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dance with the one that brung ya

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TOP SECRET. OPERATION: GESCHENK

Objective: Retrieval. Intel suggests Geschenk is located in Salzburg, Austria (47.8054° N, 13.0417° E) and will remain there until the end of the week. Take note of any particular agents who wish to retrieve Geschenk for their own purposes. We have received reports of a tall, dark-haired Russian man operating as an intermediary, and is disguised as a ballroom dancer  …

 


 

Dorian loves Salzburg, the city of Mozart. Of course, Vienna is also a haven of arts and culture, but these days he can't look at another dark-haired man in a trench coat without thinking of the Major or—even worse, that KGB bear with the terrible hats. Vienna is full of spies these days, and James did say how the rent was rising in the old part of town. Dorian just wants a vacation, and as much fun as his money can buy.

"You know," he says, slipping on a pair of sunglasses, "There are beautiful collections in these old houses. Baroque architecture, Renaissance jewel work, and lovely paintings." Dorian remembers seeing the tall castles, the remote beauty of Schloss Hohensalzburg, when he was young. Younger. "We ought to drop in and see them again."

"How much does museum admission cost?" James is already about to argue down the cost of a ticket, Dorian can tell.

"Less than the going market price of Salome Alt's portrait." Dorian knows for a fact that the asking price of the item will double when the criminal underworld hears her portrait was stolen—and by the notorious art thief Eroica.

James squints at him, suspicion already sharpening his gaze. "You won't keep it?"

Ah, Dorian thinks fondly, the miserable little penny-pincher knows him too well. "Maybe," he hums, already thinking about the soft face of the Archbishop of Salzburg's mistress. "If I don't find anything better."

 


 

The damn place is too complicated for an apparent dancing conference. Klaus would like no more than to shake the foppish young concierge until information fell out of his ears. He had never been to Schloss Mirabell, but as far as Klaus knows the layout of any well-defended castle shouldn't be this roped-off or strewn with sequins. He keeps seeing the blasted things stuck in the carpet, no doubt fallen off from the sparkling gowns and accessories of these ridiculous dancing freaks.

The Alphabets had already set up equipment, bugging the castle as they went through the place disguised as tourists. Agent Z did an admirable job of pretending to be a college student of art history, taking copious notes written in coded shorthand. Klaus looks at the map they've given him, a more accurate one than the blueprints in the city's historic archive, and the circled area inscribed with a curled question mark.

It's a dead zone. Klaus tries not to curse aloud the architects of the castle, since they had lived and died centuries before the discovery of radio waves. Information, data, intel, it was everything—and becoming ever paramount in the long years of the Cold War. Klaus could slap the man who had named it such; the only thing that made it cold was the Russians, and so Klaus always keeps a Magnum holstered at his side.

"Oh, excuse me!" A tall woman with long yellow hair hurries past him, her arm lightly brushing his shoulder as she walks past. She has wide curls that look windblown, even indoors. Klaus nods, and watches her go in a terrible hurry someplace, her shoes glittering with sequins in the light. He scoffs. A frivolous person—he was surrounded by them here.

He'll have to case the dead zone himself. Klaus looks at the map, at the thick walls dividing the dead zone from the rest of the castle, even the cellars, and sighs. "It's in the damned basement." And there, no doubt, he would encounter a few suited security elements with too-sophisticated equipment and large guns. If there was anywhere else in this place he might want to hide anything valuable, Klaus thinks, he would hide it there, too.

 


 

Mirabell Palace really does live up to the name. The gardens are exquisite, and Dorian would have loved to see old Hildebrandt's original blueprints. "I thought, you know, that seeing a castle or two here would have been rather the same thing as what I have back home." Dorian leans against an incredibly old and no doubt priceless marble pillar as he surveys the area. Beauty should complement beauty. "But I like this. A change of air."

Casing the palace isn't too hard. The castle is too big to hide certain things, and while the ballrooms and residence bedrooms are nice—with a bit too much dusty brocades for Dorian's taste—he can see where the lovely, more opulent things might have been. Those items, no doubt, were wrapped up and stored in the castle's vault.

He can always play the lost tourist. Dorian wonders why people don't give him enough credit for his acting skills; he certainly steals every show he's come across.

 


 

Schloss Mirabell is too busy by half. Klaus isn't sure why there are so many dancing fools—and why none of them are dancing. He makes his way down to the subterranean level and there are too few security checks for his liking. Schloss Eberbach is, of course, a veritable and literal fortress, its bulwark a beautifully reassuring image in his memory. He sees too many people and still too many sequins. It's as if these dancers can hardly keep from ripping the clothes off each other.

Shuddering, Klaus ignores the next pair he sees—in a thankfully near-complete state of dress, although the sheer amount of physical embrace they're engaging in is tantamount to pageantry—and resolutely continues on. Beyond the wine cellars, there is only a locked door painted a dull, industrial grey.

Expecting it to bellow some kind of alarm, Klaus merely prods at the door without even trying the handle. It swings open, the room still dark, and Klaus reaches for the firearm holstered to his side as he looks in. He can see a human silhouette, and a cascade of blonde curls. 

