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Joint Missions

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Upon reflection, Major Klaus von dem Eberbach would say that the mission to recover the documents that had been stolen from one of their couriers had mostly been a success.  Eroica had been able to locate the stolen files, hidden in a museum on the outskirts of Brugge that was under renovation.  Klaus had located the courier, still alive but rather the worse for wear. 

That was where the good news ended.  The courier, who had been drugged and tortured, had screamed before they could silence him, drawing the attention of the KGB agents who had made the empty castle-museum their temporary base.  Klaus's team had had to split up, to allow some of the Alphabets assigned to get the courier to safety.  To add to the chaos, Klaus’s distinctive looks had drawn the attention of several of the KGB agents intent on making him an additional prize.  He had led them quite a chase while relying on Eroica and his men to complete their part of the mission. 

Which is how he ended up on the roof of the museum, taking refuge behind one of the many chimneys while he tried to pinpoint the location of the three agents pining him down.  One of the KGB agents was easy to spot, covering any descent along the roof to the ledges below the dormer windows, and the man made the mistake of trying to better his position.  The Major took quick aim and fired, a clean shot disabling the man and forcing him back into the castle.   It wasn’t his best work but it gave him a moment to find a more defensible position, to slide down one of the valleys and onto one of those ledges.  Anyone coming at him would have to come down that same valley between the steeply-pitched dormers, right in his gun-sight, or climb up from the balcony below.  Although, if he was not mistaken, someone was attempting that second route and with any luck it would be -  

Klaus lowered his gun as a familiar hand grasped the balustrade and heaved an equally familiar body up into sight.  “About time,” he growled, shifting so that he was covering the upper attack route again while he searched for the other two agents.

Eroica gracefully scrambled over the balustrade and dropped to a crouch at the other end of the ledge.  “Darling, you know how I always prefer to be fashionably late to any party.” 

A bullet ricocheted off the railing near Eroica's head and Klaus returned fire, driving the shooter back under cover. 

“Speaking of parties, status report?” he asked.

“The courier is with Agent A and most of the Alphabet, heading for the safe house.  Agent Z has the files; Jonesy and the boys will get him to the to the rendezvous point after leading the KGB on a wild goose chase.”

Gut.  Then the mission is a success.”  The two remaining enemy agents peered over the edge of the dormer roof and Klaus fired at them, missing.  “I can’t say the same for our chance of escape.”

“Don’t be such a pessimist.  Agents G and W are securing our vehicle just beyond the gate.  We just have to get ourselves off this roof,” Eroica said.  He cast an appraising eye up at the peaked roof where the KGB lurked, then rolled onto his stomach so that he could peer over the edge of the ledge to get the lay of the land.  “If you can keep the gunfire off us, I can rig a zip line between here and the gate.”

“Ja.  Go – I will provide cover.”

Dorian turned his head and scowled at him.  “I’m not abandoning you; you know me better than that by now.  I’m pretty certain that the line can handle both our weights.”

And yes, Klaus did know Dorian very well by now, given a decade of missions worked together.  He couldn't resist needling the other man, though.  “’Pretty certain’?  That’s not as reassuring as you seem to think it is.”

“Few things in life are 100% certain,” Dorian returned, and one corner of his mouth quirked upward.  “That’s what makes life exciting.  You can’t always be sure how things will turn out but sometimes you have to take a risk.”

One of the enemy ventured around the front side of the dormer, apparently lulled by Klaus not returning their gunfire.  Eroica dispatched him with a quick flick of one of his knives, watching impassively as the KGB agent tumbled past them to the courtyard below.

Klaus gave a sharp nod in lieu of praise for the expert marksmanship.  “I prefer certainties,” he replied.

“Life changes, and you can’t be certain what the future will bring,” Dorian pointed out.  “People change.  Just look at us.”

It was an excellent point, not that this was the time or place to acknowledge that.  Still, there was no denying that Dorian was not nearly as ridiculous as he'd been when they first met, nor that Klaus was more flexible in his views as regards certain...things.  But he wasn't prepared to agree that one couldn't increase the chances of success through one's efforts to be prepared.  “With proper training and discipline, one can be ready for any eventuality.”  He tried to get a better aim at their remaining adversary, but the man was more cautious than his fellows and remained out of view.  

