trick. Bonham's theory, that the Major is under a magical spell which has turned him into a dog, though, is the first thing I hear which makes sense to me in this connection."
James shrugged. Very well, If the Earl had decided to go barmy, and Bonham, the most sane and reasonable person he knew, supported him in this nonsense, what could he, James, do?
"It's as good an explanation as any. Now, first we have to get him out of the shelter," he said, eyeing Bonham as if the Cockney had turned into a ferocious animal, ready to pounce on him.
"Right," the Earl said. "I should do that. But maybe," he added thoughtfully, "I should let him fry for a while, just as a little punishment for running away and frightening me? Ah well, let's see how he behaves ..."
"Most probably they'll fine you for letting the – Major stray around without a muzzle and a leash," James remarked darkly.
"Be it as it may," Dorian said. "Call the boys back, Bonham. I'll be off to Thorpesmeade Animal Shelter. And not a word to anyone about who the dog really is! – Jamesie?" The Earl's beautiful eyes were uncommonly serious.
"As if anyone would believe that stupid yarn anyway!" James muttered. I don't know what to think anymore. The Major changed into a dog, Bonham is a wizard, although one they've thrown out of school ... oh, fine. If they say so ... Well, if the Earl wants me to attack windmills next, I'll be his Sancho Pansa alright ...
end part 19.
Chapter 17: At The Shelter
Part 20: At the Shelter. B-Day (1985) minus 10.
The Major woke up with a splitting headache. A lot of noise around him. Many dogs talking and shouting wildly, all at the same time:
"I want to go hooooome!"
"Forget it! Forget it!"
"I'll get you, if I can, just you wait!"
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!"
The last sentiment was one the Major shared – if only the dog who uttered it would follow his own advice. Before he had fully realised what he was doing, he had mixed his dark baritone bark into the pandemonium:
"Why don't you shut up yourself?! Shut up! Shut up!"
The "Shut up!" barker in the next kennel, a huge German Shepherd, was so surprised he actually stopped barking for a second. Then, however, he made up for these seconds of silence with doubled force:
"Harrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr – who're you anyway to give me orders?!" The German Shepherd bared his impressive teeth, running up and down in his kennel. He was working himself into a frenzy, first marking his own territory, then stupidly lifting his leg very close to the fence.
Before he realised what he was doing, the Major had jumped against the separating grill, grabbing his adversary's balls, which the other one had stupidly waved in his face while lifting his leg. With a shrill puppy yelp, the German Shepherd tore himself free. He was lucky. The Major's powerful jaws had merely nipped, not bitten.
"You do that again, and I'll kill you!" the Major growled.
"You won't get me! You won't get me! The Humans won't let you!" the German Shepherd barked back, but he kept well away from the fence separating his kennel from the Doberman's.
"Humans! Humans! Humans coming!" a little short-haired terrier cried, and a few other dogs took up the cry.
A young woman came in, probably one of the people working at the shelter. Behind her followed - Dorian.
Klaus knew that it had been very stupid to run away, even if only for a while. He had thought it would be better to tackle his problems alone, as usual. To get more clarity about his predicament and what to do about it. Foolishly, as he saw it now, he had assumed being able to deal with humans in his dog shape. A lot of good had it done him to lose his caution. Damn it to hell! Being a dog was bad enough, learning that he could not do much without a human at his side was even worse, but realising at the same time that he actually felt something for that accursed fop ...
Ah. There he is. Good to see him.
Still drowsy from the sedation, stiff-legged and cautious, he came to the front fence, taking in the humans' scent.
"This is the only Doberman we've got here at the moment," the young woman said. "He was brought in a few hours ago. Is he yours?"
Dorian put out his hand.
"Major, hey, Major! Got something for you!"
The doggie treat smelled tempting, but ...
No! I will not take anything from your hand in front of a stranger, you pervert! Creeping on my belly now? Putting on the show of a doggie which is happy to have found its master again? No! He is just playing one of his stupid games. I need to get out of here, but I won't play his faithful doggie!
The big dog turned its head away, then walked over to the bowl of water and began to drink.
"He still seems a bit bewildered from being sedated and caught ..." the young woman said. Klaus heard doubt in her voice.
"No," answered the Earl, and his voice sounded disappointed, almost pained to the Doberman's ears, although his tone was light. "This dog can't possibly be my dog. My dog would be happy to see me. My dog would jump like a happy puppy and try to lick my face, he would be so glad to see me!"
As I thought! In your dreams, Blondie!
The Earl, who so far had faced the kennel, now turned to the young woman.
"No, this is definitely not my dog. Sorry for troubling you. A fine fellow, though. I hope he'll soon find his master. Thank you for your time."
Even though clad only in jeans and a sweater, the Earl's departure was regal, with a dramatic backsweep of golden curls.
Shit! He's actually leaving without me. But no – I won't put on that doggie show, dammit!
The big Doberman lay down on the ground, head on his forepaws, and sighed deeply. The young woman gave him an astonished look.
"Why, aren't you a strange fellow?" she said gently. "What's the matter with you?"
The Doberman looked at her.
Believe me, Miss, you wouldn't want to know ...
end part 20.
Chapter 18: Meanwhile Back In Bonn
Part 21: Meanwhile, Back In Bonn (1985) minus 10.
The Chief sat at his desk, reading an operation report, gauging the contents against information already gathered and contemplating various solutions. Something had to be done, but the only possible solution would require the assistance of both America and France, which was always tricky. At least I won't have to send Eberbach for this one, that would really have made the shit hit the fan. The Alphabet team was home after their latest mission and he expected the report shortly, but luckily he had someone more suitable to send to the Paris problem. Someone who didn't only know the meaning of the words "delicate situation", but would not take them as a personal challenge.
Z marched through the corridor to the Chief's office. By the door he took a nervous breath. I have nothing to worry about. Only, he had never given the Chief a report before. That was always the Major's job and Z couldn't help but to feel a bit hesitant. He greeted the secretary politely and gave her his best "I'm a good boy"-smile. She returned the smile and he didn't have to wait long before she motioned for him to go in.
"Agent Z," said the Chief. "Do sit down. Do you have the report for me?" He certainly didn't mind the interruption. While G was his favourite among the Alphabet, Z was also a sweet thing. The Chief knew well how to appreciate beauty. And how to keep it. I must remember to tell Major Eberbach to get a haircut when he gets back. To do so was a fire-sure way to make the ornery man keep his lovely tresses.
"I have our report. Sir. Here." Z handed over the document, still nervous. A – who usually took charge if the Major had been put in the hospital or was otherwise unable to work – had gone over the report to help him. Z trusted A, but the responsibility remained his. The mission itself had gone well, though, despite Lord Gloria's rabid dog. Z didn't like dogs – never had, really, for all that they most often seemed to like him.
The Chief accepted the report, feeling a little confused, and gave the papers a quick once-over. "I wasn't informed that the Major had been injured."
Z frowned. "Ah, no. He wasn't. Sir."
"Then why are you listed as the agent in charge?"
Sweat started to gather on Z's forehead. "Because I was, sir? The agent. In charge. After Major von dem Eberbach left on his new mission."
The Chief also frowned. "New mission? What are you talking about?"
Why is he asking me that? Perhaps he really is going senile, like the Major says. "The new mission the Major was sent on, sir? So that he had to leave us."
"New mission? What are you talking about? Major Eberbach hasn't been assigned a new mission. He called me to say that he took a few days off. Due to important family matters."
"But he was. Sir. He had to leave. For a new mission. He ... He sang to me. Sir." And what a song it had been! Z had been on his way out when the call had come and afterwards he had to sit on the bed for several minutes, to get himself together. The Major had ... quite a nice singing voice.
The Chief stared at him in disbelief. "The Major ... sang to you?"
Z met his gaze, more convinced by the second that something had gone very, very wrong.
end part 21.
Chapter 19: The Rescue
Part 22: The Rescue B-Day (1985) minus 9, night.
The big Doberman lay in a corner of his kennel, head on his forepaws, eyes closed to slits, apparently dozing, actually thinking.
Maybe it wasn't that good an idea. I could have humoured him a bit. Maybe it would have done no harm to wag that stubby excuse for a tail a little? Hmpf.
Another deep sigh.
But now I have him pissed off for good, I think ... Ah, shit. Damn it to hell and back! I actually miss that fop! But he can't help me anyway. I was mistaken. I have to do it on my own ... Must think ...
The German Shepherd taunted him from a safe distance. Silently, the Major lifted his head and bared his fangs. The German Shepherd gave another puppy yelp and went a few steps back, starting to bark hysterically.
Idiot. – Can't be bothered with stupid games. Must think of getting out of here. I think a good chance will be when someone comes to feed us tomorrow. Must watch how the daily routine is here. But better get a few hours of sleep now.
The Major had trained himself to be able to sleep at will. He had found out that it was more difficult in dog form, though. All the scents of his fellow inmates, their stupid territory and dominance games (which looked at from another level, didn't seem that stupid anymore), and the whole unparalleled situation made it almost impossible to get some sleep.
The Major got up and began to patrol his kennel restlessly to tire himself out.
Remember your imprisonment training, von dem Eberbach. How to keep calm in this situation. Wouldn't have thought, though, I would need it in a dog kennel!
Only when the sun began to set and, one by one, the other dogs quieted down and settled for the night, the Major drifted off into a restless sleep.
He did not know how long he had slept, when he heard a very faint sound he could not place, though it was familiar somehow. There was no time, however, to think about what it might be, because some of the other dogs began to bark again.
"Intruuuuuuuuuuuuuder!" the German Shepherd howled. "Huuuuuuuuuman intruuuuuuder!"
And then, fast as a cat on the prowl, Dorian stood in the corridor between the kennels. He wore a black catsuit. The kennel door took the experienced thief about twenty seconds; then with the speed of lightning, both man and dog were out of the building, through the gate of the property, in a car and speeding away from the animal shelter.
"Now, what was that for?" the Doberman asked from the back seat. "First abandoning me in the shelter, because I won't do the 'Nice doggy' stunt, then breaking me out at night? What idiot, stupid game is this?!"
Dorian turned around, his azure eyes sparkling with joy and excitement. He was racing the car at full speed on the narrow, unlit country road. He still wore his hood. A few strands of his hair had come free, and the human part of the Major's mind had to admit that the Earl looked definitely ravishing.
"It's more romantic that way, Darling."
"Romantic?! – In the name of all Devils, turn around and watch the road!"
The Earl obeyed, elegantly taking a bend.
"Romantic?!" the Major raged on. "Very romantic, yes. While you were planning on being romantic, I nearly had an affair with a German Shepherd!"
With screeching tyres, Dorian went through a roundabout.
"He violated the borders of my kennel, and I showed him his limits," the Major growled. "But if you ever say such stupid shit again, like 'my dog would wag its tail, my dog would do somersaults and whatnot', I'll take off your head! Either you take me with you, or you leave me the hell alone!"
Dorian turned around again, gracefully steering with one hand.
"My poor dear! Did you actually think I would have left you there at the shelter for good?"
"This is not the way to Castle Gloria," the Major said gruffly.
Of course I've been worried, you stupid git. I have even missed you. And I know quite well that I got me into trouble myself by running away in the first place.
end part 22.
Chapter 20: Confession Is Good For The Soul
Part 23: Confession is good for the soul. B-Day (1985) minus 9, early morning.
"We're not going to Castle Gloria, " Dorian answered. "We're going to London to meet up with Bonham. He says he knows someone who might be able to help you."
The Major was not too surprised.
"Bonham knows? Well, he's clever and observant enough to guess."
Dorian turned back to the road, because he was steering the car onto the motorway now.
"Well, we had a few confessions among us while you were away. I told Bonham and James who you really are –"
"That damned, stingy good-for-nothing knows as well?!"
"Don't be too harsh on him, Darling. It was James who told me where to look for you."
"Like it or not, Darling, it's a fact. Besides, Bonham's friend might be able to help us. Although Bonham says he isn't a fully trained wizard either –"
"A what?!" the Major barked.
"A wizard, Darling. According to Bonham, a certain percentage of people always have magical power, in different degrees. All over the world. In every century. Most of them keep away from us, the non-magical people, but some also choose to live in our world. Bonham himself is a low-level wizard, not fully trained, because they threw him out of school."
The Major lay down on the passenger seat.
"If I wasn't in dog shape, I would say this is the most stupid shit I've heard in a long time. But in my present situation, it is as good an explanation as any other. So, according to Bonham, I have pissed off a wizard, or what, and he changed me into a Doberman?"
"Either this, or you have annoyed someone who knows a wizard, dear. Or you haven't even offended someone, and it is a natural condition or development."
Hm. And why doesn't this ease my worries? the Major thought sarcastically.
"So, as it'll be a while before we get to the meeting point, I thought perhaps it's time we had that talk."
"About what led up to your ... canine phase. We must solve this. I mean, I really am much more of a cat-person, my own. This won't do at all. So. You don't remember anything out of the ordinary the day before this happened?"
"Nothing at all? Anything?"
"I said no!" The dog answered testily and showed its teeth.
"Yes, but there must have been something. Think back on that day. Did you feel ... restless, perhaps? Ill? Out of sorts? Unusually hungry for something? Thirsty?" Horny? "Jittery? Tired? Anything?"
"Nothing out of the ordinary."
"Did you eat anything special? What did you eat?"
Klaus quickly rattled off his intake for the day, from each individual egg at breakfast to his last cup of coffee before bedtime.
"That does sound ordinary enough," Dorian agreed. "But there could have been something added, I suppose. Some tasteless poison or potion."
"I ate with the rest every time. Except for when I drank coffee, but that was from my personal stash. The others all looked fine."
"True. Right. What did you do, then? Anything special?"
Dorian leaned over and bapped the dog with two fingers on the head. "I'm not particularly interested in your little cloak and dagger games, darling. Avoid the names, then. Tell me in general, but do tell me."
"You know I was in London, and my mission was to find Patrick Retty. At around ten in the evening, we checked into the Marshbone Hotel at Aggerton Street. I went to bed at eleven as a human and woke up around 5:30 as a Doberman. See, nothing special."
"I suppose. But it could have happened earlier. Something slow-acting. Or during the night. You didn't wake up during the night?"
"Not even to use the loo?"
"Did you sleep naked?"
"Why do you ask?"
"It might be important."
"Okay, so I just wanted to know. Did you?"
"No – not that it's any of your fucking business!"
"Tsk, tsk, don't growl at me."
The dog quickly sat up again. "I growled? I thought I said it!"
Its wide-eyed expression tore at Dorian's heart and he hurried to reassure his love. "No, no, you spoke. But you said it like a growl. You know? Like you do, sometimes."
Klaus laid back onto his belly. To sink into dog-talk was frighteningly easy. He had to concentrate the entire time to keep from doing it. The loss of self control his slips implied scared him. He wouldn't admit it to the fop, but rather suspected that Dorian knew.
He took a deep breath, smelling/tasting the car, the air and the man beside him.
"I dreamed that night," he found himself saying. Shit! Why did I tell him that?
"Oh? You don't usually dream?"
"Me neither, really. Though I had the most satisfying dream the other—Ah ... Klaus? Your dream wasn't, but any chance, me as a highway-man and you as a wagon guard, offering yourself for my pleasure if I—" He smiled wide. "—didn't take advantage of any of the fair maidens in the wagon? Oh, that was such a nice dream ... I cut off your clothes with a knife and you cussed at me and—"
A growing smell of arousal saturated the air. Klaus abruptly sat up. "You dreamed of raping me?!" The little accountant had always seemed worried that the Earl would do just that. Klaus had never been overly concerned, since he knew he was stronger than the Englishman. Later he had come to realise that James was just paranoid to the extreme and that the Earl - in his own strange way - was too honourable to force a coupling.
Wide-eyed, Dorian shook his head. "No, no! I mean – it might have been a little ... semi-consensual, perhaps. But it was just a game we played. I think. You wanted it, I know you did."
"Klaus – it was a dream. My dream. My subconscious decided. You wanted it. But that's not important. I take it that that wasn't the dream you had, anyway. Right? So. What did you dream of, dear?"
"It's not important either."
"Don't call me that!" Klaus snapped. He had forced himself to overlook the other endearments - not very difficult, in the end, since they rolled so nicely off Dorian's tongue that Klaus often didn't even register them – but that felt too intimate; too couple-like. He wasn't ready to let Dorian take such liberties, even if many of the words did make him feel accepted and secure.
"—you do have to tell me. It might be important. You might not even think about it before you tell me, but there might be a clue somewhere. Come on, tell me, what was the dream about? Was it a good dream?"
"Ja." He knew that he must answer the questions, even if he didn't want to give information about that particular dream.
"Was I in it?"
You narcissistic peacock. Everything is always about you, isn't it? "Ja."
"Ooooh! Ah – I see – you ran me over with your tank, didn't you?"
"No." That he wouldn't have minded telling about. In gory detail.
"Shot me in the head?"
"Handed me over to Interpol?"
"Hmm ... The Russians?"
"I know! You invited me to the Schloss, implying heavily that we would finally consummate our union, and I got there just in time to hear you say 'I do' to some vapid girl with enormous hooters?" He illustrated the last word with cupping motions far away from his chest.
"No! And keep your hands on the wheel!"
"Then I'm just fresh out of ideas, my dear. Though I'm glad you didn't get married. I had a nightmare like that, once. I surrender – what was the dream about?"
"It really has nothing to do with what happened."
"Everything might be relevant, love, who knows? It might be helpful to lift your condition. It might even provide the key for the wizard to undo whatever binds you!"
"I don't see how that could be!" the Major snapped.
"Klaus? Is there a ... reason why you don't want to tell me about this dream?"
Damn! The fop isn't really an idiot. I should have remembered that.
"Darling?" Dorian turned around again.
"Concentrate on driving, verdammt nochmal!"
The Fop might have a point. Besides, he was the one who has agreed to help me in my misery, has given me shelter, has even helped me to successfully wrap up my mission. There is no way around it, I owe Gloria in more ways than one. Now, don't be a wimp, von dem Eberbach! Own up to your weakness!
"It was an intimate dream."
The car swerved slightly, and the fop stared at him. Just stared. Klaus wanted to duck his head, but forced himself to meet the other's gaze head on. For the first time since he had turned into a dog, the Major was glad for his condition. A dog could not blush in embarrassment.
