A Thousand Break-ups by Margaret Price

When Dorian finally wins his beloved Klaus’s affections, he looks forward to receiving a thousand kisses. What he gets instead is, well…the title says it all.

Characters: A, B, Bonham, Dorian, G, Klaus, Laurence
Genres: Alternate Universe, Drama, Established Relationship, Humor
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: Humor, Nonsense and Crack!fic
Chapters: 7 Completed: Yes Word count: 10286 Read: 90184 Published: 24/04/2007 Updated: 24/04/2007
Story Notes:

Category: Written for ele5 for the 2007 Obscure Fandoms Challenge.

Notes: This was an idea that wasn’t going anywhere until I got the prompt about putting poor Klaus in a dress. Many thanks to my beta readers for their critiques and additional plot input.

Challenge Prompts: Obsession, rivalry, Klaus dressed as a woman for a mission.

Warnings: Lawrence

1. Break-up by Margaret Price

2. Mission In Paris by Margaret Price

3. Party by Margaret Price

4. Even Worse by Margaret Price

5. Afterward by Margaret Price

6. Payment by Margaret Price

7. Start Again by Margaret Price

Break-up by Margaret Price


By Margaret Price


One: Break-up

"No, no, no!"

The Alphabet cringed at the sound of their commanding officer's thunderous yell coming from behind his office door. Furtive glances were exchanged as a stream of curses was followed by a sound that could only be a fist slamming onto a desk. "Out! Get out of my sight!"

The voice of the Earl of Gloria replied in equally high volume, "Gladly!"

The Alphabet suddenly found plenty of other things to do besides look at the Major's office door when it was abruptly yanked open and the Earl stormed out, his face in high color. "There are plenty of other fish in the sea, you know!" he said as he strode across the room.

"Good luck finding them with the old bait you're using," Klaus shot back.

Dorian spun on his heel, his eyes blazing. "Bastard!"

The reply was the door to the Major's office slamming shut.

Dorian's bright blue eyes grew wide, his color deepening, a low growl rising in his throat. He turned on his heel, slamming the door behind himself so hard the windows rattled.

What followed was a long, deafening silence. The Alphabet drew a collective breath and waited. True to form, the Major came storming out of his office, crossed to the door, and vanished through it, thundering down the corridor beyond.

"We've got five minutes," G announced.

There was immediately a flurry of activity as the agents crowded around G's desk. He pulled a large calendar from beneath the blotter. "How long this time?" he asked as he made a note of the date and time.

"That was a bad one," A observed. "They started yesterday. Haven't fought like that in ages."

Z was flipping through a notebook. "It's been more than...ten months," he confirmed.

"How long did it take for them to get back together then?" G asked.

"A week."

A gave a snort. "Are you sure? They haven't lasted a week in over a year."

Z rechecked his notebook. "Okay, six days."

"Thought so."

"Who's first?" G asked, tossing away the pen that had inconveniently gone dry and grabbing another.

"I say six days," Z said firmly.

Agent R held out some cash. "I give ‘em three. The Earl always cracks."

"Exactly three days?" A wanted to know.

R gave him a puzzled look. "Are we doing days and hours now?"

G gave a small giggle as he took the notebook from Z's hand. He quickly flipped through the pages and then nodded. "I think we'd better break it down more. Say...six hour lots?" There were murmurs of assent after which he took wagers from all present. They could always break things into exact hours later.

The agents had only just returned to their duties when the Major returned with a cup of coffee in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. The latter was not a good sign. Since taking up with the Earl, the Major had cut back on his smoking, only seeming to light up when under considerable stress. He appeared otherwise himself again, more or less, as he strode wordlessly to his office, closing the door quietly behind himself.

The rest of the day was decidedly uneventful.

# # #

When G arrived for work the following morning, he was surprised to find a manila envelope in the center of his desk. His surprise turned to bewilderment when he opened it to find a sum of cash and a note designating a wager in the current office pool.

"Who put this here?" G asked, holding up the envelope.

"What is it?" A wanted to know.

G shot a furtive glance in the direction of the Major's office.

"He's with the Director," A replied to the unspoken question.

G heaved a relieved sigh before telling of the contents of the envelope. "It says I'm to put the money on ‘no less than four weeks from yesterday' before any kind of reconciliation."

This caused everyone to stop what they were doing and look up.

"What?" L gasped. "That's gotta be a joke."

"That's what I would've said. But there's money with it." G cleared his throat before adding, "And it's signed ‘G.'"

Agent R snickered. "You leaving yourself notes now, G?"

G gave him a dark look.

"You sure it's not just bad hand..." A's voice trailed off as G held out the paper for him to see. There was no mistaking the letter at the bottom. The note had been typed not handwritten. "Ah. That's a G alright."

"Who else is left?" L wanted to know.

"Only D. And he's still in hospital," G replied.

A quickly checked his roster and nodded. "With rehab, he'll be out another month or more." He sat back in his chair. "Maybe he had someone else bring it and they got the letters wrong." He grabbed the phone and quickly dialed the hospital, having a brief conversation with the ailing Agent D. As soon as he hung up, he looked at his equally bewildered fellow Alphabets. "He didn't know anything about it. In fact...erm, he asked me to put money on two and a half days."

This was met with several amused snickers.

"So...what do I do with this?" G wanted to know, holding up the envelope containing the cash. "It says I'm to put a receipt in the envelope and leave it in my outbox when I go home tonight."

"I say it's the Director," R speculated. When he received several annoyed scowls, he said defensively, "Has to be. Doesn't want anyone knowing he wants in on the action."

"G for Director?" Q said sarcastically.

"Maybe he's trying to be clever," R replied. "Knows that D's out, but didn't want to be that obvious."

A and G exchanged glances and then rolled their eyes. Somehow they could not imagine the Director being that clever.

"Or maybe he doesn't want the Major knowing he's sniffing around G again," Q rejoined. "Remember what happened the last time?"

The response to this was a chorus of chuckles. How could any of them forget the sight of the enraged Major standing over his superior and threatening to shove numerous foreign objects into his body should he ever learn he was acting unprofessionally toward one of his Alphabet again.

Before the conversation could go any further, the sound of the Major's pistol-shot footsteps could be heard from out in the hall, ending any additional speculation on the matter.

# # #

Mission In Paris by Margaret Price

Two: Mission In Paris

A and B looked at one another and then over at Bonham, who was trying to make himself invisible. Across the room, the Major was silently glaring at Eroica, who was silently glaring back, his arms folded, a determined look on his face. If someone didn't speak soon...

