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Story Notes:

I was first acquainted to the series through the CMX From Eroica With Love translations, then picked up the Japanese version and picked my way through, so I'm unfamiliar with a lot of the fandom preferences and shorthand.

Speech that appears in between >these marks< indicates the characters are speaking a language with significance in the story.

Author's Chapter Notes:
A bit of backstory to get things started.  Original character, though I promise she doesn't really come back.

It was a quiet night, and all the staff had been excused. He had taken a cold meal by himself and retired to his study, as he did every night, to study languages. The study of language was how he passed time in the evenings when he wasn't filing paperwork or on a mission, and it was one of the very few hobbies he had, a rare pleasurable time in his day. He sat at his desk and pulled a book open to a page on Tamil and a further look at silent consonants.


He realized he was planning to pass the next three hours, until he retired to sleep, studying. It occurred to him that this was normal. He sat back in his chair, lit a cigarette, and pondered recent events.


He had just come back from an extremely important undercover mission in Brattislava. He had only taken three members of his team with him, and it was necessary to maintain radio silence with NATO for the two weeks it took to complete the mission. However, two days in, his father had died. The funeral had taken place while he was away and completely unaware. He had gone to NATO in order to file the report straight from the airport upon returning, where the Chief had called him in to break the news in as straightforward a manner as possible.


While merely talking to his father had given him ulcers, the death left him bereft, and he felt like he had failed his father on a more profound level than what the man usually groused about by not being able to attend the funeral, or even knowing about his death until two weeks after it had happened. Such was the way of things for a NATO spymaster, but it was something the Major hadn't really given much thought to. What could happen while he was away?


For that matter, how did the death change his life? Not at all. Lawyers would take care of his father's affairs in Lucerne. The castle in Bonn now legally belonged to him. For the time being, the staff had taken time off in order to grieve. They had all been fond of the old man who, for all his hardness when dealing with his son, had always been kind to the staff. It was something that the Major never quite mastered himself.


So that left him with a ridiculously large, empty castle where he could study foreign languages all night, then sleep and return to work the same as he did every day.


And honestly, aside from someone firebombing NATO headquarters or his castle, he couldn't think of anything else that could be anywhere near as significant as his father's death that could happen while he was away. The thought disturbed him a little.


Stubbing out his cigarette, the Major bent down and opened the lowest desk drawer, reaching in the back to remove a photo he hadn't thought to look at in years.


Leni. Helene.




Klaus had gone to a private all-boys boarding school while he was growing up, and even at a young age, got into fights with a lot of the boys and didn't have many friends. The only boys that would even speak to him that weren't looking for a fight were the other boys on the football team, and even they weren't inviting him to their birthday parties. So it was that every weekend Klaus found himself spending time alone, usually going for long-distance runs or studying outside in a large park that stood between his school and the all-girls sister school nearby.


As he stood on the steps of the school grounds relacing his shoes for a jog, he noticed a group of boys approaching a waiting group of girls under a tree.




He looked back down and concentrated on his shoes for a minute or two, and when he looked back as he was descending the staircase, he noticed the boys and girls leaving together in pairs. Klaus checked to see if any members of the football team were among the numbers to mentally prepare for a long-winded brag during the next practice, but then he noticed that one of the girls had been left beside the tree. As he looked from her to the boisterous group, Klaus noticed she had been the odd member out.


Something in Klaus had broken to see the girl's face as she stared after her friends, presumably completely forgotten. Thoughts warred, one that said that he was about to waste his time and one that had been bred into him from the day he was born to be a gentleman.


As he got closer, naturally following the path he took for his walks, he noticed that she had likely been left behind as the least attractive member of the group of girls. She was very tall and very heavyset, with a long face and athletic build. She had straight brown hair that was held back from her face with a plain black clip on the back of her head, and her round face was set with small green eyes, a small nose, and a large mouth with braces on her teeth.  She did not wear any makeup and had no piercings, and the only jewelry she wore was a small gold cross on a chain around her neck.  Her casual dress sense was a bit lacking, and she wore a red and black plaid skirt with black tights and a baggy red sweater.  Something told Klaus that she probably got left behind a lot. The sad look on her face didn't get any easier to take as he got closer, and he relented, convincing himself that perhaps breaking routine and wasting the afternoon might feel better later.