"Oh," said the eloquent Earl. "You dreamed—oh." Then, he blushed.
"So, you see –nothing special." Not even NATO's Iron Klaus could control his dreams, no matter how much he might want to. He added firmly, "Just a dream."
The Earl lowered his gaze and bit his lip. Then he glanced up at Klaus from under a curl and the Major was surprised to see no glee or sexual excitement in his eyes. "Just a dream," he echoed softly.
Strange. He has me where he always wanted me – surrender, capitulation – but he does not triumph? Has the fun gone out of it, now that I show my true colours? "Ja. That's all it was."
"I ... Klaus, I ... " Then he sat up straighter and tossed his head. "Oh! That might be it!"
"The dream! It might have triggered this somehow! Maybe your ego rejected the dream with such force that it transformed you into a shape it knew I wouldn't be sexually interested in?" He looked so pleased to have found an explanation, even as he slowly began to pout, apparently as the implications became clear.
"Lord Gloria – that's plain stupid. The human body can't transform itself just because it's owner decides to do so – much less because of some stupid dream. And besides—" He broke off.
"Besides what, Major?"
Ah, Hell, I must tell him, don't I? I'll give it a shot, see how he reacts. So he said it.
Dorian sat, stunned, staring at the dog.
"Major?" he finally said.
He couldn't have said what I thought he said.
The dog looked up, but didn't answer.
"Major? What ... did you say?"
The dog rolled its eyes. "There was nothing special about that dream. Certainly nothing that would make my body ... rebel. I have had several similar dreams before." The dog gave him a definite glare of disapproval, as if Dorian was in any way responsible – which, he guessed, in a way maybe he was.
Dorian leaned back into the driver seat. "Oh my ..." he whispered, floored.
The Major ... dreams about me! Sex dreams! Regularly!
One such dream he could have understood and not been too hopeful about. He himself had once had this really strange dream about a red-haired woman with blue eyes, which had disturbed him greatly for almost a week. Once in a while the memory still haunted him. Several such dreams, however, was an entirely different kettle!
He dreams about me!
He wanted to sing!
He wanted to dance!
He wanted to proclaim his love to the world! Well, he wanted to do that just about every time he saw the Major, but for once he wanted to do it and perhaps, just possibly, not get pounded into the ground.
He did none of those things, though, since all his instincts screamed at him not to acknowledge the confession more than he already had. His beloved was skittish like a deer, for all his macho posturing. And he's a bit ... fragile right now. So. No teasing! I shan't tease him whatsoever about this! Not now. Later though ... When they had figured things out. When his Major was back to his stunningly handsome self again. Oh yes ... Then we shall have a long chat about this. My love.
"Well," he said out loud. "We're not getting anywhere with this, it seems. But Bonham's friend is an expert in his field and I'm sure he will be able to help us."
"The field? What field?"
end part 23.
Chapter 21: A Magical Creature
Part 24: A Magical Creature. B-Day (1985) minus 9, morning
They drove into London before the early morning rush hour began. Near Victoria Station, Dorian parked the Lamborghini in an old warehouse, where Bonham was expecting them.
"Now?" Dorian asked.
"'E'll be waitin' for us at the Magic Triangle on Soho Square in an hour, M'lord," Bonham reported.
"That a strip bar?" Klaus demanded. A strip bar certainly would be too much now, after the kennel at the animal shelter.
"A pub, dear," Dorian said soothingly, "just a pub Bonham visits sometimes. – Well then, I'll just freshen up a bit and give you something to drink, Darling. Then we'll be off."
"What I'd need right now would be a good glass of Weinbrand," the Major grumbled. "Better two."
Dorian ignored his remark. He went to a back door, which led to a small office-cum-dressing room. Obviously, the old warehouse was one of the hideouts of the Eroica gang ... The Doberman followed him, lying down in a corner.
Dorian changed from his catsuit into a pair of his unhealthily tight jeans, which looked so damn good on him. Unfortunately, this pair was pink. He choose one of his frilly white shirts to go with it, white shoes, and then endlessly fussed with his hair in front of the mirror.
The Major had lapped up some water and eaten a few dog biscuits. Dorian was still styling his hair.
"Oh, for God's sake, hurry up! You're not going on a fucking date!"
Mockingly, Dorian frowned at him.
"It is a debut, Darling. After all, we are meeting a member of the Wizarding World!"
"Sure. No doubt he'll be impressed if you look like a strawberry with cream on top!"
"Do I?" Dorian's tone became sultry. "If it wasn't a bad pun, I would say you were – bitching, Darling. Or was it a compliment?"
"Ach, halt die Schnauze, Mensch! Werd' endlich fertig!".
"Schon gut. Ich bin sowieso fertig", Dorian answered.
His German has improved a lot, the Major found himself thinking, but he was still grumbling when they left the warehouse.
Of course, Dorian insisted on taking the car again. The rush hour traffic had begun, and they were a good twenty minutes late when they finally swept through the doors of the Magic Triangle.
At this early hour, the pub was empty, except for a few hard-liners, who had decided they would not yet find their beds, and a few early risers.
Strange opening hours for a pub, the Major thought.
Their "contact" sat in a corner. The Major's first impression consisted of exciting smells: of coalfire, of sweat, of animals he could not place. The man rose when they approached his table. A veritable mountain of a human being: auburn hair falling down to wide shoulders; a round, bearded, friendly face; black eyes taking in the new arrivals with a good-natured twinkle. A wide smile revealed enormous white teeth.
"Bonham!" A deep, rumbling voice called, and then the Earl's stocky second-in-command vanished into enormous arms and waves of hair and beard.
"Long time, no see, 'Agrid!" Bonham's voice was no less enthusiastic, when he emerged from the human mountain. He turned to Dorian.
"Allow me to present me mate, Rubeus 'Agrid, M'lord. 'Agrid, that's me boss, the Earl of Gloria."
"Yer Lordship." The enormous man beamed at Dorian.
The Earl, who despite his height looked veritably elfin next to the giant, extended a hand.
"I am very pleased to meet you, Mr Hagrid."
"The pleasure's all mine, Yer Lordship, ter be sure." The Major detected admiration in his voice. "And yeh've got yerself a fine dog 'ere." He actually knelt down to let the Major sniff his hand. It was the hand of a manual labourer, huge, callused, and not exactly clean. It smelled of food, of wood, of strange animals, of soap, of the man himself. And there was the smell of another person, a bit musky and spicy, aroused and male ...
Before he realised what he was doing, the Major's little tail wagged a bit, and his tongue rasped once over the giant's fingers.
"Yeh're a beautiful creature, aren't yeh?" Hagrid rumbled. He scratched the Doberman behind one of his pointed ears, then suddenly stopped. He looked puzzled.
"What's the matter?" Dorian asked.
The big man frowned.
"Somethin's strange abou' th' dog, Yer Lordship."
Dorian and Bonham exchanged a glance.
The landlord, a man of perhaps Bonham's age, wiry and completely bald, with a ring through one of his earlobes, came to take their orders.
"Ah, Bertie, we'd like to move somewhere more – private to talk, if you catch me meanin'," Bonham said.
Bertie looked doubtful.
"You sure? I mean, you and 'im," he indicated Hagrid, "alroight, but wiv th' Gent 'ere – 'e's a Muggle, ain't 'e? I don't want no trouble wiv' th'Aurors."
"There won't be any trouble," Bonham promised and pushed a fifty-pound note over the table.
Throwing the money around, are we? the Major thought, but in a way he was glad. Bonham would not have given a rather generous amount of money without Dorian's permission. It truly showed Dorian's squandering nature, but also that he was serious in his wish to help Klaus.
Bertie quickly grabbed the note and nodded.
"You know where to go and what to do, then."
"Alroight," Bonham said. "'Agrid leaves first. We'll follow in about ten minutes."
"Well, I'll better drink up, then," Hagrid said. He emptied his teacup, put the last bite of his ham and eggs into his mouth and got up.
"See yeh, then."
"See ya." Bonham answered. He ordered tea. Dorian wanted a Cappuccino and settled on coffee when the landlord looked puzzled. He also ordered some water for "Major". The big dog snorted.
"How did he know I'm non-magical?" Dorian asked. "Can you wizards detect this somehow?"
"Not every wizard can do it," Bonham answered. "Bertie can, though. Comes in 'andy, for his job as a gatekeeper to the world of wizards."
"Absolutely," Dorian agreed. To the Major, he seemed a bit disappointed.
A kind of guard you wouldn't be able to trick so easily ... Klaus thought.
When they had finished their drinks, they paid and left. Bonham went around the corner, opened a steel door and entered a yard at the backside of the pub. Before Dorian could ask a question, the stocky thief went straight to the opposite brick wall and touched a few of the bricks. Part of the wall swung aside, opening a passage.
"Step through wiv Major, M'lord. I'll be roight behind ya."
Dorian and the Major did as they were told and stepped through the passage. The Major's human senses as well as his dog senses immediately became more alert. The air seemed more electrical, tingling like before a thunderstorm.
Maybe Bonham is right, and someone put me under a magical spell. The tension I feel in the air could be magic ... Sounds all nonsensical to me, but it's as good an explanation as any ...
Dorian seemed to feel the difference in the atmosphere as well. He shuddered briefly.
They were standing in another yard with brick walls, almost identical to the one they had left, but it was closed off by a heavy wooden door instead of a steel safety door. Another entrance led into the pub's twin brother on this side. Hagrid stood at the door, beckoning them to come over. They entered together.
This pub's interior was roughly the same as in the establishment they had just come from. Only everything modern was missing: the fittings and switches for the electrical light, and the fridge. The tables and chairs looked rougher; there was a large fireplace with a fire blazing. The walls were part brick, part wooden panelling, so the room was much darker than its twin, only lit by a huge chandelier.
The establishment was definitely more busy. The Major took in the exciting smells of roast beef wafting over from a room in the background, probably the kitchen. Dorian looked at the patrons. Part of them seemed quite ordinary, wearing everyday clothing. Others were dressed more eccentrically, wildly mixing styles and centuries. There also were a few men sombrely dressed in black robes; they reminded Dorian a little of catholic priests, but also of judges or scholars. Others wore exactly the eccentric gaudy robes you would expect from fairytale wizards. Dorian earned many an interested look himself, no doubt because of his lion's mane of golden hair and his tight pink jeans.
Even here he manages to stick out from the crowd, the Major thought. It's unbelievable!
They joined Hagrid at a table in a corner near one of the big windows.
"The Magic Triangle in the wizardin' world is a place where Muggles an' Squibs an' Wizards can meet," the big man explained, seeing Dorian curiously looking around.
Dorian, who had been fascinated by an old man who looked every bit like a fairytale wizard, clad in purple robes with golden star patterns, sporting long white hair and a white beard, now gave the big man his attention.
"Mussels and squids?" he asked.
Hagrid laughed. The Major found the deep, rumbling laugh quite pleasant.
"No, Yer Lordship, Muggles n' Squibs. Muggles are people who come from non-magical famblies an' can't do any magic. Squibs are people from wizard famblies, who don't have any magical talent 'emselves."
"I see." Dorian seemed somewhat miffed. "You do not seem to have a good opinion of non-magical people, though."
"Some of us haven't, tha's true," Hagrid admitted. "I for my part ... a nice feller is a nice feller, Wizard or Muggle, I don't care." He shrugged.
"Normally," Bonham joined in, "the wizards keep away from the Muggles and 'ide. We live in different worlds. But some people have t'go in-between. Some wizards have Muggle parents. Some people choose to live here in-between, 'cause they've gotten a Muggle or a Squib partner. Some wizards may 'ave dealin's wiv Muggles and vice versa, y'see?"
"I see," Dorian repeated.
You don't like not being at the very top, the Major thought. But you are such a charming Muggle as to make some wizards overlook the little thing that you are unable to do magic. That overdressed guy with the albino hair and the cane ...
"Noli me videre," Bonham murmured.
"Wha's up?" Hagrid asked.
"Cane alarm. Spotted 'is Lordship 'ere, but now 'e's befuddled. What's 'e doin' 'ere anyway? Slummin'?"
"What's the matter now?" Dorian asked.
Same thing as in our world. Someone entered, and Bonham thinks it's better if he doesn't see us. Something's going on in their world as well ... the Major thought. He watched the foppishly dressed wizard with the mane of whitish-blond hair and the haughty face look around, then leave, with a definite air of cold and cruel disgust.
"Someone not ver' pleasant jes' came in, M'lord," Bonham answered. "A wizard pureblood, tha's the nobility 'ere. Name of Lucius Malfoy. Not a ver' nice man to know."
"The blond man with the cane? He's not bad looking," Dorian commented.
"'E's got 'is fingers in too many pots for my comfort, M'lord," Bonham said.
He is definitely uneasy, the Major thought. He may be a thief and a crook, but Bonham surely wants to keep the Earl out of trouble. So if he says the guy's no good, this Malfoy must be a slim customer.
"Aye, one should be careful 'roun' 'im, ter be sure," Hagrid agreed. "But 'e's gone now, an' we can talk 'bou' th' dog."
"About time!" Hearing the Major's baritone voice from the floor so unexpectedly, made not only Hagrid, but also the Earl and Bonham look down.
The Major jumped onto the wooden bench next to Dorian, putting his forepaws onto the table. He looked around in the way Dorian knew from him in his human form, when he was leading a strategic meeting.
"You strike me as someone I can trust, Mr Hagrid," the Major continued, after he had the humans' full attention. "You also seem to be able to help in the matter which befell me. Until a few days earlier, I have been a human. Then, one morning, I woke up as you see me now. I have retained my human voice and brain, though. Bonham told us you are an expert in such cases. So Lord Gloria, who has – kindly taken care of me – asked him to arrange a meeting."
The Major felt the Earl's joy and appreciation of his care like a pleasant warmth next to him. His main attention was focused on Hagrid, though, who scratched his shaggy head.
"Thought sum'fing was outta th'ord'nary with yeh, Sir," he said politely. "'Course I'll be tryin' ter help yeh if I can, but yeh see, I'm more in th' knowledge of magical creatures an' th' like, than of enchanted humans."
"Oi!" Bonham waved at the waitress, a young witch with a shock of red hair, clad in a clinging black dress with a cleavage that even in his dog state left the Major positively dizzy.
"Waddaya 'avin', Gents?"
"A beer," the Major ordered. The waitress took down his order without any surprise. Dorian seemed less impressed by the clinging black dress and the cleavage, than by the fact that her pen and her writing pad hovered in the air in front of her, and the pen wrote the orders down without her moving a finger.
"Tea, please," Dorian ordered. Hagrid followed the Major's example, and Bonham asked for a breakfast.
"Magical creatures?" Dorian asked when the waitress had gone.
"Well, Dragons 'n Unicorns, fer example," Hagrid explained, "Hippogriffs 'n Sphinxes, Nifflers, Kneazles, Blast-Ended Screwts, Phoenixes, Acromantulae, and what have yeh. But an enchanted human is quite a diff'rent matter." Hagrid took his breath, and Dorian looked positively stunned.
"Nah, M'lord, don't ask 'im now 'bout all the Magical creatures, or we'll be sittin' 'ere for another three days!" Bonham intervened.
"Thank you, Bonham," the Major said dryly. "Mr Hagrid, Bonham mentioned, if you cannot help me, you might perhaps know someone who could."
"Tha' may be th' case indeed, Sir," Hagrid agreed. "But I'd like ter know a few more things, fer 'xample whether it's the first time ever yeh've become a dog."
"Definitely," the Major answered.
A few days ago, even a few hours ago, such a question would have struck me as absurd. But with the things I see here ...
"When did it happen 'xactly?"
"Four days ago."
"An' what 'xactly did happen? Did yeh undergo a change?"
Again, a lot of questions ...
"What do you mean?" the Major asked back. "As in the Werewolf movies? No. I went to bed as a human and woke up as a dog. As simple as that."
The waitress came back with their drinks. She put a bowl in front of the Major.
Hagrid took a deep draught from his beer tankard.
"So I don't think yeh're a were-dog. Prob'ly not an Animagus either."
"What is an Animagus?" Dorian asked.
Hagrid an Bonham exchanged a glance. Probably they were thinking about how much they could tell the Muggles about the wizarding world.
"A wizard who can change into an animal at will, M'lord," Bonham finally answered. "Very few wizards have this gift, and they must be registered wiv th' Ministry."
Bonham gave the giant an exasperated look. Hagrid shrugged.
"Sure," Bonham went on, "We also have a Ministry and Ministers of our own."
"Oh," Dorian looked surprised, even a bit disappointed.
His idea of a "free" wizarding world seems to have suffered considerably, the Major thought with a hint of satisfaction.
"A were-dog would be like a werewolf, Yer Lordship," Hagrid went on explaining. "Werewolves undergo a change fer a night ev'ry full moon. There are were-dogs, and rats, tigers and lions and other big cats people can turn inter. – With yeh, Sir," he turned to the Major, "my guess is yeh're under a curse, 'cause if yeh were an Animagus, yeh prob'ly would know, and as a were-creature yeh would be changin' ev'ry month."
"A curse?" the Major asked.
"Yes, Sir. Some'un cursed yeh ter become a dog."
The Major lapped a good amount of his beer in silence.
"That's – interesting," he finally said. "Lord Gloria came to the same conclusion already." He suddenly felt cold. "You haven't, by chance, tried out anything stupid in regard to me, which then worked better than you expected?" he asked sharply. "And Bonham was the wizard who cursed me?" His voice had become a low growl.
"Darling, I swear, I didn't know Bonham was a wizard, until I told him and James that you are the dog I took in! So how could I have planned something with Bonham before? And for that matter, why should Bonham put a curse on you all of a sudden?"
"Tha's roight, Sir," Bonham said. "And I swear by Merlin's Beard, I couldn't do such a curse on anyone if I wanted to!"
"An' I'd put me hand inter th' fire fer tha'," Hagrid added. "Sech a curse isn't ter spell easily and not ter resolve easily either. B'sides, a wizard cursin' a Muggle jes because he can, an' with a long-lasting curse a' tha', will find himself in Azkaban sooner than he'd think!"
"Azkaban is a prison for wizards," Bonham explained. "It's a place where no Magic works, and the guards ..." He shook himself. "Nah, nothing for Maggie Bonham's son, I tell you, even if I 'ad the powers to curse someone. What I can do is an invisibility spell, loike the one I did when The Cane came in, but that's about it, more or less."