"No way in hell," the Major growled finally.

Dorian tossed his hair over one shoulder. "I'm not wearing a dress again for you, Major," he said haughtily. "They make me look like an old Hausfrau, I believe you put it recently."

The growl continued to rise in the Major's throat. "And what you have on now makes you look like a broken down old Queen. I don't see you changing out of that!" Before he could go on, he was stunned into silence when the Earl slapped him across the face.

"You detestable swine!" Dorian spat. "You're lucky your Director came to me himself, Major. And that NATO is paying me handsomely, otherwise--" He waved a hand at the door, but did not go on, his meaning clear.

Klaus controlled himself with visible effort. "I am not wearing that fucking dress," he said between clenched teeth.

"It isn't a dress, you cretin, it's an evening gown."

The Major gave a loud snort, folded his arms, and turned his back on him, going on to light a cigarette to steady his fraying nerves.

"Smoking again?"

"Don't nag me like a wife."

Dorian's eyes narrowed, but he did not reply. He picked up the garment in question and held it up. "It's too big for A or B, and you can't have G do it with a sprained ankle."

"Bloody idiot, falling off a pair of high heels," the Major grumbled without turning around.

A and B, in the meantime, were breathing a mutual sigh of relief, while Bonham absently brushed a finger over his mustache.

Dorian held up the garment, giving it an appraising look. "Well..." he said, cocking his head to one side. "I suppose Z might fit into this..."

"Nein!" The Major spun around. "You stay away from Z! You've corrupted enough of Germany already." He practically snatched the dress from the thief's hand. He looked at it in distaste before looking back at the Earl.

"Anything for a mission," Dorian reminded with a smirk.

"You really are a malicious and vindictive man."

Dorian smiled innocently, idly wrapping a blond curl around one finger. "I don't know what you mean, Major," he said breezily. "It's a lovely color. It suits you. Anyway, it's about time you played the wife."

The men across the room winced upon hearing this. A and B found themselves wishing they were on their way to Alaska, and Bonham wondered if walking back to England by way of the Chunnel were any more dangerous than staying in the room. To their relief, the Major did not pull his gun, nor did he explode into a ranting fit. He simply ordered the Earl to go change himself before storming into the next room.

"Remember to shave close," Dorian called. "And for God's sake don't burn a hole in the material!"

"I hope you cut your own bloody throat!" Klaus shot back, the door slamming behind him.

The Earl gave a disapproving snort, turned on his heel and left, taking the reluctant Bonham with him.

A and B suddenly realized they had been holding their breath and exhaled.

"How long has it been now?" B asked in a low voice.

"Twenty-nine days," A replied in an equally low voice, his eyes fixed on the far door.

Twenty nine days, with no sign of a reconciliation in sight. Normally the Earl would be making small overtures within days. Not so this time. In fact, they seemed even more at odds than ever before.

# # #

Dorian had changed into a tuxedo and returned to the room to find A and B still nervously awaiting the reappearance of their commanding officer. They were attempting to look busy by going over the surveillance equipment that had already been checked by the Major. The Earl waved a hand in the general direction of a table as he crossed the room. Bonham set the case he was carrying down and opened it. Then he drew a deep breath.

Dorian looked at his watch, his eyebrows going up. Then a small smile played at the edges of his mouth. He crossed to the door, rapping his knuckles on it. "Klaudia, darling, we're going to be late," he sing-songed.

"Fuck off," came the terse reply from the other side of the wooden barrier.

"Major," the Earl said, his voice dropping into the most masculine tones the watching agents had ever heard him use, "if you want this mission to succeed, we have to leave within the hour. Being fashionably late is one thing, missing the party entirely is another. You're the one who said there's a small window of opportunity on this job. Now come out of there so I can finish getting you ready and we can get this mission over with."

The reply was unintelligible to those listening across the room, the stream of curses that followed were not. The door opened and Klaus appeared on the threshold in a full-length dark green evening gown. He had a shawl slung over one arm, held a pair of low-heeled shoes and evening bag in his hand, and had a look of thunder on his face. The watching agents' eyes grew wide, their jaws dropping open.

The Major turned an icy glare in his awestruck subordinates' direction. "Not. One. Word," he rumbled from between clenched teeth as the Earl moved behind him to zip up the dress.

All the speechless A and B could do was shake their heads. Bonham tried to hide a snicker behind a hand and found himself the sole object holding the officer's attention. Suddenly it seemed a good idea to stand behind the Alphabets. Across the room. Near the door.

"Oh, this fits perfectly!" Dorian cooed. He received a murderous look in reply. "It's still not too late to have Z--"


"Then stop threatening everyone and sit down." Dorian took the Major by the arm and steered him to a chair near the table where Bonham had placed the case. "Now...hold still while I see what I can do with this hair of yours."

The Major sat with a rustle of petticoats, closed his eyes, and started counting to one million as the Earl started fussing with his hair. He didn't even have to look into the case to know what it contained. He knew only too well, having seen all the numerous odds and ends the Earl used on his own mass of curls. Klaus had no idea what the other man was planning as his long dark hair was pulled back and then pinned into place. It wasn't until the Earl was fluffing out a dark wig that it finally dawned on him.

"Just how long have you been planning this humiliation of me?" the Major wanted to know as the wig was being put into place.

Dorian gave a small tittering laugh but did not reply directly. He was too intent on getting the wig properly secured in place. After a few quick flicks of a hair-pick, he took a step back to admire his work, nodding in satisfaction. Dark green eyes looked balefully up at him. He ignored them, reaching into the case again. "Now, about your accessories and make up, Klaudia, dear..."

The Major continued to endure the indignity in silence as a jewel-encrusted necklace--undoubtedly stolen--was placed around his neck. The Earl picked up an earring and then, to the amazement of the watching agents, pushed back the Major's hair to reveal pierced ears. Pierced ears? The Major! When did he get that done? To their relief they realized they had been mistaken as the Earl adjusted the screw-type backing.

"Be careful with that," Klaus growled.

"This would be a lot easier if you'd gotten them pierced," Dorian sighed.

Klaus continued glaring at him. "You said all you wanted was for me to admit that I'd lost the bet. I admitted it."

"I should've insisted."

"I still say you cheated just to--OW! Dammit, Dorian, not so tight!"

"You say that one more time and I'll tell everyone just how I won the bet."