"Excuse me, miss, I'm sorry I'm late." huffed Klaus, faking fatigue as he jogged up to the girl. "I had completely forgot that... er, Eric had told me we were meeting with the girls today." He had almost stumbled at a suitable name to use for a friend, pulling a name at random from a boy who sat next to him in class.


The girl visibly brightened. "Oh! I didn't realize there was one more boy coming! I was about to go back home. I'm glad you caught me before I did!" She put her hand out, palm down. "My name is Helene."


Well, at least her manners were good. Not even the girls that came over with his father’s friends offered their hands as a greeting.  He took her hand and bowed slightly. "I'm Klaus."


Helene blushed slightly and looked quickly at the retreating group. "None of the other boys had introduced themselves like that, thank you for the formality. Would you like to catch up to the others, then?"


"Er. No, I don't think so. They left without us anyway, right? I don't really want to see them right now." Klaus hadn't spoken this many civil words to someone his age in months, and the effort was beginning to tax him. He thought quickly, looking for an activity that wouldn't require a lot of talking. "I don't remember what the plans for the afternoon were. But maybe you'd like to go to the cinema? It has been a long time since I've gone."


Klaus frowned as he looked over at the girl.  Truthfully, he had only been taken to the theater a handful of times by his butler on the man's day off. It wasn't something he particularly enjoyed, but he thought it might not require a lot of talking in case he couldn't tolerate an entire afternoon of the girl's prattle.


He felt a little better when he saw the broad smile the girl gave him. Perhaps it wouldn't be a wasted afternoon after all.




Helene had proven to be far from all the silly, empty-headed girls that he’d met before. After that first afternoon, when Helene had chosen a movie that Klaus had wound up enjoying, Klaus suggested they meet under the same tree a month later to see another picture. Slowly, a monthly arrangement had turned into a meeting every two weeks, then every week, then dinner with Klaus on Saturday evening and lunch in the park courtesy of Helene on Sundays. They visited each other on school holidays at their respective residences. Helene's father was a wealthy shipping magnate and the two of them visiting each other raised little comment with either of their families.


Helene was smart, and enjoyed talking about history, particularly ancient history and civilizations. She didn't let the conversation drift to the things Klaus noticed the boys at his school complaining about as typical female conversation, and in Helene, he found the only person he could really open up to and share all his complaints with. Helene listened, though Klaus always felt a little bad since she didn't seem to ever have as much to complain about as he did. She never really seemed to see his side of things, and to be fair, when he explained his fights to her, they always wound up sounding silly. He could tell she disapproved. For her, he tried to change, though it went more towards keeping to himself even further rather than trying to make friends with the other boys.


Klaus was absolutely head-over-heels in love with his beloved Leni. Being the same age and going to school so close together, they were a couple until both finished their education.


Except... well, Klaus was never very good at talking about his feelings for Helene with the girl herself. He had, in fact, never formally asked her to be his girlfriend, but assumed it was understood between the two of them, and was relieved when the girl began introducing Klaus as her beau. For his part, Klaus could never bring himself to do the same, finding that the words just wouldn't come out. He was just too embarrassed by his feelings, and hoped that when he left off the title, it was understood. The lack of acknowledgment never seemed to bother Helene, and it was clear enough to the boys at his school that he and Leni were together.


And because it embarrassed him, and because he wasn't sure if she'd like it, Klaus could never bring himself to so much as hold hands with Leni. He had always secretly hoped that she'd ask about it so that it could be out in the open, but she never did. At the time, he knew it wasn't proper for a girl to ask about something like that, and that he should take the initiative, but he had always been privately disappointed that Leni didn't like him enough to take his hand herself. That's all it would have taken to open the door up to... well, other things.


But they continued with their weekends together until it came time for University. Klaus had been very proud of Leni when she was accepted at the University of Vienna for their cultural studies program.  It was unusual, since most of the girls in her upper-class school were going to go on to be society women, and he was glad she had decided to further her education and try for a career.  It was something else to admire about her.  Klaus, of course, followed his father's footsteps into the service and to an officer's training school in Idar-Oberstein, where he'd bounce around the country to Dresden, back to Idar-Oberstein, and then finally to get a regular Bachelors and Masters degree at Universität der Bundeswehr München.