The Major pulled himself together.
Paranoia will not help you, von dem Eberbach. Besides, what's done is done. Even if he asked Bonham, and the Cockney cursed me and cannot reverse the curse – what does it matter? They are actually trying to help me now ... Oh, damn everything to Hell and back!
"So, Mr Hagrid, can the curse be lifted at all?" Dorian sounded genuinely worried.
"I could'na say," the big man answered. Thoughtfully, he rubbed his fleshy nose. "But I happen ter know some'un who might be able ter help yeh. He knows a lot 'bou' sech things as curses an' th' like."
The Major sighed.
"Fine," he said. "Where can I meet him?"
Dorian took out cigarettes and a lighter.
The big Doberman growled, but Dorian lit up anyway.
Someone behind the Earl began to cough. Dorian flinched and turned around. At the same time, Klaus jumped up against the wall, barking at the portrait of a stern-looking old woman.
The woman in the portrait moved. She actually waved away the cigarette smoke, with an expression of disgust on her face.
"Put out that cigarette, young man!" she demanded. Dorian must have been so surprised that he obeyed.
"And you, stop barking! Where are your manners?!" she addressed Klaus.
"Excuse me," the Major said dryly. "You took me by surprise."
"Oh, mornin', Mrs Gillespie," Bonham said. Hagrid rumbled a greeting as well.
The woman in the picture eyed them.
"John Bonham!" she said. "The good-for-nothin' gracin' our establishment agin! Ah, that your grandmother, Merlin rest her soul, had to see th' day you were thrown out of Hogwarts for takin' off the Headmaster's beard in his sleep! And you, Rubeus Hagrid! I still can't get over your father takin' up with a giantess, though it's not your fault, dear!"
"She t – t - talks," Dorian stammered. "A talking p-painting!"
Watery blue eyes took him in.
"You're – not from here, I take it?"
"Lord Dorian Red Gloria at your service, Madame!" Dorian had caught himself very quickly, and obviously, his charms were not completely wasted on the elderly lady.
"Well," she said, a bit more friendly, "nice to meet you, young man. It is just that I never could stand tobacco smoke very well. My daughter-in-law put my picture in this place on purpose! She knows how much it annoys me, that bitch!"
"Hmpf," from the big Doberman.
The woman in the painting looked at him.
"Like that, is it?" she asked, and before the Major could ask her what she meant, she nodded to him and left the picture, simply walking out of sight, leaving an empty frame.
"A talking painting!" Dorian repeated. His eyes lit up in an almost unholy glee.
"Don't even think of it!" the Major warned him. Dorian sniffed.
Klaus turned to Hagrid. "Now, what about the expert in curses?"
"I'll be callin' 'im right away. Was jes' a bit distracted by Mrs Gillespie." The big man went over to the open fire, took a leather pouch from his belt, and threw a kind of powder into the flames, which turned green for a moment.
"What?!" A deep, melodious voice came from the fireplace. Its owner seemed annoyed by the disturbance.
The Major saw the rough outlines of a human face in the flames. Feeling Dorian's body stiffen next to him, he guessed that the Earl had seen the face as well.
"Erm – I wonder, Perfesser, if yeh could spare a bit o' yer precious time fer me," Hagrid said.
"I'm extremely busy, Hagrid, being between potions lessons just now, as you might remember," the man in the fire answered impatiently.
"He's not actually in the fire?" Dorian whispered to Bonham.
"No," the Cockney answered. "Well, it's a bit loike a telephone, M'lord."
Hagrid bowed closer to the flames and began to whisper. Only the Major with his fine dog ears could understand him now: "I sure do remember, Perfesser, but I owe an ole friend and 'is employer a favour. We'd need yer help very much. An expert's advice."
"Doesn't this have time to wait until this afternoon?"
"This aft'noon yeh'll be cerrectin' essays, if I remember right."
He knows this man's schedule rather well ... the Major thought.
"Please, Perfesser? Pretty please?" the huge man said.
The voice from the fire sighed.
"An expert in what?"
"Curses. Got ourselves a Muggle 'ere who seems ter be cursed."
The voice from the fire had become lower as well.
"Alright. Where are you?"
"The Magic Triangle."
"In London?! Oh well ... Alright, I'll be over."
The face vanished from the flames, and Hagrid rejoined the group. The Major wondered a bit that no one seemed to have taken notice of the big man hunched over the fireplace. Apparently, this was a rather normal means of communication.
"Will your friend come?" Dorian asked.
Hagrid nodded. "He'll be on his way."
"Ah – where is he now?" the Earl asked.
"The school Oi told you about, M'lord," Bonham cut in, "It's in Scotland."
"I take it he doesn't travel like we do," the Major said.
"Nah, 'e'll apparate, I think," Hagrid answered. "Shouldn't be long. Not many wizards can apparate to a busy street, but the Perfesser can. 'E's jes got ter walk ter th'boundaries of Hogwarts."
"Why is that?" Dorian asked.
"No 'un can apparate or disapparate on th' grounds of Hogwarts. Ter dang'rous fer th' students. Th' Aurors've seen ter tha'."
"Here are these Aurors again," Dorian commented. "What are they exactly?"
"Kinda police," Bonham answered.
"'E'll be 'ere any minute now," Hagrid said.
It turned out that the "any minute" took a bit longer than Hagrid had assumed. They waited. Hagrid and Bonham drank in silence, Dorian observed the pub's colourful and varied patronage.
The Major looked out of the window. The cobbled street was busy. Shops opened, merchants put their goods outside. In the bustling crowd passing in front of the pub windows a man in a black robe suddenly appeared where there had been an empty space the moment before. He was tall and thin, with a big nose; greasy black hair framing a long, pale face. No one in the street seemed to take any notice of his sudden appearance. The man entered the pub, surveying the patrons sharply.
Hagrid got up and waved, fairly unnecessarily, the Major thought. The huge man would stand out in every crowd.
The wizard approached their table. Sharp, coal black eyes mustered first Bonham, then the Doberman, finally Dorian, before they came to rest on Hagrid.
"Now?" he asked sharply, instead of a greeting.
"Thanks fer comin', Perfesser. I greatly 'preciate tha'!"
Hagrid almost fell over himself to get a chair for the newcomer, at the same time doing the introductions.
"Tha's John Bonham, a pal o' mine. We go way back."
Bonham nodded and smiled. The black-robed man gave him a look which clearly indicated that he did not think much of Hagrid's "pals".
"Tha's his employer, Lord Gloria."
"I am very pleased to meet you, Professor." Dorian smiled at the stern man. His voice held a seductive lilt.
He's making eyes at him! I don't believe it! the Major thought. He seriously contemplated biting the Earl, just to keep him in line, focused on the situation. Oh well, he likes tall, dark men ...
The look Dorian earned for his efforts could have stripped paint off a wall.
"Are you now?" the wizard addressed as "Professor" said coldly.
Dorian took his breath in sharply, but, accustomed to the Major's glare and abrasive nature, he kept himself rather well. The Major gave a sound between a snort and a sneeze. He knew the Earl's soft spot for tall, dark-haired men. At first sight, the Professor was an ugly scarecrow, but his movements were elegant and graceful, his voice, while derisive in tone, was nevertheless deep and pleasant. It seemed he expected authority, and he got it.
At least, Klaus thought, here's a wizard who looks as if he could curse you without batting an eyelid. A lot of power surging around him, and I can't see for what purposes he channels it ...
The black eyes came to rest on him, and he stared back, unblinking. He felt that the wizard was establishing an inner line through which he was scanned. Had his situation allowed it, the Major would have torn out the man's throat, wizard or not, but if he was to get help, it seemed he had no choice. But what if he tried to scan the wizard as well? – Could he do this? Apparently ... He felt a lot of anger and hatred, safely kept behind bars ... not directed at him. At the same time, a deep loyalty, and something very young, very gentle ... like the sapling of a tree ...
I wonder what he sees ...
"A curse indeed," the wizard said, never breaking eye contact. "An old one."
He moved a little, and the Major caught more of his smell. It was the spicy, slightly musky smell he had noticed on Hagrid's hands ...
In his inner vision, something like a black cloud rose up, and he felt that the contact break.
"You see too much for a non-magical person," a voice said in the Major's head.
The wizard finally sat down on the chair Hagrid had offered so helpfully. He was still focused on the dog and only spoke to him.
"Severus Snape," he said.
"Klaus von dem Eberbach."
The Major related his whole story again. Snape listened intently, without interrupting. When Klaus had finished, the wizard waved two fingers at the young witch with the saucy décolleté and ordered tea. It was brought almost immediately.
Snape poured himself a cup with a drop of milk, but no sugar, without actually touching the teapot or the milk jug. They elegantly bowed over the cup, filing it with exactly the right amount of beverage.
"Have you noticed a change in yourself during the time you have been a dog?" the wizard asked.
Dorian breathed in sharply.
The Major did not like the question at all, though he had to admit that it was exactly to the point.
"I – once I thought I spoke like a human, but actually I used the dog language," he said. "And on a few occasions, I almost bit – someone. It seems as – as if the dog part was becoming stronger."
The wizard nodded.
"Progressing," he said.
"What does that mean?" Dorian asked, alarmed.
Severus Snape looked sharply at the blond man, as if scanning him too.
"It means that your friend might lose his human qualities entirely and become an ordinary dog," he answered.
"You make my day." That was the Major.
The Professor sipped his tea.
"To say anything with certainty, I'd have to know more," he said.
"You cannot undo the curse?" Dorian asked.
Snape glared at him.
"I thought I had made myself clear," he said. "To be absolutely certain, I'd have to know more. To undo a curse by another wizard is no easy matter. Besides, this curse feels old, and not directed exclusively at Herr von dem Eberbach's person."
"A fambly curse?" Bonham asked.
"It might be a family curse, yes," the Professor agreed. "Tell me, Herr von dem Eberbach: Do you know about members of your family who suddenly vanished? About family members who suddenly kept a dog when they never had shown any interest in dogs before?"
The Major thought for a moment.
"Not to my knowledge, but then, I never have given much attention to the history of my family, apart from the official version."
"Then you should brush up your knowledge in this respect," Snape advised him. "I will do some research on the history of metamorphosis curses. If I find out something, how I am to contact you?"
"There's a floo connection at Castle Gloria. It's sealed now, but it ain't no trouble to reopen it," Bonham volunteered.
"Oh?" Dorian asked. "And what is this?"
"A means of communication and transportation, M'lord. It's what 'Agrid used to contact Professor Snape."
"Ah, I see –"
"Very well," Snape interrupted them. "I have to go now. Gentlemen ..."
He nodded at the men and the dog, threw a few coins on the table and strode out of the pub.
"And why is such a 'floo' network in my castle and I don't know about it?" Dorian demanded.
"Doesn't work fer Muggles, Yer Lordship," Hagrid answered. Dorian ignored him.
"What do you know about my family, Bonham, I do not know?" he asked his second-in-command sharply.
Bonham looked suitably embarrassed.
"The founder of your family loine, Benedict Red, married Aurora Price, a witch. Some of their offspring were witches and wizards, M'lord. That's 'ow Castle Gloria 'as become part of the floo network. Your great grandfather Cedric 'ad it sealed, 'cause none of 'is offspring showed any magical inclinaitions. It 'as remained sealed since then."
Dorian tossed his hair back.
"Now - this is interesting ..." he said.
"It won't work for you, M'lord." Bonham confirmed Hagrid's words.
Dorian threw him a look which said "We haven't spoken the last word in this matter yet."
"Not that it matters much: But does this make me a - Squib?" he asked aloud.
Dorian's eyes lit up.
"Well," he continued lightly. "There are more important things to do now. We should follow the good advice of Professor Snape and do some research about dogs in your family, Dar - Major."
The big Doberman sighed.
"Well, it's worth a try. Professor Snape seems competent enough."
"Ter be sure. If some'un'll be able ter hep yeh, it'll be th' Perfesser."
"An interesting man," Dorian said dreamily, twirling a strand of his hair around his finger.
"Very interesting ..." Dorian went on. "What a voice! Made for reading poetry ..."
"Ah yes," Hagrid agreed. "And yeh should 'ear 'im yellin' me name when we –" He put a huge hand in front of his mouth.
Dorian sat up with a start.
"Oooooops, shouldn't've said that'!" The big man looked very embarrassed.
Bonham spilled some of his beer. The dog coughed, then yawned and let his tongue hang out.
That was a good one.
"Oh," Dorian said, his cheeks turning slightly rosy, which did not look unpleasant, as the Major found. "Now I've really put my foot in. Sorry, Mr Hagrid."
The colour of Hagrid's face heightened a bit as well.
"'S not a big thing. T' was me puttin' me foot in, actually."
If your sense of smell was as sharp as mine is now, you would have known that he is given, Lord Gloria, the Major thought. This will teach you to flirt ... He could not prevent feeling slightly smug, despite his fears. "Progressing," Snape had said.
"We had better go now," he said aloud. "Thank you very much for your help, Mr Hagrid."
"Pleasure, ter be sure," the giant answered. "I hope Sev – Perfesser Snape – and yeh'll find a solution fer th' curse tergether."
With Bonham's help, they reached the "Muggle" part of the Magic Triangle again, then went on to their car. Bonham remained behind. Apparently he had some other business to attend to for the Earl.
The Major fought a bout of despair. What the wizard had told them did not sound very pleasant for his future. He refused to fall into the abyss, though ... Better think of the Earl's thwarted attempt at flirting with a wizard ...
It seemed as if Dorian felt the same. Why else would he start bickering?
"Wipe that smug look off your face!"
Two men on their way to work walked past them.
"Oi, Fred, did you see the feller wiv th'dog? Oi could've sworn the dog snickered when we passed 'em."
"Th' dog? Nah, it surely was the damned blond queer snickerin'! Fucking fudge packer!" Fred said.
"And Oi tell you, t'was the dog, not the feller!"
They were still arguing when Dorian's Lamborghini roared past them.
end part 24.
Chapter 22: More Information / The Kiss Of True Love
Part 25: More information? B-Day (1985) minus 8, noon
Klaus's head still reeled with the realisation that an entire world existed that NATO had no jurisdiction within. Magic ... He felt rather grateful, for once, to have to leave Dorian in charge of the car as they made their way back towards North Downs.
"That was amazing!" Dorian said. "Can you imagine? I bet there's a nice spell to make one invisible. One could walk straight into the Louvre, stay in a corner until closing time and then—"
"—the paintings would yell their throats out to warn the guards that you're stealing them."
"Not, I think, if I had a chance to talk a little bit to them first. It must be rather boring for them to just hang there all day. I bet I could convince them to see things my way."
Klaus snorted, though admitted, if only to himself, that if anyone could charm the work of Leonardo da Vinci, grand Mugwump of his time, it would be Dorian.
"Ah, the possibilities," Dorian said with a longing sigh.
"Those Aurors sounded quite competent," Klaus pointed out, not wanting Dorian to get too close to that Snape-figure in search for more tools for his trade. Though the man seemed decent enough for one of his sort, even if Klaus didn't like his mind-reading.
Dorian sighed. "Nothing is perfect. So. A family curse. What do you think, my dear?"
Klaus snorted. "I still think it's the Russians."
"Maybe. But that curse idea is worth investigating. Perhaps we can talk to your father about it?"
Klaus automatically shook his head. "My father never turned into a dog." Besides, I don't want you near him. Once that had been because ... well ... for a number of reasons, but now it was because he knew how much his father would dislike the Earl on sight and refuse to co-operate. His father had never been the tolerant kind, even less so than Klaus himself.
"As far as you know."
"Whatever. Don't you think he would have warned me? We might not be all that close, but he would have said something."
"I guess so. How about your other relatives then? The Professor said you should think about them. You never heard anything?"
Klaus rolled his eyes. "Of a relative of mine turning into a freaking dog? No." What do you think I am, an idiot? "I think I would have remembered. And I would have told you before this."
"Yes, you're right, I'm sorry, that was a stupid question." Dorian reached over and gave his shoulder a quick caress, apparently as an apology.
"My grand aunt Eva was terrified of Poodles, though," Klaus said, just remembering.
"Lots of people are afraid of dogs."
"She kept four Rottweilers to protect her from the Poodles."
"That ... is a bit odd, yes. You have many family portraits with dogs in them, too. Different types of dogs in all of them. No Poodles, though."
The Major thought back to the portraits and realised that Dorian was right. Sad that he remembers them better than I do. But he's the artsy one, not me.
"I still think we should ask your father," Dorian continued. "Perhaps he remembers something, if we ask him. If anyone knows anything about your family, it should be him, shouldn't it?"
"No! I don't want him to know about what has happened. And I'm not going to show myself to him like this."
"Klaus? He's your father. He would help you."
True. He really didn't think his father would let him be vivisected. Still. "Maybe. But to get a dog to Germany would be difficult. No matter. He isn't the one who knows most about my family. I have a great-uncle too. Great-uncle Heinz. I was named after him. He fancies himself a bit of an historian. He might know something."
"Where does he live?"
"Cologne. Near the cathedral."
"Very well. I will talk to him, then. I'll leave for Germany first thing tomorrow morning."
Part 26: The Kiss of True Love. B-Day (1985) minus 7, early afternoon
Dorian would be on the 13:25 plane from Bonn. Unless he got caught smuggling whatever shiny trinket undoubtedly had caught his fancy on the way, Klaus knew to expect him to North Downs around half past four. Still, there was the off chance that the fop would have managed to catch an earlier plane, so Klaus planted himself in one of the windows at half past two. He refused to budge even when James came and wanted to go rabbit hunting again.
His stake-out practice came in handy as he waited. The time crept forth so sluggishly that he began to wonder if something was wrong with the clock. Isn't dog time supposed to go quicker than human time anyway, not slower? To watch the trees and birds was only interesting as long as something moved. But to wait felt right. Dorian would come soon and he had so much to tell Dorian!
Finally - He's here! He's here! - the bright purple Lamborghini slid up the curved road. He's here! He's here! Klaus jumped from the deep window frame and rushed to the kitchen, easily tracing Bonham's scent in the air. Finding the wizard alone he jumped up with his front paws on the man's shoulders. "He's here! He's here!"