The Major's eyes widened and then narrowed dangerously. He remained silent until the first earring was in place. "Christ, that's heavy!" He reached up a hand to stop the mate from being put on his other ear. "I am not wearing these."

Dorian opened his mouth, only to close it again. He had gotten this far and wasn't going to trifle over a pair of earrings. He removed the offending item, and then held up a smaller pair of teardrop pearls. "How about these?"

Klaus took them, tested their weight, examined the clip, and handed them back. "Fine," he practically snarled.

The earrings were clipped into place, after which makeup was lightly applied to the soften the hard lines on the glaring officer's face. After another brief squabble over perfume--in which Dorian insisted, Klaus refused, and Dorian finally succeeded by pointing out that the officer was supposed to be disguised as a women and should not arrive smelling of aftershave--nearly forty-five minutes had past and the metamorphosis was complete. The Earl stepped back and smiled devilishly. Klaus put on the low-heeled shoes, got to his feet, and went to look at himself in a mirror.

"You look ravishing, Klaudia, dear," the Earl said breathily. He glanced across the room to see three awestruck men looking back. Had they not seen it for themselves they would not have believed the woman standing before the mirror was in truth Iron Klaus.

Klaus turned, put his hands on his hips, and looked Dorian in the eye for a full ten seconds before saying, "I hate you."


A and B exchanged glances, uncertain what to say, or if it were even safe to say anything. The next thing they knew, the Major was storming across the room. "Have you checked everything out?" he demanded.

A felt a chill run down his spine as the Major's voice issued forth from the striking creature striding towards him. He simply nodded, holding out the earpiece. Before the Major could snatch it from his hand, Dorian intervened. "No! Good God, Major, you'll ruin your nails!" he cried, stopping the officer cold. Angry green eyes turned in his direction.

"Here, let me..." Dorian took the earpiece, carefully moved the wig aside, and put it into the Major's ear. Then he put one in his own ear. He picked up a silk flower for his lapel that hid the microphone that would allow the Major's men to hear what was being said. The microphone for the Major was concealed in a broach that the Earl affixed to the front of the dress's high collar.

The Major adjusted the earpiece, ignoring the Earl's protests about painted nails that he already knew were dry. The thief was not going to distract him now. The equipment was tested one last time and then the Major said tersely, "Let's get this over with."

Dorian put a hand on his arm. "Wait."

"Now what?"

"I'm sorry, Major, but... This isn't going to work."

Klaus's eyes narrowed menacingly. "If you're gonna say you put me through all this just to spite me..."

Dorian actually looked shocked. "In the middle of one of your missions? I'm hardly that stupid, now, am I?"

"Dorian, don't try my patience."

The Earl held up a hand. "Truce. We can't be sniping at one another at the party, can we?"

The Major sighed heavily. This, unfortunately, was true. "Your point?"

"I can give you a quick lesson in the proper way to walk, stand, and sit, but I can't change your voice." Dorian pulled a small bag from his pocket, reaching in and extracting what looked like a thin waxy leaf. "Chew on this."

"What is it?"

"If I told you, you'd be none the wiser."

"I warned you not to--"

"It's Dieffenbachia," Dorian said matter-of-factly. "Now chew it. There's not enough there to kill you. It will just alter your voice for a few hours."

Klaus took the item as if it might bite him, cautiously checking it over. "If this makes me sound like I've been sucking on helium..."

The Earl rolled his eyes to the ceiling.

Reluctantly, Klaus put the "leaf" into his mouth. "Ugh! It burns!"

"No, don't spit it out yet!" Dorian ordered, receiving a dark look in reply. "Chew!"

The officer pulled a face, chewed the offending item a few more times before finally spitting it out. Then he coughed and tried to demand a glass of water for his burning mouth and throat. Tried but did not succeed, as the sound that came from his throat was a croak. He put a hand to his neck. It felt as if his throat were swelling shut.

"Excellent!" the Earl said happily, holding a glass of water out to the horrified Major. "It's worked."

All Klaus could do was stand staring wild-eyed and mouth the words, "What the hell did you do to me?"

"Don't panic, my dear Major, you didn't swallow near enough to kill you," Dorian replied calmly. The officer looked daggers at him before draining the glass. "The Dieffenbachia is also known as the Dumb Cane. It paralyzes the vocal cords." He took the now empty glass and set it down, going on to take the Major by the arm and start towards the door. "It's only temporary, unfortunately," he sighed. "Now when we arrive at the party, no one will bat an eye because my poor darling Klaudia is suffering from laryngitis."

The Major shot him a murderous look after which he started to commit to memory every curse he would lavish on the Earl the instant his voice returned. Barring that, he decided that, dress or no dress, he would beat the shit out of him as soon as the mission was finished.

"Come along boys," the Earl called over his shoulder, waving a hand in the air. "And don't forget the Major's wrap and handbag!"

Despite the fact that it was impossible for the Major to scream any angry retorts, A and B still cringed and exchanged a look of mutual ill ease. Could it be? Had the Major and the Earl actually broken up for good? They watched as the pair moved arm-in-arm down the hall toward the lifts.

Eroica in proper gentlemen's clothes and Iron Klaus in a dress.

It was going to be one hell of a night.

# # #

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

End Notes:
Illustration by me. Klaus officially hates me.
Party by Margaret Price

Three: Party

The mission, while having very tight time constraint, was relatively straight forward. Attend a society party at a rented mansion where a transfer of sensitive documents was set to take place. Eroica was to steal the documents before couriers arrived for a pre-arranged exchange. So far, the only thing to go right was the Director being able to persuade Eroica to participate.

Klaus didn't think things could get any worse, only to realize he did not know what "any worse" was until he and his men arrived at the mansion. The party was a huge social affair and was overflowing with aristocrats, dignitaries, and spies. The officer was certain everyone in the intelligence network would recognize him. He soon learned that the Earl had managed his metamorphosis so skillfully that no one batted an eye when he was introduced as a cousin of Iron Klaus, Ms Klaudia Persimmon, who, regretfully, was suffering from laryngitis and could not speak above a whisper without sounding like a bullfrog.

The Earl of Gloria was in top form as Ms Persimmon's escort, introducing "her" to various influential individuals, most of whom Klaus knew already. When the host of the party finally appeared, Klaus felt the Earl's grip on his arm tighten warningly.

