"The Major be here."
Dorian paused mid-sentence. His guest, a lovely young businessman with a taste for art and its acquisition, frowned rather heavily Bonham's way. He was obviously of the mind that serving staff ought not be heard unless addressed directly. Bonham played the part well usually. The break of protocol worried Dorian somewhat, but not enough to affect his manner with sweet Martin.
"Official business, love," Dorian explained. "There is nothing to be done."
Martin was visibly disappointed. He tried to plead his case and Dorian's time, but Dorian's interest had waned entirely. None compared to his Iron Prince.
"I only just arrived," Martin protested.
Dorian maintained a charming smile. "Truly unfortunate," he said, and didn't extend an invitation for another visit.
Dorian deposited Martin into Bonham's care. "Where?" he asked his old friend, thoroughly ignoring Martin's beseeching looks.
"The south garden. M'lord," Bonham hesitated, and didn't urge Dorian stop entertaining violent Germans when he found his words again. "Take care," he said instead.
"I will be fine," Dorian dismissed airily. His thoughts had fled to more pleasant things. The room felt stifling, suddenly. The Major truly had the best ideas. When they didn't involve jumping off high places or blowing things up, that is.
"No," Bonham said. "Take care of the Major. This way, Sir, if you be so pleased."
Martin thrust a business card into Dorian’s hands. Dorian accepted it out of habit. The poor thing was quickly creased beyond repair, pressed and folded by nervous fingers.
Dorian barely contained himself until Bonham returned. He accosted his friend as soon as he came in sight, clasping him by both arms and leaning close. Bonham's eyes were quite pretty from so near. The mustache rather tickled, though.
"What is the matter with the Major?" Dorian demanded.
"Nothing!” Bonham hurried to reassure. “Uncle NATO be well, healthy an’ hol.”
“Oh, thank the Havens.” Dorian rested his head on Bonham’s shoulder, briefly overcome. Bonham patted his back.
“The German be strong as a tank. You worry too much, M’lord.”
“I worry just enough,” Dorian sniffed. His heart still beat off-rhythm.
Dorian straightened. He was back to his haughty, poised self. He was an Earl after all. A British one, at that. “Do arrange for refreshments, Bonnie, and keep dear James occupied while the Major is here. We do not want a repeat of last time.”
Bonham winced. “That we don’t, M’lord.” They were yet to dig out the bullets from the upper terrace.
Dorian departed for the gardens promptly. His body sang, every sense enhanced. Love did strange things to a man. Dorian would have thought himself an old hand at its pleasures, but he had never felt quite like this before. Not with any lover. Not at any heist, except perhaps the ones he shared with his darling. To have Klaus in his home was a rare gift. Dorian meant to enjoy it fully.
The south gardens weren’t proper gardens at all. They fed into the forest that sprawled behind Castle Gloria, their flowers wild and often dangerous. Dorian thought of the grounds as an atrium – a place where nature met nurture and was tamed, if barely. Klaus belonged there as surely as the wild roses that grew among thick thorns in the thicket.
The Major was easy to spot. He sat on a bench under a tall sycamore tree, head tipped back. A cigarette hung from his lips. Smoke rose from the tip in a dancing trail. It led Dorian to thoughts of gods and sacrifice and sweet wine.
Klaus didn’t react to Dorian’s presence. Dorian remembered Bonham’s strange warning. He made plenty of noise as he walked. There was but one place to sit. Dorian spent a moment debating whether to impose on Klaus or remain standing. He opted for the first, seating himself at the bench’s very edge.
The cigarette fell. Klaus stomped it under a booted heel. He looked at Dorian, at last, and robbed the Earl of his voice. The Major’s eyes burned bright. Their gaze seared through Dorian’s skin and left him flushed.
“Klaus,” Dorian breathed.
The Major nodded. “Eroica,” he said, then: “Dorian.”
Dorian stared. Klaus held his eyes. Something shifted in the Major, loosened by degrees. The tension that had surrounded him ebbed away and left them both at peace. Neither spoke. There wasn’t anything to say.