His heart had broken when they had to separate for so long.  He called Helene every Saturday afternoon and wrote to her two or three times a week, just as he did on holidays when the two weren't visiting one another, every break since they’d met. Going to the new school had been very hard for him, and it didn’t help when all the boys had turned out to be as short-tempered as he was. Only the thought of seeing Leni's disapproval had stopped his tongue before, and he tried to be good for her. Except she never answered any of his letters. And their calls kept getting shorter and shorter.




Of course, despite the fact that Klaus thought of little aside from Leni in his spare time, he had always wondered how... well, certain things would work. He was shy. Very shy. His mind stopped at thinking he ought to, one day, perhaps give Helene a chaste kiss. Being young, Klaus had assumed that they'd spend the rest of their lives together.  The absurdity of going from not holding hands to a marriage proposal hadn’t occurred to him at the time, and he had been planning on asking Leni to marry him when they both got out of university.


About three months before going to officer's training, Klaus experienced the only erotic dream he would ever have. It was he and Leni in the lunch room of his school, on top of one of the tables. He had woken up just as they finished, sitting bolt upright in bed, and such a strong feeling of revulsion had washed over him that he found himself in silent tears, from what emotion they came from he couldn't say. It was one of only two times he had wept as an adult.




Towards the end of Leni’s first year at university, she had told Klaus over the phone that she was having a study session on Saturdays and would no longer be able to speak to him.  Klaus hadn’t had the heart to ask when the study sessions would be over.  He knew they never really would be, for him.  The small hope that he’d been holding on to all year, the single thing that had been a bright spot for him during his miserable officer’s training, had just been lost.


A few weeks later, he had received a letter from Leni postmarked from Bonn.  It had been short.  It said simply that she had loved him, and she had always wished that he would love her back.  She was tired of being best friends.  She didn’t need a friend, she needed a boyfriend who wasn’t repulsed by the idea of putting his arm around her.


This had been the second time Klaus had wept.  He had thought about answering her letter, saying that he’d always loved her, that she hadn’t repulsed him, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it.  He knew it wouldn’t have made any difference.





In the present, the Major undid the latches on the back of the picture frame to re-read the yellowed letter.  He had kept it, along with a single photo of he and Leni at a party one of their families had thrown.  It bothered the Major he hadn’t been able to remember which one, but it didn’t matter too much.  They both looked their best in the photo, and it was one of the handful of times the Major had decided it was appropriate to put his arm around her waist.


He had tried to find Helene about ten years ago. She had dropped out of university to marry a man who had gone on to be an important research scientist. She was a stay-at-home mother with six children now. The Major had been extremely disillusioned by that. He wished he had been around to talk her into sticking to her studies, if not to be the very man she married. He never would have allowed her to become a hausfrau.


The memories were needling him.  Unnecessary, sentimental garbage.  He thought about throwing the whole frame, letter and picture together, out.  What did he need it for, anyway?  It served no practical purpose.


Except to depress him horribly, he supposed.  He tucked the letter back into the frame and righted the picture as he lit another cigarette and frowned.  Schiesse.




He had been unbearably lonely during the officer's training. He couldn't bring himself to not fight with his classmates, so making friends at school was out, and he had trouble keeping everything bottled in after how easy it had been to talk to Helene.  For several months, he still wrote her letters about his problems and simply didn’t mail them.  This stopped when a roommate had found the packet of letters among his things and questioned him about it.  He hadn’t owned up to what it was, aside from letters to his girlfriend.  He had taken a sound beating from nearly every boy in the dormitory over the contents, which had badmouthed pretty much everyone there, but he couldn’t imagine hearing the end of it if they knew the letters hadn’t been written to a “real” girlfriend.  It was pathetic, and he decided he would have to find someone else to talk to, another girlfriend, if he was going to keep himself sane and survive the army.  It was simply too lonely without friends, and he was tired of taking it out on and fighting with the other boys, especially since they fought dirty and ganged up.