"That's him," Dorian said softly, both to the Major and the listening Alphabets who were stationed somewhere on the grounds. "The one in gold beside the main staircase trying to impersonate King Louis XIV."

The edge to the Earl's voice set off an alarm in the Major's head. He followed Dorian's gaze, seeing he was not exaggerating. The only thing the man in gold was missing was the powdered wig.

"The Right Honorable Walter Francis Fitzroy," Dorian went on, keeping his voice low. Then he gave a small snort. "You think I'm a pretentious wanker, Major. Our host will tell you that he's named after Sir Walter Raleigh and Francis Bacon, and that his surname means he's descended from the illegitimate son of a king." He turned to see the Major's inquiring gaze fixed on him. "The truth is; he bought a village with a population of about a hundred to acquire his title, his given name is Cadwallader Franklin, but...the last bit's true." Dorian turned back to see their host had spotted them and was making his way across the crowded room. "He's a real bastard."

This was enough to cause the Major to give a small croak of amusement. It wasn't often that the Earl showed such disdain for anyone, much less someone as good looking as their host. He could not help but wonder if there were more to it. Some history between the two that he was unaware of. This thought had no sooner crossed Klaus's mind than he felt a wave of jealously wash over him. He shot Dorian a quick sideways glance, seeing he was preparing himself for the impending introductions. They had ended it. Why should he feel jealous?

The Major's reflections were quickly put out of mind as their host--and target for the mission--arrived to greet them. Despite his attempts to appear as well-bred as the Earl of Gloria, whose grace was natural and effortless, Fitzroy struck the Major as being a second rate actor playing the part of nobility--and failing miserably. Every phrase and gesture seemed forced, and Klaus found himself mentally agreeing with the Earl's assessment of Fitzroy being a pretentious wanker.

Fitzroy smiled congenially as the introductions were made. "Oh, such bad luck," he oiled to the "ailing" Ms. Persimmon. "Now you have to listen to everyone's bland small talk and won't be able to excuse yourself politely."

An elbow nudge in his side reminded the disguised Major to lower his eyes at this remark. He gritted his teeth as a kiss was planted on the back of his hand. He was going to have to wash in disinfectant after this.

"You'll pardon my impudence, Gloria, old boy," Fitzroy went on, turning to the Earl, "but I hardly expected you, of all people, to be turning up with a woman on your arm. I heard you were involved with some very butch military type. Not your sort at all, is it? Don't you go for the pretty, fluffy things?"

Dorian did not even bat an eye. "Actually, Wally, I'm currently unattached." He pretended not to notice the annoyed scowl his use of other man's nickname induced. "My former paramour is not just a military type, he's Ms Persimmon's cousin as well. She's just recently separated and found herself alone in Paris. I thought this evening's festivities would amuse her and asked her to accompany me. There are always so many handsome and unattached young men, so naturally..." He let his voice trail off as his toes were abruptly crushed under the heel of Klaus's shoe.

Fitzroy brightened, turning back to "Klaudia," who looked up and smiled, putting an arm around the Earl's waist so he could not escape the continued pressure on his foot.

"Ahh, and then you came down with... Oh, you poor thing," the host went on. "We must go out of our way to cheer you."

How about letting me use you for target practice, you pretentious git? Klaus thought.

"This is so like you, Wally," Dorian was saying cattily. "You come all the way to Paris to throw a party, dress like Louis the Sun King, and then insist everyone speak English because you never bothered to learn French."

Fitzroy smiled with effort and then quickly excused himself to greet some other guests.

Klaus mentally gave that round to the Earl. Then he took advantage of the fact that he still had an arm around Dorian's waist, giving him a pull to indicate they make a hasty retreat into the room further on.

This turned out to be a mistake, and the Major went on to add it to his growing list of things that would make this mission any worse than it already was.

# # #

"I think a drink is in order after that," Dorian said as they entered what seemed to be the main room for the evening's festivities. He stepped slightly aside and held out his arm. "Take my arm and try to look submissive," he said in a low voice. He received a murderous look from Klaus in reply. "If we play this right, we'll be in and out before the couriers arrive for your precious information."

The Major could not argue with the logic. He grudgingly took the offered arm, silently thanking whoever decided to place the bar conveniently near the door.

"Yes, sir," the bartender said amiably. "What can I get you and the lady?"

The Earl gave the young man behind the bar a dazzling smile before ordering a drink for himself, and a plain tonic water for the "ailing" Ms Persimmon. After this, they moved away, intending to locate the study where the documents were located. Instead, a voice stopped them short.

"You! Have you no shame, disgracing Britain by coming to a respectable gentleman's party?"

"Damnation, not him," Dorian grumbled as he and Klaus turned as one to find themselves face to face with...

"Charles Lawrence of the SIS," the agent said quite unnecessarily. "And you are--"

"An old friend of the host," Dorian cut in sharply. "Mr. Lawrence, allow me to introduce Ms Klaudia Persimmon." His voice dropped in pitch as he added pointedly, "Major von dem Eberbach's cousin."

Seeing Lawrence's face light up, Klaus decided that just beating the shit out of the Earl after the mission would be too lenient and started considering different forms of torture.

"Is the Major here?" Lawrence asked brightly, quickly searching the room.

"Good Lord, no," Dorian replied with the wave of a hand. "He only endures parties if they're part of a mission. I'm here strictly for pleasure."

"The consummate professional," Lawrence sighed, putting on the expression his audience knew only too well before he began waxing poetic. "We could all learn by his example, separating the gritty world of counter-espionage from the gaiety of high society."

Klaus rolled his eyes and groaned. It came out as a loud croak.

"Dear me! Are you alright?"

Dorian patted the hand that was still on his arm. "I'm afraid Klaudia is suffering from laryngitis. Her lovely voice has been transformed into, well...as you heard."

They were spared any further dreary conversation when one of Lawrence's fellow agents came to retrieve him. "You can play James Bond later," they heard the man saying as he dragged him away. Obviously, the SIS was keeping an eye on Fitzroy as well, and the Major wondered if they were also there for the documents.

"Thank God for small mercies," Dorian sighed, returning Klaus to reality. He turned, looking around the room. "Major, I'm going to make a quick search of the layout outside before we completely lose the light," he said quietly. "You saunter around and see if you can find the study. If anyone stops you, just make a motion like you're looking for the powder room. No one will bat an eye."

The disguised Klaus drew a deep breath, suddenly not wanting to be left on his own while dressed as a woman. He reached up as though to adjust his hair, pointing to the earpiece as he did so.

