I should just shoot him right now, he thought for approximately the nine hundred fifty-seventh time since he had known the thief. No jury would ever convict me. But it would undoubtedly be a waste of good ammunition, and he couldn't begin to imagine what the Stingy Bug would charge him if he actually shot Eroica, especially if he did so on the expensive carpet in the fop's new house in the German countryside. He settled for more yelling, instead.
"What the hell were you thinking, you degenerate?" he roared. "You couldn't get to me with your disgusting flirting and innuendo, so you decided to go after my men instead? I have told you a thousand times to stay away from good German boys--especially Z--and yet you have the audacity to come after him right in the office!" He paused, obviously expecting some kind of response.
Dorian had looked a bit puzzled at first, but now his eyes hardened. "I don't know what you're talking about, Major, but I can assure that I haven't been anywhere near your men since my last mission--and I'm certainly not after any...consolation prize." He laughed humorlessly. "That's perfect, isn't it? The miserable, lovelorn faggot, unable to win the heart of his One True Love, seduces one of his love's men in order to feel close to him."
He chuckled again, bitterly. "I'm not some child, to sit around pining for you, Darling. Is that what you think I've been doing all this time?"
There was an awkward silence. Klaus, apparently at a loss for words, simply stared at him. Dorian sighed, irritated. "I'm sorry, Major--whatever's happened with Z, I'm sure you had it all worked out so that it was my fault. But this time, it isn't. Feel free to yell some more, though, if you like."
Klaus clenched his fists, holding his arms stiffly at his sides, willing himself not to hit the man. "Well, what the fuck am I supposed to think?" he said in a restrained, carefully measured tone. "You've certainly appeared interested in him before, and there's no telling what kind of perverted ideas..." He trailed off, the rage in his voice giving way to frustration. "Damn. If it wasn't you, then who the fuck was it?"
Dorian relaxed a bit, running a hand through his mass of curls. "Well, I certainly can't tell you if I don't know what's going on, can I? You just stormed in here and started raving at me; if I had some idea what you were talking about, I might be able to help."
The Major simply glared.
Dorian sighed again. "This is your cue to tell me what happened, Darling. You may as well; I can always get it out of the Alphabets later." He smiled slightly at the wonderful look of consternation on the Major's face. "Come on. Let's go and sit in the library and you can tell me all about it." He started off in that direction, knowing that Klaus would follow.
When they had settled themselves in the library's comfortable chairs, each with a drink in hand, Dorian looked expectantly at Klaus, waiting for him to begin. "All right, I'll tell you," he said, finally. "But no one must hear of this, Eroica--it could compromise a valuable agent. For all I know, this could be the work of a KGB mole, attempting to find a weak point in the organization. If you think you can find out who is responsible, do. Otherwise, never mention it again, to me or anyone else."
Eroica nodded in agreement.
"Very well," Klaus said. "It began a week ago today. I had just arrived at work--I always come early, but Z usually manages to get there ahead of me. When I walked into the office, the first thing I saw was a ridiculous bouquet of roses on his desk. God, there must have been two dozen...I assumed that he'd brought them for one of the secretaries, and I was going to lecture him about flirting with co-workers. But then he came rushing in from outside--he'd only just arrived. He hadn't brought the flowers at all; someone had left them for him."
Klaus had been utterly dumbfounded, but he hid it well. "Z! What the hell are these things doing here?" he barked.
"I...I don't know, sir," the younger agent replied, puzzled. "It is a week before Valentine's Day, but I have no idea who would send me...roses..."
Eroica. The thought occurred to both men simultaneously, and they dove for the card. Klaus was faster and snatched it easily, privately gleeful over his quicker reflexes. Unfortunately, he found the card less than enlightening: in lieu of a signature or a sappy declaration of love, it simply bore a large red heart. He scowled and tossed it on the desk. "That fucking thief must be behind this," he said. "Who else would be foolish enough to send flowers to a NATO agent?"
Z looked more confused than ever. "But sir...wouldn't Eroica have sent them to you?" He was immediately aware that that was one of the worst things he could possibly have said. But it was true, wasn't it? Z cringed inwardly, anticipating more shouting.
Klaus refrained from shouting at him, but his glare intensified. "Get rid of it," he said sharply, and turned on his heel to stomp over to his own desk, signifying that the discussion had come to a close.
