Christmas evening. Klaus considered Christmas mostly a hyped up commercial event, useful to keep children happy and obedient. Unless his work took him elsewhere during the crucial time period he was, of course, expected to participate in the traditional Christmas activities. Midnight mass at the Eberbach church. Christmas dinner with the servants, handing out small gifts. He and his father would exchange presents and holiday greetings. Sometimes by courier, though much too often the old man would show up at the Schloss and Klaus would spend most of the holiday tactically avoiding queries regarding his marital state and promotion prospects. Their gifts were generally of the practical sort - such as a suitably rare wine for his father's collection and an addition to Klaus's quite large personal armoury. Klaus actually kind of anticipated Christmas for that reason, since he himself rarely splurged on non-regulation equipment.
Klaus could have used a gift from his father this particular Christmas, as the 24th found him chained to a wall on the bridge of an enemy vessel. Outside the Atlantic Ocean raged in a full storm and the small ship was utterly helpless against the powerful winds and strong rain. The captain was very concerned by the situation - scared shitless might be a more apt description. Blue Bird took in water and SOS signals had been transmitted.
They had captured him mid-mission in the Asturias, northern Spain. Knowing that every airport and border patrol soon would be on the lookout, the East German group had decided to transport him by water, taking the long route around the Skagerrak, Kattegatt and the Great Belt. From what he had overheard the ultimate destination would be Bezirk Rostock. The Blue Bird had taken them at high speed around the continent. All in all Klaus had been treated fairly well, being fed the same food as the rest and given almost-privacy in which to relieve himself, but he was always kept in strong fetters. They were iron-wrought - something which had amused the East Germans considerably - roughly 5 centimeters across and well over one wide - more than enough to hold even him. The cuffs were joined by rough links and the chain itself ran behind a sturdy pipe in the wall. He could no more break the chain than rip out the pipe.
The waves - some well over four meters in height - had begun to settle and the storm seemed to be calming down fairly rapidly. Only, with the water leakage the situation remained hazardous.
"Captain," the radio man suddenly called. "I have contact! A British ship at starboard! They say she's safe in the waters. It's the Beethoven's Third and she's coming for us!"
The Beethoven's Third!
"What name did you give them? You didn't--"
Just then the entire Blue Bird jumped and there was a terrible crash from stern. Everyone whirled towards the noise, staring uselessly at the shut door leading out.
"Jürgen!" the Captain shouted. "Find out what happened! Joseph, ready the lifeboats!"
The men, a pair of identical twins, rushed away.
The Beethoven's Third! Klaus knew the name well, though he had only seen her at a distance. Through binoculars, actually, while a curly-haired Brit blew him a kiss from the stern as Beethoven's Third rapidly left a Danish harbour. Klaus had chased the entire flock of thieves there in a mad race while he attempted to retrieve the prize the master thief had deftly stolen literally from right under his very fingertips.
How did he find out where they took me? Klaus wondered. That the thief had found out and now executed a rescue operation - both from the East Germans and from a watery grave - Klaus had no doubt.
When I get home again, I'll have Doctor Helberth do a full body scan of me. I swear that fop must have managed to get a tracking device into me somehow. That time in the sauna, perhaps? That was the only reasonable explanation he had come up with for Lord Gloria's otherwise uncanny ability to find him over and over again. Sometimes it felt as if hardly a mission went by during which he hadn't been flirted with, felt up or indecently propositioned.
"There she is!" one of the remaining men said and pointed through the window.
Yes, it was the Beethoven's Third all right. A sturdily built brig, she rode low despite the agitated water. Her hull was painted scarlet and the square-rigged sails - mostly for show, to get that old-fashioned, piratey look, as she had quite powerful engines - were white with bright red streaks. She sailed under the British flag - at least that was Klaus's assumption. He couldn't see the flag clearly, but it definitely wasn't the far more noticeable black one, with the skull and crossbones. He had seen Beethoven's Third sail under that flag too.