"Oh, Klaudia, you'll be just fine," Dorian said for the benefit of the small group brushing past them. "Why don't you mingle a bit?" He lowered his voice, adding, "Mr. A, still with us?"

"Loud and clear, Lord Gloria," came the reply in their ears.


# # #

Even Worse by Margaret Price

Four: Even Worse

Klaus had been surprised at how easily it was for him to move through the house without arousing attention. He would simply hover near a group a few minutes before moving on. He was able to slip into a long hallway and saunter along unhindered, looking in one room after another. In less than fifteen minutes, he had located the study and slipped in.

Klaus was also pleased to find that his voice was returning, finally, if only in low rumbles. "Found it."

"Good show," Dorian replied, glancing around to make certain he was not overheard. "Where, in relation to the room I left you in?" He listened, making note of the location in comparison to where he stood. "I'm in the garden on the other side of the house. A quick exit would be a problem over here but not on that side as far as I can see."

"Good." Finally, Klaus thought, something was going right.

"See if you can locate the safe while I finish this sweep."

The disguised Major had just finished making a search of the room, locating the safe in the process, when another of the party guests entered and started making ideal conversation. Klaus tried to remember all the Earl had told him about pretending to be a woman, as well as mimic the gestures he had seen women make in the past.

"You haven't touched your drink," the man who had asked to be called Archie said as he sat on the sofa, pulling the "woman" down beside him. He had an unusual mixture of accents that the Major could not quite place, his French, while flawless, wasn't quite right for Paris.

Klaus's eyes fell on his forgotten glass of tonic water now being offered to him. He took it, giving it a dubious look. It was, after all, only window dressing. Surely this idiot didn't expect him to drink it? When the "idiot" raised his own glass, the answer became apparent and the disguised Major grudgingly took a gulp from the glass. Then he coughed. It tasted even more horrible now that it had had the chance to warm up.

"Come on, drink up," Archie encouraged. "I'm sure it will be good for your throat."

Klaus took another gulp, hoping this would satisfy the moron as he went on with his inane small talk.

In his ear, Klaus suddenly heard the Earl's impatient voice snap, "For the love of Mike, Major, this isn't the time to be chatted up. Get rid of him!" The officer winced, wondering if the man beside him had heard it. He took another obligatory sip of the offending drink and tried to put the glass down, only to find it being pushed back up to his mouth.

"No, no, you should drink up," Archie insisted.

Why? Klaus wondered, giving the glass a closer look. Then he realized it was starting to blur. Fuck. I've been drugged. Have I been made? He tried to stand, only to be pulled down rather forcefully.

"What's your hurry?"

When this was repeated, Klaus decided that punching the bugger would probably be a bad idea. The last thing he needed was to get into a fist fight during a mission, especially since Eroica had yet to steal the documents. Instead, he resorted to an action he had seen countless women take over the years. He threw his drink in the man's face. This was diversion enough to allow him to finally get to his feet. Unfortunately, whatever had been put in the drink was already making him unsteady. He only managed a few steps before he was caught from behind.

"I said what's your hurry?" Archie growled more forcefully. "We haven't gotten to know one another."

When Klaus heard the fabric of the dress tear, he decided enough was enough and turned, bringing a knee up to connect with Archie's groin, which also put him even further off balance. The man gave an angry howl and lashed out, sending the disguised officer crashing to the floor. "Bitch!"

Dorian heard the Major give a loud grunt as he hit the floor, and the sound of furniture being pushed aside. "Bloody hell, Klaus!" he gasped has he started to run to the back entrance. "Is that brute actually trying to rape you?"

"Ja!" was all Klaus managed to say before Archie was on top of him. He fought back as best he could while fighting the drug at the same time. In his ear, he heard A ask, "Lord Gloria, should we move in?"

"Nein!" Klaus rumbled back, inwardly cursing the dress that was now hampering his movements.

Archie gave a laugh. "Everybody knows when a woman says no, she really means yes." There was further tearing of fabric, followed by the skirt being pulled up. Archie reached under and gave an astonished gasp when he made contact with the Major's crotch. "Fuck! You're a man!"

"No shit, Sherlock!" came the Earl's angry voice. No one fucks this man but me! He used the purse the Major had dropped on a table to punctuate his remark, bringing it down hard against the man's temple. To his astonishment, Archie gave a loud grunt and ended up sprawled on the floor, out cold.

"Good grief, what do you have in this thing?" Dorian opened the incredibly heavy purse to find a small automatic handgun inside. "I should've guessed. And I thought a woman's purse was dangerous." When the officer did not snap back at him, Dorian scowled, getting down beside him. "Major...? Major...?" He received an unfocused look. He slapped his cheek a few times, shaking him. "Klaus! Come on, Klaus, look at me!"

Klaus struggled to focus. "Drugged."

"I gathered as much."

"Lord Gloria..." came A's worried voice again.

"No need to storm the building, Mr. A--"

"No, sir," A broke in. "We think the couriers have arrived. Three men were just greeted on the front steps by Mr. Fitzroy."

"One of them fits the description we were given of the lead agent," Z's voice rejoined.

This was enough to help Klaus focus his thoughts. He pointed to where the safe was located. "Get stealing, Dieb..."

Dorian nodded. "Just you stay with me. We still have to get out of here."


Within a minute, Eroica had the safe open and was pulling out a stack of files. He set them on the desk and started removing the papers from the manila folders.

Klaus had been able to fight his way to a sitting position and was leaning against the sofa watching in some bewilderment. "Was machst du?"

Dorian frowned. The Major was starting to lose his English, which meant he was also losing the battle against the drug that the unconscious lout on the floor had given him. He considered switching to German, but decided if he stayed with English, it would force the Major to concentrate. "If I take the papers and not the folders," he explained, "they may not suspect anything's missing. Not everyone is as thorough as Iron Klaus. Chances are, they won't even open the folders."

Klaus gave an approving nod and struggled to focus as the Earl returned the folders to the safe. Then he scowled as the thief came over, sat down beside him, and started to pull up the skirt of the dress. "Was...?"

"Don't panic," Dorian said calmly. "There are hidden pockets in the petticoat. You'll be able to smuggle these out yourself." As he spoke, he quickly slipped the papers into the pockets. Then he leaned back, giving the Major a steady look.

Klaus waved a hand vaguely in the downed Archie's direction. "Tie..."