Klaus rose after a while. Dorian remained sitting – a curious reversal of their meeting. The afternoon had become early evening without the Earl’s notice. The gardens were bathed in hues of gold and pink. The Major stood with his back to the sun. His face was in shadow. Dorian felt like hiding his own, bare and warm with dying light.
“Don’t go to the Schloss,” Klaus said.
“Why?” Dorian asked.
Klaus didn’t answer. Dorian couldn’t see his expression, but he knew what he would find if he did. He rose. Klaus turned away.
“If you need me, find me in Bonn.”
Dorian watched Klaus leave. There was something strange in the way he walked. His posture seemed looser, the set of his shoulders less tense. Atlas, with his burden lightened. Dorian didn’t move until Klaus was well out of sight. A quiet anticipation quickened his blood, and he knew not why.
“You be sure you would be good on your own, your Lordship?”
Dorian smiled at Bonham, and bent to kiss his head. “Right as rain, dear friend. Hurry on, now. I wouldn’t want to keep my gracious host waiting.”
“I don’t suppose you were actually invited,” Bonham muttered. The man turned wary eyes on the imposing castle that towered over all in sight. He shut off the car’s engine with decisive quickness.
Dorian laughed. His voice, like his presence, lent life to the rather dull surroundings. The Earl wore rich red over supple leather. The sapphire brooch pinned over his chest matched his eyes and sparkled almost as beautifully.
“Dear Bonham,” he said again. Truly, Dorian felt lucky to be surrounded by such loyal friends. He left Bonham to do as his heart desired and set up the steps of Schloss Eberbach, seeking his own.
The large door parted open at the second knock. Dorian was rather disappointed to find a stranger in attendance. He enjoyed rankling Herr Hinkel’s composure, and an unexpected visit would have accomplished that just lovely.
“May I help you, Sir?”
“Why, yes,” Dorian purred. The man’s eyebrows twitched upward. “Major Eberbach expects me.” It wasn’t quite a lie. Klaus had come to expect Dorian’s presence wherever he was, be it at home or in the deadlands of Siberia.
“General Eberbach is not in residence at the moment, but he is expected back in the afternoon.”
Dorian tampered on a smile. The Major’s strange behavior the week prior made sense now. “I do not seek the General. I have business with his son.”
The butler’s complexion was naturally ruddy. It grew decidedly red in the wake of Dorian’s proclamation, and the look in his eyes turned most unfriendly. “There is no such individual in residence. Now, if you would excuse me.”
Dorian leaned in the doorway. The man took a step back under the Earl’s sharp gaze.
“I would speak with Conrad Hinkel,” Dorian said, haughty tone demanding obedience.
“I – My apologies, who?”
“Herr Hinkel. He has been serving the Eberbach family for decades.”
“I am sorry, I have been here but a week.”
Dorian turned away. The door closed with a resounding thump behind him. The sound of it was oddly final.
Bonham hurried out of the car. He opened the door for Dorian and helped the Earl inside. He didn’t comment on Dorian’s dark expression.
“Where to, M’lord?”
Bonham nodded. Something in his manner snagged Dorian’s attention.
“You know something," the Earl accused.
Bonham shrugged. He glanced up and, upon finding Dorian staring earnestly at him in the rearview mirror, dropped his eyes again.
“Do these whispers start with the letter A, perchance?”
Bonham’s neck grew red. He cleared his throat. “It really be better if you found out for yerself, M’lord.”
Dorian held back a sharp retort. Bonham was right. Klaus would have told him, if he had wanted whatever had happened told. Instead, the Major had whetted Dorian’s curiosity and left him to his own devices. Dorian couldn’t help his smile. And the Major wondered why Dorian adored him so.
They reached Bonn at dusk. Bonham parked in front of a nondescript brick building. The red Mercedes didn’t fit in with the pragmatic cars around it, and drew not a few stares. Dorian wouldn’t have minded indulging scandalizing Klaus’ gossipy neighbors at any other time. As it were, he barely maintained a dignified walk. His boots clacked up the cement steps in quite a hurry.
