The Major could always tell when a mission was going to be a pain in the ass. The fucking Chief would be in a good mood before he sprang it on him.
So Klaus was already resigned as he sucked in refreshing nicotine and listened to the fat bastard's preliminaries. Trying to make the Chief get to the point only made him prolong it more, so Klaus just listened. It wasn't as aggravating as usual. Klaus's life had been more pleasant than usual, of late. He was, by his standards, cheerful.
"Major Eberbach, I'm dreadfully sorry to call you in on a Sunday, but this is a mission of the utmost importance." He paused, smiling widely. "How are you today?" Stony-faced, Klaus made no answer. "Good food? Good rest? Good bowel movements? Good smoke?"
"Same as always," Klaus muttered at last, refusing to display his irritation.
The Chief chortled, a hand over his mouth. "Splendid! Because today is a very, very good day."
"You're in very high spirits, Chief," Klaus observed coolly. "Which of course means you're plotting something."
The Chief wore an expression that would have been more appropriate on a cat licking the last of the cream off his whiskers. "Heavens, no! I'm just assigning you a mission. That's all. A mission that could have been designed especially for you."
The older man took a paper off his desk and handed them to the Major. "Major, I'd like you to read through this. It's the main vault of the Vatican Palace... which NATO has investigated secretly."
The Vatican. There it was. The Chief was a Lutheran, and never could understand why an atheist like Klaus still went through the forms of the faith in which he had been raised. An idiot like the Chief couldn't be expected to understand, of course. And even though Klaus believed in none of it, the idea of spying on the Vatican made his flesh crawl, and the Chief knew it. Worse, the idea of Protestants spying on the Vatican. Even knowing it was irrational, Klaus felt that Protestants shouldn't contaminate anything relating to the Church by meddling with it.
Protestants were well enough… in their place.
"There's one item that merits particular attention – important secrets related to the U.S. Department of Defense's satellites. Stolen, I might add."
The Chief became more serious with the gravity of the information. "Satellites are very liberally used in military operations nowadays, such as the U.S. Operation Saint and the Soviets' Operation Killer. But you knew this, of course," he said at Klaus's superciliously lifted eyebrow. "The stolen secret concerns a counter-satellite project which was being researched. An engineer inside the project stole it." He shook his head ruefully. "When Pope John Paul II visited the States to make an appeal for world peace, this engineer was very moved and turned into a pacifist all of a sudden. Then he carried away this military top secret and literally threw himself before the Pope."
What an idiot. Klaus sighed.
"This mission must be done in the utmost secrecy," the Chief continued. "We are dealing with God's representative, the Pope." He gave the Major a sly glance, but Klaus refused to rise to the bait. "Worldwide backlash will be enormous if anyone were to even remotely suspect NATO. And of course we mustn't let the Soviets know, either." He jabbed his finger in the Major's direction. "Therefore, Major-"
"You want me to play the thief – again."
"No. This time NATO will use the services of a pro."
"Sensible enough." Especially since a professional criminal would be a useful fall guy, if anything went wrong.
"As far as I know there is only one thief capable of this big a job. Your mission is to make him steal this top secret from the vault and bring it back. This is a mission only you can do, Eberbach." The Chief sat down behind his desk and opened a dossier, turning it around and showing it to Klaus. "You may have met this thief; he's an Earl."
Klaus was used to indirect taunts about being a member of the aristocracy. He ignored the sally as he reached for the dossier. And froze.
"His name is Dorian Red, Earl of Gloria. In the underworld, he's known as Eroica."
Klaus sat as if he had been turned to stone.
"Do you know him, Major? Have you perhaps encountered him at one of those formal events you dislike so much?" the Chief taunted.
"Yes," Klaus said coldly. "I've met him. But I had no idea he was a thief."
The alphabets knew they wouldn't have been summoned on a Sunday unless something were afoot. They were gathered in the office, commiserating.
"I guess no Christmas this year either."
"I'm gonna be dumped by yet another girlfriend," another added gloomily.
"Keep it down! The Major will go ballistic if he hears. He's a mission-a-holic, you know."
"But even the Major goes to church, you know," A remarked.
"Maybe he's repented his sins," B suggested, lacing his fingers in prayer position and rolling his eyes heavenward. "He would make a splendid martyr!"
The door swung open with a bang and the subject of their conversation burst in. One agent dove behind a newspaper. Another snatched up his phone and pretended to talk into it. A third babbled, "Hey, P, what happened to that form?"