"What is it, Major?"
"Are you deaf? He's here! Let me out! He's here!"
"Oh, his Lordship arrived, did he? Want to be let out, do you?"
"Yes! Yes! Let me out!"
"Well, come on, then," Bonham said and unlocked and opened the door to the kitchen entrance. "Off with you."
Klaus was already on his way, running hard towards the garage. He had been there before, when he had "lost" James in the woods during their walk yesterday. Nasty place, full of icky smells. Silly, foreign cars in gaudy colours. And his tank! His big, strong tank! Going past it he sniffed to make sure that it was still properly marked, before making the last dash to the still humming Lamborghini.
There you are! he thought happily at the sight of Dorian smiling at him from within the vehicle. "Come out of there!" he shouted. "Come out!"
"Hello Darling," Dorian answered as he emerged.
Klaus leaped up and gave Dorian a quick lick over his cheek, jumped down to bow on his front legs and then pressed close, sniffing the man from crotch to neck to make sure everything was as it should be.
"Oh dear," Dorian said in a breathless giggle. "Happy to see me, are you, my love?"
He was, but he certainly wasn't going to mention it. "You were gone! For a long time!" he accused. Then he just had to tell Dorian what they had done; it just welled up and he couldn't contain it. "James took me walking. We saw a rabbit! I killed it! James tried to take it and I growled at him! And then we saw a deer! I chased it! But James couldn't –"
"Ah ... Darling?"
" —keep up and he yelled at me and then he fell into the river! I shared the rabbit with him. And then we played fetch-stick in the garden! One of your rosebushes got damaged. Then Bonham said we had to take a bath! I fell in the tub! Then I got shampoo—"
" —in my nose! It felt funny! Then Bonham used the garden hose on me to get the shampoo off!"
Just as he was about to tell how he hid James's calculator, his head was captured by Dorian's hands. The man stared into his eyes with a wild look in his own. "Major! Oh my God! Klaus? Are you in there?"
"Huh?" He tried to pull his head free, but Dorian wouldn't let go.
"What is it? What are you yelling about?"
Dorian collapsed onto the concrete with a heartfelt, "Thank God!"
"What the fuck is it?"
"You were barking, dear," Dorian said, with his face still to the ground. "You barked the entire time from when the car stopped."
A fist of ice clenched Klaus's stomach. "Wh ... at?" he said in a breath.
Dorian sat up and stared at him. "I thought you were just happy to see me, but you kept barking and I could see you were trying to tell me something and ... Oh, my God ... I thought I would have a heart attack! Klaus, I'm sorry, do forgive me, but I must do this." Then Dorian grabbed Klaus's front and tipped him onto his lap, wrapping his arms around his body and burying his face against Klaus's neck. His entire body shivered. Klaus, with his heart racing, sank into the embrace, terrified as he realized that he must have been barking at Bonham too, without ever noticing.
"Progressing," he whispered into the mass of blond curls that threatened to cut off his air supply. At least he hoped he whispered the word and didn't whine it.
The arms around him tightened to the point of being uncomfortable. Then they eased a bit. "Don't worry, though," Dorian said and dropped a kiss on his neck. Suddenly he sounded intent. "I have an idea."
"What is it?" Klaus asked, trying to listen to the sounds if they were spoken or barked. He heard each individual sound, but when he had been barking before he hadn't heard anything wrong either. "Did Grand Uncle Heinz say anything?"
"Let's go inside, love, and I'll tell you all about it. This floor is horribly cold, I need a big cup of tea and ... yes, definitely a shower."
Klaus took another quick sniff. "You smell good. You smell like yourself."
"That's nice, love, but I feel sticky. Come on, up you go. Speaking of smells, heaven, what is that stink? It smells as if someone peed in here."
Klaus trotted off.
"—a little blue-grey donkey. It's from a children's tale, I don't remember its name."
Dorian opened the door to his bedroom. "Eeyore? From Winnie the Pooh?"
"Ja, something like that. But Bonham changed it for me. Magicked it. You have to see!" Klaus rounded Dorian and leaped through the room, took a quick sniff around, then dove under the bed. His strong yaws found the thick plastic and he bit down gleefully.
He backed out, then jumped over to drop the toy at Dorian's feet. It tumbled in the wrong direction, so he pushed it back with his muzzle, then looked eagerly as Dorian squatted.
"Oh, my – it really does look like Mischa."
"Yes! Bonham said that if he had been a better wizard he could have made it sound like Mischa and even run around. That would have been fun."
"That it would have, my dear. Heh – when you're back to normal you can put it on your desk. Or take it with you on your missions. You'll run into him sooner or later. What wouldn't I give to see his face when he sees this little thing – bitemarks and all?"
Klaus panted a couple of fast breaths, amused by the idea. Then he sobered. "If I get back to normal. What did you find out?"
Dorian smiled tiredly at him. "Not much, but some tidbits. Please though, just five minutes to shower first?" Then he stood and threw the chew toy on the bed.
Klaus leaped after it – an animal instinct he had found impossible to control when he and James had played with the fetch sticks. With Mischa in mouth he circled the bed three times before finding a nice position to lay down in, facing the bathroom door through which Dorian had disappeared. He dropped the toy between his front legs, but after a moment bent to retrieve it again.
"Squeeeeeaaaak! Squeeeeeaaaak! Squeeeeeaaaak!"
Five minutes? Ha! The fop's been in there for half an hour now! At least!
Klaus had finally grown bored with his toy and had pushed it back under the bed. He was too wired up after Dorian's return to nap and didn't know what else to do. Then the running water finally – finally! – stopped.
A minute or two later, the door opened and Klaus lifted his head to see a towel-clad Dorian flash him a smile before heading over to the walk-in closet. The first time Dorian had walked like that in front of him, Klaus had growled and chewed him out for walking around naked. Dorian had just tsked at him and told him not to look if he didn't want to see. Klaus ... wanted to see. Some part of him – deep in the dog-part of his personality – was still happy to see Dorian safe and sound and home where he should be. Mostly, though, he just wanted to see, for it was a nice sight to behold, even if he wasn't ready to tell Dorian this. Pale flesh flushed to a warm pink from the warmth of the shower. Usually so bouncy curls slicked back, showing Dorian's ears and neckline. A well-muscled, able body – not soft at all. Perhaps not as strong as Klaus's usual one, but if the Earl had received some fight training they could very well have been near equals in a hand fight. Almost hairless legs, but the long arms had a healthy shimmer of pure gold.
Klaus turned on the bed to face the closet instead. He was surprised when Dorian emerged only moments later, wearing pistachio green bicycle shorts, white socks and a tight, black top with long sleeves. He came over to the bed and sat down. "There, my love. I feel so much better now."
Klaus harrumphed. On breathing in he scented a noseful of the heady soap Dorian had used. That was an interesting thing about Dorian. He always had a different smell after his ablutions. This one was earthy and grainy, balanced with a high, white tone of something intensely fresh and sweet.
"I have good news and I have bad news. Which do you want first?"
"The bad," he requested and mentally steeled himself.
"My hips are too narrow."
"My hips are too narrow. They might have to use a Caesarean."
"A Caesarean. A cut through the belly to take out the baby? I don't have much in the boobs-department either. But that's what wet-nurses are for."
Klaus just blinked. Obviously, the situation had been too taxing for the Englishman – he had gone coo-coo.
"On the good side though," Dorian continued in a very serious tone. "I do have a nice arse and carry myself like a princess. A bit too tall, but you're tall as well, my love, so that's not a problem. We will make a lovely couple and your great-uncle is very, very happy that you are finally settling down. He gives us his blessing."
Ah. "You went to Great-Uncle Heinz dressed as a woman?"
"No. Your great-uncle needs better glasses. Klaus, my dear, your Great-Uncle Heinz is a lecherous old coot. He pinched my arse! And for a 90-year-old he has quite a grip on him. I have bruises! You owe me at least four pinches – and don't think I won't collect them. In front of your precious Alphabet too and you will stand still and smile as I do it, is this understood?" Dorian's teasing tone negated most of the threat, though.
Not particularly worried, Klaus rolled his eyes. "Whatever. Did he say anything interesting?"
"Not really. There are rumours about a curse, but nothing detailed. Several Eberbachs over the centuries have just disappeared, never to be seen again. The "Eberbach Love Curse" someone called it, but what it came from or how it works no one knows. Another rumour said something about one of your ancestors – possibly old Tyrian - selling his soul to the devil in exchange for his true love going to heaven rather than to hell after death, but again, that's just a rumour."
"Anything about dogs?"
Dorian shook his head. "Not exactly. One mo'." He got up and went back to the door, where he extracted two objects from his luggage. One was a green bottle of wine, which he placed on the table next to the bed. The second was a leather-bound book. "It's a diary from one of your ancestors," he said as he got back onto the bed. "Your grand uncle remembered something about a dog mentioned in it, but not more specifically what it was about, so I borrowed it. I tried to read it on the plane over here, but the calligraphy in German gives me a headache. I thought perhaps you could read it later?"
"Ja," Klaus agreed. "It looks very old. He's a miser with his books; like your James with his money. I'm surprised he let you borrow it, even if you are my 'intended'."
If he hadn't looked he might have missed the brief flicker in Dorian's eyes at this. However, he had been looking.
"You stole the book," he said, not even bothering to make it a question.
"More like borrowed it, really. It's not as if I'm going to keep it. Besides, it's for you and you're an Eberbach too, so it's really just as much your book as it is his, isn't it?" Dorian batted his eyes innocently at him.
Klaus snorted. Then he looked away. "Just give it back to him if ... if this doesn't work out. Dorian – there's another thing I've been meaning to talk to you about. Better do it now, while I ... still can communicate properly with you."
The Earl visibly shuddered. "Klaus! Don't speak of such things! Besides—"
"Let me finish! It's too late for me to rewrite my will. Since I'm 'missing' they won't trust a new will now. Besides, it will take a while before I'm officially declared dead."
"I don't want to hear—"
Klaus growled in frustration. This was important and he needed them to be clear on this, if he was to die soon. "Let me finish! What I'm trying to say is that I want you to have The Man In Purple. You might have to steal it, but—"
He was again cut off, this time by Dorian embracing him hard, digging his hands in under his body to enfold him. The other's strength made the embrace uncomfortable, but he didn't even squirm, just closed his eyes and took comfort from the warmth and devotion.
Dorian's heart ached. True, at this point the painting was mostly a symbol for his hunt for Klaus. Without his Major he would have forgotten about it or lost interest years ago. He just had to hug the dog for a long while, caressing its flanks and murmuring words of love to the erect ears.
Finally, his flood of emotions abated and he sat up again, wiping his tears away. The dog rolled its eyes at him, but since it hadn't moved to get away during his display, he didn't think Klaus had minded overly much.
"That's ... so sweet of you."
"There are other things we need to go over too. Funeral arrangements and the –"
"Hold on, love! As I said before, I have an idea."
The dog broke off and stared at him. "What?"
"Well, I was thinking and I got an idea. About what we could do to get you back to normal."
"Well ... All this about wizards and magic and curses, oh my – it's like a fairytale, almost, isn't it?"
"No, no – it's not at all 'whatever'. I was thinking about it on the plane and suddenly it hit me – it's so obvious!" He felt so stupid for not having thought about it earlier, but now that he had, it felt right. "What do they use in fairytales to break curses?"
The dog blinked. "I don't fucking know."
"Oh, come on, Klaus – what usually happens in a fairytale?"
"The witch dies? As I said – I don't fucking know! I don't read bloody fairytales!"
"Didn't your mother read any to you?"
"If she did I was too young to remember."
"Oh, Klaus ..." Dorian, who had adored being read fairytales to when he was a child, reached out for another comforting embrace.
The dog growled. "Well, what's with these fucking fairytales you think have any bearing on this fucking mess?"
Dorian quickly collected himself. "Why, there is something mentioned in many fairytales dealing with enchanted princesses." The dog's eyes narrowed considerably, so he hastened to add, "And princes, of course!" He paused, waiting to be prompted on.
The dog stared at him.
"Something that breaks all curses and conquers all evil magic!" he continued, then paused again.
The dog kept staring, not even blinking.
Dorian surrendered, knowing that if Klaus didn't feel like asking, he simply wouldn't. "And that thing happens to be ... nothing less than ... " He held out his arms as if embracing the world. "... The Kiss Of True Love!" Then he brought both hands to his heart, clutching them together.
"The kiss?" said the dog.
"Of ... true love?"
"No, no, no." He held out his arms again. "The Kiss Of True Love!" he repeated, stressing each upper-case letter properly. Then he clutched his hands to his chest again.
The dog huffed. "A kiss? From my 'true love'? That's stupid. Besides, you did it in the garage just now – nothing happened."
Dorian's heart expanded. He couldn't help but to wonder if Klaus realized how easily he had admitted – or at least implied - that Dorian really was his true love. As not to have the moment ruined by frantic backtracking by the repressed military man, he decided not to mention it. Afterwards, however ... "Those weren't for real. Oh, I kissed you, all right, but not like a real kiss. Those were just pecks, on your head and neck. They don't count." He decided not to press further, but to let Klaus think things over. If the other came to a negative conclusion about the whole thing there was nothing Dorian could do but to hold him down – not such a brilliant thing to do with an impressive-sized Doberman.
And Klaus did think it over, that was obvious from the way he pulled back his head and studied Dorian with a steady, measuring gaze. For a brief moment he showed his teeth, then said, "Suppose it can't hurt to try." The words were just as steady as the gaze, measured rather than measuring, but a certain glint in the dog's eyes with a little more white than usual revealed that Klaus wasn't as cool as he tried to project. "Smooch me, then."
"Smooch you!? Smooch you?! No, no, no! This has to be ... this has to be nice, Klaus! This has to be ... right. It has to be ... I can't just smooch you." And he had thought the whole "That painting alone is worth a leopard tank"-thing had been bad ...
"Do what you have to do, then."
Ha. Would serve you right if I did smooch you one ... But this was important. This would be, possibly, the most important kiss in Dorian's life – in both of their lives. It has to be done correctly. His entire body thrummed with what would happen. They would kiss and then Klaus would be back with him – Dorian just knew that he would be. This was right. The Kiss of True Love was the answer. The Kiss of True Love would break the curse. It must! One kiss – one, perfect kiss – and he would have Klaus's true body with him. In bed with him. Klaus's very naked true body. No – his True Love's very naked true body in bed with him. Oh yes ...
He took a moment to just look at the dog. It felt slightly odd that his beloved soon would belong to the same species as he again. Suddenly a thought struck him and he couldn't help but to giggle.
The dog pulled back again, strong muscles moving under the fur as if preparing to jump. "What's so fucking funny?" it growled.
"You use to call me a pervert – now, this will really be perverted."
The dog snorted, but relaxed a little.
Encouraged, Dorian went on to say what had really occurred to him," You know, this is one crime I've never committed before – and, thank heaven – I won't ever commit again."
That earned him another snort. "Well, go on with it then. Pervert." Though the last word was said with a mix of affectionate sarcasm. The dog raised its head some more, not quite leaning towards him, but at least lying in a little more accessible position.
"Yes, darling. Um ... Oh, dear."
"What is it now then?"
"Oh, well, it's just ... I never thought I would ever say this. Not to you, not in a million years. But, ah ..."
"Spit it out!"
"... and I especially never envisioned saying this for our first kiss, dearest, but ... and I really mean this, Klaus ... - no tongue."
The dog rolled its eyes.
Dorian went down on his knees, spreading his feet slightly to keep balance. He stroked Klaus's head, down over the silky smooth neck and shoulders. Couldn't resist to go back up and scratch behind an ear, just one final time. Of course he wanted Klaus back as himself – there was hardly anything else he wanted in the whole wide world – but the dog was Klaus too, and he was certain this was the last time he would ever touch it. He felt absurdly glad for all the pictures Jonesy had taken. The big animal lay still, tolerating his fiddling. Dorian mentally chastened himself to get on with things. He took the long head between his hands ...
"No!" Klaus said and pulled back.
Dorian wanted to hit something in frustration. No, no, no! Not now! Don't go all virgin Major on me now, dammit! Out loud he just said, keeping the tone light, "What is it, dear?"
"I ... have to ... tell you first ... I ... I lied to you."
Dorian blinked. Whatever protest of lingering heterosexuality he had expected, an admission of lies had not even been on the list of possibilities. "About what, my love?" he replied, careful to keep the light, even tone.
While the words were said firmly, they were also spoken in a lower tone of voice than Klaus would normally ever use unless he risked being overheard by whatever foreign spy organisation they tried to evade for the moment. "I did miss you. When you were gone."
Dorian breathed in a quiet, "Oh."
"And I ... The dog's jaws worked, as if it took considerably effort to speak. "About that ... true love-shit? I ... I don't—"
No! Dorian screamed inwardly. Don't say it! Don't say it!
"—know much about such things. It ..."
Oh, thank God!
"—isn't something that comes easily to me." The dog shifted its weight from paw to paw and moved its head in an agitated manner. "I don't know if ... if ... I can't ... I don't ... Oh, for fucking hell's sake! Dorian, I ... About those dreams I had? I ... They were ... I ... I think I might actually ... No, damn it! I know that I do ... That I ... That I do ..."
Out of the blue, Dorian understood what his reticent Major was trying to say, without quite having the words. With his heart expanded so far that it must surely explode and feeling as if he had inhaled some sort of light gas, he reached out and placed his index finger reverently on the Doberman's cold nose. "Hush, my own. I know. I understand. I ... Oh Klaus!" He realised that he was smiling so hard he must look like a loon, but to hell with that.
He took the dog's narrow head in his hands again and looked deep into those intense, dark eyes; feeling as if he had a direct connection to his beloved's soul through them. And when the moment felt completely, utterly, impossibly right, he bent closer.
Klaus saw Eroica bend towards him. His first impulse was to lean closer; his second to pull away. He compromised by keeping absolutely still. Then lips touched his – or the frontmost part of his, anyway. Soft, firm lips which brought with them a world of tastes uniquely Dorian. Klaus tasted them and nearly moaned with the sensation. There was spicy heat and red bitterness, underlined with something both sweet and grainy; things he had no words for.
