I often name stories after songs as music is a great inspiration for me. I have a very specific memory of this Buffalo Springfield song, which I will only allude to vaguely. It is a wonderfully gloomy song. Is this a gloomy story? Well I don't know, you'll just have to find out.
The Major sighed. He was sitting close to the back of the plane, but even the noise from the engines did little to drown out the stupid conversation that was going on in front of him.
"Those are so expensive too!" Eroica's annoying accountant exclaimed.
"Yes but they are by very exclusive designers. Look at how beautiful they are!" That was Agent G. Couldn't his agents choose more useful things to read than fashion magazines?
"Such a waste! You can get perfectly good clothes at charity shops. Not that I've needed new clothes in a long time."
"You should treat yourself to something new. How about something like this?"
The Major ripped open the plastic packet of earplugs a flight attendant had had the nerve to make him pay for. He rolled the cheap bits of foam between his fingers and shoved them as far into his ears as he could. Even so, a muffled squeaking could be heard.
Why had he agreed to this? It had made sense at the time. It was a complex mission and required a large number of personnel. And unfortunately, Eroica was a key member. The Major was glad nobody could see him smirking. Unfortunately indeed.
The transport had been arranged by the Earl's irritating accountant, and he had seen fit to put the lot of them on a budget passenger jet. The earplugs made it so he could not hear the dumb words coming out of his mouth, but he could still hear him buzzing like a gnat and see him waving his arms around for some reason.
The Major shifted around in his seat. Even with his exemplary posture he was unable to find a comfortable position. He could only dread to think what sort of transport awaited them at the other end. Donkey? Bicycle? The Major folded his arms and closed his eyes, and comforted himself with the thought that he would ensure the invoice for NATO's part of the transport costs would never make it to their accounting department.
The lights were dimmed and the sky outside was growing darker. The other passengers were becoming more subdued. Good. His men needed their rest, and so did he.
Klaus was becoming annoyed with himself. There had been several minutes of darkness and relative quiet, and he was still awake. He convinced himself it was the fault of the plane, and cursed it.
He allowed himself another minute of restlessness, then got up and made his way to the other end of the cabin to the toilets. On the way, he stole a glance at Dorian, who was sprawled across two seats. Then he caught himself and forced himself to continue on his way, in case someone noticed him pause.
Cramming himself inside the hilariously inadequately sized room, he splashed water on his face. It was lukewarm and barely enough to make a difference. It was not the first time that he had wondered what was wrong with him. It had been happening more and more lately. Before he exited, he took out a cigarette and put it in his mouth.
Klaus walked back through the cabin, and stopped where a certain curly haired thief was lounging. He coughed. Dorian did not respond. The Major kicked his foot which was hanging over into the aisle. "Stop pretending to sleep," he growled.
The Earl was smiling before he opened his eyes. He sat up and leaned towards the Major. "Oh but I must. How else would I know if someone was watching me?"
Klaus pushed him away so he could sit down next to him. "I need a light," he said, staring at the back of the seat in front.
"Major, you expect me to believe you do not have a lighter?" Dorian said, pulling a shiny red lighter out of the pocket of his overly tight trousers.
"I... must have misplaced it," Klaus said, turning his head to allow Dorian to light his cigarette.
The Earl smiled knowingly. He was resting his elbow on the armrest between them and had his chin on his hand. He was alarmingly close. Klaus tried to concentrate on smoking his cigarette, but it did little to calm his nerves.
"Do you want to talk about what I said to you in the hospital?" Dorian asked.
The Major clamped his lips tightly around the cigarette to stop himself dropping it. No. That was his first reaction. Not now. It is too soon. It may never stop being too soon. He took a long drag on his cigarette. "You are better," he said eventually.
"I am. I just have a small scar now." Dorian moved his hair to show him. "Do you remember what I said?"
"You said many things. We were waiting for a long time."
"You know what I mean."
Klaus did. He had been trying to repress the memory while they had been talking. The moment in question was just before Dorian was due to be taken to theatre. He could tell the thief was scared, even through the fuzz of the pain medication. He held Klaus's hand tightly under the thin duvet.
"Klaus, do you love me?"
Klaus couldn't bring himself to be angry. Worried blue eyes looked up at him, seeking some kind of comfort. This was worse. This was definitely worse than the Earl's proclamations of love.
Yes. Yes Dorian, I love you. Is that what he expected to hear? Then they would share an overly dramatic kiss like the ones Klaus did not understand were often included in otherwise sensible films. Ridiculous.
A knot twisted in his stomach and he couldn't bring himself to say anything.
He had spoken to the doctors when Dorian's operation had been completed, checked that he was going to be okay. He looked in on Dorian, and part of him wanted to go sit with him, but he knew he could not. He couldn't face another conversation, so he left.
Back on the plane, Dorian was looking at him again, twisting a piece of hair around his finger. Still waiting for an answer.
Klaus sighed. "Love is not for people like us," he said, almost choking on the word.