“Any eventuality?” Dorian asked, removing his zip gun from his belt.  “What if I were to invite you to a private dinner once this mission is over?”

“You have invited me to dinner in the past,” Klaus pointed out.  There was a faint sound of movement on the tiles of the roof above them, as if the KGB agent was shifting his position.  Klaus listened intently.

“Before we became friends, before you’d learned to take me seriously,” Dorian pointed out. Before you accepted what I am and what you might be, went unvoiced.   “What if I asked you now?  Would you accept?”

“As friends?” 

The KGB agent was definitely moving upwards along the roof, as if seeking another way down to their location.  A sign of impatience, which he would never have permitted his men to develop - yet again proof that training and preparation were what mattered.

“Yes," Dorian said.  "And perhaps with the hope of becoming something more?” 

There was uncertainty in that query, another way in which he had changed - admitting that his charms were perhaps not as devastating as he'd once thought.  Klaus frowned, not certain that he liked that uncertainty, especially when he was relying on Dorian to be more experienced in Matters of the Heart.  Which, he supposed, was an answer to Dorian's question.

Eroica rolled up into a crouch.  “Back in a moment,” he said, and slipped over the side of the balustrade again.  Lying along the shadow of the roof, he aimed at one of the trees beside the open gateway and then fired the zip-gun.  The bolt anchored solidly into the trunk of the tree, about eight feet above the ground.  He flipped back over the balustrade and, crouched in its shadow on the ledge, secured the other end of the line to the railing before cinching it tight.  Once this was done, he turned back to Klaus.

“Well?” Dorian asked.  “Do you think that you could be 'prepared' for that and how it might change things between us?”

Klaus was silent as he considered this and tracked the movement of the KGB agent above them.  “Preparing for joint missions is much more difficult.”

“Yes,” Dorian agreed, removing two clips from his utility belt.  To one he attached the barrel of his zip gun, turning it into a handle.  “There is the risk of misjudging the other person’s actions.”

“Of misaligned goals and needs.”  Klaus crept slowly down the ledge towards Eroica’s location, careful to keep his movements silent, until he was less than a yard from the other man.

“Of miscommunication.”

“Each member on the mission must be willing to – compromise,” Klaus said, trying not to make a face as he said that.  God knew that compromise was not one of his favorite words.  However, being solitary and independent had long ago lost its charms.

“Being vulnerable,” Dorian said quietly, and if Klaus hadn’t been sitting less than two feet away, he wouldn’t have been able to hear those words. 

"Especially when one member of the team...lacks certain knowledge and skills," Klaus admitted.

“Relying on the other person to lead," Dorian said.  "That involves trust between both parties.”

“Trust can be difficult,” Klaus said, watching as the other man attached the two clips to pulleys and then to the line.    “I find it…especially so.”

“You trust your men,” Eroica said and looked over at Klaus.  “You trust me.”

“Ja.”  Klaus met Dorian’s eyes.  “Should we survive this mission, dinner would be acceptable.  And perhaps…coffee afterwards, at the Schloss?”

“Yes.”  Dorian leaned forward to give Klaus a brief, sweet kiss, full of promise.  “Give me your belt.”

Klaus scowled.  “Always trying to steal my belt, pervert,” he said, but did as asked, and there was amusement in his voice. 

“Now if you can just take out that last gunman,” Dorian said as he attached the belt to the second pulley and tugged on the belt to test the hold.

Klaus turned his attention back to the roof where the third agent was slowly sliding over the peak of the roof and into the valley.  Klaus aimed and, after another moment, the man made the fatal error of lifting his head into the faint moonlight. 

Agent dispatched, Klaus turned back to Dorian.  “Done.  What next?”

“Dinner in Bonn, hopefully,” Dorian said, handing the ends of the belt to Klaus along with another kiss, “But for now - we jump!”

Grasping the handlebars of his pulley, Eroica slipped over the side of the balustrade and kicked off against the railing to push himself down the zipline toward their waiting car.  Klaus hesitated for only a moment, running his fingers over his lips as he felt the echo of that kiss.  And then, throwing his customary caution to the wind -

He jumped.