Just then the twins rushed back onto the bridge. "Captain, we--" said the dark-haired one (though identical, one dyed his hair a glossy, dark red. Possibly he had been forced by their leader. Klaus knew that if he had a similar pair under his command it would no doubt be very useful, but he would at the very least have them wear different clothes or else he'd go spare). "--were struck by lightning. Right through the hull on the starboard side. She's taking in lots of water."
"And it took out the lifeboats," added the light-haired one. His face was very pale.
For a moment, silence reigned. Then everyone started to panic.
Finally the captain managed to shut them up by shouting the loudest. "The Beethoven's Third is heading towards us! They'll pick us up, so there's no reason to worry! Once aboard we'll overpower them and be on our way within the hour!"
Klaus snorted quietly to himself. Even if the radio operator had given a false name, the Earl must already know that he was approaching the right ship. Perhaps one of the Alphabets had put a tracker on the Blue Bird as it left the harbour in Spain. Yes, that sounded more plausible than that he himself had been tagged. So, Lord Gloria would also know what kind of men had captured him. The thief wasn't an idiot, despite Klaus's claims to the contrary - and he would be very careful. Perhaps he even had some Alphabets on board. Oh, Klaus had seen how the peacock of a man had managed to force some of his decent German boys to collaborate by means of blackmail. The East Germans must assume that the brig was out on some cruise and thus easy picking. They would be taken completely by surprise when the Eroica gang showed their true colours. Though, it occurred to him, how would they explain dragging him onboard in chains? Some unease started to grow in his stomach. Especially as they could count on him informing the other ship of the circumstances in a very loud voice as soon as he got within shouting distance.
Apparently, the East Germans' leader must have had similar thoughts, for he already provided an answer. "Get the Wessi out, Jürgen," he ordered. "He's too valuable to lose. But knock him unconscious as soon as he's on deck. We'll carry him from there."
This annoyed Klaus to no end, as that would mean that he would miss all the action. He would likely wake up a few hours later, in the captain's cabin aboard the Beethoven's Third. He might even ... have company.
Yes, he could hear Lord Gloria's surprisingly dark, honey-toned voice purring now ... "Victor's spoil and all that, darling. I always wanted me a cabin boy ... You might be a bit, erhm, grown for the position, my major, but I'm more than willing to overlook that ..."
And then, perhaps, he would finally get ravished!
Come on, how much clearer must a man make it?
Was he supposed to send out a bloody engraved invitation?
Tell the fop to "Just sweep me off my feet already, you lazy idiot! Take me by storm: I won't put up that much of a fight! Show me that you're man enough to handle me and I'll let you!"
That was, after all, what Klaus had waited for to happen since just about the first time they met, but the pea-brained Brit just wasn't getting with the program. Though if Klaus did tell him of Klaus's secret desire, that would spoil everything, so he just kept waiting - and hoping.
Lightning filled the bridge with blinding brightness. Klaus lost his footing in the resulting buck and the eardrum-numbing rumble of the thunder drowned out the others' screams.
Through the window he saw that the ship's front had taken considerable damage. A fire had erupted, defiantly blazing against the wind and the rain. The flames would likely be difficult to put out, as ship fires so often are, but that was the least of their problems, as the boat started to tip over. Klaus fell again, into the wall that seemed eager to try out a new vocation in life - that of a floor. With the thunder still ringing in his ears, Klaus saw the men scramble towards the door. He shouted at them, but perhaps they were as deafened as he himself had been. Or perhaps they were too scared to pay attention. Perhaps they even heard him - and ignored him. One thing was for sure, no one returned for him. Less than ten seconds later, the door fell shut with a metallic slam - and the sharp click of a lock.
"You cowardly commie weasels!" he screamed, but of course that was an utterly useless activity. No one could hear him through the door, the walls and the storm. Besides, the men were probably already at the rigging, waiting to be picked up by Beethoven's Third, which now hovered quite close.
Klaus forced himself to remain calm. There was bound to be a lot of confusion to start with, that was a given. No doubt the Eroica gang would overpower the sailors as they were taken aboard. That would likely be easy work, as he doubted that the East Germans planned to gain control over the ship that very minute. They probably intended to wait until they were safely out of the rain and warm and dry first. Klaus could see it, though. The Earl would stand by, looking supremely amused. He had likely already struck a pose, waiting for Klaus to scramble up the railing like a wet rat, to welcome him into his embrace.