If this is a trap, he'll break out with his eyes open.


 

Dorian nearly drops the golden cup when the door swings open behind him. "Hands up," a voice says, and there is the cold press of a gun at the small of his back.

He's not sure if the safety's switched off or not. But knowing that voice—and even hearing it, that German accent and the curt, bitten-off impatience—makes Dorian a little weak at the knees. Slowly, he puts the cup down and raises his hands, turning slightly to see cold, bright eyes in the dark.

"Major," he laughs, "We really must stop meeting like this."


"You—" The gun is gone. Dorian blinks as the room floods with light, eyes refocusing to settle on the Major's lovely, outraged, symmetrical face. "What in the name of the devil are you doing here?!"

"Well, if you speak his name, he appears." Dorian waves his hands in a flourish, gesturing to himself as he speaks. "Were you thinking of me?"

"No." Klaus glares daggers at him, but holsters his weapon. "I don't waste my time like that."

"Then what do you spend your time on these days, Major?" Dorian hopes Klaus hadn't seen him with the trophy, red-handed, as it were. "If not me?"

"Shut up." Klaus looks as if he would be anywhere but here, and if Dorian had known the Major was anywhere within a five-mile radius of him he would have gone home and changed into something a little more elaborate. "State your business."

"I'm flirting with you."

"I saw you about to steal something here."

"Liberation isn't theft," Dorian counters. "That applies to many things— object d'art , love, sex." He smiles winningly. "Don't you want to be liberated, too?" Klaus looks as if he's two seconds away from slugging him. Dorian wonders what kind of joke it must take to make him laugh, and what Iron Klaus might look like laughing. It must be all the more beautiful in its rarity. "Truth be told, I'm only here to find something."

"And not steal it?" Klaus pointedly looks at Dorian's form-fitting clothes, if only from the torso up.

Dorian might get him to look downward a bit more, with time. "Well, a gentleman doesn't kiss and tell." Klaus looks revolted, his mouth pulling into a scowl as Dorian rejoices in it and its familiarity. "I'm just a fan of the artist. Dinglinger was the best goldsmith of his time, you know."

"Stop saying that," Klaus orders, his forehead creasing from the emotional duress Dorian must be causing him. Dorian would like to tour Europe and its art collections with him properly, even in Vienna. "Let me see it."

Dorian raises an eyebrow. It's rare that Klaus would even express interest in something that isn't tank-shaped and made of steel. The cup has some kind of value then, beyond its obvious craftsmanship—perhaps it can turn into a tank, or a warship of some kind. "If you insist." He picks it up gently, relishing in the weight of the worked gold, and takes care to brush the inside of Klaus's outstretched palm when he drops the cup in his hands. The Major's hands are warm. Possibly from all that pent-up sexual energy inside him.

Klaus examines the cup, shaking it slightly as he listens for—

— the sound of footsteps approaching. Dorian can hear something inside the cup too, something that rattled like a hazelnut while the Major had shaken it, and resolves to find out what it is. "Hide," Klaus hisses, and Dorian hardly has any time to react before a voice interrupts them in a thick Russian accent.

"Someone is down here!" Thankfully, it doesn't sound like that KGB bear's, although Dorian is sure that 'menacing' is just another kind of accent that they teach their agents in Russia. "Stop!"

Dorian reaches out with both hands to pull Klaus close. Up close, even his rage is beautiful. Dorian wants to drown in it, the tide of some unforgiving, stone-eyed god. "What the fuck are you doing—"

"I'm saving both our lives," Dorian huffs, curling one hand under the Major's jaw. He hooks a leg around Klaus's trim waist, exults in the thrill of having him, this illusion of intimacy. Klaus's shoulders are squared and rigid, and Dorian squashes the nervous thrumming of his heartbeat while the Russian guard enters the room. "Oh, kiss me again—"

"Stop, both of you." The Russian is a tall, dark-haired man with brows as thick as forest. Dorian would offer him the name of a well-known spa, but feels rather miffed that his one intimate moment with the Major is spoiled. The man rips them apart and stares at Klaus, and then at Dorian. He looks more shocked than disgusted.

"Sorry, sorry," Dorian says, waving his hands, the mantle of the Earl of Gloria settling down upon him like an ermine cloak. "Sorry, I was just—well, you see, he's just so handsome—" The man looks less angry while Klaus appears redder and redder. Dorian is most likely going to find Magnum rounds near his person very soon. "And, you know, I was just telling him—I find him so attractive, and I said, is that a Magnum in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? A cracker opening line, I'll tell you—"

"Get out." The man looks as if he's tempted to grab Dorian by the shirtfront and throw him out by the lapels, but he's not that keen to experience that. Velvet wrinkles far too easily. Klaus puts up his hands, adopting the universal 'sorry' expression from the school of tourist acting, and Dorian has to say, he's impressed. He likes the Major more and more every time they meet. "Get out, and do not come back."

 


 

 "I could have kissed you then," Dorian sighs, and Klaus only walks faster. The castle feels too small now: him, the maniac dancers, and the damn thief. He's starting to wish he could assign himself to Alaska.