The Major tromped to his desk, not speaking. At the sight of his grim expression, an uneasy silence fell over the room.
After throwing himself into his chair, their superior pulled out a cigarette, but his lighter refused to give a flame. He flicked it several times, increasingly frantic, while the alphabets held their breath, wondering if they dared to offer him a light. Thankfully, his lighter at last ignited, and he inhaled deeply. Almost… desperately.
With his cigarette lit, the Major's expression became thoughtful, and a few of his subordinates dared to speculate, in the most hushed of whispers.
"He's not his usual self,"
"Is the mission that bad?"
"Somehow he looks like a martyr already," B muttered, sweating.
All at once, the Major's laser-like gaze focused on them. It was only a few seconds before the explosion came.
"What are you bloody imbeciles doing?! I can see the bloody sports page under the files! And you! I know damned well there's no one on the other end of that phone! Don't ever think you can fool me by pretending to look busy!"
With a flurry of "Yes, sir's", "No, sir's" and "Sorry, sir's", the agents abandoned their pretenses and simply waited, at tense attention.
The Major sat and fumed, smoking furiously, for a long time before issuing their orders.
"We have to hire a god-damned fucking thief," he informed them.
"Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus sabaoth!" Dorian sang the Mass joyfully, accompanying himself on the pianoforte, though it wasn't religious ecstasy that was making his heart soar.
"Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua!"
It was only last night that he had realized that he was in love. He hadn't expected to fall in love with the man. He had only expected a couple of months of wild sex in dreary hotel rooms before each of them moved on. He wasn't accustomed to sneaking around, but when one's lover was a high-ranking military officer, there simply wasn't any choice, and the Major had been too gorgeous to let pass.
"Hosanna in excelsis!"
In excelsis indeed. He thought about their last night together. It was hard to believe that a man so inexperienced, and who had been so shy the first few times, could have turned into such a live wire. Klaus had proven to be well worth the patience.
He had thought it was only the sex that had been making him so giddy, but last night, without warning, the truth had dawned. He was in love! Truly in love, which had never happened before, unless one counted works of art.
"Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domine. Hosanna in Excelsis!"
He was going to have to tell Klaus he loved him, of course, at the first opportunity. The very next time they were together.
Which meant he was also going to have to tell him about his work, which would be a bit awkward. The darling man was so upright and Prussian. But it would turn out all right in the end. Love conquers all.
"You're caught up in the holiday spirit," a whining voice rudely broke into his song.
Dorian was not going to let James ruin his good mood. "Ah, there you are. Have you done the estimates?"
Jamesie glowered. "How can I make an estimate for such a stupid trip? You, making a pilgrimage to churches? You're an atheist! How pretentious!"
Dorian smiled, serene. "I only wish to visit the physical manifestations of the piety of people who tried to capture God's glory on Earth. It's a spiritual pilgimage for the season."
"Churches are too dark and too cold," James insisted. "The pews are too hard. You'll get hemorrhoids."
Dorian ignored this. "It's people like you who need to see things like the Rose Madonna and the baby Christ at Notre Dame. And St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, has the great masterworks of the Renissance, those splendid-"
"We don't have the money," James cut in.
"What about the money from the Pahlavi treasures?" Dorian demanded.
"In term deposits!" James replied happily.
"How could you!"
"But we still have some left for a Christmas cake," James announce proudly. "We can get a leftover cake cheaply after the 25th. So don't worry."
"Oh, God!" Dorian groaned. "Is bringing me down to a comic role from being a hero the divine ordeal designated for me?" It was a fate worthy of Tartaros.
John Paul appeared in the doorway. "M'lord, there is mail for you."
Wearily, Dorian waved a hand at the table. "Leave it there. I'm not feeling well."
John Paul hesitated. "It's registered express."
"Really?" Dorian perked up. Maybe it was from Klaus.
"M'lord, that's wonderful!" James crowed. Dorian glimpsed the envelope, which didn't have that forceful angular handwriting he knew, nor a Bonn postmark, and collapsed, crestfallen, onto the divan; James always did bring out the drama queen in him. James made it worse by exclaiming, "Is it cash or a check, I wonder?"
"Oh God!" Dorian moaned. "It was a trial!"
Meanwhile, James had torn it open. "Gee, it's just a pair of train tickets."
