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Dorian took a few tentative steps on the ice-skating rink, losing balance almost immediately and risking falling on the ice. With some difficult he managed to keep on his feet and held tightly on the metal bar at the edge of the rink. Once he’d got his balance back, he tried one more time to move, still clumsy and unsure on the ice skates.

He couldn’t skate. Well, he’d actually never tried to before, but what better occasion to learn than a lap on the ice-skating rink during a stay at a hotel on the Swiss Alps, where he, his team and NATO were on a mission?

It would have been the right moment… if it hadn’t been for someone who seemed determined to make his every effort vain…

Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach was there, too, that morning.
Dorian didn’t know the Major could skate, and least of all he had expected that, during a mission, he preferred to spend time doing that than, for example, polishing his weapons or doing exercises at the hotel gym.
He’d immediately asked him why. “It allows me to practice my balance,” the Major had answered in the usual annoyed voice he reserved especially for the Earl.

He was damn good on those skates, Dorian observed as he watched him racing over the ice. He moved fast and at the same time with unspeakable grace and precision, the muscles of his long legs tensed while he never did a fake move or an error; every part of his body moved in synchronism, as if he was dancing, and the whole scenario was making him, to Dorian’s eyes, more beautiful than ever.

Dorian was so caught up in watching the Major skating that he took a false step and lost his balance again. This time there were no metal bars on which to hold, so he gave a startled, little cry and waved his arms in the air, desperately trying not to fall. That would have been ridiculous and humiliating.

Suddenly the Major turned around and noticed him. Dorian felt a tingle down his spine and almost risked falling again. The Major raced towards the Earl and in a moment was next to him. He made a quick pirouette around him and came closer, a strange, small smile on his lips. He drew his face near Dorian’s.

“You look like an angel” he whispered, then pulled back, going to race through the rink again.

Dorian stood still, stunned. He didn’t feel his legs or the slippery ice under his skates anymore. By then he thought he would have never ever fallen again. He almost believed he could actually sprout wings and fly away. It felt like a dream. The Major had just made him a compliment! A wonderful compliment, indeed! He turned to the Major, a bright smile on his lips, hoping that he came closer again.

The Major noticed the effect his words had had on Dorian, and he quickly went back near the Earl.
He raced towards him again, as if he was about to attack him, an evil grin on his lips. He pirouetted dangerously next to him, determined to make him fall, then stopped a few feet away from him, sneering at the dreaming expression on Dorian’s face.

“You fop!” he said aloud. “I meant an angel for how you wave those skinny arms, as if you’re about to fly up!”

And, with that said, he went back skating. The smile vanished from Dorian’s lips as soon as it had appeared, and was replaced by a sad frown. A moment before he was in heaven, and a moment later he was crashing violently back on earth.
He couldn’t understand how the Major could, with a few words, both take him higher than the stars and sink him lower than the abysses.

He gave a disconsolate sigh, pulling a lock of hair out of his face, and then, still waving his arms like an angel and trying to keep on his feet, he went back to the edge of the rink.

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