Z picked up the roses thoughtfully, started to bring them up to his face...then he stopped, squared his shoulders, and dropped them unceremoniously into the trashcan. On second thought, he reached in and retrieved the card, quickly slipping it into an inside pocket.
The next morning, Z had arrived even earlier than usual. He felt that he had to make it to the office before the Major--if there was another gift waiting for him, he didn't want it thrown away before he could even see it. Tiredly, he brushed his shaggy blonde hair off his forehead.
Z had not had nearly enough sleep the night before. He had been up too late, examining the card, musing over this mysterious admirer that had suddenly emerged from the shadows. As before, the card had yielded no clues, but the agent had spent quite some time pondering it before tucking it away in the drawer of his nightstand.
Now, as he entered the office, he found himself scanning his desk from the doorway in anticipation of another surprise. The lack of any flowers or other token disappointed him more than he had expected. Well, at least the Major won't have quite so much to yell about this morning.
When he reached the desk, however, Z found a small, red book sitting directly in the center. He opened it--Shakespearean love sonnets. As he began to flip through, he noticed something odd on the title page, and paused. A note!
"Some say that Shakespeare wrote his most beautiful sonnets for a particularly lovely young man of his acquaintance," it read. "With that in mind, I thought that you might appreciate these." As before, there was no name; the note was signed with a heart similar to that which had decorated the card of the day before. The handwriting looked oddly familiar, but try as he might, Z couldn't place it. He supposed that, whoever this admirer was, she--or he--must have good reason to remain anonymous. Or perhaps it was simply meant to add to the romance of the situation. In any case, he intended to learn who this person was, and soon. The note might provide some sort of clue.
Z's train of thought was derailed as he heard loud footsteps, signaling the Major's arrival. He shoved the book into a drawer; he would investigate it later.
Klaus paused by the agent's desk. "No more anonymous gifts this morning?" he asked, sounding suspicious.
"No, sir," Z replied with disarming earnestness. "Whoever it was, they seem to have stopped with the roses. Thank goodness," he added quickly. "It was absurd to send roses to a NATO agent, of all people. I can't imagine what they were thinking."
The Major nodded and, noticing G's unprofessionally short skirt, moved on to lecture the pretty agent on proper office attire. Z relaxed slightly and started on the morning's paperwork, putting the note out of his mind until a more opportune time came along.
Z spent much of the weekend kicking himself for having requested those two days of vacation time. On one hand, he had plenty of time to examine the gifts left by his admirer and to draw what information he could from them--which wasn't much. On the other hand, should anything else appear on his desk during that time, the Major would undoubtedly be furious and would probably either yell at him for lying, or launch an investigation into the identity of this...whoever it was.
It was with eagerness mingled with trepidation that he returned to the office on Monday. Z had no idea what he would find; he only hoped that the Major hadn't found it first. His eyes lit up as he saw, sitting unobtrusively on his chair, a small, white envelope. He picked it up and began to open it, hoping that he would be able to read it before the Major interrupted him.
At that moment, the office door banged open and in strode the Major, bleary-eyed. He had worked through the night, finishing the paperwork on the latest mission, and had not yet had his usual Nescafé. "Z. You're here early-were you that eager to get back from your vacation?" His eyes narrowed as he spotted the envelope in his agent's hand. He frowned. "Something else from that 'admirer' of yours? You should let me look at that, Z. We don't know who this person is; it could be some sort of trap." Without further warning, he snatched the envelope and tore it open.
The Major's frown deepened as he read the letter. By the end, he was visibly fuming. "Er…Sir, may I read it?" Z asked pointedly.
"NO! I will not have an agent of mine reading this sort of degenerate filth!" The Major stuffed the letter into his pocket. "This person wants you to meet him--someone is obviously trying to draw you out, Z. They're trying to make you vulnerable, find something they can use against you and, by extension, NATO. Have there been any more...gifts that I am unaware of?"
Z sighed, knowing that if he lied, the Major would find out eventually and…well, who knew what he would do? "Only this," he said, and took the book of sonnets from the pocket of his overcoat. "There's a note on the title page, but it's not signed. I didn't recognize the handwriting."
Klaus took it, but after what he had read in the letter, decided to leave that note for later. "Whoever this is, try not to encourage them, Z. I will investigate this myself; you should not become any more involved than you already are."
"Has it occurred to you, sir, that I might actually have a real admirer?"
