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Author's Chapter Notes:

A dose of angst; a dose of warm squishy. I've done my best to keep everyone IC, but this is two and a half years into this storyline, so their characters have grown in a slightly different direction than in the manga.

28 December 1988



Z couldn't help but wonder why he had had to fall for such a damned stubborn man. And why that stubbornness had to be a dominate family trait. Klaus had spent the majority of their drive home in pensive silence, only giving the briefest of remarks when directly spoken to. Once again, he had been left in the backseat, expected to fill the lengthy silences by making nice with the Graf von dem Eberbach. At least this time, his advances weren't all met with such a frosty reception. After all, he had done his best to play the part he had been given: he hadn't embarrassed the family name during the few days that they were gone. Even still, Z couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief when the estate came into view in the distance.

"Will you be staying longer, sir?" Z asked during a lull in the Graf's recounting of the past event's merits and faults.

Heinz gave a chuckle that held a slightly bitter note. "So eager to get rid of me?"

"Not at all, sir, quite the opposite." He caught the Major's eye in the rear view mirror. "Klaus and I still have a bit of vacation left before we have to report back. I was hoping that we might be able to spend some of it together. Just the three of us."

That remark won him a wide-eyed look from Klaus that clearly asked if he had taken leave of his senses. Heinz, too, seemed suspect of the suggestion. "To what end?"

"Because you and Klaus almost never see one another outside of those family gatherings." The blond shot his lover's reflection a smirk and pressed on. "I've enjoyed being able to speak with you this week, and it would be nice to have the opportunity to get to know each other better without all the gossiping ears listening in."

"What if I'm not interested in getting to know you any better?"

Klaus' grip in the steering wheel tightened, the leather of his gloves audibly creaking as he did so; however, he made no move to come to Z's defense or to defuse the situation. Grey-green eyes flicked between the road and his view of the backseat curiously. The blond had invited the comment, and Z needed to be able to get himself out of such situations on his own if he intended on making a habit of taking on his father in a verbal repartee.

Fortunately, as Heinz' question was more probing for a response than a pointed remark against him, Z took the jab in stride. "Of course, you don't have to be. We didn't exactly put you in a good position this week, and I truly am sorry for causing you stress during the holidays. That wasn't our intent."

The elder Eberbach snorted. "You'll make a good officer, all right. Not only do you kiss ass admirably, you suck up for your CO as well."

Choosing to take the bemused comment as a compliment, Z gave the Graf a thin smile. "Thank you, sir. But I did mean what I said about wishing to visit with you, if you have a bit of time to spare. Right Klaus?"

Z was going to suffer later for dragging him into this. "It's your home too, Father. You should spend some time at the schloss. It would be... nice."

"Now what sort of father would I be to turn down such an impassioned request from my son?" Heinz frowned and crossed his arms over his chest. At least Z had managed to sound genuine, which was more than he could say for his own son. "If you want me gone so that you can do unspeakably perverted things about the place in peace, I will be gone as quickly as possible."

"That's not what we want, Father. This idiot wants to try and make a good impression on you because he actually likes you. Not that you've given him any reason do." Klaus hunched his shoulders in a pout. This was exactly the reason he had not wanted to get pulled into this. "Go back to Switzerland if it's what you want. But don't try to make yourself into a martyr, saying that we wanted you gone and ran you off. It really would be good for us all to talk more before you left."

"I don't really see that there is much to talk about. If you've made your mind up, then I'm not going to be able to change it. You're far too stubborn for that." He ignored the small murmur or agreement from the blond beside him. "All I can do is hope that you come to your senses sooner rather than later."

Under his gloves, Klaus' knuckles had turned white from the fierce, wringing grip he had on the wheel. He had to clench his jaw lest any number of regretful statements come out of his mouth in reply. Likewise, Z remained silent, although his mouth opened and shut several times as he tried and failed to formulate a neutral response. In the end, he gave up on conversation entirely in favor of watching out the window as they sped faster than before up the winding road towards the front gates to the grounds.

Heinz had the grace to appear appropriately sheepish for his remark. Under different circumstances, he had no doubt that he would have liked the man a great deal. The young officer was humorous, attentive, and patient beyond words if he was capable of putting up with Klaus. Still, it was an inappropriate relationship, and he couldn't lose sight of that, no matter how much he wanted to like the lieutenant. And it was improper on more than just one level. Even though his son mistakenly felt like it was a good thing now, such a pairing would only cause Klaus hurt in the end.