Dorian scowled. Tie? When the Major made a circling motion around a hand, the penny dropped. Yes, tie the bugger up.

Rather than waste time searching for something, Dorian went for the man's tie. "The uncouth clod's wearing a clip on tie," he snorted, throwing a quick glance over to Klaus, who rolled his eyes. He pulled off the man's belt and bound his hands together. Then he got to his feet and gave the downed man a swift kick in the stomach. "That is because my Major can't do it for himself, you pig!" He then kicked him in a more sensitive area for good measure, adding, "And that is because no bloody means no!" He turned, snatching up the purse containing the gun before helping the impressed Major to his feet. "Klaus, do you think you can make it to the side door?"

Klaus gave him an unfocused look. "Dunno." He indicated the torn dress. "How...?" He did not have to go on. The meaning clear.

"I don't know, either. I'm sure I'll think of something."


# # #

It had been a struggle, but the Earl managed to get them down the hall and back to the main room. The only problem was, Klaus was getting groggier--and heavier--by the second and Dorian feared he would pass out before he could get him got out of the house. Then he saw the man from SIS and had a very evil idea on how to cover the theft and allow them ample time to escape.

"Mr. Lawrence, just the man!" the Earl said in an overly placating tone. "I'm in rather desperate need of a Knight Errant just now."

"Are you making fun of...?" Lawrence's voice trailed off when he turned, seeing the disheveled Ms Persimmon being supported by Eroica. "Ms Persimmon! What's happened?"

"I just rescued her from a cad," Dorian said firmly. He nodded back down the hall. "Down there. He was attacking her and I managed to brain him before he could do anything...unseemly."

Lawrence moved to look down the hall, seeing the open door to the study.

"Do you think your lads could see the brute doesn't escape?" Dorian was saying from behind him. "I'm sure the Major would be ever so grateful to the SIS if they were the ones to turn the man over to the police."

The Earl didn't think it was possible, but Lawrence puffed up all the more. He motioned to one of his fellow SIS men, directing him to the study and ordering the man found within taken into custody.

Dorian beamed. "If I could possibly impose on you further," he said mildly. "Would you look after Klaudia for me? I need to get our coats and I don't want to leave her on her own."

"Say no more," Lawrence said, taking charge of the fast weakening "woman" being supported by the Earl.

Dorian looked up just in time to see Fitzroy the Sun King leading three men through the crowd. The couriers, no doubt. "I'm sure some fresh air will help clear Klaudia's head. If you could take her out the side entrance, just there..." He pointed to a side exit. "No need to embarrass the poor dear. You know how society people love gossip."

Klaus still had enough of his wits about him to look daggers at the Earl before he was being assisted to the side door. Lawrence was oblivious to this and was happily expounding about his adventures with Iron Klaus, his fellow comrade in arms. Klaus, in the meantime, was confirming his opinion of all Englishmen as moronic twits when another one came storming over to the Earl. The officer found himself grateful that they were both wired, as he was able to listen in on the exchange as he was removed from the house.

"What the devil is going on here?" Fitzroy demanded.

"You may well ask, Wally," Dorian shot back smoothly. "One of your guests just attacked Ms Persimmon."

"Attacked!" Fitzroy turned sharply just as Lawrence lead the visibly shaken "Klaudia" from the house. "Who? What? When? Where?"

The Earl gave a snort, waving a hand in the air. "You should've been a reporter," he said acidly. "Some lout named Archie drugged the poor woman--"

"Archie? The Canadian attaché?"

How the hell should I know? "Whoever he is, he tried to rape her in your study."

"My study?"

Dorian had to fight not to smile at the horrified reaction this induced. Wait ‘till you hear this next bit. "The SIS have been nice enough to take charge of him until the police arrive."


He's turning into a bloody parrot. "You might want to earn that ‘Right Honorable' title now," the Earl said sarcastically. A servant he had stopped earlier arrived with his coat and the Major's wrap at that moment. He thanked the man, turning back to the still thunderstruck Fitzroy. "I don't know what I'm going say to Klaudia. I brought her here so she could enjoy herself and forget the brute she'd finally sent packing, not to be mauled and have the Dior dress she just had fitted destroyed by a thug."

So saying, the Earl brushed past him, following after Klaus, whom he found not far from the door. He was sitting on a stone bench being supported by Lawrence, who was looking far more concerned than Dorian ever would've given him credit.

"Lord Gloria, I think Ms Persimmon should have medical attention," Lawrence said as the Earl put the wrap over the disguised Major's shoulders. "She's not making sense."

That's rich coming from you. Dorian simply nodded. The two men had to practically lift Klaus to his feet. He was only semi-conscious by this time and mumbling in German. Dorian caught only snatches, but for the most part, it was gibberish. "My car is just there," he said mildly. "I'll get her straight to hospital."

"Please, allow me..."

"Don't you think you should be here to meet the police? You don't want that criminal getting away, do you? What would the Major say?"

"Indeed." Lawrence straightened. "I mustn't shirk my duties. A man who would treat a woman in such a manner should be horsewhipped." So saying he strode off.

"Bloody twit," Dorian snorted. He looked around the grounds now shrouded in darkness. "Mr. A, where is everyone?" he said seriously. "The Major is practically out on his feet."

"We're just here, sir," Z's voice called as he appeared out of the dark only a few yards away. Several agents appeared with him and then assisted in getting their incapacitated superior to the safety of a waiting van. Within a few minutes, they were pulling away from the mansion.

Dorian looked over at the sleeping Major, who was being covered with a blanket by G. "How is he, G?"

The agent looked up and smiled. "Seems fine, Lord Gloria. Just out cold from the drug."

Dorian nodded and leaned back, closing his eyes, and heaving a sigh of relief.

Mission accomplished.

# # #

Afterward by Margaret Price

Five: Afterward

"Did the Major go out of his way to pick a room as far away from the lifts as possible?" Dorian grumbled as they entered the officer's hotel suite and base of operation.

Even with the combined efforts of the agents, it had been a difficult task to get the unconscious Major to his room in a dignified manner. The easiest way would have been for someone to carry him over their shoulder. But considering how he was dressed, it would not have been the most effective way to keep a low profile. In the end, Dorian put one Klaus's arm over his shoulder, and Z took the other, and between them, they were able to half-carry, half-drag the Major to his room.

Dorian stretched his sore shoulders once the officer was deposited on the bed. He turned to the perplexed agents and sighed. "Where are his pajamas?"