Dorian lifted his head reluctantly and looked. "A pair of first-class tickets for the TEE Ile de France that leaves at 18:01 at Amsterdam, three days from today. The destination is… Paris." He glanced around. His team had come in, hearing James's commotion. "What do you think of this gift, everyone?"
"Smells fishy. It may be a trap."
"But Interpol wouldn't go through this kind of complicated setup...."
"It really is a good way to tickle your curiosity, m'lord."
"I don't think it's a good idea."
James piped up, "Let's go to the station and cash them immediately!"
Dorian smiled slowly. "I think it's very intriguing. It's a gift, and not accepting it would be very rude to the benefactor." Just for a moment, Dorian toyed with the idea that his lover might have sent them, but no, it couldn't be. Klaus would hardly have sent two tickets if he wanted the Earl to meet him for a romantic rendezvous, and besides, wonderful as the man was, this sort of romantic intrigue just wasn't like him. "Why don't I participate and see what awaits me? It suits my taste better to experiance a few dangers than to spend a miserable Christmas at home. And," he added, seeing his accountant scowl, "It's free, Mr James."
"Are you gonna walk all the way to Amsterdam?" James demanded, sarcastic.
"For heaven's sake, cancel the term deposit!"
"And lose the cake? No!"
"Which is more important? The train or a cake?"
The argument was interrupted when Jones came in. "My lord! There's another registered express letter!"
Dorian snatched it before James could. This time it was a cheque, and a note which Dorian read aloud. "'Am sending the cost of transportation to Amsterdam, just in case.' How thoughtful and kind." Dorian gave James a sidelong look. "Our benefactor clearly knows a thing or two about our rather astonishing accountant. Or perhaps you have become a tad too notorious, James."
James had the grace to look embarrassed.
Dorian examined the note. "That settles it. I simply cannot say no to this. You lot stay here until further notice. I may need you."
"Melord, be careful. Though I expect you can look after yourself," Bonham admitted.
Dorian smiled to himself as he headed to his bedroom to choose his wardrobe. This was going to be a thrilling Christmas.
Dorian had gone to that forbidding German Schloss expecting to see a few fine paintings, at most. He had been drooling over the portrait of Tyrian Persimmon when the living embodiment of the beautiful man had walked in. Dorian had been saying correct things in praise of the Eberbach collection and trying not to gawk too obviously, the German replying in monosyllables, when abruptly their eyes had locked. Dorian had fallen silent, holding the other man's gaze. There was just no misunderstanding a look like that, and in a world owned by the breeders, a man who loved other men had to learn to recognize it.
After a long moment, Dorian had said quietly, "Perhaps you could show me the rest of your collection, Herr Major."
"We don't say that anymore," Klaus had corrected, in English, but had taken the Earl's hint and guided him through the next couple of rooms, pointing out a couple of the more noteworthy pieces, though neither of them had any interest in art at this moment.
When they had reached a smallish room with a divan which looked serviceable if perhaps not particularly comfortable, Dorian had let Klaus move into the room before quietly closing the door.
At the soft click, Klaus had turned abruptly, but did not appear surprised. They studied each other for several seconds before Dorian had slowly crossed over to him.
When Dorian was a mere foot away and there was no more pretending to mistake his intentions, the German had swallowed tensely. "I… I don't…."
Dorian supposed the man was inexperienced, and embarrassed about it. For himself, Dorian didn't mind a bit. "It's all right," he had soothed in a soft voice as he slipped his arms around Klaus. Who had been quite ready to be convinced.
An hour later, as they rested half-dressed on the divan – which had turned out to be more comfortable than expected – Klaus had asked tentatively, "Will you be in Bonn long?"
"I'm leaving tonight," Dorian said automatically. It was what he usually said when his lovers hinted that they wanted more; Dorian generally didn't. Klaus didn't press further, but on reflection, Dorian realized that he actually wanted to see the man again. "But I'm coming back in a couple of weeks."
"I have a flat near the office," Klaus had said. He was trying to sound noncommittal, but Dorian wasn't fooled. The man clearly wanted to make up for lost time. And a visiting foreigner who moved in entirely different circles must seem like a fairly safe partner.
"Give me the address," Dorian had replied. And only a week and a half later, he had shown up there one evening, and kept the beautiful German awake well past midnight. And some of that time had actually been spent talking, another thing Dorian didn't usually waste time on with his lovers.
The Major had proven surprisingly addictive, and Dorian had kept seeing him when their schedules permitted, ravishing him, talking for hours in between ravishments, always mildly surprised when he found himself seeking the man out yet again.