Instead the last ship rat would be "rescued" into the Beethoven's Third's holding area and - on seeing that Klaus wasn't coming - Dorian's men would board and free him. Simple as that. He'd just have to wait a few minutes longer, that was all.
Beneath him, the Blue Bird leaned progressively more to the starboard.
They'll come for me. Any minute now.
"Oh, dear, I say - is everyone all right? Bonham! More towels! My good man, have you been wounded? Is it serious? One of my men is a trained medic. Do not worry for a second, he will set that break. Come, come, do let me help you. Let's get you all out of this miserable rain. We will get you all warm and dry, not to worry. You poor things! How awful!"
Dorian did his best to help the poor, shipwrecked sailors. The Beethoven's Third was large with plenty of unused space. Still, he figured that the rescued crew might want to stick together for the time being, sharing the strength of their friends surrounding them. He knew he would have wanted that in the same situation. So he instructed his gang to take the men to his own, spacious cabin. There were only nine of them, so they would fit without a problem.
He told John-Paul to get new clothes for everyone too and then he hurried ahead to get out the blankets.
Poor dears! he thought. How lucky they are that we were on our way towards Spain and happened to pass by here and save them all! Awfully bad timing, though! I enjoy my role as their gallant rescuer, but really, couldn't they have done this some other time?
Of course, they would have to find a harbour quickly now, to land men there, before continuing. Another very annoying delay, but one which wouldn't take more than a few hours, tops. Then they would once more be on their way towards Spain. To find his poor, wayward major.
What's taking the bloody thief so long?
Not that he was scared or anything, but the ship was sinking faster now. Had some of the East Germans put up more of a fight than he had anticipated? The thief's gang was, when all the cards were on the table, not fighters, but relied on cunning and skill to do their break-ins. They very seldom had to resort to violence.
Surely he was bright enough to use that bloody gas of theirs! It's actually effective.
NATO had offered quite a bit of money for the formula, but had been turned down, one of the very few times the Earl had denied him anything.
If he's primping in front of some god damned mirror or something ... Klaus rattled his chain at the thought.
And that was when the Beethoven's Third began to turn - and to move away from the Blue Bird. And from him, chained inside a ship condemned to sink.
"Sit down, by all means, do sit down - just find a place, anywhere will do. Would you perhaps like to shower before getting into the dry clothes? My shower easily takes three - four too, though it is a bit of a tight fit. But I'm sure that none of you are teetotallers and that we could all do with a spot of brandy first, to calm our nerves. Killepitsch, everyone? Yes? Good. Bonham, dear - help me with the glasses?"
Dorian quite enjoyed playing the gallant rescuer. And those twins ... Oh, if it hadn't been for his devotion to his major, he would have found a challenge in them, he could feel that. As it was he had promised himself not to stray from his pursuit of Klaus, tempting as it was at times. No, the only naked, male beauties he allowed himself these days were painted on canvas, usually by masters centuries dead.
Together he and Bonham quickly brought out ten tapering glasses - one for each, since Bonham currently didn't drink - and started to pour generous measures of the herb brandy. He had come by a bottle quite by accident while stranded in Düsseldorf International Airport and while it certainly was an acquired taste, he found it oddly uplifting. "If you don't like this, just say the word. I do have some Isle of Jura Single Malt hiding somewhere. Some Janneau and some Hine Antique if I remember correctly, too, if either's more to your liking. I'm so sorry about your ship, she seemed to be a fine one. What was her name?"
"The name of the ship?" said the captain. Dorian noticed that he also blinked.
"Yes. You see, I was about to take a bath, so I wasn't on the bridge when your signal came in. Of course, Bonham fetched me right away. I do believe the water is still warm, if anyone want to have a dip, rather than a shower? No? So, yes, what was her name?"