A small smile spread over Dorian's face. "You do remember," he said. "But why ever not? Love comes in many forms, and it is meant to be shared."
They stared at one another for a moment.
"This is the part where you are supposed to kiss me," Dorian said.
"Keep your voice down," Klaus hissed.
The Earl dropped his voice to a whisper and moved closer. "I have never been one to hide my emotions because of what others might think. But I understand that fear. Times are changing, and people are becoming more open minded. These days being gay is quite the thing to be."
"That isn't what I meant. I do not have time for such pointless things." The Major stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray on the back of the seat.
Dorian touched Klaus's arm. "I understand that we cannot be together all of the time. But that is okay. You will always be in my heart wherever in the world you are." He looked at Klaus for an uncomfortably long time. Eventually he turned to face the window. "I am tired. Good night."
Klaus looked at Dorian out of the corner of his eye. His mind raced, and he tried to distract himself by tracing the path of the Earl's curls. How did this man manage to manipulate him so easily? He hated that about him. But he had to admit that he had voluntarily sat with him. He had not exactly prompted the conversation, but he had allowed it to happen. What a fool he was.
The Major awoke. He did not remember falling asleep, but fatigue must have gotten the better of him. He felt hair on his face and rubbed his nose. Hair that was not his own. Dorian was leaning on his shoulder, asleep. His soft breathing and the warmth from the side of his body pressed up against his own was oddly pleasant. Klaus felt the old familiar combination of fear and guilt bubble up inside him. He did not understand why Dorian seemed to be free of such feelings. In his semi-awake state, Klaus could not help but feel a little envious. He rested his head against Dorian's and closed his eyes.
Klaus was only half awake as they disembarked the aeroplane and made their way through the endless corridors, up and down sets of steps, and down more airport corridors.
They ended up in a long queue in passport control. After checking that all of his men were accounted for, the Major found himself yawning.
Dorian appeared beside him, looking full of energy and wearing a sly smile as usual. He slipped an arm through one of Klaus's and held onto him. "We can pretend we are on holiday together. Visiting somewhere warm and beautiful, where we can be alone together."
The Major knew he was supposed to say something disapproving, or at least give him a very severe look. But he found himself laughing. "Ja," he said.
The Earl gave him an odd look. Surprise, mixed with something else. He let go of the Major.
A moment passed, and Klaus cleared his throat. "Dorian," he said, "I have been thinking. About everything you have said to me. And I have decided, I will not pretend any more. I won't deny it any more." He fumbled for his cigarettes for something to do with his hands. "You know what I mean."
"After all this time?" Dorian said, twisting a piece of hair around his finger and looking distant. "You have kept me waiting for so many years. Well perhaps I am not interested any more."
"You are joking?"
"It's true, I did have feelings for you at one point, Major. But you made it quite clear that you did not like me at all. And all unrequited feelings die eventually."
"But you always acted-"
"Major, it's always good fun to wind up someone as uptight as you. That's all. I never can resist."
The Major's mouth fell open and he just stared at the Earl, filled with shame and regret. He wanted to scream and shout at him, but somehow he was unable to say anything.
Klaus woke up with a jolt. The aeroplane was shaking with heavy turbulence, and the fasten seatbelts sign was making its tinny binging noise. He clipped on his seatbelt. Dorian was still asleep, leaning heavily on his shoulder. Klaus tried to shake him awake, but he was unresponsive. He wriggled his arm half way free and searched for the ends of Dorian's seatbelt, and succeeded to fasten it around him.
That woke the Earl up. "Major, what are you doing to me?" he said sleepily, laughing. "And in public too!" He settled back into his own seat and closed his eyes, oblivious of the turbulence.
Klaus sat straight in his seat and gripped the armrests. Just a dream, he told himself. But his heart was beating rapidly and he was ashamed of the feelings it stirred up in him. Dorian rejecting him was not a turn of events he had really considered. And it was difficult to even admit to himself, but it hurt.
He lit a cigarette and tried to concentrate on smoking it. It did little to distract him.
He wondered why he had chosen that particular scenario for a nightmare. Why not public humiliation? Ridicule by strangers, and loss of the respect of his peers? Those were the things that preyed on his mind and kept him on the straight and narrow. The things that also ensured he remained alone.
Voices were interrupting his train of thought. A passenger was being told she couldn't be served coffee while they went through the patch of turbulence. She and her female companion went on to tell the flight attendant about how they were going on holiday to mark their tenth anniversary, and how they hoped to be able to get married one day. The flight attendant was making a fuss over congratulating them.
Klaus glanced at Dorian. Maybe he was right in saying the world had changed. He shifted in his seat to put his head against Dorian's and took his hand. It felt like a defiant action, rebelling against his own stubborn nature. Dorian's fingers curled around his, and he opened his eyes.
"You do love me, don't you?" Dorian murmured. It was more of a statement than a question. Still, Klaus struggled to give any sort of response. Dorian eyed the cigarette that Klaus stubbed out in the ashtray and smiled. "That's okay. I know."