This was enough to return the others to reality. A looked up sharply, exchanging a startled look with B.

Dorian was already pulling Klaus to a sitting position. "A, B, help me get the Major out of this outfit." He looked up, ignoring the horrified expressions on the men's faces. "G, there's some cold cream in my make-up box. Would you--?" He broke off and waved a hand. "Never mind, just bring the whole thing. Then run some hot water so we can get this make-up off."

Z cleared his throat. "What shall I do, Lord Gloria?"

Dorian looked up. "After we've got this gown off, you can go through the petticoats. You're the one I was supposed to hand the papers off to, aren't you?"

Despite the fact that he knew this was where the documents were hidden, Z still felt his face flush at the thought of going through the skirt of a dress his commanding officer had worn. He quickly turned away, taking his time retrieving a pair of pajamas for the Major.

"Oh, and you can get Bonham down here, too. I think we shall need him."

Dorian did not elaborate further, having returned his attention to the unconscious Klaus. He had A and B support the officer in a sitting position while he removed the wig, jewelry and earpiece, all of which he handed to G as he went. Next he tackled the zipper, which was difficult to manage with the fabric torn along its seam in several places. Dorian finally gave up and simply finished the job by tearing the top of the dress open and pulling it down. It was quickly replaced by the pajama top.

Within a few difficult minutes, the gown itself was lying in a tattered heap on the floor.  Z was handed the petticoats with the hidden pockets and he quickly vanished into the next room. G disappeared into the bathroom and started running hot water into the basin. A and B exchanged glances and wondered what the Earl would be asking them to do next as the last of the disguise was removed. To their relief, the answer was simply for them to support the Major as his pajama pants were pulled up...over his under shorts.

Dorian did not even notice the men's ill ease until he had the Major's pants up. He sighed heavily but did not comment directly. "B, get the covers down, please." Looking up, he saw G in the bathroom doorway with a damp cloth and towel. He waved a hand towards his make-up box. "There's some acetone in there, too, G."

Bonham arrived after the Major was deposited under the blankets. Dorian was in the process of removing the make-up from his face while G worked on removing the nail polish from his hands.

"Strewth! What's ‘appened t' our Major?" Bonham gasped.

Dorian looked up and sighed, waving him in. "It's a long story."

Bonham looked at the pile of fabric that had once been an evening gown. "Mr. James'll not be pleased."

Dorian turned back to finish what he was doing, which was wiping the Major's face with a wet cloth to remove any remnants of make-up and cold cream. "Fortunately, that was a Christian Dior knock-off. And James will just bill NATO for it."

By this time, Bonham was standing at the foot of the bed. "Is'at why y'sent f'me, m'lord?"

"No." The Earl looked up. "I need your expertise in a...delicate matter."

# # #

It was very early morning when Klaus finally returned to his senses, his internal clock waking him despite the foreign chemicals still lingering in his system. He opened his eyes and groaned, a hand going to his head. When he turned, he saw Dorian curled up on the bed beside him. He gave him a small smile, and then frowned. This isn't right. What the hell's he doing here? And during a mission!

Klaus tried to sit up and groaned again, this time waking Dorian in the process. It wasn't until the Earl sat up that Klaus realized he had been sleeping on top of the blankets, having wrapped himself in another. He was also dressed in a pair of the Major's pajamas.

"Good morning," Dorian said guardedly. "How're you feeling?"

"I feel like hell." This time Klaus managed to sit up and swing his feet off the bed. "What the fuck happened? The last thing I remember was that idiot insisting I drink that...that..."

"Drugged drink."

Klaus turned sharply, which he regretted. "Was?" He put a hand to his head, but his memory was irritatingly blank. Then he struggled to his feet. "I need to take a piss."

"Are you steady enough?"

Several things flashed through Klaus's mind, some of which were of intimate encounters with the Earl while in the bathroom. "I think I can take a piss on my own," he said as he disappeared into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

Dorian took advantage of this to dash into the next room and wake the Alphabets, informing them that their commanding officer was finally awake. He left them amid a flurry of activity, returning to find Klaus had not reappeared. He sat down on the end of the bed and waited.

A few minutes later, an unsteady Klaus reemerged and returned to the bed, sitting down heavily beside the Earl.

Dorian observed his dejected manner and realization dawned. "Major, your mission was a success, not a failure," he said firmly. "Z delivered the documents last night, as planned."

Klaus looked up, his eyes wide. Before he could say a word, the Earl was telling him of the attack by the man who had drugged him and exactly what had happened afterward.

"Canadian?" the Major said quietly. Probably French Canadian. That explains the accent.

"Bonham contacted a very discreet doctor who came and drew some blood," Dorian was saying. "Then Mr. Z took him to NATO's Paris office to have it analyzed. You don't have to worry about failing any drug tests."

Before Klaus could think of a suitable response, there was a soft knock at the door followed by A's voice. "Sirs?"

Dorian shot the Major a sideways glance before calling back, "Come in, A."

The agent hesitantly peeked around the door, relief washing visibly over him when he saw the pair sitting at the end of the bed...fully clothed. "Erm...Major? Z's returned. He said the Summit is going on as planned." He paused. "Shall I call room service for some breakfast for you, sir?"

"No. Have everyone get ready to return to Bonn."

"Major, you're not going anywhere without eating something," Dorian broke in forcefully.

"We'll leave after breakfast," Klaus shot back. He got unsteadily to his feet again, waving a hand towards the door. "Now get out of here so I can get dressed without you leering at my ass."

"I don't leer, I ogle," Dorian corrected as he rose to his feet. "And you happen to have a very nice ass."

Klaus found he did not have the energy to argue. "Whatever. Just be sure you have those pajamas cleaned properly before you return them."

"Who said anything about returning them?" Dorian said with a grin, rubbing his hands over the material covering his chest. "They're very comfortable."

"Do not even think about doing indecent things in my pajamas!"

"I'd rather do indecent things out of your pajamas, Major," Dorian purred as he closed the door, hearing, "Pervert!" from the other side. He gave Agent A a brilliant smile. "He's back in full voice." So saying, he breezed from the room, heading back to his own suite to change.

A turned to look at B, who shrugged. Thank goodness it wasn't a long flight back to Bonn.

# # #

Payment by Margaret Price

Six: Payment

Klaus had been standing before the hotel room door, looking at the number for more than five minutes. He had a large case in his hand that contained NATO's payment to Eroica for services rendered. All he had to do was knock on the door, hand the case over, and leave.