He longed to taste more. Only Dorian's joking comment about "no tongue" kept him from licking the source. He pushed closer though, bringing their lips together with more force. Then a strange falling feeling in his groin startled him and he ducked his head. Dorian nearly fell on top of him, but caught himself and sat back.
Realizing what had happened; how his dog body had reacted to his human mind's arousal, would have made Klaus blush had he been able to and he was immensely grateful for his prone position.
Fuck! If I transform back now I'll be naked and hard in bed with him. Which ... won't be so bad, perhaps? And ... I do feel something! Something's happening! It's working! He opened his mouth to tell Dorian about the strange tickling feeling – almost like electricity – in his nose.
Dorian stared at the dog, waiting with his breath held. Klaus had gotten involved in the kiss, that had been obvious. Then he had hastily pulled away – had he felt something? The dog looked up at him, then down at its own nose – Dorian would never say so, but it looked silly. Its mouth opened. And then ...
... the dog sneezed trice in rapid succession.
They waited for a bit longer, in frozen tableau, but still, inevitably nothing happened. The Major didn't change in any way – and soon it became inescapably clear that he wouldn't. Klaus bent his neck. Stupid limey. He really had me convinced there for a moment. I'm too gullible.
He didn't look up when the weight on the bed shifted as Dorian climbed off. He did look up at the crash of broken glass. Dorian stood in front of the fireplace. Green glass shards covered the floor. The fireplace was splashed by a still running puddle of red. As he watched, Dorian spun around, grabbed a vase with roses and hurled it at the stained glass window. Both broke. Shards rained over the bed. Klaus didn't bother to move, just closed his eyes and grunted as something sharp tore into his side. When he looked up again, Dorian was on his knees on the floor with his face buried in his hands, sobbing. Part of Klaus wanted to join him.
I really am gullible, he thought. I actually believed that stupid drivel. Fucking fairytales!
end part 26.
Chapter 23: What does it mean? / The Story of Carl Ludwig von dem Eberbach
Part 27: What does it mean? B-Day (1985) minus 3, afternoon
A few days passed without any change of the situation. No one had any ideas to contribute. After Dorian had kissed Klaus without bringing about the effect so strongly desired by both of them, the atmosphere at Castle Gloria was rather tense. Dorian had fallen into one of his melancholic moods, Klaus seemed even more restless and irritable than usual. At other times, it seemed as if he had resigned to his fate. It did not help that James, whom Bonham had informed about the curse – with the Major's reluctant agreement, and only because, due to the Earl's blunder, he knew already half of the story anyway - asked every hour or so whether they "had heard anything from the wizard". Dorian had told Bonham what he had learned from Klaus's relative, and the Cockney had immediately informed Snape via Hagrid. The wizard answered that these were valuable hints about a family curse indeed. He would try to find out what might break this kind of curse. He had, however, not specified how long his research might take.
Dorian was reclining in the library on his favourite divan, reading. Klaus slept next to him, curled up, his head on his hind paws, resting from an eight hour walk Bonham and the Earl had made with him to keep him occupied. Sometimes he growled in his sleep, and his paws moved.
Is he chasing game in dog form, or Neo Nazis and enemy spies as a human? Dorian asked himself. Who knows?
Bonham came in with a tea tray, James on his heels, put the tray on the table next to Dorian and began to clean out the fireplace.
James poured a cup of tea and offered it to the Earl, who shook his head.
"It's not especially chilly for May, " he remarked. "You won't waste wood on a fire now, Bonham?"
"Nah. It's the entrance to the floo network."
"The wizard communication system," Bonham patiently explained. "It 'asn't bin used in a while, so I better clean and open it, bein' prepared should Professer Snape try t'be in contact."
"Over the fireplace?" James shook his head.
Bonham went on cleaning out the old ashes, muttering something in a low voice, and the Earl returned to his book. He became aware that for the last ten minutes or so, he had not understood a word of what he had been reading.
Bonham finished cleaning up, while James looked curiously up into the chimney.
"You're having me on, Bonham," he accused the Cockney. "It's just an ordinary fireplace. And I don't believe in Santa Claus any mo – Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!
Dorian and Klaus both jumped up, the Doberman with a fierce growl.
When severely frightened, James did not drop what he held in his hands, he hurled it at what might possibly attack him.
"How considerate," a deep, silken voice said. "How kind to receive me with a cup of tea. Thank you."
Severus Snape's tall, thin figure stepped from the fireplace. Hovering in front of him were the cup and saucer of the Earl's Louis Seize China James had thrown. A bit behind the cup hung the stream of hot tea, frozen in the air. Snape had raised his right hand, index finger outstretched, as if to admonish the cup and its contents.
James stared at the china and the tea, and screamed again.
The wizard gave him a Look, and James stopped in mid-scream. Dorian, who had covered his ears, relaxed. The Doberman quit growling.
"Accio, teacup." Snape moved his index finger, as if to summon the wayward china. Obediently, cup and saucer settled into his outstretched palm. The stream of tea neatly poured itself into the cup again, which the wizard handed back to the petrified James, gently tapping his shoulder with one finger.
"Here's your tea. Don't drop it again!" he ordered sternly.
"No, Sir. Thank you, Sir," James whispered, like a reprimanded first grader, happy to have been left off the hook so lightly.
Very considerate of Professor Snape to save my china, Dorian thought. He remembered his duties as a host.
"Do sit down, Professor Snape. Erm – tea?"
"Thank you." Snape folded his black-robed figure into an overstuffed chair and gracefully accepted a cup of tea, a drop of milk, no sugar, thank you.
Again, Dorian was mesmerised by the wizard's resonant voice; black, glittering eyes and elegant, gliding movements. He noticed that Snape's frock coat had a lot of buttons down the front. More buttons went up the sleeves and trouser legs. Dorian wondered how many of these buttons Hagrid would open before he lost patience ...
"Good reflexes," the Major broke the silence. "You have news, Professor?"
"Indeed!" Snape answered, giving Dorian a hard look, which made the Earl feel a bit like a little boy, reproached for not paying attention in class.
"Thanks to the 'Chronicles of Slytherin' I found out the identity of the wizard who brought the curse upon your family," Snape continued, turning to the Major. "'Curses through the Ages' yielded more information: Thomasin Stubbins, a sixteenth-century wizard and former Slytherin, apparently had taken up an affair with one of your ancestors, Herr von dem Eberbach. An adventurer of Portuguese origin, who had married into your family –"
"Tyrian!" the Major shouted. "Tyrian again, I knew it! Curse him –"
"He was cursed indeed," the wizard continued sharply, "When Thomasin found out that Tyrian not only was married to a noblewoman and had a small son with her, but also had another male lover –"
"Do we know who he was?" Dorian interrupted, folding his hands over one knee.
"Thomasin apparently mentions a pirate – The chronicles speak of Thomasin's diary, which has been published in the 19th century. Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate it in our library so far, but the chronicles give a good summary ..."
"Impossible!" Klaus cut into Dorian's triumphant scream of "I knew it! Benedict! I knew it!" – "The Eberbach chronicles state that Tyrian and Benedict were mortal enemies!"
"Have you ever taken into consideration, Dar – Major, that the Eberbach chronicles may be just the tiniest bit incorrect in this point?"
"Alright, so what do your family chronicles say about Tyrian?" the Major asked coldly.
"The same as yours, Major, however –"
"However," Dorian continued triumphantly, "they were 'corrected' by Juniper Red, former Earl of Gloria, in the nineteenth century. Juniper was as straight as a ramrod, very bigoted, so he 'cleaned' our family chronicles of what he did not see fit for a family of English nobles."
"Unfortunately for him," Dorian continued, "he never got around to burning the older chronicles, so there is – among other juicy facts –"
"- mention of the fact that Benedict Red clearly preferred men!"
"So what? Even if –"
"There is a love letter to Tyrian, even!"
"I had it examined by an expert –"
"Gentlemen!" Snape's voice was thunderous. "May I have your attention?! Thank you."
He indicated James. "I take it he is in the picture?"
"He is," Bonham confirmed.
"Fine. This will save me an obliviate spell later."
James looked as if he wanted to ask what an obliviate spell was, but thought it better for his health to keep silent.
"I have put a silencio spell over this room," the wizard continued. "So we can talk freely. The news I have is not very good, I'm afraid. Thomasin's curse changed Tyrian not only into a dog, it also said he would remain a dog, unless he found and acknowledged his one true love by his thirtieth birthday. If he did not, he would lose all his human capacities and remain a mere animal for the rest of his life."
Klaus and Dorian exchanged a look. James and Bonham looked at the big dog and the Earl; one shocked, the other frightened.
Progressing ... Dorian thought. Oh, it fits so well ...
"I thought as much." The Major finally broke the silence. "From what Lord Gloria found out from one of my elder relatives, the curse must still be in effect. According to the diary of one of my ancestors, there have occurred – disappearances - in my family, which have never been solved."
Dorian slapped his knee. "Tyrian disappeared. It was said he drowned when his ship sank, but what we have just heard – he might have ended his life as a dog."
"He was the first one in a long row, apparently," Klaus answered.
"So it seems," Snape confirmed, emptying his teacup and putting it back on the saucer.
"What we don't know, however," the Major continued, "is, how the curse might actually be broken, if I managed to find my one true love –" he thought for a moment, "within three days' time."
His last words sounded so sad, so hopeless, that even the wizard's cold eyes lit up with sympathy for a moment.
Dorian opened his mouth to say what was at the tip of his tongue. Don't you know, Darling? Do you actually not know? Or are you just stubborn, trying to save face?
"I'm afraid, neither the chronicles nor 'Curses' are very forthcoming with regard to that aspect," Snape said. "It is only stated that the curse will befall every male firstborn of the family, and that 'he who is affected by this curse, must find and acknowledge his one true love before his thirtieth birthday. Otherwise he will end his life as a dog, forever seeking its master, driven from the threshold of its home'."
"Bit of a drama queen, this Mr Stubbins," Klaus grumbled. "Small wonder Tyrian gave him the slip ..."
Both Dorian and Snape looked at him reproachfully, but the Major continued unperturbed: "What do you think, Professor Snape? What does he mean by 'acknowledge'?"
"A kiss, perhaps?" Dorian asked. "We experimented – a little bit ..."
James sighed, and Bonham scratched his left ear.
Snape lifted an eyebrow.
"Not very successful, I fear ..." Dorian went on.
"Fairytale nonsense it was!" the Major snapped.
"Would a kiss suffice as a token of true love?" Dorian urged the wizard. "Or would – more – be necessary?"
The big dog sighed. Bonham and James looked into their teacups. Snape frowned.
"Men have been betrayed by kisses," he finally said. "And someone who was experienced enough could lie with his body as well. No, I fear the magic of bodily love will not break the curse. I am fairly sure the curse will not be removed by - a sexual act. Something else will be necessary."
"How reassuring!" the Major snorted. "And what makes you so certain?"
"Even the most degenerate wizard of Thomasin's time would have found bestiality of any kind the most horrible thing imaginable. Not even a degenerate, half-mad pureblood would ever have anything to do with it – not even for his most hated enemy. It was considered against the laws of nature and would mean death punishment for the wizard who would create such a curse," Snape answered.
To say that Dorian was relieved to hear this would have been an understatement. The Major was more sceptical.
"So let's assume for the moment that you are right, and exclude the bestiality option," he said. "What do you think, then, would resolve the curse instead?"
"Yes, what? Can you tell us what?" Dorian asked urgently. If it is not what I think ...
The wizard shook his head.
"I am no expert in these matters," he said, "so I can only give you some general ideas, which might already be familiar to you. A true lover considers his beloved's feelings, appreciates his gifts – apart from giving of himself. He might give up habits and opinions he cherishes, for his beloved's sake." He thought for a moment. "Love is as individual as the people concerned." He shrugged. "Maybe you have already done the right thing."
No one said a word, until the Major finally broke the silence again.
"Thank you, Professor Snape."
"For nothing." Snape got up, Dorian followed suit.
"I am afraid I cannot do more for you at the moment," the wizard said. "A curse this old cannot be broken by an outsider. There is no magical potion or counterspell for it."
"Thank you all the same," the Earl said. He could not suppress the trembling in his voice.
"For nothing," Snape repeated. Another idea seemed to strike him. "Perhaps it is not unimportant to take the reincarnation aspect into consideration."
Dorian caught up with the wizard's idea.
"You mean – we mentioned the story of Tyrian and Benedict. What if they had actually been meant for each other ...?"
"It is worth a thought," Snape nodded. "Good-bye, Gentlemen."
He stepped into the fireplace, turned towards the men in the room, took a small silver box from a pocket in his frock coat, opened it and threw some of the contents over his shoulder. A green cloud rose up, and when it settled again, the wizard had vanished.
"Those magical things make me nervous," James said, his voice quavering. He began to collect the teacups, handling the cup the wizard had drunk from with special care. "And he wasn't very helpful at all. Did you give him money, Milord?"
Bonham took the small man round his shoulders and steered him towards the door.
"Wizards don't 'ave no use for our money, Jamesie," he said. The door closed behind the Earl's accountant and his second-in-command, cutting off the latter's explanations about wizard currency.
Part 28: The Story of Carl Ludwig von dem Eberbach. B-Day (1985) minus 3, later in the afternoon
"'What if they had actually been meant for each other?'' the Major repeated Dorian's question. "So what? They are dead, for fuck's sake!"
Thoughtfully, Dorian twirled a strand of curls around his digit.
"He might have a point! Let's just assume that Tyrian and Benedict actually had been meant for each other, that Benedict had been Tyrian's one true love ... Let's further assume that you, Major, are Tyrian's reincarnation, and I am the reincarnation of Benedict Red –"
"Romantic nonsense!" the Major barked. "I'm not the reincarnation of that irresponsible, treacherous, violent, ruthless criminal! And there is no such thing as history repeating itself!"
Dorian's long-fingered hand stroked the shining coat of the Doberman's muscular neck and chest. The dog slid away from the touch and began to pace the library.
"If you consider that a soul reincarnates to learn, to make experiences, to avoid mistakes from another life ..." Dorian continued. "You are dutiful, honest, chaste, with a strong sense of honour ... all characteristics Tyrian did not possess, as far as we know. But your dreams, dear ..."
"I wish I had never told you about them!" the Major growled. "Even if I was Tyrian's reincarnation, what's the point? What do you want to tell me?"
"It didn't work out with Tyrian and Benedict, but maybe it will work out with Klaus and Dorian," the Earl said patiently.
"Romantic nonsense!" Klaus repeated. "I have had it! I'm fed up with wizards who cannot help and with trying out idiot fairytale recipes!"
"Fine," Dorian sounded stung. "Have you got a better idea?"
"Yes, I have!" the Major retorted. "Face it, Lord Gloria: I'm unlovable, and there is no such person as my one true love!"
"Major ..." Dorian's voice now sounded definitely broken. He walked over to the divan and collapsed on it. All strength seemed to have left him.
Oh shit ... The Doberman stopped his pacing in front of the divan. I didn't want to make him suffer ... After all, the whole mess is not his fault, and he does a lot for me ... We must look reality in the eye, though ...
"Why not face it?" he continued, a bit less harshly now. "We both see the signs. I am becoming more and more dog-like; not noticing when I bark instead of speaking with my human voice. My sense of smell has intensified. I love to play stupid games with James and Bonham ... Within three days' time, Major Klaus von dem Eberbach as you know him will be no more. There will only be an untrained, useless animal. And if you have any consideration for the man I still am now, I beg you to put that animal down."
"No!" Dorian jumped up, tears in his eyes. "How could I put down a healthy, innocent dog with a lot of good years ahead of him? You – you will be happy and enjoy life, and I will be responsible for you – how could I put you down? I would not ask the same of you, my love!" For a moment, he could not speak on. Finally he pulled himself together.
"You will be the best trained and best kept Doberman in the world. It would not be fair to kill a living creature enjoying its life, with no memory of what ..." His voice broke again.
The Major sighed and lay down at Dorian's feet.
No use discussing this now. Maybe Bonham will be less sentimental ...
The Earl hunkered down and put his arms around the Doberman's strong neck, hiding his face at the muscular chest. The dog kept himself very still.
"There is another family story," he finally said in a low voice. "I read the diary you brought. It was written by Franz Heinrich von dem Eberbach, one of my ancestors from the nineteenth century. He records the story of his parents, Celestine and Carl Ludwig von dem Eberbach. Carl Ludwig must have been a harsh and forbidding man. He went to war against Napoleon, and never came back, leaving his widow, Celestine, who was pregnant. A huge black dog was seen in the area, a savage beast, tearing cattle. Hunters tried to shoot it down, but Celestine, a good and charitable woman with a special love for animals, intervened. She took the animal in, and from then on, the creature followed her around wherever she went. Celestine gave birth to a boy, Franz Heinrich. When he was sixteen, she contracted a fever and died. The dog, which had done fairly well so far for its age, refused any food and drink from this day on and died miserably within a week. Franz Heinrich never liked the dog. Not that it had ever been aggressive towards him, but he was afraid of his mother's strong attraction to the animal. He said that in regard to the dog, he feared for his mother's sanity, because she doted so much on it. During her last days, she talked to the animal more than to her son, the servants and the doctors, and she would not have the dog removed from her bedside, once even addressing it as 'Ludwig'. Besides, he found that the dog showed an uncanny intelligence for an animal. "
"I would want to know more," Dorian said. "Was the affection the dog showed just the affection of a pet for its mistress? Or did Carl Ludwig retain at least part of his human consciousness? And if so, why?"
"This is not the point," Klaus growled. "The point probably is that Carl Ludwig came back in dog form before his thirtieth birthday and confided in his wife. I do not want to know what the poor woman must have gone through. I only know, I – I would not want the fate of Celestine von dem Eberbach for you."
"There is another possibility," Dorian said. "Maybe Celestine was Carl Ludwig's one true love, so the curse could not take its full effect. He became a dog, but because he returned to her, he retained his human consciousness?"
"Nonsense!" the Major answered. "Why would Carl Ludwig have turned into a dog, if she was his true love? Besides – if there ever has been a period in which my ancestors married for love, it certainly was not the early nineteenth century."
"Celestine may have loved him, though," Dorian insisted. "And even if he allegedly was a harsh and forbidding man, he may have loved her as well. Only – maybe – he never told her?"
"Nonsense," Klaus repeated and went to the door.