And wasn't that a father's duty? To take care of his child when they made unwise decisions? Or at least to stand firm and not back down when they wanted something that was bad for them?

"When you were a child..." Heinz looked out his own window so that he wouldn't have to see either his son or his lover. "When you were a child, I tried my best to prepare myself for being a father. Every time I came back from a tour or was on leave from the base, I would spend the entire trip home thinking of things that a small boy might have done while his father was away. What sort of trouble you might have gotten into. And I would worry about what might be the proper discipline for a child so young."

Heinz didn't miss the small sigh from Klaus, nor did he miss the subtle but sharp jab Z gave the seat in front of him to quiet any remarks. "Because I ran such a tight military operation, I was worried that maybe I was going to be too rough on you. Too stern. That I would somehow stunt your creativity and childhood growth. But I was equally concerned that if I were too lenient, you would grow up to be a delinquent. A bully, rather than a man to be respected.

"As you grew older, I prepared myself for all manner of lectures I would have to give you. Eating all your greens, not to over-indulge in sweets, not using your strengths to hurt those less capable than yourself, the proper way for a man to treat a lady. I swear, I must have spent hours, years after year, fretting about what to say to you. And do you know, Klaus, I never once had to give you any of those lectures?"

"Liar!" Klaus slammed the car into park outside the looming, iron gates. "You did give me each of those lectures. And I've heard them so many damned times that I can recite them back to you, word for fucking word." Instead of rolling down the window and leaning out to reach the intercom button, Klaus unfastened his seatbelt, stepped out of the car, and slammed the door shut behind him.

"So much for supposedly wanting to spend time with me..."

Heinz didn't realize that he had spoken his thoughts aloud until Z touched his shoulder. "Klaus isn't any good at handling stress without a supply of nicotine. He hasn't had a smoke since we got in the car." Z pointed out the window to the sight of the Major lighting up.

"You're not going to shoot accusations at me as well?" If anyone had the right to, it was the lieutenant whom he had just slurred only minutes ago.

"No. I understand your concerns and reservation. You want him to be happy, but you also want the best for him." Z slouched in his seat, the smile on his face holding neither warmth nor amusement. "And I am far from being the best."

"Then why-"

"Because I love him." There really was no better explanation. Everything would have been much simpler for both of them if he didn't, but it wasn't something he could just stop either. "We're only human, sir. Klaus and I have jobs where we have to do terrible things sometimes to keep others safe. There's no guarantee how long either of us have, so I don't believe that there's time to worry about things like social rights and wrongs."

Heinz shook his head sadly. "There is so much more to this than what you think people will and won't find acceptable. And I'm sorry that you can't see that."

"I do understand; I simply don't agree." Z rubbed the back of his neck nervously. He didn't like the intense look and the suddenly undivided attention he was getting from Klaus' father. "It may be wrong as you and the Father say, but I believe that God has infinite love in his heart for all his children. He will forgive us for trying to find a little reprieve and solace in this life."

Z waited for any sort of acknowledgment, but when Heinz made no reply, he unbuckled his belt and opened the door to step out into the cold. Stealing Klaus' cigarette, he stated bluntly, "It's freezing out here."

"Then get back in the car." Klaus allowed Z to take another long pull off his cigarette before taking it back. "I just... needed a minute."

"You've had a minute. Now push the damned buzzer so that we can go home?" Z wrapped his arms around Klaus' waist, conveniently using his body as a windbreak.

Instead of doing as he was told, Klaus turned Z's chin up for a slow kiss. "I heard what you said in there. Do you really believe all that crap?"

Z nodded silently and took another kiss, using it as a cover to reach around to ring the intercom buzzer. "We're back," he replied when the guard on duty responded to the call. "Can you open the gate for us, please?"

"Yes sir, and welcome back."

Klaus gave Z's bottom a smack as the gates began to draw back. "Get in the car, lieutenant. We're going home."

"Yes sir!" Z gave a smart salute and all but fell into his seat next to Heinz. "Now, I believe that before the gate interrupted us, you were saying something about Klaus' youth?"

Heinz looked from one to the other in shock. They make a public spectacle of themselves and then just expect him to continue as if nothing had happened? "I don't recall any more what I had been saying."

"About father-son talks," Klaus supplied, not without a frown tugging his features down unpleasantly.