Perhaps it was the game of enticing the uptight German to increasingly shameless acts. It always required a great deal of strategy, coaxing the man to try anything new, but once he was persuaded, he threw himself into the act wholeheartedly, sweeping Dorian up in his own passion. And to think the man had lacked confidence when they had begun.
It had been several months of snatched meetings in various exotic locales before the truth had dawned on Dorian. It seemed that somewhere in his heart he had known from the instant he first saw the man. It was Fate.
Three days later they boarded the train in Amsterdam. James was still suspicious, but Dorian found himself pleasantly anticipating. Surely their mysterious benefactor would reveal himself on the train, sometime during the five-hour trip. The Earl settled himself to enjoy the trip, ignoring James's carping.
An attendant appeared in the door to his car. "Monsieur Gloria, there is a table reserved for you in the café. This way, please."
Dorian smiled as he rose. Their host was clearly a man worth meeting, with such attention to detail.
"I can't believe we can eat French food for free!" James chortled. As they took their seats, he chattered on. "Our host is like an angel! Or Santa Claus!"
There was a third place set, Dorian couldn't help noticing. "Apparently he intends to join us." He sat back comfortably. "I'm looking forward to meeting him."
A familiar deep voice answered from behind him. ”Don't. I wouldn't want you to."
A thrill ran up and down Dorian's spine. He had been wrong! His beloved uptight Prussian had a sense of romance after all. (Though why the second ticket?) He arranged a coy expression on his face, ignoring James's shock.
"Ah. I didn't guess, because it was the Ile de France. If it had been a German train, I'd've sussed it out on the spot." He could hear Klaus moving to his place, and darted a sidelong look at him. "In either case, I gladly accept your invitation...." He hesitated, before adding, "Major." His beloved was closeted and there was no help for it; calling him by name before James wouldn't be quite the thing.
There was no flirtation in Klaus's expression, no hint that they were anything to each other. "Then I'd've reserved the Rheingold instead. But I thought this would appeal to your frivolous tastes."
Dorian was a bit taken aback. Klaus had teased him about his tastes before, but this time, there was an edge to the words. It sounded as if Klaus actually meant it. Needing something to get past the awkward moment, he nudged James. "Jamesie, why don't you thank Santa Klaus?" Klaus, not surprisingly, looked disgusted at the pun.
"NO WAY!" James hollered, sliding down to hide under the table.
Klaus stubbed out his cigarette as he sat down, demanding a dark beer from the waiter. Dorian searched the man's face. Something was wrong, the man was clearly angry at him, but what could have prompted his lover to set up such an elaborate meeting just to have a row? Or – horrible thought – break it off? Seeing Klaus snarl at James under the table, Dorian suddenly thought he understood. Klaus had heard some stale gossip about Dorian's long-past affair with his accountant and thought it was still going on. The darling was jealous.
Dorian tried to find something of the man he knew in that stony face. "It's been a while since Palmyra, hasn't it, Major?" He lifted his wineglass. "A toast, to our reunion."
Palmyra. That was where they had met the last time, Klaus snatching a precious night from his mission to spend it with Dorian. Neither of them had gotten any sleep, and it was the first time Klaus had… returned the favor. He had shown a surprising amount of natural talent for it, really. Dorian flushed a bit, unable to help imagining how it would be when Klaus had had more practice. He held Klaus's gaze, but there was no answering blush, no glint of recollection in those divine jade eyes. All he saw in Klaus's face was storm clouds.
He set his glass down, genuinely daunted at last. "Maybe not. Let me hear the reason then."
"I'm here representing NATO," the Major said coldly. "NATO needs Eroica's help." Klaus emphasized the sobriquet.
Ah. So that was it.
Well, he'd known the man wouldn't take it well. And that he had found out secondhand, instead of from Dorian directly, that would complicate matters. If only James would leave, he could properly apologize and… make amends.
As it was, he groped for words. "'Request' instead of 'demand'? Amazing. A NATO officer is requesting cooperation from an ordinary civilian thief?" He paused. "On top of that, are you requesting me? You look dreadfully ill at ease. The cross you've been asked to bear seems a most heavy one." Was it really so dreadful?
"Shut the fuck up, you foppish queer!" Klaus snapped.
Dorian started. Klaus had never spoken to him this way. With a sinking feeling, he realized the man was far angrier than he had realized. They'd be sleeping back to back for months.