The problem was that he wasn't sure how to go about finding another girlfriend. He tried going to clubs and bars during his off time, which seemed to be how everyone else went about doing it. Except he couldn't bring himself to speak to the women that went to these places, and it was intolerable to be "picked up" by a woman who would try in the first place. He usually stormed out after an hour or so, a few angry, tearful women in his wake.


He tried a different tactic. He began studying in libraries. Except... he wasn't sure how to go about speaking to people here, either. You couldn't just walk up and start a conversation. The few times he had tried, he had been pointed towards the topic he had asked about and not been given a second look. It was embarrassing, and he had stormed angrily out of the library a few times too, out of sheer embarrassment.


He began to think that there just wasn't another girl like Helene out there. After a year or two of being apart, he had gotten used to the loneliness and gotten somewhat angry about being dumped. This line of thinking had led him to realize that perhaps he was as good-looking as people told him and that the best revenge against Helene would be to try and pick up one of those intolerable bar girls who was at least pretty.


The problem was that they all looked alike to Klaus. He hadn't much thought about "pretty" girls during his adolescence since he'd had Leni. Now he found himself at a loss. What made one prettier than another? He assumed that there must be some sort of mental link. Does pretty mean that you would want to have sex with the girl? When he thought about it, Klaus didn't really want to have sex with any of the girls.


His mind began working over other possibilities. Maybe... maybe the problem was that he didn't want to have sex with girls, period. Secretly, he visited a bar for men one weekend when he'd taken an overnight trip to Frankfurt. This was even more infuriating, since the men were not acting in a way that men should act, and he left after rejecting one potential suitor. No, he definitely did not want to have sex with any of those men, either.


So it really was that he wasn't as shallow as the other men he knew and had to respect a girl in order to let them touch him. And maybe they needed to be a little bit better looking than Helene, though the thought had hurt Klaus at the time.


Well, he'd have to wait for another Leni to come along, then. It would have to happen eventually, maybe he just would have to be gentlemanly and open with women in social settings in order not to get off on the wrong foot.




And so he had gotten used to being lonely.  He hadn’t made a single friend at either officer’s training or at university, and it had hardened his temper and raised his opinion on what was possible, since he used his undirected anger at others and his abundant free time to excel in ways that none of his fellow officers could.  It had gained him several promotions and he was offered a position in the espionage unit at NATO, something that both he and his father could agree was a pretty high achievement at his age.


But once there, his temper and demeanor had held him back.  It wasn’t the army, and people at NATO didn’t want to deal with his temper or his unreasonable demands, despite the fact they were continually impressed with what he could achieve.  It made him a good officer, and he landed the position at the head of one of the espionage units fairly quickly, but it became clear to him that he wasn’t going to go anyplace else in the organization if he didn’t learn to play ball and get along with people. 


But years of not getting along meant he was out of the habit and viewed people with a certain bitterness.  Why couldn’t he demand what he himself could accomplish out of others?  It didn’t strike him as unreasonable.






The Major had allowed himself the uncharacteristic wool gathering session in response to his father's death. When it came time to finish his studies for the evening, he put his books away, put the photo back where he'd found it, finished his evening exercise routine, and went to bed at midnight on the dot, the same as he always did.


The next morning, he opened his eyes at precisely 06:30 to roll over, turn off his alarm... and notice that there was a large vase of Aloe on his night stand with a black armband and a single rose sitting in front of the vase. He swore and jumped out of bed to smash the vase.


And then didn't. He lit a cigarette and stared at them instead, sitting on the edge of the bed and puffing silently in his pajamas. The main problem was that they were from that infuriating thief.  Aside from that, the gift had saved him the trouble of getting the vase himself in order to look like he was going through the proper mourning steps. And the degenerate had taken the least embarrassing way he could to send his sympathy. The Major just wished he could do it without breaking into his house. But that was just his way, he supposed.


He winced as he thought of going through the awkward social steps when he got to work.  Everyone would try and tell him how sorry they were. He didn’t know what to say to that, and he couldn't very well yell at them to shut up. No, he was going to have to bear it.


Right before he left, as an afterthought, he grabbed the black armband and put it on. That had been kind of the thief, too.



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