Disclaimer: "From Eroica with Love" and all related characters, etc. are property of their creator, Aoike Yasuko, as well as Princess Comics, CMX-DC Comics, etc.
"Ah, but who is it climbs to your picture
The chandeliers overhead were burning with light, filling the Vienna State Opera House with a thick golden glow. Mirrors lined the expansive ballroom, reflecting the dancers in their great, elaborate gowns, or elegant tuxedoes. All were blazing there, reflected and reflected until, where once there were a hundred beautiful dancers swirling across the ballroom floor, there appeared to be an endless sea of thousands. The jewellery and diamonds caught the lights from both chandeliers and mirrors and shone as though lit by an inner fire, so that the gems and the jewels were blazing like a sea of brilliant stars, all rising and falling and moving on the waves of the orchestra.
The History, the vainglorious grandeur of the rich costumes, sparkling champagne and marvellous laughter, all came together to create a remarkable effect. At the Viennese opera, one felt as though he had become a part of a painting, a part of some ancient and exquisite work of art. And, of course, since it was Vienna, all of this was wrapped and drowned in the most beautiful music in all the world.
Austria was, quite possibly, the only place in the world to experience this, the pure and absolute decent into romanticism. It was a journey through time, with the ladies all decorated in diamond tiaras, and the dashing gentlemen all elegant and graceful. Dorian Red Gloria, the Earl of Gloria, revelled in this beauty. He felt the romance—so intoxicating all around him—what better place could there be to celebrate his full recovery and return to the criminal underworld as the Prince of Thieves, Eroica?
All around him, the world was ceasing to be the world, and becoming pure fantasy. And somewhere in this sea of sparkling fantasy was his beloved Major…and in this magical setting…once, perhaps just once he would be awarded some of the kindness he had sought from Iron Klaus for so many years…
Dorian sighed quietly. It was not a sad sound, more the quiet reflection of complete contentment. After so much time spent in the Major’s world of espionage and danger—the bruise on his cheek a glaring reminder of just how real that danger was—it was nice to be in his element once more. For, as much as playing the frivolous but unrivalled master art thief Eroica was his greatest pleasure, the lustre and glory of the Viennese ball was perhaps even more a reflection of who the Earl of Gloria truly was. It was the ultimate theatre, stage—work of art.
He smiled and, with long slender fingers plucked one of the thousands of flowers that spilled in cascading tangles of petals and vines from the opera boxes. For a moment, he twirled the green stem between his index finger and his thumb for a moment, before tucking it behind his ear. It should have seemed out-of-place, except that nothing was out-of-place on Dorian. The most garish costume became elegance on his toweringly tall, yet effortlessly graceful figure, and the warmth of the smile on his beautiful face could have disarm the iciest and most disagreeable critic.
Well, perhaps not the most. His love for the Iron Major was still unrequited, even after saving the man’s life and taking a nasty beating to steal the microfilm for NATO!
But then, the Earl sighed, this was not a night for lovelorn depression.
His thick long blonde hair was wound up on top of his head, a few artistically placed stray curls coming down before his pale face. The make-up hadn’t been quite enough to cover the bruise, but at least he had painted his lips a colour that suited him nicely—a deeply sensual rose-red. His long dark dress fell to the ground in thick folds, tied with a bow at the back, its high laced collar a little uncomfortable, but he hoped it would be worth it. If only he could find the Major in this thick sea of dancers…
As he walked, the eyes of the highest members of society turned to gaze upon him in admiration and longing. The slightest of smirks that played along the corners of his lips as he passed one such a group proved that he was well aware of the fact. His hips swayed just the slightest bit, and he smiled generously, but he did not look at any of them. He did not want any of them.
And of course, that was the moment when his eyes fell upon the very man that he did want. There was no mistaking the straight, rigid military stance, the broad shoulders, slender physique, and long black hair shining in the candlelight. When the officer turned, Dorian noticed the perpetual scowl was engraved, as always, on the otherwise flawlessly handsome face.
Their eyes met, and the Major appeared more shocked than disgusted at seeing him there, and in such a disguise.
Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach, the man Dorian had pursued for years, the only man to ever resist him, oddly the only one who seemed to matter. Sometimes it seemed to Dorian that he danced an eternal waltz with the major, a waltz that took them spinning across continents and battlefields, spinning faster and faster, yet never growing any closer...