"Ah yes. When you accused me of lying before I could finish." Klaus neither denied his actions nor made any excuses for them. "I was going to say that I never had to give you any of the lectures and advice that I had worked up. I did anyway because I didn't know what to do with a son who was already so perfect. You ate all of your greens without my needing to scold you, even as a small boy. Never snacked or drank soda..."

Heinz' face took on a nostalgic look as he thought back on one memory in particular. "I remember one time when you were young, before you went boarding school. It was late. I only had a few hours before I had to leave. You'd been doing so well in your studies that I wanted to do something with you as a treat, so I asked you if you wanted to split a bowl of ice cream. Do you remember what you said to me?"

"I don't recall, no." Klaus had slowed his driving as they approached the house, hoping that the seemingly unending story would draw to a close before they got there.

"Even now, almost thirty years later, I'm sure I'll never forget. My little boy, not even old enough for Gymnasium, looked up at me and asked 'why?' You said that you had already had your 'necessary nutrient intake' for the day, so there was no reason to have more." Heinz gave a weak laugh. "You've always been that way, Klaus. Always. You've always done the right thing, and I've spent half my life wondering - what do I say to a son who has never once needed me?"

"Probably the same thing a son says when he feels that his father doesn't want him." Again, Klaus stopped the sedan and turned off the engine. "Absolutely nothing."

"Klaus. When did I ever give you the impression that I-"

Lifting his eyes to the rear view mirror once more, he shot the backseat a disapproving glance. "Could we continue this discussion inside where the staff isn't listening in?"

Heinz nodded. Dirty laundry wasn't meant to be aired around the help. "Yes, of course. I could use a good, stiff drink after the long drive." He looked up as on of the servants in question opened the car door for him. "Thank you. See that the car gets a wash and the tank is filled before being put back in the garage."

Several of the staff began collecting the luggage from the trunk while Dominic watched over their work. "Welcome home, sirs," he said with a warm smile for all three of them. He could tell the ride had not gone smoothly, but that was to be expected. Even Herr Z looked stressed under the smile he wore.

"Thank you, Dominic. The weather was a bit spotty on the way up, but the snow was quite beautiful when it finally stopped." It was a time-honored stall technique: when in doubt, speak of the weather. "And how was your visit with your family?"

"It was lovely, Herr Tset, thank you. My niece's daughter just had a baby last month, so there was a great deal of spoiling going on."

"That's great! Give them my best wishes next time, okay?"

"Of course, sir. Even still, it's nice to be home. Welcome back."

Heinz gapped at the sight of his butler so casually referring to "home" as including the young officer. "Dominic, we'll be taking drinks in the study. Could you see to the baggage, please?"

"Consider it done, sir."

"Thank you. Klaus, if you don't mind, I'd like to finish our conversation."




Heinz went immediately for the liquor cabinet. "Brandy fine by everyone?" he asked even though he didn't wait to a response before pouring. Behind his father's back, Klaus made a face at Z implying that they were both still in trouble. Heinz had reached for what passed as "the cheap stuff" in their household, which said that he didn't intend to savor it but rather to use it as a way to calm his nerves.

"Father, I believe that I was out of line when I said- When I spoke before." Apologizing had never been his forte, so he left it at that. Heinz, however, had no intention of making it easy on him. He remained silent as he handed Z and Klaus their drinks and waited expectantly.

"You've never given me reason to think that you don't love me. But that doesn't change the fact that I often felt like you didn't want me. Or that you would have been happier with someone else - anyone else - for a son." Klaus' voice was gruff as he spoke. Voicing his feelings was every bit as difficult as he had imagined it would be.

"Klaus Heinz! Now you listen to me." Both men gave the slightest of cringes at the use of his full name. "Are you listening to me?"

Only after Klaus nodded obediently did he continue. "I have never. Never. Wanted anyone else to replace you. As my heir, as my son, nothing. You are dedicated, strong-willed -"

"Sleeping with another man."


"It's true. You said that you love me, that nothing could replace that. I love Tset. I'm not going to hide him away. It was wrong of me to ask him to play the baggage boy in order to keep the family peace. He deserves better than that, especially from me."

Z had turned pale at Klaus' words, the hand holding his drink shaking slightly. He had waited more than two years to hear those words from Klaus, and he had finally come to terms with the fact that it was never going to happen. Of all the times and places for Klaus to...

"Tset? I'm truly sorry for that, and I will never try to pass you off as the help again."

"I didn't mind."

"Yes you did. You hated it, even if you didn't say anything."

"All right, I hated it. But I thought that we agreed-"

"I insisted; you consented. And that was wrong of me."