It seemed Dorian's stricken expression had gotten to him, at least a little, because he looked away. "Don't worry about the crosses I bear. Just say whether you're going to accept the mission."
Dorian fetchingly rested his chin on his hand. Only one thing – one man – could have made him consider accepting a job for the forces of law and order. "It is you who's asking me." As if he could refuse the man anything. Of course, he hadn't yet had the chance to tell Klaus he loved him, and he could hardly do so in such a public place. "What kind of job is it?"
Klaus took an envelope out of his jacket pocket. Dorian reached for it, but Klaus snatched it back. ”Don't touch it." He unfolded a paper from it and held it up for Dorian to see, ready to yank it out of reach if necessary. "Do you know what this blueprint is for?"
"A safe," Dorian said automatically, studying it. He leaned a bit closer as recognition dawned. "Moreover… it's the great vault in the Vatican Palace. It's famous in my circle as an unbreachable target," he explained. "This data is almost impossible to come by." Despite the situation, his fingers tingled with the urge to seize it.
"NATO intelligence has collected all the information about the vault," Klaus growled. "But that's the extent of what we can do."
"You mean you need my hand to actually break in with that information?" It was terribly flattering. NATO itself recognized his ability. "And NATO's target? Another unromantic 'top secret' concerned with modern weapons?"
"Of course." The Major added, "It wasn't my choice. My Chief picked you out and ordered me to hire you."
"To be selected by your boss is an honor," Dorian flirted.
The Major quashed that attempt too. "It's just one queer calling for another," he muttered, barely loud enough for Dorian to hear.
Dorian's face blazed. He had heard Klaus griping about his superior's habit of pursuing young men, but really. Had Klaus forgotten that he himself was a "queer"? "We tend to do that," Dorian said pointedly, laying a bit of emphasis on the first word.
Klaus's glare became more poisonous. "You will steal only the microfilm – and nothing else. NATO will pay you 100 million Marks." He was about to continue, but Dorian held up a hand.
"Now wait, Major."
Klaus looked outraged. "You mean 100 million isn't enough?" he demanded.
"Not enough! Not enough!" James hollered from under the table.
"Do shut up, Jamesie, or I'll kick you," Dorian said, exasperated. Then he looked back to his lover. True love or not, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a thief, and he was going to make the most of it. "I have one condition."
"And that is?"
Dorian fancied his lover was hoping the condition would be something sufficiently unacceptable that he could hire someone else. Not that anyone else could do it. But he wasn't letting Klaus too far out of his sight before he had a chance to placate the man. "Grant me ten minutes' grace while I'm stealing the microfilm from the vault. Just ten minutes."
"What are you gonna do in that ten minutes, you thief?"
"That's up to me. I don't think I'm being unreasonable. All I'm asking for is ten minutes."
"I take it you're not going to cooperate otherwise."
"All right." The Major's expression was grudging. "You have your ten minutes."
"Excellent." Dorian was going to say more, but James's cheers were too loud.
As they returned to their compartments, Klaus grumbled, "As soon as we reach Paris, we're flying to Rome. Got that?"
That didn't fit in with Dorian's plans at all. "I rather fancy the train. I'd rather take it to Rome."
"Nein! This is not a sightseeing tour!"
"Au contraire, Major. Besides, I need time to brief my men." Ignoring the apoplectic fit the Major seemed verging on, he continued, "So I'll also need twenty train tickets from Paris to Rome. About time I got some of my taxes back."
He had never seen Klaus really angry before. He was terribly sexy like that. It was a wonder the KGB didn't throw down their guns and try to tear his clothes off. "Why, you dirty…." Klaus trailed off, clearly searching for words sufficiently horrible to call him.
"You don't need my skills, then?" Dorian taunted lightly. "Don't you want to accomplish your mission?"
Rigid and shaking with anger, Klaus bit out, "All right. I'll see to it."
Dorian smiled and proceeded towards his compartment. "I knew NATO would come through." After a few steps, he caught sight of a cute young man, obviously German, who was clearly waiting for them. Devilishly inspired, Dorian paused. "Oh, by the way, Major…."
"What now, you idiot?"
Dorian indicated the young man. "He doesn't look familiar, but he's one of your men, isn't he? What's his name?"
"Agent Z. What of it?"
Dorian tilted his head, considering the boy. "'Z', you say?" he cooed.
As he had hoped, Klaus's eyes were promptly blazing with jealousy. "Don't you dare touch one of my men! Especially Z, he's a decent German boy!"