"Eroica," the major growled in his usual dark tone, quick to recover from his initial surprise.
Dorian laughed merrily. "No, not to-night my dear Major.” He gestured to the elaborate ball gown with one immaculately manicured hand. “Well? What do you think? I’d look like a lady, were it not or the bruise, wouldn’t I?"
The Intelligence Officer's eyes narrowed coldly. "What are you doing here? Thief."
"Please, Darling, not so loud, I do try to keep it a bit of a secret! And besides, you weren’t complaining about my thieving skills earlier when I recovered that microfilm."
"I see you are utterly incapable of dressing properly, even here!" the Major snapped, immediately changing the subject.
The Earl shrugged, but it was a graceful roll of his shoulders. “I like to make an appearance. You should know that as well as anyone."
"Well, what the hell is that?" the Major choked angrily, very decidedly looking away, but only after his hard military-green eyes had thoroughly raked over Dorian's trim figure.
The Earl smiled wickedly, shivering with anticipation for things he knew would never come. Nevertheless, he allowed the triumphant smirk to play across his lips because he could not have helped and…he could pretend.
Pretend that the eternal waltz with his beloved Major was at long last over, and that he had won.
“I wanted to be with you in a Viennese setting. You should have warned your subordinates not to reveal your destination,” he teased.
“Those damn idiots!” the officer scowled.
Dorian leaned forward, imposing himself on the Major as only a man with a death-wish would dare to do. He pressed his hands onto the Major's folded arms. He could feel the hard muscles through the jacket and shivered in pleasure. “The music’s starting, Major. Won’t you dance with me this once?”
The Major scowled darkly. “I thought I could have a higher opinion of you, after you stole that microfilm, but now I see you’re still just an outrageous fool.”
“All I’m asking for is one dance.”
Dorian could be so bold. Partly because with all of the wealthy, dignified aristocrats around he was hoping that the Major would not want to cause a scene by breaking his jaw—he hoped. Klaus gave him a look that said all too clearly he would have loved to do just that. Breaking roughly away from Dorian, the officer straightened his jacket and levelled the thief with a glare.
“You oughtn’t humiliate a lady, sir,” Dorian teased.
The Major's scowl deepened, and his eyes turned to ice. "Fuck off."
Dorian gasped and drew a lace handkerchief up to his face. “Oh my! What a horrible thing to say to a lady, Major!” The Earl feigned hurt beautifully. “Surely you can at least spare one pitiful dance!”
Klaus acknowledged this performance with nothing more than a threatening growl.
Dorian pouted. "Come on, Major, it is 'alles walzer,' after all! Everyone must dance."
The Major snarled. "Not me."
"Come now, Major. Just one dance, that's all I'm asking,” Dorian held out one hand, suddenly realizing that this had somehow gotten beyond a mere joke without his meaning it to. That he actually cared what Klaus did. That he really wanted them to have this dance—this waltz. As though it marked the culmination of everything they had been through, done, seen together.
His hand remained suspended in the air. The Major was just staring at it, as though it were some strange threatening animal or weapon he had never seen before and didn't know what to do with.
Dorian barely dared to breathe, so his words came out in a whisper: "just once."
Just once, for all time. Even if you deny this moment tomorrow. Even if we never see one another again. Just once, in this magical city, let us…
The dazed expression hardened. The emerald eyes turned back into stone. "You disgust me." The Major turned on his heel and left, long strides carrying him effectively into the depths of the crowded ballroom, the swirling and twirling dancers quickly swallowing him out of Dorian's vision.
Dorian's hand remained suspended in the air a moment longer, as though he had forgotten how to lower it, how to move. For the first time in his life, he felt the burning sting of tears biting at the backs of his eyes and a faint coldness running through his body. For a second, his whole figure trembled, and then he curled the extended hand into a fist.
Shaking with rage and pain, he stormed from the Opera Hall, tearing the flower from his hair and hurling it to the ballroom floor. He ripped his hair out of its bun and let it cascade in a violent chaotic explosion down his back and shoulders. He tossed the handkerchief to the corner of the entrance hall in a fit as he burst through the heavy oak doors, ignoring the concerned and alarmed exclamations of the liveried footmen and the other attendants, his heart was pounding in his skull much too loudly for him to hear anything else.
