AUTHOR'S NOTES: This was an answer to a request from one of my beta readers. I took elements from a couple other stories and works in process to come up with the correct scenario. The original request was actually so cliche, thatit inspiredthe Inside Out Cliche Series.


PRIDE GOETH BEFORE A FALL
By Margaret Price

CHAPTER 1

WELCOME HOME

For the first time that he could remember, Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach, formerly of NATO, was not looking forward to returning to Germany.

He thought it had been difficult to ask Dorian to stay with him when he thought he was dying. Well, he was dying. A seemingly miraculous intervention had prevented this inevitability. He and Dorian had been out of the country for several months while he was recuperating. Now there would be hundreds of questions—to which neither of them wanted to divulge the answers. They agreed upon a simple answer. An experimental treatment in the Middle East. End of story.

Upon returning to Bonn, they each went their separate ways; Dorian to contact England and take care of some unfinished business; Klaus to do the same, and see his doctor. They agreed to meet at the Schloss that evening, where there would no doubt be further questions.

Dorian arrived first and was met with one surprise after another. He would later wish he had insisted upon meeting Klaus in town so they could return together.

The first surprise was the fact that his key no longer worked. Someone had apparently changed the locks during their long absence. Dorian wondered if there had been a break-in while they were away. This was by no means a barrier to Eroica. He might have been out of circulation a while, but he hadn't forgotten how to pick a lock. He admitted himself to the house to find the second surprise. The Schloss was apparently empty, seemingly devoid of staff.

Dorian dropped his suitcases in the back hall and went on a quick search. He scowled as he looked into the dark and empty kitchen. It should have been alive with staff preparing the noon meal. He looked around in bewilderment. It wasn't as if he were expecting all the servants to be lined up to greet the Master upon his return, since he wasn't exactly the Master of the Schloss. But he had been practically running the place for the past three years while Klaus was ill.

He got to the study and stopped dead. All the artwork had been removed from the walls and were no doubt packed in the crates that were in the center of the room. What the hell has been going on while we were away?

"Well, the wandering Lord Gloria finally returns," a harsh voice said from behind him.

Dorian turned to see Klaus's cousin Frederik standing in the doorway. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" the Earl demanded, holding out a hand. "Klaus will go ballistic when he sees this."

Frederik gave a derisive snort as he entered the room. "You can drop the act, Lord Gloria," he said coldly. "You can't fool me. I know Klaus is dead."

Dorian felt his heart turn over. "What?" He had a brief moment of panic, thinking he meant something had happened since he and Klaus returned to Bonn that morning. Then he realized there was no way the amount of work to the room could have been done in that short a time.

"Where did you get that idea? Klaus isn't dead."

"I said drop the act, you lying faggot," Frederik snarled, slapping the Earl across the face. "You took him someplace to die, and you left him there. If you think I'm not going to the trouble of having him declared legally dead, you can think again. You're going to tell me where he is."

Dorian stood staring, not quite believing what he was hearing. "You think I…" He shook his head. "You're starkers, you know that?"

This was probably not the wisest thing to say. Something Dorian concluded when Frederik took him by the throat, pushing him back against the stacked crates. "You're choking me!"

"Where is he?"

"He's in Bonn!" Dorian cried, pulling vainly at the hands at his throat. His attacker gave a snarl upon hearing this, slamming his head back against the crates. When he did it a second time, Dorian blacked out.

He had no idea how long he was unconscious, probably only minutes, because he awoke to find himself in the kitchen being tied to a chair. His hands had been pulled around the chair back, tied together and then against the frame. Frederik was kneeling in front of him, tying his ankle to the chair leg. When he tried to move, he realized his other leg was already secured to the chair.

"What are you doing?" Dorian demanded, struggling against his bindings. "Let me go!"

Frederik rose to his feet. "As soon as you tell me where you left Klaus."

"I already told you. In Bonn."

Frederik gave an exaggerated sigh. "Have it your way."

Dorian twisted around as best he could to see what the man was doing. Suddenly a towel was pulled over his face and drawn up tightly behind his head. To his added horror, water was then poured over his face.

"I've heard a man can drown having this done," Frederik said coldly as he slowly poured water from a pitcher onto his struggling captive. After a minute, he stopped, allowing the Earl to try and catch his breath. Then he started again, pouring water, stopping, pouring water…

When the pitcher was empty, Frederik pulled the towel from Dorian's face, watching in silence as he gasped and choked as he tried to get his breath back.

"Now," Frederick said calmly. "Are you going to tell me where you buried my cousin?"

"I didn't!" Dorian protested.

"Okay."

"No!" Dorian cried as the towel was returned to his face and the procedure repeated. He was certain he would drown this time, and was on the point of passing out when the towel was removed again. Dammit, Klaus, come home now and kill this bastard!

Once he could speak, Dorian asked weakly, "Why do you…think Klaus is dead?"

"You waltz into the Schloss like you own the place and you have the gall to ask me that?"

Dorian could not quite believe what he was hearing. "Wait…you still think you're going to inherit everything?"

Frederik's eyes narrowed. "What are you talking about still? I am going to inherit everything."

Dorian shook his head. "Klaus changed his will. He's leaving everything to me."

"Liar!" Frederik snarled, slapping the Earl across the face.

"It's the truth. You pissed him off one time too many," Dorian spat back.

Frederik's eyes narrowed in response to this.

"It's in the study," Dorian went on. "You must've seen it. Or haven't you had the chance to ransack Klaus's desk yet?" He braced himself for the slap he knew this would provoke. He was not disappointed. He was also relieved with the lunatic stormed off to the study. Good, you go check on that. Read the whole thing through a dozen times until Klaus gets here.

Dorian struggled with his bindings while Frederik was gone and looked around, wondering if he could get one of the knives. Before he could do anything, his captor returned with the documents from Klaus's desk.

"He left you everything!" Frederik said in disbelief. "How did you manage it?"

"I didn't. I told you, you pissed him off one time too many."

"Bullshit! Everybody knows he hates your guts!"

Dorian gave him a cold and angry look. "Maybe he hates you more."

Frederik's eyes narrowed as he glanced down at the document in his hand. Then he looked up again. "Tell me. Did you make a new will, Lord Gloria?"