"You want to know the name of the ship?" said the captain and Dorian had to wonder if his simple question really could be so difficult to understand. Perhaps the poor man was in shock? He then noticed the captain glance towards one of his men, a mousy-looking fellow who, for some reason, now looked a little worried.
"B-Blue Bird," the mousy-lookning fellow finally said.
And Dorian dropped the tenth glass to the floor.
Dorian hadn't been there for him. Dorian wasn't coming for him. Dorian was leaving him.
Klaus struggled in earnest against the handcuffs and the pipe, but just as the water began to lap over the window in the final siege of conquering Blue Bird, the last thing he saw of the outside world was the still storm-darkened sky - and the retreating Beethoven's Third.
"Blue Bird?" Dorian asked; his voice trembling. "Bonham, do not forget the napkins. You, man, did you say ... Blue Bird?" He took a step closer to the rescued captain.
"Yes. That was her name."
Dorian kept talking, his voice growing progressively stronger, keeping the shipwrecked crew's attention fully on him. "Then for God's sake, for all that is holy, for the sake of our maker--"
In the corner of his eye he saw how Bonham lifted a machine gun, always kept hidden in his cabin, just for such a "Do not forget the napkins"-situation. By then, however, he himself was already pressing his knife hard against the Blue Bird captain's throat.
"--where the fuck is my major!?"
He would die in the cold waters near the English Channel, chained up like an animal for the slaughter. The chains wouldn't give. There was nothing within reach that could aid him. Cold water reached his knees, rising slowly but inevitably.
I suppose this could count as dying while on a mission, at least, he thought wryly.
The Ossis might take control over the Beethoven's Third, yes, but the possibility didn't worry him much. Lord Gloria was a cat, always landing on his feet in a tricky situation. His own situation was far worse. The ship was now fully submerged, though he could see the glare of the sun above and the comparative brightness of the sky through the water. Since there remained great pockets of air in her, like the one he found himself in, the Blue Bird sank slowly.
God, if you exist?
He wouldn't beg for his life or promise to become a better person. However ...
Let them be smart enough not to mention that I was here. Spare him that. Never let him know that he turned away while there was still time to save me.
Their rescuer might be queer - that had been rather obvious to the Blue Bird's captain from the get-go. However, what stared him in the eyes while the knife was cool and sharp against his jugular, was a God of vengeance. The blue eyes were wild and so intense that they cut right through his ability to form lies. He probably would have answered truthfully even if he hadn't been a few ounces of pressure away from having a second mouth opened about ten centimeters below his original one.
"He ... Iron Klaus ... I'm sorry! Everything happened so quickly! He was tied to the wall on the bridge and ... we, we forgot him onboard."
For one, eternal second the blue eyes were the icy stare of Death himself.
Then the Brit leaped for the door leading out of the cabin and wrenched it open. Even as the man rushed away, the captain heard him yell.
"John-Paul! Drop the lee anchor! We're club-hauling!"
Klaus stared glumly through the glass. The water was up to his thighs now and the ship slowly turned over, but he still saw a smudge of sky. For a brief second he thought he saw something else - a vision, no doubt, of a merman swimming towards him - green body and a spray of blond hair. Then it vanished. Funny, the tricks the brain can play on a dying man.
His shoulders began to slump and he stared without hope at his heavy shackles. The edges nearest his hands had already cut so deep into his flesh that blood dripped into the rising water.
Something made the ship bump, spurring him into action. I can't-- something within him protested, but he ruthlessly pushed the squeamishness to the side, grabbed his left hand firmly with his right and bent over it, biting down hard into the softer flesh surrounding the thumb.
If he could get one hand free, he might be able to reach something. Perhaps he would even manage to get the shackle free from the pipe. Then there was the problem of escaping, swimming up, getting to land, but - one thing at a time. The pain was surprisingly easy to ignore. He tore at his flesh, trying simultaneously to keep the fetters tight to hinder the blood flow and move his thumb so he could get hold with his sturdier molars and gnaw into the flesh, while trying not to let the twitching finger and salty blood trigger his gag reflex.