Outside, the cold air wrapped around him, momentarily stunning, but it brought relief as it blotted out everything else. The chill of the outside air, and Dorian had left the warmth and light of the Opera Hall for the blackness of night, for the small drops of rain falling slowly down from the darkened heavens.
It was a light shower, the water droplets touched his golden curls and pricked his bare hands and face. He ignored it, shaking his mane free so that it tumbled wild and chaotic over his shoulders. Shivering, he knuckled the annoying, infuriating, uncalled for tears from his blue eyes.
After a moment of deep breathes, he gathered the strength to look up into the cold and indifferent rain, watching as it descended in heavy jewels to the ground in a never-ending stream, like an eternal stream of tears.
"Idiot," a voice said gruffly by his ear.
He jumped at the sudden sound, and felt the coldness rush over his body, everything he had been too upset to feel earlier struck him, knocking the air out of his lungs and causing his arms to shake. He could barely manage an indignant glare at the Major. The man who, for whatever his own mysterious reasons were, was standing with him now, smoking and watching the rain fall, his long grey jacket slung over his arm. It looked as though he was ready to leave.
"What do you want?" Dorian asked sharply, wanting, for the moment, to be left alone with his pain. "Oh, I suppose if you're actually talking to me there must be something important going on. Don't tell me you're on another mission already, because I happen to be very—preoccupied—at the moment!"
"With what? Catching pneumonia?" the Major asked dryly, flicking his cigarette into the dirty puddles of rainwater collecting along the stone steps of the Opera House.
"I've never heard of a snake catching a cold, Major." he replied curtly.
Whether the Major even remembered the incident in Rome years ago and realized that he was getting his words thrown back at him, Dorian couldn't tell. Klaus' face was strangely blank and tight. "Lord Gloria..."
Dorian laughed sharply. "Yes, Herr Eberbach?"
Klaus cast him a wary sidelong glance as though he couldn't quite believe the sudden change in Eroica's character. He pulled a battered package of cigarettes out of the jacket he had slung over his arm, and tossed the jacket at Dorian.
His numb fingers almost couldn't hold onto the thick material, and he was left staring at the Major with a confused and blank expression.
The German had no expression whatsoever, he merely lit another cigarette and looked back at the falling rain. "I suppose you should be thankful," he said at length. "We're not even stranded in the North Sea this time." That said, he crushed his cigarette into the snow beneath his heel and turned.
Dorian grabbed his arm, tightly. "Major, I think I deserve at least a chance."
"What are you on about? Put that jacket on!—Let go of my arm!—And go back to wherever it is you are staying!"
"Always giving orders, aren't you, my Major?" Dorian smirked. "Well, now I want to give one—dance with me, Major. That's all I ask."
"You're out of your mind."
"That's irrelevant," he replied quickly, sliding the jacket on because it was quite cold and the material was warm and smelt like Klaus. "Come on, even after all I did for you earlier, you still ruined my evening!"
Again, the Major seemed genuinely at a loss. He stared at Dorian, still half in the motion of turning to walk away. Suddenly he slipped his arm around the Earl's slender waist, pulling him into a fast movement across the threshold of the hall. They could hear the orchestra through the heavy wooden doors, and Klaus pulled him along so roughly, Dorian had to clutch to him to avoid slipping on the rain-soaked ground. But at the same time, he felt his heart pounding in his chest, warmth flooding his entire body once more with a burning fire.
They moved and spun, faster and faster, whirling all across the front entranceway. And, when they finally came to a halt, Dorian could not stop himself, to be this close to Klaus and not take the chance— He reached up and wound his hands around the Major's neck, capturing Klaus' mouth in his own. He felt Klaus tense but pressed on—desperately hoping for a reaction, any reaction, even if it was violent rejection. Anything.
But Klaus did not move. Did not break away. Nor did he encourage Dorian's actions. The Major remained as still and as cold as an iron statue.
Dorian finally slipped away, his heart crushing him under its weight. He couldn't meet Klaus' gaze. "That bad, huh?"
Silently, the Major turned and left.
It was a long time later that Dorian lifted his face to look up at the tears of rain that were still spilling from the heavens. The doors to the hall were opening, and the glowing, laughing pairs of lovers were running out into the street, kissing and hugging. The rain brushed his face and he didn't feel like crying, or shouting, or anything at all. Dorian felt numb. He looked up at the lights of the Opera House, the flickering silvery droplets of rain, and the laughing couples.
"He'll regret it."