"If you were just going to say 'to hell with it all' and do whatever you pleased in the end-" Heinz knocked back his drink in a rush and moved back to the cabinet for another, "-then why make any pretense in the first place? Why not have made a spectacle of yourselves this year and been done with it?"

"Because I had hoped that if it were just you instead of some unseemly fiasco, then you could understand, maybe even come to terms with it."

"Be on your side when the others found out, you mean. To help smooth things over."

"I don't give a shit when Auntie Ursula thinks about my love life!" The hand that Z placed on his arm to calm him was ignored though not shrugged off. "I haven't cared for the last dozen years that they've been whispering behind my back about not having one. Now that I do, why should I give a fuck if they continue doing so?"

"Klaus." Z looked up him with an expression that clearly said he would have been happiest if the entire conversation were over. "We're supposed to be discussing this calmly."

"I am calm." His tone was harsh, his words almost snarled in anger, but it was true from a certain point of view. No one had been hit, nothing thrown, and not a single bullet had been put through an innocent piece of furniture. All in all, that was civil for Iron Klaus. "And don't give me that look." Klaus' features softened as he pulled Z against him. Being able to hold his lover seemed to leech the anger from his posture and voice.

"Father, I don't want to argue about it any more. I've made my choice. I'm not going to change my mind. I've agreed to be discrete at NATO because we work in the same office. Anything less would be unbecoming and inappropriate. I've agreed to begin researching adoption so that when I have the time and resources to raise a child, I can and not someone else. That's is what I'm willing to do. I'm not going to ask you to like it, or even to be happy for me. But I will ask you to please understand that this is what I choose for myself. For once in my life, I'm happy."

"In other words, to pretend to like it, even if I don't."

"To respect my choices as an adult. Is that so much to ask? This isn't a spur of the moment whim. I've thought about the consequences of my actions: I've weighed and considered and decided. If you make me choose... I know what my choice will be. Don't make me choose between you, Father."

"Are you- Are you threatening me?" The idea was so foreign to him that Heinz couldn't be sure that he had heard correctly.

Z jumped in before Klaus could make a heated reply. "No, he's not. Klaus, I know that I said you ought to be firm and tell your father what it is you want for yourself, but Christ, I didn't mean like this! Shouldn't I at least get some say in the matter before you go threatening to disown yourself over us?"

"I seem to recall that not too long ago, you didn't give me a say in your risking everything for there to be an 'us'." To more fully make his point, Klaus tapped Z on the forehead to remind him of the fading mark he still bore.

"This is where you were last year." Heinz didn't need to ask. It was all too clear now that Z was the 'work' assignment he had had to leave for. "You were with him."


"And the year before?"

"I was in the hospital. My family couldn't make it until later, so Klaus came by to see me instead." He looked up at Klaus with a smile. "I think that was the best Christmas I have ever had."

"What, better than the year we got to chase Russians around Spain?"

Z rolled his eyes. "Yes, I know it's hard to imagine anything being better than a holiday spent ankle-deep in muck during a sleet storm."

Again, Heinz found himself a little awed by how much could pass between the two men with just a few, seemingly inconsequential words. Reason, threats, bribes - all had failed to change his son's mind. And now he was the one facing an ultimatum: stand down or risk never hearing from Klaus again. Proud shoulders slumped in defeat. He was tired, and he didn't want to find himself growing older without both his wife and only child.

Klaus was his son, not theirs. To hell with the rest of them and what they might think. There wasn't a person in their family who didn't have at least one dirty secret of their own hidden away to be spoken of only behind their backs. So Klaus wanted to parade his in front of everyone instead. If a little understanding was what it took to keep his family from falling apart...

"All right."


"I said all right, dammit. I'll- I'll try."

Z's face was positively beaming as he hugged Klaus tighter about the waist. "Told you," he stated smugly.

"Yes, and now you'll be impossible to live with for it."

"Will he- Will you be staying here?" Heinz turned to address the blond directly.

"It's your home, sir. If you don't want me to, then I won't." Z gave the Major a sharp poke to say he wasn't going to take back his words.

"Everyone seems to like having you here..." He held out his hand to his son. "I do love you, Klaus. Even if you are a phenomenal idiot at times."

Z smiled at the use of the Major's favorite endearment. Klaus, too, couldn't help but grin guiltily. Releasing his hold on Z, he took a step towards his father to pull Heinz into a hug. "Thank you, Father."


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