He didn't really think he would succeed. Oh, with this first part, perhaps. But the shackles would most likely remain locked to the pipe. The chance of him reaching anything useful was minuscule. There most probably wouldn't be time to gnaw free his second hand as well. And even if he did? There was nothing in sight to staunch the blood flow with. To get out of the locked room with - worst case scenario - no thumbs, would be tricky. Even if he did get out? Even if he swam to the surface? The Beethoven's Third was long gone. Land was hours away. He would be bleeding heavily. Were there sharks in these waters?
But - oh, well. It wasn't as if the blood loss would kill him before he drowned and at least the faint hope gave him something to work for.
Then a sound came from the rear and he realised that he had run out of time. The door bulged towards him. Water rushed in faster and then the door was forced open by the power of nature. A flood came at him and he steeled himself against the death that would follow in its wake. He could hold his breath for several minutes, but would there really be any point in doing so?
Sorry, Dorian, he thought. I should have been clearer about what I wanted from you.
But riding on the wave came not Death, but the merman. Blue eyes frantically searched the room before finding him even as the water slammed them together.
Not a merman at all, though, as strong legs scissored Klaus's hips in order to lock their bodies together. He wanted to yell at the man, but the water had them now, and the boat quickly shifted. They swung, bound to the wall by the shackles now over his head.
You idiot! Stupid, idiot, reckless ... Brit! What - you dove down and now we're going to die together? Oh yeah - that's so much better! More "romantic" is it? Well, you could have spared me that bloody romance! You were supposed to be safe, you--
Something was pressed against his mouth. It felt like plastic. Looking up from the mouthpiece he found the Earl smiling at him. Klaus breathed in. The air tasted the usual bottle-stale, but it still felt wonderful.
He felt Dorian shift about and then move higher. A very hard, very long and very wide length suddenly pressed against his lower chest and his eyes went wide. If that was-- If that was-- Sure, he liked the prospect of a well-endowed lover as much as the next man, but enough really was enough! If that really was the Earl's ... equipment they wouldn't have as much ravishment as rape after all!
Dorian lowered a hand to his trousers, shifting something. As he did, his silk shirt slid up and to his relief Klaus saw that what had pressed against him was the breathing tube from the air bottle.
There was a slight tug on the mouth piece. He breathed in deeply and relinquished it in a rush of bubbles as Dorian brought it to his own mouth. Klaus winced, hoping that most of the blood in his mouth had been washed away by the bubbles and the water.
Dorian returned the mouthpiece, then climbed a little bit up his body in order to reach the handcuffs. Klaus tried his best to follow what happened. A green bandana was loosened from around the Earl's neck and wrapped around his mangled, aching left hand. There were swirls of blood up there, but hopefully the handcuffs still cut off enough blood so it wouldn't kill him. And hopefully I didn't have time to do enough damage for the thumb to be unsalvageable.
Dorian came down for air again. Klaus thought absently that they shared kisses through the mouthpiece - similar to what Agent L had suggested that time with Harlun in Iran. Maybe a little blood didn't matter. This time Dorian showed him a lock pick, before heading up again.
Klaus wasn't quite sure how long it might take Dorian to free him, before they both froze to death in the water, but he wasn't overly concerned. One fop seldom came alone. There must be others, on the Beethoven's Third, if nowhere else. Dorian had probably just jumped in first. Others were on their way, likely in more sensible gear. The Blue Bird sank quicker now, even if she still had a far way to the ocean floor. They would probably have to be careful on their way up not to go too quickly. Not to mention that the suction of the ship going down would be a real bitch to navigate. And his hand really needed looking after. But if he remembered correctly, the fop kept a trained medic.
So, he wasn't very worried. Above him, the fop was hard at work. His pale green shirt fluttered in the water, giving Klaus a view of a very tight, six-pack stomach and half of a strong chest - including a small, pink nipple, stiff from the ocean's cold water. Relaxing already despite the still hazardous situation, Klaus leaned his cheek against the flat stomach. The skin itself was chilly, but beneath it, the solid flesh was warm.
And tonight you will ravish me, whether you feel like it or not, he thought with great determination. Merry Christmas to me.