"Maybe this is meant by 'acknowledging' your one true love?" Dorian added.
"Let me out. I need some exercise."
The Earl shrugged and obliged the dog, letting him out into the garden. As usual, the Major ran up to the farthest point, tearing around the trees, then turning back.
"Nonsense," he repeated to himself, for once positive he was speaking human language. Deep inside, he was not so definitely sure, though, that Dorian's speculations actually were all nonsense ...
end part 28.
Chapter 24: The Alphabet
Part 29: The Alphabet B-Day (1985) minus 2.
A quick knock on the door woke him. Then he heard Bonham's voice, "M'lord? They're coming."
"Sweet muses, what time is it?"
"Just after eight."
"Heavens. What's with you secret agents and getting up at the crack of dawn?"
"It's a classic manoeuvre," Klaus answered from close by. "Attack the enemy before he has had time to collect himself in the morning. Besides, it's not really very early at all."
Ooooh, what nice voice he has. And so close. It could be him – really him – in bed with me right now. Ooooh …
"M'lord?" Bonham asked. "What do you want us to do?"
"Let them do whatever they want. Is darling Z with them?" The faint grumble from Klaus made him smile.
"Good. Make sure they come up here before they leave. And bring breakfast. With extra coffee."
He heard the door close and buried his face in the pillows for one more, luxurious moment. Then he sighed and rolled up on his knees. The dog beside him grumbled some more. "Did you sleep well, my love?"
"Have you been up long?" He got out of bed and went over to his walk-in wardrobe. Now, do I have something that I can get into quickly and still look gorgeous in? Well, I look astonishingly good in everything in here, so it's just the matter of finding something to put on quickly, I suppose.
"About an hour. I watched them from the window."
Dorian found a green sweater in just the right hue and a pair of shiny white trousers of the softest leather. He would normally shower in the morning, but he could do that later and put on something else afterwards. "Oh heavens!"
"No, I just saw myself in the mirror. I really need to brush my hair."
"You didn't have to scream about it."
"No, dear, I'm sorry. Let me just get a hairbrush and we can sit by the fire as I brush my hair."
They settled on the sofa, Klaus with his paws and head in Dorian's lap. Dorian petted him with one hand, when he didn't need it for the brushing. To finally be allowed to touch, if only in a platonic manner, felt good.
"Are you ready?" he asked.
"It's a stupid idea."
"I know, but are you ready?"
They arrived in three cars with three agents in each. There were A, B and G; J, N and P; S, Y and Z. C, E, F, H, L, M and O kept fort in Bonn, while the rest provided backup. They had drawn sticks to determine who would get to be in the search teams, with the exception of Z, who still considered himself in charge. "He did sing to me," he had told them. "Whether it was voluntarily or not, he did give me the command."
They drove unchallenged right up to the castle. Oh, they had staked out the place for two full days, but had seen nothing out of the ordinary. They knew all exits. D and K covered the gate to the road, Q and T the kitchen entrance and the rest was spread over the area, just in case. Everyone had reported being in position before the search teams drove the last part of the road. No one had left North Downs since the previous day.
Z pressed the bell. Someone must, surely, have seen them already. The Earl wasn't stupid or careless. There had to be some device for visitor surveillance, at least of the kind that came the regular way. He pressed the bell again. The result sounded like a wind chime, with many very clear, melodic notes.
Finally, the door opened. One of Eroica's men peered out. One of the tall, blond ones, interchangeable in Z's eyes. Oh so very pretty and dressed to the nines despite the early hour. "Good day," he said, looking at them with a question in his vivid, blue eyes. "My name is Rudy. How may I help you?"
Z took a step closer, prepared to catch the door if Rudy tried to slam it in their faces. "We want to see Major von dem Eberbach. Now!"
Rudy blinked. "Major von dem Eberbach? He isn't here."
They would say that, wouldn't they? "We will search the castle ourselves. Let us in."
He pushed forward and Rudy immediately gave way. All nine entered. P and S took up post by the door to keep it secure.
Rudy laughed nervously. "Why would you think Major von dem Eberbach is here?"
"Because he has gone missing and certain things indicate that the Earl is involved. Take us to the Earl right away."
"Yes, certainly. The Earl has always told us to assist you in any way we can. But I assure you – the Major isn't here."
Another voice broke in. "The Earl has forgotten all about him! It's always about that dog now! And he won't let me sleep at his feet!"
The cute accountant had appeared in a doorway. Z blinked. He liked the small man, not that he would let anyone catch on. "Hello, Mr James. Are you sure that the Major isn't here? Maybe the Earl keeps him hidden somewhere?" If the Earl really had snapped and kidnapped Klaus, anything was possible.
"Of course I'm sure! I handle all the grocery bills, don't I? I would notice if there was someone else eating in the castle. I keep track, you know! It's just that stupid dog. It almost bit me yesterday! And it stole my bone."
They started walking along the corridor, heading at a brisk pace towards the Earl's quarters. Behind him, Z heard G – dressed for the day in his most fetching, summer blue dress - whisper a quiet, "Uh-oh ..."
"What?" A prompted, just as quietly.
"You don't think the Earl has him tied up somewhere, starving him to make him more ... pliable, do you?"
"Don't be silly," A reassured the other agent. "The Major would rather starve to death than be ... pliable."
Again, someone knocked on his door; a very firm, decisive knock. A moment later Z and a group of other Alphabets crowded in.
Dorian quickly put down the silver brush and fluffed his hair, hoping that he didn't look too shabby. Then he leaned back and put his right arm possessively around Klaus's shoulders. "Z! A! G! And ... is that you, J? I hardly didn't recognize you without your moustache – and you've lost some weight too, haven't you?"
"Yes, Lord Gloria, I—"
"Lord Gloria, we are here to search your premises. If you have Major von dem Eberbach in irons somewhere around here, we demand that you hand him over at once."
Dorian's eyes widened. "Iron Klaus? In irons? That would be ... ironic, wouldn't it?"
G giggled. Dorian smiled at him. The dog half-way on his lap snorted.
"Lord Gloria!" Z growled, actually making a rather decent imitation of Klaus's usual annoyance. "This is serious! Is he here?"
Dorian lifted his arm from the dog's shoulder and gave it a quick pat on the behind. Dark brown, almost black eyes glared at him in a way that would probably forever make him feel just a little horny. Then the large animal jumped off the sofa.
"As I told you when you called before, dear Z, I have not seen any raven-haired, drop dead gorgeous German men with eyes like emeralds here since the last time you all visited me. This I am perfectly willing to swear to you. On the bible. On my father's grave. On the Mona Lisa, if you want." And that is one wizard's portrait I want to have a chat with ... "Or maybe on the Crown Jewels? I still want them, you know."
Klaus slowly walked towards the Alphabets. Dorian noted, with some amusement, that Z warily kept the animal in sight. That was, however, the only thing he found amusing in this. His stomach clenched so hard he wanted to cry.
"I'm sure you do, Lord Gloria. We will search the castle for him now."
"By all means. No one would be happier than me, if you found him. No, no, dear G – not to worry. He just wants to say hello. He's such an affectionate dog, you see. Why don't you scratch behind his ear. He adores that."
With his heart in his throat he watched the small agent bend down to follow his advice. Please work! Please work! No – please don't! No – do! I ... He couldn't look away as Klaus, after having thrown him one last, baleful look, reached up and rasped his tongue quickly over G's mouth. The transvestite squeaked and jumped back. Dorian stared desperately at the dog, stared at him ... remaining being a dog? Apparently so. He breathed a sigh of relief, even if he wanted to wail in frustration.
However, he hadn't been all that concerned with/hopeful about G. Not really. G was in lust with the Major, of course – and with Dorian too, truth be told. Which showed that G had excellent taste. However, as Bonham had remarked after having given Klaus a quick buzz on the nose, "'T has to be the lovey-dovey kind of love, I wager. Not just the want-ta-get-inter-yer-pants-kinda thing." To find out that Bonham harboured even those kind of feelings for his Major had shaken Dorian, no matter how much he shared the sentiment.
No, what concerned Dorian was the tall, blond man whom his Major now approached, with the intent of giving him as good a kiss as he could manage in his current, canine state. Oh, Z might still be a bit wet behind the ears in some aspect, but Dorian had seen how he looked at Klaus, when Klaus didn't pay attention. He was sure that for Z it was more than just youthful hormones making him ogle a fine piece of arse – which Klaus had, no question about it – or a well-filled joy basket. No, the agent admired Klaus, practically worshipped him, maybe even ... loved him? And Klaus, in turn, did have feelings for the young man. He did love him – perhaps only as a younger brother, but there was love there and Z certainly was no blood-relation. So, with the right motivation surely other kinds of love could also blossom.
Not to mention that Z, in Dorian's eyes, was in certain ways much more suitable to Klaus than himself. On the "right" side of the law, clean-cut, strong, German. Could easily pass for heterosexual – there would be no need for Klaus and Z to hide even a friendship. They could still work together, a pair of warriors like the Spartans of the past ... Quite romantic, really.
"Lord Gloria! Keep your rabid dog away from me!"
Z had not succumbed to trying to scratch the dog. In fact, he held it off at arm's length.
Dorian took a deep breath, prepared to do what was right. He had just gotten to his feet, however, when Z threw the dog back with enough force to make it fall to the floor. It quickly got up again and approached the agent, this time with bared teeth and ears pressed back.
"Get him away from me or I'll shoot him!" Z growled, sounding serious.
"Major! Get over here! Now!" Dorian ordered quickly, with his heart in his throat. The big dog stared at Z, paying him no attention. Dorian hit his thigh demandingly. "Major! Right now!"
Finally the dog trotted towards him, looking straight at the junior agent the entire way and growling.
"Z! Really!" Dorian scolded.
"The dog is mad, Lord Gloria," Z said. "You should send it to the vet and have it put down."
Dorian felt annoyed, yet relieved at the reprieve. "Why are you here anyway?" he asked testily. "Why do you think Klaus, I mean Major von dem Eberbach, is here?"
Z nodded towards the dog, who now stood next to Dorian again, watching them all coldly. "A dog just like this one was spotted in the Major's hotel room when he disappeared. We've wasted enough time here. We'll search the castle now."
Dorian made an imperious gesture. "Feel free. You won't find anything. I expect an apology when you come back, Z."
"He threatened to shoot me!" Klaus said as soon as the door had closed. He sounded a little amazed, but not actually angry. Almost ... admiringly?
Not what Dorian wanted to hear. "I thought he was rather over-reacting," he said tartly.
Klaus turned towards him, frowning. "Dorian? You smell strange."
Dorian felt himself softening at this sign of concern. "I just had hoped we would have it over with, that's all. And I do believe I feel just a little bit insulted." He started walking towards the bathroom, to have his morning shower. "Me? Putting you? In irons? Ha!" Just before closing the door behind him, he added, "Iron is so cold and rough. Why would I use iron when gold manacles are far prettier?"
It took the agents five hours to search the castle. At least that was how long it took before Z returned to Dorian's bedchamber, wearing a defeated look. The agents with him looked exhausted. Dorian would have felt sorry for them, if he hadn't felt so sorry for himself and for what must be done.
"Found anything, dear Z?" he asked sweetly, knowing well that there had been nothing for them to find. Even if the man they sought hadn't stayed the entire time at Dorian's side - Where he belongs! - they would have found nothing. If Dorian had truly meant to hide someone in North Downs, there were places no one but he himself could get into – or get out of.
"No, Lord Gloria. I ... apologise for having intruded. And my earlier behaviour."
"Oh, of course I forgive you, you sweet, sweet boy. If—" He said the last word sharply and got to his feet. Klaus, who had lain at his side, went with him. " —you say hello to my dog." He smiled widely, when he really wanted to cry.
Whereupon the Doberman went up to the surprised agents. Or, more to the point, to their temporary leader. Who looked at the animal as if it was going to bite him any second now. "I'm not letting your mad dog anywhere near me!"
"Oh Z ..." Dorian said and reached up to pat the young agent on the cheek. He took another step nearer and then, in one smooth movement, enfolded Z in a firm embrace.
"Lord Gloria!" Z yelled.
"You invade my home," Dorian purred – playfully, but in fact he felt deadly serious, "looking for my man, thinking that I would have abducted him and abused him. You owe me, sweet Z. You will damned as hell say hello to my dog."
When Z struggled, Dorian held firm. Glancing to the side, he saw the dog stare up at him with something akin to wonder in his dark, soulful eyes. Then it jumped up to lean one large front paw on Z's shoulder and the other on Dorian's, still not breaking eye contact with him. Well? Do it, then! Quick, before they think I'm utterly mad rather than just eccentric! We've spoken about this! Do it!
Yes, they had spoken about the possibility. What Dorian hadn't mentioned to his beloved was the little voice in the back of his head that whispered oh so temptingly, "And if he turns into himself again we'll step back for a while. Klaus is strong and stubborn and faithful. He doesn't see Z as a love object. He'll fight any temptation just as he fought me. And then, one dark night, not too far into the future? A shadow moving in the dark and ... ssssslllllit, no more competition ... " He still hadn't made up his mind and suspected that maybe he might have gone just a little bit mad after all. Who could blame him?
The concept of True Love sang to Dorian's very soul, that it did – but if it wasn't he who was Klaus's true love, why should he pay it any mind? Klaus loved him – had all but said so! – and that was more than enough.
He watched in horrified fascination as the dog – seemingly in slow motion - leaned closer; how the pink tongue darted out and pushed sloppily at Z's rosy lips. For good measure, the snout followed, pressing hard.
The tableau held for one breathtaking moment and then ...
... nothing happened. At all.
Until the dog pulled back, gave both of them a thoroughly betrayed look and dashed off into the room next to Dorian's.
Feeling his insides go numb, Dorian patted Z's shoulder. "That's a good boy," he said absentmindedly. "Always nice to see you. Yes, yes, very nice." He ignored the wide-eyed stares they all gave him and waved them out of the room. The moment the door fell shut, he rushed after the dog.
He found Klaus in the small space between the sofa and the further wall. The dog, curled up tightly, shivered. Dorian went down on all fours and crept under the table to reach him. Gently, in case the dog might bite him, he simply put as much of himself around the animal as he could. "Hush," he soothed. "Hush ..."
"I thought ..." the dog started with a certain roughness to its voice. "I thought ..."
"Yes, yes, I know, my love, I know. I thought so too."
"I didn't want it!"
"No, I know, I know. Neither did I. But still, I hoped."
"It's no use! Nobody loves me. I'm unloveable."
The words tore at him. "That's not true, Klaus! I love you! You know that!"
"Well, then it's my fault! It's me! Something's wrong with me! I'm not capable of loving!"
Dorian caressed over the silky smooth pelt and dropped countless kisses on the erect ears. "Nonsense, dear. You love me, don't you?"
"So help me God, I suppose I do ... But apparently not enough. Never enough ... I'm going to become a useless, worthless, untrained dog! You might as well do as he said and have the vet put me down!"
"Never, my love, oh never! Don't say such horrid things! I'll love you forever, Klaus, no matter what!"
With tears in his eyes he kissed the dog's forehead and, with his heart cold and empty, gathered the trembling animal to his chest, hugging it tight. There was nothing else he could do.
end part 29.
Chapter 25: Birthday 1/5
Part 30: Birthday! B-Day (1985). Afternoon of May 14th to Morning of May 15th
May 14th, 1985. 5:00 p. m.
Severus Snape put back the "St" volume of the "Who Was Who In The Wizarding World" (101 volumes, still growing). Unfortunately, the hefty book had not provided too much information on Mr Stubbins's work, nothing, in fact, Snape had not read in other places already. It had, though, yielded valuable information regarding Stubbins's descendants: He had married one Cassandra Ravendale in 1590. The Ravendales still were a very wealthy and influential family of pureblood wizards. Snape's own grandmother on his mother's side had been a Ravendale before marrying Tullius Severus Prince ... More interesting, however, was that Thomasin and Cassandra Stubbins had begotten a daughter, Donata, who had married one Alastair Malfoy. The Malfoys were very proud of their pure bloodline – as had been the Ravendales and the Princes, up to the day when Eileen, precious daughter of Morgana and Tully Prince, had gotten herself knocked up by a good-for-nothing Muggle named Tobias Snape ...
The product of this unfortunate event now sniffed and gave the heavy tome a last push to locate it properly on the shelf where it belonged, when a smaller book toppled from a higher shelf and hit his head before it fell to the ground. Angrily, Snape snatched it from the floor to put it back, when he read the front page. He whistled.
"So I found you ... I did the Accio and you wouldn't come. Let's see how you are protected ..."
Carefully, he put the book on a nearby table and scanned it with his wand. Finding nothing suspicious, he sat down and began to read the old, mouldy pages: "Thomasin Stubbins – Quotations, Annotations, Personal Diary In Fragments, published and edited by Aurelius Sheepshave, London, 1785." Quickly, he flipped through the small book. One passage he read more closely.
'... Cassandra demands that we have our portraits done, but unfortunately, there will only be money for the portrait of the Master of the House.' ... Pompous prick ... but – portrait?
He consulted his pocket watch.
Time for tea with the Malfoys. Very convenient ...
Snape hurriedly left the library and hastened to the boundaries of Hogwarts, where he disapparated.
May 14th, 1985. 7:00 p. m.
Bodily, Dorian was completely exhausted. Ten hours of walking in the rain through the wonderful British countryside could do this to you. He had walked with "Major" to put his own mind to rest. In vain.
While his body had slid through mud and splashed through puddles, he had endlessly turned over the situation in his mind. There simply was no parallel in human experience to be found for what would maybe happen during the coming night ... The change would probably come at night, because Klaus's change into a dog had happened during the night. Perhaps right at midnight. Midnight was a classic time for these kinds of transformations, at least in fairytales. Midnight or sunrise ... Professor Snape had said so, and Bonham had agreed. Apparently that was when the magic worked the easiest for a wizard to set the curse. There was nothing comparable: Human experience might comprise quick deaths: a plane crash, a car accident, a bullet ... On the opposite, one might witness a loved one slowly die from cancer, lose his bodily and mental capacities through Alzheimer's disease, a stroke, a mental illness ... But going to bed one night and waking up the next morning with someone – in this case Klaus, Klaus von dem Eberbach, Iron Klaus – gone forever, knowing that the beautiful Doberman who trotted next to him tomorrow would be an ordinary dog, would likely never remember that he once had been a human – said Iron Klaus? Dorian found they faced a fairly original fate; and his cheeks were not only wet from the rain ...