Dorian smiled. "Yes, yes." Just then, the boy turned to look at them. He seemed vaguely puzzled at Dorian's fashionable attire. "Hello, Z," Dorian cooed, enjoying the Major's silent outrage. Dorian fluttered his lashes just a bit. The poor boy seemed completely at sea. Did he even know about the birds and the bees? Or, more to the point, the bees and the bees? "Why don't you come to my compartment for some fun and games later?" he invited the baffled young man in a sultry voice before moving on. Maybe jealousy would make Klaus be reasonable where naught else availed.
The Major refused to visit Notre Dame, instead saddling his alphabet with the chore of escorting the thieves and hurrying them back on the train when they returned. The absence of Bonham and Jones did not escape him, but Dorian made an excuse about them having stayed home with colds. Then he profferred Agent A's wallet. "Oh, Major, could you return this to Mr. A? I've been keeping it safe so no wicked pickpocket would get it in that tourist trap," he said innocently.
Klaus snatched it, furious. "I told you not to lay a hand on my men!"
"I was just being kind," Dorian teased. "If you're carrying something important, I could safeguard it for you, too."
Dorian wasn't sure what Klaus read into the offer, but he turned white to the lips. "...You!" was all he could say.
Dorian shrugged. "Just kidding. Nobody would touch your pockets. It'd be too scary. Your body's a safer place to keep things than any bank in the world."
But of course, Dorian had touched his pockets, and gotten away with it. Klaus couldn't misunderstand the innuendo. He glared, and then stomped off when James started pestering him for lunches.
A little while later, Dorian made his way to Klaus's compartment. He had to talk to the man. The curtains were drawn. Dorian placed his hands against the glass doors. As he expected, his darling intrepid spy detected him and thrust the curtain open.
Dorian gave him an impish smile, pressing his nose against the glass. "'Allo."
Klaus wasn't relenting. He stood behind the glass doors, giving Dorian a thoroughly unfriendly look. "I thought it'd be you. Unfortunately, it was."
"I thought you might be bored, so I came to play with you," Dorian said, inviting. If only he could get his arms around the man, everything would be all right, he knew it.
"Leave me alone!! I'd rather drink water all by myself!"
Dorian made as if to leave. "All right, then. I'll ask Mr. Z."
"No! Not him! I don't need another healthy German perverted!"
Dorian stopped and looked back at him, angry himself now. Was Klaus trying to blame him for Klaus's own desires now?
Klaus looked just a little abashed now, but he wasn't giving an inch. "Take one that already is. G!"
The transvestite agent appeared at once, giggling, and attached himself to Dorian's arm.
Without even pausing, Klaus yelled, "Hey, tightwad! Your Earl's flirting!"
James showed up out of nowhere, wailing, "My looooooord!"
"Thanks for your gallant arrangement, Major," Dorian muttered as the two dragged him away. But then he took heart. If the Major was so afraid of being alone with him, he must know he wouldn't be able to remain obdurate. Not if Dorian were pressed against him, reminding him of all the pleasure they had shared.
His moment would come.
Only a few hours later, the Major stormed over and gave a lot of orders to his alphabets. The KGB was on the train, it seemed. Dorian hung back, listening, until they had dispersed. Then he approached his love. "I really sympathize with you. On top of the unpleasant liaison with me, you've got the KGB." He was unable to keep the tartness out of his voice. "Those are two heavy crosses. You're starting to look like a Christ – albeit a sadistic one."
Klaus's reply could perhaps have been predicted. "If I'm Christ, you're Judas."
Only then did Dorian begin to understand how genuinely betrayed Klaus felt. He tried to think of something to say that would help. He wound a curl around one finger. "Judas loved Christ, you know," he said in a low voice. "But he didn't receive Christ's undivided love. He loved him, but ultimately betrayed him. An unhappy love story, really."
Klaus didn't even look at him. "Get lost."
Dorian winced. Before he could say anything else, the lights flickered. Klaus automatically reached for his gun. "Somebody check it out!" he ordered. The next instant, the compartment went black.
Dorian had been waiting for this. Quickly he stepped close to the Major, finding that familiar body by touch, by the virile scent of tobacco and aftershave. He embraced Klaus, feeling the start of the other man's body, the conflicting urges to grasp Dorian and shove him away.
Not giving Klaus time to make up his mind, Dorian pressed close and kissed him. Not a long kiss, but enough to shock the man while Dorian deftly reached inside his jacket and pulled out the blueprint.