The Major snorted. "I suppose it is possible...but unlikely. Not in a NATO office." His voice took on a still more authoritative tone. "You will report any further correspondence to me. If this is an attempt to compromise you as an agent--and it very well may be--we must not let it go any further." He turned and marched off to the break room in search of coffee, leaving Z, disappointed, to face the mountain of unfinished reports that filled his inbox.
Dorian chose that moment to interrupt. "What was in the note, Major?"
Klaus sighed in annoyance. "Never mind that--it was disgusting! Nothing but depraved nonsense." He was clearly unwilling to pursue the topic any further. "After that note, Z received one more yesterday morning, which I also confiscated. I was unable to learn anything from them, except that whoever this man is--it is a man, by the way--he is determined to get Z into some kind of sexual situation, probably to use him against NATO in some way. On the other hand, it could be a prank...or a legitimate admirer, as he pointed out. We have no way of knowing who this is. There isn't so much as a fingerprint on any of it that isn't Z's or my own."
"I see," Dorian said. "You were exploring the possibilities, and you naturally thought of me immediately. Who else could it be but the usual suspect?" He smiled ruefully. "I'll help you, of course," he added quickly, as Klaus shot him a baleful glare. "And I won't even let Jamesie charge you for it. It is Valentine's Day, after all...what better time to go in search of a mysterious admirer?"
Klaus was unable to refrain from rolling his eyes in exasperation. "Let's go, then--back to the office. See what you can find out from the Alphabets. I think they know more about this than they're letting on, but they're all too nervous to tell me."
Two hours later, Klaus found himself rapidly losing what little faith he had in Eroica's investigative skills. He cursed under his breath. Why had he told the fop about any of it? Even if he had been able to help, he would most likely spread the story among his men, and everyone knew how good they were at keeping their mouths shut when they had something interesting to tell. Besides, he had no doubt that the reason Eroica had not yet reported back was that he had nothing to report. The Alphabets had probably been unable to tell him anything--it was the work of an enemy mole, just as Klaus had suspected. He stood, ready to find Eroica and have him escorted out, when the thief's voice suddenly rose above the office chatter. "Ma--MAJOR!!"
Instantly on alert, Klaus ran toward the sound, loosening his Magnum in its holster. It was a mole, he thought, and Eroica's stumbled onto something serious. Damn it, I hope I don't have to shoot anyone right here in the office... He rounded a corner and found the thief leaning heavily against the wall outside a broom closet. His hand covered his face, and his entire body was trembling. He shook Eroica roughly. "Pull yourself together, idiot! What the hell happened? Where's Z?" The blonde gave no answer but a few muffled noises, and gestured toward the closet's closed door.
Klaus drew his gun and stepped toward the door. He opened it abruptly, prepared for the worst. Unfortunately, his notion of "the worst" did not begin to encompass the scene that greeted him.
A much-bedraggled blond man staggered out into the hall. His shirt was untucked, his tie gone, his pants unzipped, and his hair quite thoroughly mussed. He caught himself on the opposite wall and looked up at Klaus, wild-eyed. Suspiciously swollen lips parted, and he began to speak. "M--major...sir...I can explain..." He attempted to button his shirt--a futile effort, as most of the buttons had gone missing.
The Major had turned quite pale, and seemed unable to say anything for a moment. He swallowed hard. It was Z, yes...but what on earth had they done to him? "Z," he said cautiously, "what the hell happened in there? Who's behind this?"
Z was spared the trouble of answering as a second figure stepped out of the closet, straightening his tie. Klaus stared, utterly dumbfounded for the second time since all this had begun. "B..."
The short, plump agent was somewhat rumpled himself, although not nearly as much so as Z. It looked as though someone had been playing with his curly, clown-like hair. He bestowed the three of them with an immensely satisfied leer and sauntered off down the hall without so much as a word of explanation to his commanding officer. Klaus slumped against the wall and slid down to sit on the floor. Carefully, Z took the Magnum from his hand and placed it far out of reach before slipping away to clean up.
Dorian sat down heavily beside Klaus. He was still shaking, but now the Major could see that it was with barely-repressed laughter. "I...I was so sure that it was G..."
Back at his desk, B gazed into a small mirror, fixing his hair and chuckling softly to himself. He had already worked his way through half the Alphabet, but Z had definitely been the most fun. He would love another shot at the "good German boy," if only he could get the Major out of the way...
He would speak with Eroica about that. Something could be arranged. And Z would agree readily, of course. No one could ever stay away from The B for long.