I love you so much, he thought. But you, one of the bravest men in the world, still do not want to face the fact that you are attracted to your own sex ... If perhaps not to me, though ... Or not enough to me ...?
May 14th, 1985. 7:30 p. m.
"Oh show us the way to the next whisky bar," James sang while going over the books. "Oh, don't ask why, oh, don't ask why ..."
"James, 'ave you seen the Earl?"
"For if we don't find the next whisky bar ..." The accountant stopped singing and looked at the big grandfather clock he could see through the open door in the hall.
"He went out for a walk with Major this morning, that's when I saw him last. Don't tell me he isn't back yet!"
Bonham shook his head.
"'E ain't. Still on 'is walk, then. And I can't say I loike it. 'S too long even for one of 'is walks with Major."
James switched off his Casio Mini.
"It's the Major's birthday, tomorrow?" he asked.
For a moment, the two men looked at each other.
"Fetch the car," James finally said.
Bonham hurried. If James did not say anything about wasting fuel and wearing off the engine and the tyres by pointlessly driving around looking for the Earl and the Major, he must have similar misgivings ...
May 14th, 1985. 7:45 p. m.
Dorian could have walked on forever, not to face the coming night where he would lose the Major ... Darkness had begun to fall, and finally he thought about returning to the castle. However, "Major" was nowhere to be seen. Lost in his thoughts, Dorian had not paid attention to where Klaus had gone, when and where he might have left his side and wandered off. He had of course not always remained close to Dorian through all the hours of their long walk, but he had never been too far away, always returned after a short while.
Dorian called, "Major?", then "Klaus?" and listened. The sound of a tawny owl, faint and trembling. The wind, rustling the tree branches and moving the leaves. The still falling rain, dripping water. But no sound of a big dog breaking through the underbrush.
Dorian whistled, then called again. Nothing. Silence ...
The Earl felt a sob arise in his throat.
"What is this, Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach?" he called. "Chickening out? Feigheit vor dem Feind? Where are you, Soldier?"
No sound, no answer ... An idea occurred to Dorian and he froze. He could see it so clearly ... The next road was approximately five miles away, no distance for a Doberman ... And then ... waiting for a car to approach ... most of the village youths were reckless drivers, going much too fast ... if a big dog suddenly ran into the road in the darkness, right in front of a car, even a cautious driver would be unable to brake in time ... What if Klaus simply had given up and decided he would rather die while still in possession of his human consciousness, of his own free will?
Oh Lord ...
Dorian turned right, into the direction of the road. Despite the dark, the cold and the rain, despite his exhaustion, Dorian ran as hard as he could, shouting as he went. He was crying openly now. Every few hundred metres, he stopped to whistle and to call the Major. Nothing ...
"Major!" he shouted, "I love you! Why do you do this to me? Don't you dare to give up, Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach! Don't you dare!"
It briefly occurred to him that he must sound rather stupid, but who would hear him anyway? And besides, he did not care ...
The road came into view, lit by some street lamps and the lights of cars passing by ... Traffic flowed unhindered ... no car seemed to have crashed into a tree or collided with another car, no remains of a dead dog on the road, at least in this section ...
May 14th, 1985. 8:30 p. m.
Hagrid threw a dead mouse into a dark corner of his hut, where a feeble mewling changed into a greedy smacking.
The half-giant threw another dead mouse, this time not so far. A fat, almost naked, four-legged creature the size of a rabbit, with a flat snout, a round skull, small ears, and the beginnings of a promising set of teeth in its wide mouth came waddling from the dark corner and grabbed the mouse, devouring it quickly.
Hagrid looked at the carnivorous creature as proud as a loving mother.
"Ah, yer fur's begun ter grow, Charlie," he said gently. "Two months, and yeh'll be th' fright of th' Ferbidden Forest. A king among Tree Rollers. Th' females will be after yeh, ter be sure ..."
An imperious knock at the door. Hagrid knew only one person who knocked that commandingly and impatiently.
The young Tree Roller scuttled back into its dark corner, when the half-giant opened the door and Severus Snape strode in. Behind him, a wide, flat packet, covered in waxed canvas, swept through the door and settled into one of the oversized chairs.
"Evenin', Professer," Hagrid said, looking curiously at the packet.
Snape pushed back his hood and shook the rain out of his robe. He waved his hand, and the canvas removed itself from the packet, uncovering a small painting. The portrait of a fair-haired, rather haughtily-looking young man, now blinking into the dim light.
"Meet Mr Stubbins," Snape said.
end part 30, 8:30 p.m..
Chapter 26: Birthday 2/5
May 14th, 1985. 8:30 p. m.
Dorian sobbed while he walked along the road in the direction of Castle Gloria, when suddenly a big shadow emerged from the woods, and a wet nose touched his hand.
With a broken cry, Dorian squatted down, hugging the dog.
"Darling," he stammered, "I thought you – you ..."
"I briefly thought about it, yes," the Major admitted. His voice sounded rough even in his own ears. "But mostly I wanted to be alone, when ... when the change comes. But you've come looking for me ... And you were crying, and ... Damn you, Gloria, don't you go soft on me!" he barked.
Dorian got up and wiped away his tears. He became aware how wet and exhausted he was. The Doberman did not look much better.
"Let's go home," he said.
For a while, they walked along the road together without a word.
"It would have been – cowardly, to creep away like a dying animal," the Major finally broke the silence.
Dorian did not answer. He hoped that the Major with a dog's bad eyesight would not see his tears.
Stupid idea. Probably he smells that you are crying ... And even an ordinary dog feels when a human is sad ...
He should put me down first thing in the morning, for his own sake, the Major thought. I just wonder ... How will it feel to be just an ordinary dog?
The headlights of a car approached, lighting up the darkness, momentarily blinding the man and the dog. The car slowed down, then stopped abruptly.
"M'lord! Major!" Bonham called, opening the door.
"We were worried!" James added. "I mean, what's gotten into you both, walking all day? In this weather?! You should look at yourself!"
It did not take a dog's fine ears to hear the worry in the small accountant's voice, and to his surprise, the Major found it was also directed at him.
"Let's go back to the castle," he said. "Lord Gloria is tired."
May 14th, 1985, 8:35 p. m.
The portrait of Thomasin Stubbins (1567 – 1624) haughtily stared at the black-clad wizard and the half-giant.
"If you think you can get away with abducting me, Mudblood, you should have another thing coming. I demand to be brought back this instant!"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Hagrid protested. "No callin' names!"
Severus Snape stared coldly back at the portrait. His look could have stripped paint off a wall. Or a canvas, for that matter.
"Not fond of Muggles, are we?" he asked. "Does dear Lucius call me a Mudblood behind my back? Interesting. The more I see of Purebloods, the happier I am to be only a Half-Blood."
"I, belonging to one of the oldest and most powerful families in the whole of England – " Stubbins began again, but Snape interrupted him sharply.
"Oh, come off it! You married a lot of money in Cassandra Ravendale. True, your daughter made a very good catch with Alastair Malfoy ..."
With a hurt expression on his face, Stubbins folded his arms.
"Still, I am a valuable work of art! I demand –"
Snape snorted contemptuously.
"If you were valuable, Lucius Malfoy would have sold you long ago to cover his alimentary debts."
"Ssssss ... shall I bite him?" Stubbins's familiar crept out of the sleeve of his gown, but his master was too upset by Snape's insult to pay any attention.
"You infamous, lying – greasy git!" he gasped.
"Whoa! Watch it!" the half-giant warned again. "Told yeh that I won't have name-callin' in me house!"
"Shall I bite him?" the snake in the portrait repeated.
"If you wissssssssssshhhhhh ..." A giant cobra had taken Snape's place, menacingly rearing up.
"Vipera ..." Stubbins began, but the wizard had changed back to his human shape already.
"Enough of these games. We have research to do. After all, I have not liberated Mr Stubbins here from his cobweb-covered dark corner in the portrait gallery at Malfoy Manor to discuss bloodlines."
"Thought as much. He's the one as cursed this Muggle fambly?"
"What?" the portrait asked, an indignant expression on his face.
Snape took the small, old book he had found in the library from an inner pocket of his robe. He leafed through the pages.
"I found some interesting passages in this little book here. 'Evidence that the Portuguese hath betrayed me. Me, the descendant of a long line of wizardes of the purest blood! I had word of him lying in bedde with a golden-haired adventurer, together like man and woman. Oh, I would have smitten them then and there, had I seen this with my own eyes, but I did find a better way of revenge indeed: I cursed the black-hearted traitor to become the dung-eating dog he is! "Meet me at dawn," he said, "at the cliffs." In my heart, I still did not want to believe what my trusted spy had given me word about. However, at dawn the Portuguese's ship was leaving the port, and the pirate's vessel followed in its wake. So I was betrayed indeed. Betrayed! I sent my curse after the bastard: He and every first-born of his offspring henceforth shall become dogs as befitting their nature, erefore they reach their thirtieth year in age! At midnight of their birthday, they shall lose every human trait they may have possessed, and remain beasts until they end their wretched days!'"
"How dare you?!" Stubbins gasped. "My private diary!"
"I am not quite sure how it found its way into the library at Hogwarts, but it was a very happy coincidence. Put the blame on a Mr Sheepshave. He published it."
He glared at Stubbins.
The portrait stared back arrogantly.
"So I cursed this adventurer a long time ago, and should there still be descendants around, the curse will still be in effect. What of it?"
Instead of an answer, Snape read on: "'I hazard that the most of the Portuguese's offspring he sires will be liars like him, taking advantage of whom they lie with. So I say that very few ever will escape their Fate ... He who is affected by this curse must find and acknowledge his one true love before his thirtieth birthday ...'"
A nasty smile slid over the portrait's face.
"Aaaaah – I understand! You have fallen for one of his descendants?" He looked Snape up and down.
The Potions Master ignored the provocative look and also the question.
"What does 'acknowledge' mean?" he shot at the portrait.
"What makes you think I would tell you?" Stubbins shot back, again contemptuously looking Snape up and down.
"Well," the wizard answered, "for one, there is no other picture you could escape to, if I decided to take action."
Hagrid nodded grimly.
Stubbins in his frame craned his neck to look around and found Snape's words to be true.
"Secondly, I should think that my friend here could provide some interesting creatures, which might find old wood and canvas very appetizing."
"Th' Giant South American Roaches could eat th' picter in no time!" Hagrid confirmed.
The haughty expression on Stubbins's face faltered a bit.
"Furthermore," Snape continued, "there still is the possibility of getting to work myself." He stared at a corner of the portrait, and it began to burn.
"Massssster ..." Stubbins's familiar piped up. "Masssster, I think he meansss it!"
An elegant hand wave, and the fire went out.
"Another possibility which surely could be arranged, is a very precarious, loosely fitted nail in the Thestral stables. Thestral dung is famous for its corrosive qualities," Snape continued.
Again, Hagrid nodded grimly.
The portrait swallowed visibly, but then the wizard caught himself.
"This may be well and good, but as far as I understand, time is running out for your Muggle friend. Tic-toc, tic-toc ..."
Snape gave him a derisive look.
"Do you really think I care about a Muggle?" he asked. "What interests me as a scholar, are the details of the curse. For example: In how far did you manage to adjust the curse to the respective nature of the firstborns? Does the key lie in the pronunciation of certain words? In the wording itself? In a special movement of the wand?"
Hagrid had a sudden coughing fit, but caught himself quickly under Snape's glare and scratched his enormous head.
"The choice of words," the Potions Master continued thoughtfully. "You see, nowadays, we know a bit or two about duelling curses, but a long, elaborate curse ... Frankly, I think it is a bit of screening, and the actual meaning is just hidden in a few significant words ..."
"I will not tell you anything!" Stubbins snapped.
"Fine. Remove te ab stabulum!" Snape thundered.
The portrait vanished, and a second later there were wild screams for help.
"Good I put th' Thestrals ter th' outer paddock terday," Hagrid remarked. "An' what with repairin' th' upper fence, I haven't gotten around ter muckin' out th' stables ..."
Snape sniffed depreciatingly and pulled out a small bunch of scrolls from his pocket, enlarged them and began to read the first one. A black quill hovered next to him, ready to impale a wrong word or sentence, like a bird of prey catching an unsuspecting small rodent.
"What do we do now?" Hagrid asked.
"Wait," Snape answered.
The cries from the stable became weaker.
May 14th, 1985, 9 p. m.
When they came home, Dorian rubbed "Major's" body with an oversized and very fluffy pink bathing towel. The Doberman growled a bit, but let Dorian fuss about him with all the dignity he could muster.
"Do you want your nightcap served in the library, M'lord?" Bonham asked. "I've lit a fire there."
Dorian yawned. "No, thank you, Bonham. – Other paw, Major. – No nightcap today. I am knackered. If you're a dear, you can draw me a bath. And then I'll go to sleep."
He looked completely exhausted and defeated. More than this, he looked like an animal which can no longer fight a predator trying to kill it. To see his resourceful boss like this almost broke Bonham's heart. He saved himself with the role of the perfect butler.
"Very well, M'lord." He went to draw the Earl's bath, leaving James standing in the doorway, looking at Dorian and "Major" with frightened big eyes, wringing his hands in helpless silence.
A convicted murderer awaiting his execution might feel a bit like I do at the moment ... Dorian thought. Though it isn't me going to the gallows ...
James looked at the big dog. His mouth worked, as if trying to bring out words, but to no avail.
The Doberman's eyes met his.
"We've never been the best of friends," Klaus finally said. "Nevertheless – it was fun to chase rabbits with you. Good-bye, James."
James broke into tears and fled the room.
"Bath's ready, M'lord," Bonham announced.
"Thank you, Bonham," the Earl said listlessly and went to the stairs. "You coming, Major?"
"In a minute," Klaus answered.
Dorian looked from the Doberman to Bonham, then turned around and went up the stairs.
"A word, Bonham," the Major announced when the Earl had vanished into his suite.
"Sir?" Bonham could not save himself other than through formality, addressing the human Major, not "Major", the dog. He was well aware that this might be the last time he would do so.
"In the morning, when he is still asleep, if I'm just a dog then: Pretend to take me for a walk. Then shoot me," Klaus ordered. "Take my body to Germany and bury me in the cemetery at Schloss Eberbach."
Bonham remained silent. He could not answer this order with "Yes, Sir" or "Very well, Sir", but neither did he want to argue, because he knew the Major was not the man to speak idly of such things.
"It is for him," the big dog continued. "I do not wish to see him unhappy. In the end, this is the best solution. Make him go away with the Stingy Bug and the other airheads. Let him steal something from the Vatican. Or from the Eremitage in St Petersburg, whatever. See to it he'll meet someone ..." The Doberman fell silent.
Still, Bonham did not answer.
"For your master's sake," the Major continued. "Will you do this, Bonham?"
"Don't you 'ave any 'ope the curse still could be lifted?" Bonham managed. "I mean, it is still time ..."
"We shall see," the Major answered firmly. "However, if you find me as a mindless dog in the morning, can I count on you, Bonham?"
Never before had Bonham wished so fiercely he had finished Hogwarts. But then, even a learned wizard like Hagrid's Potions Teacher had admitted defeat ...
"Yes, Sir," Bonham said.
"Thank you." The big dog climbed the stairs and lay down at the door to Dorian's suite.
May 14th, 1985, 10:45 p. m.
When Dorian opened the door after his bath, he found the big dog lying in the corridor and took him into his suite. Klaus lay down on the sofa, and Dorian sat next to him. His hands stroked the powerful head, the slender flanks, the muscular legs and chest.
It's pleasant, the Major thought. He smells good ... Not the stink he puts into the water in his bath, but his body ... He smells better than that bitch, Nausicaa ... What am I thinking? Oh well, it doesn't matter anyway. Anymore ... But if I ever was human again, I would no longer push him away ...
Dorian got up.
"Will you ... join me in the bedroom, Klaus?"
This was to be expected, the Major thought. On one hand he wanted to be close to Dorian, close with his human mind, his human feelings, as long as he still had them ... He had never wanted comfort since he had been very young, but tonight he wanted it, and wanted it badly ... On the other hand, it would be much more difficult for Bonham to take him out of Dorian's bedroom than just out of the living room ...
Dorian's head was bowed, his long curls obscuring his face.
"Please, Klaus? I – I want you close tonight."
In the end, this damned foppish butterfly and the men closest to him had become the only people he could trust ... to an extent ... He could not deny Dorian his wish ...
"Alright," he said, and went to the bedroom.
"Don't close the door," he ordered, when Dorian followed him. Obediently, Dorian left the door open a crack. He did not ask why, the Major noted.
When Dorian had settled down, the big Doberman jumped onto the bed as well and lay down next to the human. He did not fend off the arms, which closed around his chest and neck, did not even growl, although he disliked that much closeness.
The Earl trembled a bit, and although he made no sound, the Major could smell his tears and his sadness. He was not very good at comforting someone ... The only thing he felt he could do was to hold still and hope that the bodily exhaustion finally would prove stronger than Dorian's overwrought nerves, and he would fall asleep ...
Klaus waited. Not in vain. Even a healthy young man like Dorian needed his rest. Even a trained soldier needed it from time to time. It was a life-preserving quality all living creatures seemed to possess ...
end part 30, 10:45 p.m..
Chapter 27: Birthday 3/5
May 14th, 1985, 11.15 p. m.
Bonham cleaned the kitchen. He washed the dishes by hand, polished every surface. He heard the door to the Earl's suite being opened at one time, the Earl's voice calling "Major" in. So they had retired for the night ... Bonham worked on. The dustbin needed a thorough cleaning ...
Rudy came in, obviously upset.
"Could you see to James? He's sitting in the library, crying his eyes out, but he won't tell me why, and you always manage to calm him down, Bonham."
The Cockney sighed. For the last hour or so, he had just tried to avoid seeing James. He had known the small accountant would be a mess, but he had hoped for James calming down of his own account, or be comforted by somebody else. Rudy had taken up sleeping with James, so why the fuck could he not comfort his lover? He, Bonham, the Major's chosen executioner, would have needed comfort himself ...
"I'll see to 'im, Rudy," he promised, and the young man left, obviously relieved.