Klaus’ apartment was on the third floor, right by the landing. Dorian pressed the doorbell. The door opened almost immediately, the hallway light reflecting off a very familiar forehead.
“Good evening, Earl Gloria.”
“Herr Hinkel!” Dorian threw his arms around the man. Poor Herr Hinkel stuttered and stumbled. “Oh, I am so happy to see you!”
“Close the damn door!” Klaus yelled from somewhere inside.
Dorian released Herr Hinkel and launched himself after the voice like a bloodhound on the hunt. He found Klaus in a small room that doubled as an office and a a bedroom. More the first than the latter, judging by the state of the desk. Dorian sat himself there, right atop a very official folder Klaus was in the process of studying. He beamed down at his Major. The sour look he gained in return had him giggling in delight.
Klaus took him in. His eyes scoured down Dorian’s body. Dorian shifted, pushed his chest out a bit, spread his legs. The Major’s lips twisted in a smirk. Dorian bent down from his perch.
“What did you do, darling?” he murmured, close to Klaus’ ear.
Klaus leaned back in his chair. His expression was hard, but a flicker of amusement lit his eyes. “You went to the Schloss.”
“Did you think I wouldn’t?”
“What did you learn?”
Dorian twisted a curl around his finger. “That you no longer live there.”
Herr Hinkel sniffed loudly in the living room. “There, there,” Bonham soothed. “Let’s get you some tea.”
Klaus rolled his eyes. He got up and closed the bedroom door, cutting off Herr Hinkel’s tearful response. The room seemed even smaller with the rest of the apartment shut out.
Dorian licked his lips. He leaned back on his elbows, watching Klaus through lidded eyes.
“I do not yet know the reason,” he said.
“Do you not?”
The Major’s eyes burned again. Dorian’s breath caught in his throat. He watched Klaus approach as if in a dream, mind divorced from body. His thighs shivered. It took him a moment to realize Klaus stood between them, large hands braced against the desk on either side of Dorian. The Major leaned forward. Dorian grinned, sharp and wild, and did the same.
“What did you say to your father, love?” Dorian asked. His lips brushed against the Major’s as he spoke, teases of a kiss.
“That,” Klaus said, and took Dorian’s mouth for himself.
Dorian threw his arms over Klaus’ shoulders. His nails bit into muscle. His back arched, head tipping back to accommodate Klaus’ fervent attention. The Major wasted no time on shy courting. He tugged at Dorian’s bottom lip with his teeth, sucked at it until it bore his mark and Dorian moaned his name, and pushed back for more. His hands slid up Dorian’s thighs. Dorian found himself on his back on the desk. Klaus was above and all around him, the scent of gunpowder and danger and home.
“I love you,” Dorian said. He couldn’t not.
Klaus looked and looked at him. He bent down slowly, took his lips gently.
“That,” he said when they parted.
Dorian’s eyes grew wide. He looked painfully young, and terribly vulnerable. “Me?” he whispered. “About me?”
Klaus narrowed his eyes. He seemed on the verge of some biting remark about daft thieves, so Dorian pulled him down and kissed him silent. Neither of them commented on Dorian’s wet cheeks, or the salt on his lips.
“I’m keeping the apartment,” Klaus said much, much later.
Dorian pressed a kiss under Klaus’ chin. The desk was a right mess. The two of them barely fit on the chair. Dorian had not a thought of moving.
“Of course, darling. When shall we expect your things at the castle?”
Klaus hesitated. “There is not much left."
“I have enough knick-knacks. You could come without a pence or a stitch of clothing, and I would still welcome you with open-” Dorian spread his legs and straddled Klaus more firmly. He smirked down at Klaus’ flushed face. “-arms.”
“Pervert,” Klaus grunted. It came out fond.
“Your pervert,” Dorian laughed and pressed a kiss to the tip of his nose.
Strong arms closed around Dorian’s back. Klaus rested his head against Dorian’s shoulder.
“Mine,” he said, the word heavy with wonder.