So why couldn't he bring himself to knock on the door?

As it turned out, he did not need to. Just as he was bringing his hand up to knock for what seemed the hundredth time, the Earl stepped out of the lift at the far end of the hall.

"Major!" Dorian gasped. "Prompt as always."

Klaus did not reply. He stepped back, allowing the Earl to unlock the door before following him into the room. He looked around, his eyebrows going up. "You're alone?"

Dorian bristled, turning back to face him, his eyes blazing. "Meaning...?"

It was only then that Klaus realized how this statement must have sounded and he wanted to kick himself. He held up a hand. "I meant none of your men are with you."

Dorian crossed his arms. "Did you?" he said in an accusing tone.

Klaus put the case on a table and sighed heavily. "Dorian, I didn't come here to argue."

"No, you came to give the common thief his vulgar payment."

"No, I came to--" Klaus broke off as he turned around, seeing the injured expression Dorian was trying to mask with anger. "Oh, hell..." He crossed the distance between them, took Dorian's face in his hands, and kissed him passionately on the mouth. The Earl made several surprised noises that quickly turned to soft mews. When Klaus finally broke the kiss, he found the injured look and anger on the face cupped in his hands had been replaced with a dazzled expression.

"I'm sorry."

Dorian gave a squeak that was a combination of surprise and delight. He hugged Klaus, a purr rising in his throat as the officer's arms wrapped around him. "I'm sorry, too.'"

Klaus broke the embrace and stepped back. "Did you have my pajamas cleaned?"

Dorian could not help laughing at this. "Not yet. Sorry."

"Doesn't matter," Klaus said as he loosened his tie. "We won't be needing them."

# # #

Across town, in NATO headquarters, the Alphabets were in high speculation. The Director had ordered the Major to make the payment to Eroica in person.

"The Major didn't look happy about it, did he?" G was saying.

"He hasn't been happy since the mission ended," A sighed. "Even with that special thank you from the Parisian police for helping catch a serial rapist."

B leaned on his elbow. "I suppose if he hadn't been the one the man was trying to rape, it would be different."

"They're never getting back together, are they?" Agent L sighed. "It's never been this long. Not even at the start."

"Well, time to go home in a few minutes," someone said.

That was when the unmistakable sound of the Major's footsteps could be heard and everyone suddenly found something to do. The door opened and the officer stood on the threshold, surveying his scurrying subordinates. He gave a small snort and continued on to his office, the door closing behind him. A few minutes later, he could be heard humming to himself.

The whole Alphabet froze as one. Then they gave a silent cheer, and high-fives were exchanged. Finally! The Major and the Earl had reconciled. Things would be back to normal for a few months, at least. Tomorrow would be a good day!

A few minutes later, the Earl of Gloria appeared, smiling brightly at the assembled agents. "Hello, boys," he said sweetly. "Don't mind me, I'm just stalking the Major." He walked up to the officer's door, rapped his knuckles on it, and went in before he could answer.

Just as the Alphabet were filtering out, the Major pulled open the door to his office. "G, in here."

At any other time, the agent would have taken the command as tantamount to a death sentence, but since the Earl was present, it was more than likely that it was he who wished to speak to him. G jumped to his feet and then winced, his ankle still very sore. As quickly as he could, he crossed the room, vanishing into the office.

What followed was silence. The other Alphabets exchanged furtive looks and decided on a strategic withdrawal.

# # #

The following morning in the Intelligence office, the agents arrived to find an enormous vase of long stem roses in the center of G's desk that were obviously from Eroica. No one even needed to look at the card.

"G, have you started an affair with the Earl?" A asked in amazement. Christ, if the Major finds out!

G cleared his throat, clearly embarrassed. "No. They're a...a...thank you. I think..."

"For what?"

Again, G hesitated. "Erm...well, you see...he...well, they...erm..."

"Just spit it out!" the impatient R snapped.

"The Earl won the office pool," G blurted out.

This announcement was met with silence.

A was the first to recover his voice. "Say that again?"

"You heard me." G waved a hand in the direction of the Major's office, which, thankfully, was currently unoccupied. "It was a set up. The Major found out what we were doing. And...well, it was supposed to be fake, but they couldn't agree on how to do it. It got out of hand. Turned into the real thing. Then they...well... Then it... Oh, fuck." He dropped into his chair and buried his head in his arms.

"G was for Gloria?" R said in an astonished voice.

G nodded, not lifting his head from the desk.

"He's gonna send us to Alaska forever, now," B moaned.

"No, the Earl talked him out of that," G said as he sat up.

"Oh, good..."

"He convinced the Major he could punish us far more effectively if we stayed here."

"Oh, crap..."

Before anyone in the horrified group could think of any more colorful comments, the Major appeared in the doorway. He was calm, relaxed, and had a small smile on his face. Iron Klaus at his most terrifying. "Good morning."

The Alphabet replied out of sheer terror. "Morning, Major, sir!"

"I want everyone's reports on the mission in Paris on my desk by the end of the day," Klaus said as he crossed to his office. He glanced back over his shoulder, the icy smile still on his face, his eyes bright. "Any bets on whether or not you can fulfill that order?"

# # #

Start Again by Margaret Price

Seven: Start Again

Klaus lay looking up at the ceiling, one hand idly running through Dorian's soft blond curls. The Earl had his head on his bare chest and was gently stroking his skin, listening to the beating of his heart.



"Let's not fight anymore."

Dorian was surprised when the response to this was a chuckle. "What's so funny?"

"You might as well say we shouldn't breathe anymore."

"Klaus, I'm trying to be serious." Dorian sat up a bit to look him in the eye.

"I'm always serious," Klaus countered.

Dorian leaned over and kissed him. "I know, that's why I love you."

"It's why you hate me, too."

"Wha..." Dorian's mouth dropped open. "I do not hate you."

Again, Klaus chuckled. "Yes, you do." He shifted position, pushing Dorian back so their positions were reversed. "You said that's what makes the reconciliations more...passionate," he said, giving him a kiss as if to prove it.

"Well...I can't argue with that."

When Klaus started to nibble his neck, Dorian gave a contented moan. "Oh, just one thing..."

"What?" came the muffled reply.

"Your men... D'you really think they'll stop that silly office pool now?"

Klaus leaned back, looking him in the eye. "They'd better."

Dorian grinned devilishly. "Wanna bet on it?"

# # #

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