James would have to wait a while longer, however. There still was one thing to do, and he had postponed that as well ... He went up to his room, took his gun from the drawer in his nightstand, checked it and put cartridges into the magazine. No reason to keep the Major waiting by doing this tomorrow morning ... Bonham did not even want to think about the possibility of "Major" sleeping in the Earl's bedroom instead of the living room, and the Earl waking up when Bonham tried to take "Major" out ... What was that sleeping spell again?
May 14th, 1985, 11.30 p. m. (Thirty minutes to midnight.)
Minutes ticked by, became more than an hour, became more than two hours ...
Hagrid mended a harness.
Coughs from the stable.
"Thestral dung seems to have a very corrosive quality indeed," Snape remarked. "There! The first one to catch the meaning of Caerulea Undulata in the Noli Me Tangere Potion! Longbottom of all students! Longbottom!"
"Tha' will be five points fer Gryffindor, then?" Hagrid asked hopefully.
Snape's look would have melted a man of normal stature.
"In this case, I will have no other choice."
Silence again. A low whimper from the stable off and on.
"Still putting on a show," Snape remarked.
Hagrid looked nervously at the clock over the mantelpiece.
"But time's actually runnin' out!"
"I admit, it is a game of nerves," Snape answered coldly.
An eternity later, as it seemed to Hagrid, the voice from the stables raised its volume again. There was a hint of despair in it.
"Yes, I will tell! I will tell! Only take me out of here! Please!"
Hagrid jumped up, but Snape restrained him with a glance. Calmly, he finished correcting a very long essay.
"Very well, then. Accio, Imago."
The portrait appeared on the oversized chair it had rested in before. Stubbins was gasping.
The Potions Master approached the chair with folded arms.
"'Acknowledge'?" he asked.
"He's got to say it. He's got to say 'I love you' to the person in question! And mean it!"
"See?" Snape sounded benign, almost fatherly, which made the fat young Tree Roller whimper in his dark corner. "That wasn't too difficult, was it? Back to the stables!"
"Nooooooooooooo!" The portrait vanished again.
"Contact your friend," Snape ordered. "You have heard what Stubbins said."
May 14th, 1985, 11.45 p.m. (Fifteen minutes to midnight.)
James still sat in the library. He had stopped crying, but felt an overwhelming loss which had nothing to do with financial disaster. After the initial fits of jealousy, quite usual if he felt that someone was taking away Dorian's affections from him, he had established something like an uncomfortable truce with the intruder. Maybe it had helped to know that Dorian would never touch the Major in dog form. Reflecting the past few days, James found he actually had begun to like "Major" the dog, who most probably would no longer remember anything of his human existence come morning.
A few weeks ago, James would have been overjoyed about such a development. Now he felt not only sad for the Earl, but also for the Major. Maybe it all had been a bit much, having to accept the reality of magic, of curses, of wizards …
Someone cleared his throat behind him.
James jumped up with a small scream and faced the fireplace, vaguely remembering that at some point Rudy had come in, had lit a fire in the fireplace, and sat with him for a while, before leaving in exasperation –
"Ummm ... Sorry ter call at such a late hour," a deep voice said from the flames. "Is Bonham in? Got an urgent message fer him."
James, who had half expected to see the tall wizard in black step from the flames, stared at the big bearded face which had appeared instead.
"Listen," the man said. "Get Bonham here, or wait – jes' tell him –"
But James had run away already. He ran straight to the kitchen. Bonham usually sat there for a last cuppa before retiring. The room was empty, however – Maybe he was in the common room, together with some of the boys –
No Bonham in the common room, just Jones.
"Haven't got the foggiest, Jamesie, haven't seen him all evenin'."
Back to the storage rooms next to the kitchen – no Bonham.
Damn, where is this frigging Cockney when you need him? James thought, hastening up to Bonham's room.
May 14th, 1985, 11:55 p. m. (Five minutes to midnight.)
Klaus felt Dorian's arms around him relax, his whole body becoming less tense. The Major did not move a muscle, he just listened and took in Dorian's scent. The heavy, tense breathing became slower, more regular, as did the heartbeat. The Earl still smelled sad and worried, but there was no scent of fresh tears ...
The Major decided to wait a few minutes longer, before he would carefully inch away from Dorian's body, jump from the bed and go back to the living room as noiselessly as possible. Bonham would take him from there for his last walk in the morning – hopefully – for he would no longer be able to control whether Bonham would comply with his wish ...
He became aware that all the time he had taken for granted that the curse would come into effect. Bad thinking, von dem Eberbach. Not your usual way of facing danger. For God's sake, you are a fighter, von dem Eberbach! If you go down, go down by giving them a good fight!
This matter, however, was not so much about fighting as about strategy. Wait. Think, von dem Eberbach. And think around your own stubbornness and pride, for a change ... What did the wizard say about the curse? Something in the vein of that the cursed person must acknowledge his one true love ... And then there was some discussion about what he could have meant by "acknowledge". He had also discussed this stupid reincarnation stuff with Dorian – alright, scrap the stupid. The essence of what Dorian had said was that Tyrian and Benedict indeed might have been true lovers, but it did not work out for them, because they both were ruthless, murderous, thieving, selfish bastards. Then he actually hinted that we both might be reincarnations of these idiots, playing the game again, with a few changes in our characters ... I told him the story of one of my ancestors, and he said – what? Something like the curse did not come into full effect, because my ancestor's wife actually was his true love, only he never told her ... What if he is right, and I would remain as I am now, forever in a state in-between, a dog with a slipping human mind, like my ancestor obviously was? Do you want that, von dem Eberbach?
The answer was no.
So, what's the logical conclusion? It's worth a try. It will not help anyway, but there won't be any harm in trying ... If it doesn't work out, there still will be Bonham and his gun in the morning ...
"Alright," he whispered into the darkness. "Let's assume that your line of thought is right: We have come back as Dorian Red and Klaus von dem Eberbach to finish a game we've begun as Benedict Red and Tyrian Persimmon. Let's assume you are my true love ..."
He stopped, realising how much he wished this was actually true.
"Let's assume I've got to say it. No one will hear, not even you. So no one will tell. – I love you, Dorian."
There. The world did not stop turning, there was no "poof", and no prince regained his human shape. Only Dorian stirred briefly in his sleep, before his breathing became regular again.
The Major did not need to see that he was still in dog form. His heightened senses of smell and hearing told him enough.
Fine. That was that. It was worth a try ...
He heard the little Stingy Bug running around. Apparently he had a hard time calming down ...
Better go to the living room now, while Dorian was still fast asleep ... Only he felt how a leaden fatigue took possession of his body and mind. As much of a fighter as the Major was, this fatigue was stronger than his attempts to roll away from the Earl, to jump from the bed, to walk the few steps to the connecting room ...
The last thing his sleepy mind registered were a few deep, gonging sounds, like the strokes of a bell, or a big clock ...
end part 30, 11:55 p.m..
Chapter 28: Birthday 4/5
May 14th, 1985, 11:55 p. m. (Five minutes to midnight.)
The door to his room flew open, and Bonham hastily slammed shut the drawer. No need for anyone to see him with his gun right now ... They would suspect him being responsible for "Major's" disappearance fast enough ...
James stood in the doorframe. He was pale and out of breath.
"Bonham," he gasped. "In the library. There's a head in the fire!"
They have found a way ...
Bonham hurried downstairs to the library and knelt down in front of the fireplace.
"Ah, thank Merlin, yer friend's fetched yeh," Hagrid rumbled. "Listen, he's spoken ter th' wizard as has done th'curse – his picter, I mean –"
"I'm just dreaming this! It's all a horrible nightmare!" James whimpered.
"Quiet," Bonham ordered. "What did you find out, Hagrid?"
"He's gotta say it! He's gotta say he loves th' Earl! An' he's gotta mean it!" Hagrid explained.
Disappointment hit Bonham like a club.
"Tha's all? Probably they've guessed already and tried anyway!"
"But it's sure now!" Hagrid said urgently. "Go an' tell 'em! Hurry! Th' rest of th' curse will fulfil itself at midnight!"
Just at that moment, the old grandfather clock in the entrance hall began to strike Midnight in deep, gonging sounds.
"Too late!" James wailed.
May 15th, 1985, midnight
Hagrid withdrew his head from the flames and cursed heartily.
Snape put both elbows on the table and rested his chin on his fists. The scroll he had been working on rolled itself up, but obediently unrolled again at his murderous glare. His gaze did not become more friendly when he looked up at Hagrid.
"What by all unforgivable curses took you so long?"
"'T wasn't me," the half-giant defended himself. "Bonham wasn't there, jes' a li'l man with his hair over one eye, and he ran away ter fetch Bonham, ere I could give him th' message ter tell Bonham what we found out. When Bonham finally came, 't was ter late."
"Indeed!" Snape remarked scathingly.
Hagrid shuffled his feet.
"But maybe yeh guessed right, an' th' Major already told th' Earl he loves him? Or maybe there simply wasn't true love between 'em and nothin' would've helped anyway?"
"If only I had found out earlier that Stubbins was related to the Malfoys, and that Lucius had his portrait ..." Snape continued.
"Yeh did what yeh could."
"Yes, in the end, Stubbins's portrait did not tell us anything we didn't know already," Snape said thoughtfully. "Maybe the Muggle actually made up his mind in time ..."
"Yes, maybe ..." Hagrid agreed. He indicated with his head in the direction of the stables. "Will yeh bring him back?"
Snape listened. Not a sound from outside. Obviously Stubbins had ceased his protests and lamentations when he had realised that nobody cared.
"Does this Earl of Gloria hunt?" Snape asked.
"Don't know," Hagrid said. "Bonham once mentioned that he's terrible with a gun."
"If it didn't work out, I'm sorely tempted to present Mr Stubbins to the Earl of Gloria for target practice."
May 15th, 1985. 0.05 a. m.
James and Bonham looked at each other.
"The damn wizard," James finally said in a broken voice. "Couldn't he have found out a bit earlier?"
"Don't you blame Professor Snape 'n 'Agrid," Bonham answered. "It's not their fault. They've tried to help alroight!"
"And where have you been? I couldn't find you!" James went on lamenting.
"I've bin in me room, for God's saike!" Bonham hissed, at the verge of his patience. "Be quiet! You'll waike everyone up!"
Rebuked so sharply, all fight seemed to leave James in one instant.
"Sorry," he said meekly, hanging his head. "It's just – it seems as if – as if I need to blame someone for this terrible mess!"
Bonham nodded, already regretting his sharp tone. "I understand. But there's nobody to be blamed actually, except the wizard who cursed the Major's family. Maybe there's still 'ope the Earl and the Major managed to do the roight thing anyway."
James laughed bitterly.
"Do you think so?"
"One never knows."
"Well," James said. "There's a way to find out ..."
Again, they looked at each other.
"Not that Oi'm that keen on foinding out roight now," Bonham admitted.
end part 30, 0:05 a.m..
Chapter 29: Birthday 5/5
May 15th, 1985, 6:30 a. m.
Snape woke up from Hagrid trying to be silent. A while ago, they had agreed that when the Potions Master spent the night at Hagrid's hut, Hagrid would get up in the morning and feed the animals, clean the stables and what else he used to do in the morning with the usual amount of noise it would take. They furthermore had found out that Hagrid trying to be silent was much noisier than Hagrid going about his business as usual.
Besides, Hagrid trying to be silent made Snape nervous. The last time Hagrid had tried to be silent, he had also tried to snatch away the Ariforcian Brainsucker, with which Snape had found himself eye to antennae. Ariforcian Brainsuckers were tick-like creatures the size of saucers. Pulverised, their exoskeletons were used as an ingredient for the Reminisce Potion; alive, these creatures were rather unpleasant. The species did not bear its name for nothing.
Silently creeping up to the bed, Hagrid had tried to save the creature from his lover before it would regret trying to follow its instincts ... "Poky" had learned very fast, that Severus Snape did not take well to attempts at having his brain sucked out in the morning ... It had been a lesson for life ... Unfortunately, the creature had not been of use any longer when Snape had finished it with a curse. Not even as a potion ingredient ...
Snape had also found he could really do without Hagrid's distress at seeing one of his creepy-crawly friends running down the farthest wall of the hut as an unappetising grey mass ...
So with a bad sense of foreboding, he now opened one eye to find Hagrid hunched over the kitchen table. Snape opened the other eye and looked around. If a dangerous creature was on the loose, it probably was on the table, occupying Hagrid's attention so much, that he did not notice that his lover sat up, summoned his shoes and his robe, put on both and noiselessly glided over to the table.
"Pray tell me what is this about, Rubeus?" Snape addressed his lover, who was still hunched over the table.
Hagrid flinched, at the last minute catching a glass ball which was threatening to roll off the table.
"Ah, Sev'rus, yeh gave me a righ' start, yeh did," he said, beaming. "So yeh're up already?"
"Obviously," Snape said icily. "What are you trying to do?" His voice would have made seventh year Gryffindors shake in their shoes.
"Erm," the half-giant said. "I – I –"
Snape looked up into his lover's bearded face. Hagrid - an embarrassed smile on his face - his cheeks beet red, looked every inch like an oversized first year caught out of line.
"Trying to spy on Muggles! With Sybil Trelawney's glass ball!" Snape's look would have frightened a werewolf.
"Ummm – I – actually –"
"Get out of my way," the Potions Master ordered. "Let me have a look."
May 15th, 1985, 6:30 a. m.
At approximately the same time, Bonham and James met at the door which lead to the Earl's suite.
Bonham was not happy to see James. Silently he cursed Rudy, who did not seem to be able to hold James at bay, much less to distract him ... The boy would have to learn a lot if he wanted to keep the accountant ...
"Listen," he whispered, "'S no good if we both go trampling around 'is Lordship's private rooms and wake 'em up. I'll go in. You'll stay outside."
James looked at him as if to protest, but Bonham raised a warning hand, a sign that this point was not negotiable.
"Major will want his walk anyway," the Cockney added gruffly after a moment, as this was most likely what he would see: "Major" waiting for his last walk ... Alright, so James would see him come out with "Major" ... He would have preferred no witnesses. Bonham was no cold-blooded killer, and he disliked what he had promised to do, disliked it immensely. In the cold light of the dawning day, Bonham was an untrained wizard who lived in the Muggle world, where it was skeleton keys and nimble fingers instead of Alohomora which would open closed doors, or a gun that killed instead of a wand ... Right now, he would have preferred to be the best curse breaker of the Wizarding World.
May 15th, 1985, 6:30 a. m.
The Major opened his eyes.
He had fallen asleep and Hell knew for how long! What if Bonham had been there already to take him out, and had not dared to come into the bedroom for fear of waking the Earl and provoking an unpleasant scene? Damn! This whole thing was one fucking mess from the beginning to the end ...
The Major blinked. He did not see much, because his eyes were covered by long dark strands of – hair? Between the strands he could see the white bedsheet and something which looked like – fingers. Long, strong, slightly tanned fingers with short nails. Not Dorian's fingers ... His brain gave the command "move", and the fingers wiggled a bit. "Lift" from his brain, and the hand lifted up from the sheet and came closer for inspection, which must mean it was his hand with his fingers, which now pushed back his hair from his face. He sat up and looked down: A muscular chest with some scars; long, muscular arms; long legs; strong feet; everything decidedly human.
And he found he was naked, lying naked in bed next to ... Dorian: a mass of golden curls, beautifully shaped, muscular shoulders, a torso a Greek God would not have been ashamed of. More features of Dorian were hidden beneath the blanket.
His movements made the Earl stir and cuddle closer ... to find that something had become definitely different with his bed overnight ... Deep blue eyes opened, surprised at first, then sparkling with joy.
Dorian threw himself over the Major, hugged him, covered every inch he could reach with kisses: the face, the neck, the chest, the hands – and the Major did not push him away, but held him in his arms, kissing Dorian's mouth firmly.
"I love you, Dorian," he repeated. It did not matter at all that he was lying naked in bed next to the Earl of Gloria ...
"Happy birthday, Darling!"
May 15th, 1985, 6:35 a. m.
"Finite incantatem," Snape said. The glass ball turned opaque.
"Well now – eeeeep!" He was lifted by Hagrid and whirled around a few times.
"Yeh did it!" Hagrid shouted. "Yeh did it!"
Snape caught his breath, sternly looking down at Hagrid.
"I did nothing. The Muggle soldier did it himself," he corrected his lover. "He and the Squib."
"Anyway – " Hagrid said.
"Anyway, the outcome is what matters."
Snape saw a certain wild glitter in Hagrid's eyes, and he knew he had to act quickly ...
"Not now!" he ordered sternly. "I'll have to teach soon. And before, I must take a little excursion to Malfoy Manor to bring Mr Stubbins back to his corner full of cobwebs, and afterwards back to Hogwarts to return the glass ball to its rightful owner. So put me down!"
Approximately an hour and a half later, the Potions Master entered the classroom in the dungeons in the usual hurry, which always indicated that he had a lot more important things to do than planting a basic knowledge of potion making into the brains of third year dunderhead students. As usual, he began the lesson before the door had even closed behind him. Only a young and very promising witch in his class saw the red mark at the edge of his chin and accurately defined it as a hickey.
May 15th, 1985, 6:40 a. m.
Almost noiselessly, Bonham let himself into the living room. No "Major". He cursed inwardly. This complicated the whole unpleasant procedure a lot ...
James stood in the corridor, staring at the door Bonham had left open a crack as if trying to hypnotise it. He could not see the Cockney. Bonham had moved up to the door which lead to the Earl's bedroom ...
When Bonham came into view again, walking rather hurriedly, James backed away to give him room to exit. Then he watched as Bonham closed the door and leaned against it with his eyes closed.
"What 'Blimey'?!" James demanded. "What's the matter, Bonham?"
Bonham began to grin. Widely. James thought he looked a bit like the Cheshire Cat from "Alice in Wonderland".
"'S not as if bein' a dog for a while 'd 'ave cooled Uncle NATO's temper, " he said.
May 15th, 1985, 7:45 a. m.
Never had the Major celebrated his birthday in such a way, but neither he nor Dorian had any complaints.
Sometimes nightmares can change into pleasant dreams. And sometimes pleasant dreams can even come true, the Major thought, before he gently bit Dorian's neck.