Then he ran.
"Lord Gloria!" Klaus yelled behind him, giving chase despite the dark. "You fucking did it!"
Dorian was into the next compartment, several yards ahead of Klaus, when the light came on. He wondered if Klaus was angrier at having the blueprint or a kiss stolen.
Right before leaping out into the falling snow, Dorian posed at the door. He knew he must look very fetching, the wind playing with his long curls, his cheeks flushed from the cold, his eyes sparkling from the exertion. Klaus actually looked alarmed. Was he actually worried about Dorian now? How sweet.
"Good luck!" the Earl called, and jumped.
He could see the alphabets holding the Major back from the suicidal jump he would have had to make to follow Dorian. Thankfully, they prevailed before the train reached the tunnel. But Dorian fancied he could hear his Major's angry shouts even over the roar of the train.
The helicopter was there, waiting for him. Dorian climbed on. Even now, the Major must be reading the note he'd left in Z's back pocket (just in case Klaus forgot to be jealous), promising to be back before Lausanne.
He hadn't been able to resist a postmark that would perhaps seem plaintive to the Major's eyes if no one else's: "P.S. Do trust me."
They made their copies swiftly before returning to the train. "Do hurry," Dorian couldn't help urging. "I promised I'd be back on the train before it reaches Lausanne. The Major, no doubt, is furious. I'm dreadfully worried about my men." He felt certain they would be all right as long as he returned in the promised time, but if he were late, well.
"The train'll be coming pretty soon, me lord," Bonham assured him. "The train slows down because of all these curves in the route. If we wait 'ere long enough…." Bonham frowned. "But will 'e be on the train? 'E might've jumped off and be lookin' for you even as we speak."
"If he trusts me even a little…." Dorian's voice trailed off.
"Oi! What's that, then?" Jones pointed. They all looked.
"A bus getting a flat there?" Bonham squinted at it skeptically. "It looks more like it's waiting for the train. Doesn't look like a normal tour bus, though."
Dorian couldn't have said why, but he was suddenly apprehensive. "Bring us closer to the bus. I want to see inside."
"The train's coming," Bonham protested.
"That bus bothers me more right now."
The helicopter was maneuvered low and Dorian saw the men in the bus. The sight did not relieve his anxiety; they were a grim looking bunch. Something in their expressions reminded him of Klaus these last couple of days, in fact.
When a huge man wearing the fur hat affected by Russians came into view, Dorian's suspicions were confirmed. "I sincerely hope the Major isn't on the train!" he gasped.
The men on the bus aimed rifles. "Did you see the Major? Descend! Quicker!"
"That's our blind spot! We can't see him!" Jones shouted back as Bonham tried to maneuver the copter.
"Don't let them shoot!" Dorian ordered anxiously and the copter moved between the bus and the train.
"We're gonna get shot instead!" Bonham protested, even as he obeyed.
"You're good enough to avoid them!" Dorian urged.
"Aye aye." And he was. The KGB snipers in the bus were forced to let the opportunity pass.
"The Major was in the window! He's okay!" Jones announced. He didn't even ask why the Earl had cared so much.
"Thank God," Dorian said, smiling with genuine relief.
A few minutes later he was climbing down the rope ladder. Jumping into a moving train was considerably more difficult that jumping out of one, he was finding. As he found a foothold, he was suddenly jerked off his feet and on board. Where he was faced with an utterly furious Major, who was grasping him by his shirt, holding him deliberately off balance.
"'Lo, Major. Thank you for the welcome," he said, trying to appear unconcerned.
Klaus shook him, clenching his teeth. "You bloody, bloody, bloody…."
"You're shaking me senseless!" Dorian gasped.
"You're already senseless!"
"You're choking me-"
Dorian shut up.
"I've got to hand it to you," Klaus said through his teeth, his expression livid. "You had a lot of balls to steal that blueprint."
"But I kept my promise," Dorian pointed out, smiling a little even though even he had the sense to be afraid of the Major in his present mood.
But this made the Major blow up again. "Your promises mean jack!"
Well, really, that was hardly fair. That had been the first promise Dorian had ever made, and he had kept it. He had never promised not to be an international art thief. But then, even the Major could hardly be reasonable in the midst of a lovers' quarrel.
"You trusted me," Dorian pointed out quietly. "Otherwise you wouldn't have waited."
Klaus stared at him, stopped by this. Dorian searched his face.
