Klaus turned toward the voice with dread. He had his hand on Eroica's lower back and they were standing close together; there was no mistaking what they were pretending to be.
Klaus's father turned a sharp gaze on Eroica. There was no way to avoid introducing them.
"Father, this is the Earl of Gloria. Dorian, Lord Eberbach."
Eroica was, at least, adaptable, and he showed no signs of surprise as he said, "It's very nice to meet you, sir."
"You will dine with me," Klaus's father said.
"Yes, sir," Klaus answered for them both. There was no choice in it. He would have to explain, later, if his father would even listen to him then, that it had been for a mission.
They went into the dining room together and were seated at a table for four. Klaus and Eroica sat on one side, Klaus's father on the other next to an empty chair.
"Klaus hasn't mentioned you," Klaus's father said to Eroica.
"Klaus is a very private person," Eroica said.
Klaus's father continued to ignore Klaus and speak only to Eroica. "How long have you known Klaus?"
Eroica glanced at Klaus before answering. "Twenty-five years."
Klaus's father turned a sharp look on Klaus.
Klaus took a sip of his wine.
"Hmph," Klaus's father said. "You might have mentioned." He turned his attention to Eroica. "You are English?"
"Oh, yes." Eroica twirled his hair around one finger. "One of those dilettante nobles, you know. My particular interest is art. Your family has some lovely pieces."
Klaus snorted, then, when they looked at him, said, "You can't have it."
Eroica sighed dramatically. "The Man in Purple is particularly thrilling. Klaus keeps denying me the pleasure of enjoying it. Are you familiar with it?"
Eroica kept Klaus's father engaged in idle chatter all through dinner, which meant Klaus only had to suffer through listening to them.
"Dorian," Klaus's father said at the end of the meal, "perhaps you would permit me to speak with my son alone."
Eroica looked to Klaus, who waved him on. There was no escaping it. Being in public meant his father was unlikely to yell, but that didn't mean he couldn't express his disapproval. The flat was in Klaus's name, and his earnings from NATO were separate from the family money. He would lose the Schloss. He wouldn't be the heir. There would be no more pressure from his father and his butler to settle down with a woman. It would be humiliating, but survivable.
"Certainly," Eroica said. He touched Klaus's shoulder briefly as he stood. "It was very nice to meet you."
"You as well," Klaus's father said. He didn't say anything else until after Eroica had left the room.
Klaus wished for a cigarette to have something to do. Nicotine patches were no substitute. He braced himself for what his father was going to say.
"I loved your mother immensely."
That was nothing like what Klaus had expected his father to say.
"My father disapproved. Oh, not of her," Klaus's father said. "He thought it was unseemly how much I loved her." He sighed. "I had given up hope that you might ever know what that is like."
If Klaus had been smoking, he would have dropped his cigarette.
"Twenty-five years is a very long time. Things have changed so much." Klaus's father sighed again. "Dorian seems nice."
Klaus had to say something to that; his father was looking at him expectantly. "He's very loyal."
"You must value that," his father said. "I would like to get to know him better. Bring him to Switzerland for a visit."
"Yes, sir," Klaus said, because he knew it was an order and he couldn't let anyone who was listening in know that it wasn't real. He had no intention of visiting his father in Switzerland.
"Good, good," his father said. He smiled at Klaus, as if he were proud of him. "I am glad to have met him. Good night, Klaus."
Klaus stood. "Good night, sir." He sat and waited until long after his father had left the dining room before he went up to the room he was sharing with Eroica.
Eroica looked up when he came in, and stood as if he were going to do something.
Klaus held a hand up to stop whatever it was and went to sit on the sofa. The nicotine patches instead of cigarettes might actually have been the worst part of this mission, beyond even the pretending with Eroica.
Eroica hovered, then came over to sit next to Klaus on the couch. "Major? Was it very terrible?"
Klaus stared straight ahead. "He approves."
"He does?" Eroica sounded surprised.
"Yes. He wants us to visit him in Switzerland."
"Well," Eroica said after a moment, "it is always a shock when coming out doesn't go quite how you expect."
"I'm not," Klaus said sharply. It wasn't as sharp as he'd meant it to be. It wasn't quite a full sentence either.
"Aren't you?" Eroica said gently. When Klaus didn't answer, he kept talking. "Usually, of course, the surprise is that parents who have no problem with gay people generally do when it's their son specifically."
Klaus turned to look at Eroica. "How do you know that?"
"Darling, I'm a gay man of fifty-two with a large number of gay friends. I have heard of all sorts of reactions to coming out."
Klaus looked away. "This is the good one."
"Yes, generally," Eroica said. "Of course I did know one man who was upset by it. He thought he needed to suffer for his art in some way, and he was counting on his parents' disapproval to provide it."
That was exactly the kind of nonsense Klaus could imagine from one of Eroica's friends. "What happened?"
Eroica sighed. "He turned to drugs. Died of an overdose a few years later."
Klaus looked at Eroica to find him with a faraway look on his face. "Was he one of your?" He wasn't sure what to call them.
"Lovers? No, a friend." Eroica met Klaus's eyes for a very long moment. Then he said, "I haven't had very many lovers, you know."
Klaus looked at him sternly, not sure if he should believe that.
"My first experience wasn't one I was eager to repeat," Eroica said. "I'm rather romantic, you know, so I only tried for men I thought I could have a true love affair with." He sighed dramatically. "And then, of course, I fell in love with you."
They'd known each other for twenty-five years. More than half their lives.
"There have been one or two others in that time." Eroica smiled at him a little sadly. "I have tried not to love you."
Klaus met his eyes, and they sat there in charged silence for long moments until Klaus tore his gaze away and stood up. He took his pajamas into the bathroom and got ready for bed.
He was still awake when Eroica joined him in what was advertised to be a very large bed but felt anything but with the two of them forced to share. Eroica had given in to Klaus's demands and worn pajamas, but they were thin, silky things that left very little to the imagination.
"Have you really been in love with me for twenty-five years?" he asked after Eroica had settled down and they were just lying there side by side in the dark.
Klaus closed his eyes so he could no longer see the bright mass of Eroica's hair in his peripheral vision. "You're a fool."
Klaus silently mouthed "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and listened to Eroica breathe until he fell asleep.