There was a surprising lack of noise emanating from behind the closed door of the Major's office. Normally when Eroica was in there, every thirty seconds the Major would yell, generally some profanity with an occasional anti-English slur. This time there were no outbursts, no teasing laughter, and no thrown objects.
"I should've timed this. I think it's a record," Agent B whispered with a half-grin, glancing furtively at the door.
Agent G stifled a giggle behind a manicured hand. "It almost makes one wonder if finally...." His voice trailed off as the other letters looked daggers at him, but his eyes still danced with mischief. If the Major ever heard any of them even hinting at an implication that there was even a one-in-a-million chance that there might ever be a possibility, they could expect that their great-grandchildren would spend their natural lifespans in Alaska.
Z frowned at the door. "It's too quiet. It's making me nervous. I wish the Major would yell or something."
"You know, it's just possible that they're discussing a mission like civilized adults," Agent A remarked dryly. The others turned skeptical expressions his way, and he added defensively, "They do that sometimes! They are professionals, you know."
The door opening put an end to the discussion. All the letters quickly became deeply absorbed in the work on their desks. G was the first to raise his eyes to see Eroica hastily closing the door behind him. Once G looked, he was unable to look away. The others also stole peeks at the Earl and likewise found themselves unwillingly riveted.
It was probably cruel to stare at Eroica just now, but no one could seem to help it.
The Earl couldn't meet anyone's eyes. He kept his gaze firmly on the floor, but it didn't conceal the shine of unshed tears. His lips were pressed tight together and his hands balled into fists at his sides.
He stood before the door for a moment as if paralyzed, then pressed his fist against his mouth as he rapidly made his way past the array of desks and escaped into the hall. The shocked agents could hear the Chief's voice in the hall: "Why, Lord Gloria, how nice to - Lord Gloria? Is something - Lord Gloria!"
A moment later the Chief stormed (as well as one could storm with that much extra padding) through the outer office and threw open the Major's door without preamble. "What did you do to Eroica, Major?"
Most of the letters couldn't see the Major, but they could all hear his icy voice. "It's what I wouldn't do, you dirty-minded reprobate."
"Whatever you may think of Eroica personally, Major, his skills are-"
"A!" the Major's voice rang out, and A jumped. "Call the Director in Canada and engage her team for the Prague operation."
"Jawohl!" A quickly picked up his phone as the others gave him sympathetic looks. None of them liked dealing with the Director, but if anything on earth was scarier than the Director, it was the Major.
The Chief scowled. Worse, his scowl then dispersed and he told the Major cheerfully, "Come to my office in an hour, Major. Before you go to Prague, there's another mission I was going to assign to someone else, but it just occurred to me that it would be just the thing for you."
The entire alphabet winced in unison. Whatever it was, it had to be something the Major would hate to make the Chief that happy. They could only imagine.
"Do you suppose Eroica will really give up?" G asked forlornly that evening in the elevator, out of hearing of their superiors.
"We've never seen him react like that," Z said, considering. "Whatever the Major said to him, it must have been pretty bad."
"I'd like to know what it was. I was starting to think there was no way to stop Eroica," B muttered.
"Stop pouting, G," A ordered. "You're just mad that you're going to lose your bet in the office pool."
"I hope you're happy," Klaus grumbled late that night, as he and Dorian shared a cigarette, tangled together in still-sweaty sheets. "The Chief's making me go after some twerps who are passing classified information in a strip joint."
Dorian giggled. "You might find that quite educational, my beloved prude."
"Hah. A second-year agent could do this job. He's only making me do it because he won't get to ogle you anymore."
“The things you do to preserve your reputation.”
“And keep you safe from bad guys.”
Appropriating the cigarette, Dorian inhaled with relish. "Do you think it fooled them?"
"Damn near fooled me. The way you looked before you walked out, I felt like a fucking heel for putting that look on your face."
Dorian laughed, shaking his curls into his lover's face. Klaus shoved them out of the way with a half-hearted grumble. "No doubt you’d feel better if you made it up to me, you cad."
"Hah," was Klaus's succinct reply, but he acted on the suggestion nonetheless.