After a moment, Klaus released him with a shove, turning away. "Wanker," he muttered, without his former heat.
He was winning! They would be reunited in no time. Dorian couldn't help a happy little laugh, quickly suppressed.
Klaus whirled, instantly furious again. Too bad Dorian couldn't have fallen for a man with a little less of a temper. "What's so funny? Why the bloody smile?!" Klaus demanded.
Dorian put a hand to his mouth, trying not to giggle. "If I say the reason, you'll get angry yet again."
"Then don't. You're likely going to say something pompous anyway."
Klaus turned to stalk off, but Dorian wasn't letting him go yet. "Here's the blueprint back. I've made a copy of it. My men will study the plans and prepare things so that when we get to Rome we can get started with it."
"That the way you thieves do things?"
"I don't reveal any trade secrets – not even to you." He loved the Major, but there were limits. "I'm sure you wouldn't either."
"Don't confuse state security with workman's pride!" Klaus snapped.
"Got it, U.N. service man." This was a deliberate taunt; Dorian knew what Klaus thought of the U.N. He had heard this opinion at great length on several occasions as they lay together, the sweat drying on their skins, their hands idly playing over each other's bodies.
Perhaps Klaus was also remembering when he had told Dorian what he thought of the U.N. because he snarled. "It's NATO! Don't pull a stunt like that ever again."
"I won't. Scout's honor."
"I'm going to post guards in your compartment until we reach Rome," Klaus informed him.
"By my guest." It didn't matter. He wasn't planning any more hijinks.
"Get back to your seat." The Major pointed imperiously.
"One more thing," Dorian said, toying with a curl. "I saw Mischa the Cub. His snipers had a bead on you."
Klaus looked at him, realization dawning.
"I'm supposed to own you one now?" he said stiffly.
"Of course not." Dorian tilted his head to one side. "You'd never be indebted to me." When you truly loved someone, there was no question of debts. Surely Klaus understood that. "I'm just glad to see you all right, that's all. Let's make sure we both stay healthy until Rome, hm?"
"Then do some pushups," Klaus tossed over his shoulder as he stalked away again.
"So I will, Mr. Forestry Service Man."
Dorian closed the door to his compartment on Klaus's infuriated shout of, "It's NATO!"
Then, listening to the Major berating his alphabets to keep a sharp eye on him, Dorian slumped down into his chair. He had just saved the idiot man's life and Klaus was still cold shouldering him. How was he ever going to make it right between them again?
After some awkward conversation with the alphabets, all of whom had apparently been convinced that Dorian was an avid rapist, he got rid of them. When a priest came in looking for a seat, Dorian sought amusement in waiting for a chance to shock him. He began discussing the Sistine Chapel, but before he could make some offensive remarks about the virile male forms depicted, the priest remarked, "Michaelangelo's magnificent Genesis is indeed a most beautiful work. The first thing to catch the eye as one enters is Adam. It is a blessed sight I see often."
Dorian waited for the man to catch his own error, but he didn't. "I like the Creator, too. His pose is very seductive," he said at last, with a salacious smile.
The priest looked affronted. "My son, that is a crime against God."
"I see. I will seek forgiveness. Now, if you'll excuse me…."
He was going to seek forgiveness, but not from God.
He tapped on Klaus's door.
"Who is it?" Dorian pulled back the curtain. "Oh, it's you."
He was doing something to a huge, nasty-looking rifle. "Playing with dangerous toys as always," Dorian remarked.
"It's for just in case. Don't touch it."
Dorian needed no admonition. He had no interest in touching a loaded weapon. But suddenly he wondered if Klaus was hinting at what else Dorian was not to touch.
"There's a priest in my compartment."
"Did you flee 'cause he's giving you an edifying sermon?" From Klaus's tone, Dorian could benefit immensely from such.
"He was describing the Sistine Chapel."
"Genesis is on the ceiling."
"So fucking what?"
Dorian related the man's remarks. "The painting on the altar wall is the Last Judgment. The first thing you see is Jesus, not Adam. A priest truly familiar with the Vatican would never make that mistake."
Professional interest drove everything else out of Klaus's expression. "That means…."
"Z! Find out what that priest is doing! Treat anyone suspicious as a thief!" the Major ordered the alphabet as he charged through.
"I'd like that corrected to KGB!" Dorian protested. Really, a man who spent his time dealing with such dangerous characters oughtn't to be so judgmental about mere thievery.
"I don't have time to argue!" Klaus snapped.