Make That A Double
by Kadorienne and the Duchess
They dropped Klaus at a military museum where he would no doubt spend a happy and constructive day. After the way they'd seen him shrink visibly from the idea of spending hour upon hour in the company of two women and a fop, it seemed the most humane thing to do.
Gunilla von dem Eberbach and Dorian Red looked at each other uneasily, from opposite sides of the roomy backseat of the limousine that had been hired to transport them from Orly Airport to their destination of choice... the Rue Cambon apartment where Gunilla had struggled for so long to secretly maintain her beloved Gabrielle in the style to which she was accustomed, on an allowance from her father that could only be called pin money.
Gabrielle of course had no idea that certain jewels had been pawned to pay for her couture frocks and hothouse flowers; one of Klaus's first acts as Gunilla's betrothed had been to restore her family heirlooms, although she'd insisted on a full accounting of the sums he expended on her behalf, then and in future.
It was the first time the Earl and the Baronin had been alone together. It hadn't been planned this way Gunilla had planned to fly to Paris alone to see Gaby and bring her much-needed financial relief, but Dorian had bravely said it was probably a good idea for him to meet as soon as possible the young woman who would without question become a part of their unorthodox household. Klaus rounded out the party, to lend it respectability; there would be dark mutterings in certain circles if the newlyweds spent time apart before there was an heir on the way.
And so there they were, alone in a car; Klaus's wife, and his one true love. Fate had an odd sense of humour.
"I phoned Gaby and told her you were coming," said Gunilla at last. She'd already told him on the plane, during one of his brief wakeful periods; he'd spent most of the flight either catching up on his beauty rest or making pointed remarks about the disgusting Teutonic habit of early rising.
The Earl nodded, and, cravenly, said something about the weather. This was familiar ground for Gunilla, who replied authoritatively on the subject of cumulus clouds and what they might portend. Thank God it wasn't far.
Gunilla sent the car away they could walk to virtually anywhere they needed to go; Chanel was a few doors down, and all the delights of the Place Vendome could be easily reached via the Ritz Hotel and led the way to a pair of one-way glass doors set between dark marble pillars. She keyed in the security code and all at once they were out of the snowy street, into a tiny street-level Art Nouveau foyer.
She left Dorian there for a moment and went into the concierge's office, where a considerable sum of money changed hands. She preferred to take care of Gaby's expenses with cash; leaving a paper trail wouldn't do either of them any favours.
Then they went up two floors in the elevator, and Gaby, who'd been watching at her window, flew out of her front door and into Gunilla's arms. Her face disappeared into Gunilla's dark Burberry coat so fast Dorian didn't even get a proper look at it; he had only a brief impression of old-fashioned patrician loveliness and flame-red lips.
Dorian remembered once catching sight of Klaus's face in a mirror as they embraced after a considerable separation. He remembered the fierce possessiveness and the thrilling tingle that rushed down his spine as the Major's arms tightened around him... He saw the same look on Gunilla's face now, and privately envied Gaby.
Then Gaby stepped back, shook her head of short and pleasantly ruffled black curls, and smiled shyly up at her visitors, both taller than her by a head at least. She offered Dorian a lily-white hand, and Gunilla, still with a protective hand on her back, said, "Lord Gloria, may I present Mademoiselle Gabrielle Desjardins?"
Then Gaby stepped back and shook her head of short and pleasantly ruffled black curls, hugging herself with unconscious excitement. She smiled shyly up at her visitors, who were both taller than her by a head at least, and offered Dorian a lily-white hand. Gunilla, still with a protective hand on her back, said, "Lord Gloria, may I present Mademoiselle Gabrielle Desjardins?"
Dorian appraised the violet-coloured suit that followed her considerable curves with enviable precision, and the stiletto slingbacks made to match it from the very same silky fabric, and decided she must be a human being even if she had had the misfortune to be born female. He kissed her hand politely and they exchanged greetings, her French shy and breathy and his careful and self-assured. Then she sighed over the pattern of his scarf and, as Gunilla thought to herself, it was all over bar the shouting.
When he saw her apartment it was Dorian's turn to sigh and move like a butterfly from object to object, the way he couldn't help when he was in the presence of so much beauty. "Weisweiller Boulle Caffieri..." he cooed, accurately.
Gaby, blushing, matched his every step with one of her own. "Gunilla knows I like to have lovely things around me..." she murmured. "All the best pieces belong to her family and I'm always so afraid we shall get into trouble for borrowing them..."
"There's so much in storage no one'll ever notice, Gaby, you know that," said Gunilla reassuringly. She was the only one of the present company capable of remembering to shut the door, and she did so.
"A Gleyre!" Dorian breathed, stopping in front of a canvas. From habit he started mentally listing points of entry and gauging the fastenings that secured the work, before realizing that it would be rather ill-bred to rob one's husband's wife's wife.
"Oh, I know! It was my twenty-first birthday present." With that, Gaby barreled right into Gunilla again for another enormous hug, in memory of that most memorable of days. But she knew she wouldn't get away with kissing her in the presence of a third party, so she didn't even try.
"Why don't you go and open the box that arrived this morning addressed to me?" suggested Gunilla, poker-faced.
This sent Gaby into another flutter, this time over to the box on the coffee-table... she tore it open with the abandon of a little girl on Christmas morning, then fainted dead away.
Gunilla had expected something of the kind and was just in time to ease her unconscious beloved onto a chaise-lounge. "Mental note," she said to Dorian. "Warn Gaby prior to future purchases of sables."
With that, Dorian's remaining reservations about the sudden invasion of females into his life dissolved. He returned her grin. "How can I obligate you to give my husband a few lessons in choosing gifts? You're so much like him, but you've obviously broken that nasty 'practical gift' habit."
The blonde woman sat with Gaby's head in her lap, fighting an impulse to run her fingers through her hair. Previous experience had taught her that when Gaby fainted from excitement, she'd come round very quickly... it was when she fainted from illness, or lack of sleep, that she needed to be put to bed and fussed over for the rest of the day. "She's got everything she needs, and virtually everything she wants. That leaves things she doesn't know she wants until she gets them. Giving them to her has produced some interesting results." She gestured. "I plan to continue my studies in this area."
Dorian considered Klaus's reaction if he ever fainted over anything. He doubted it would encourage his husband into further research. "Should I fetch anything? Smelling salts or something?"
Gunilla's fingers crept into Gaby's curls after all. It was strange, liberating, to not have to play the platonic friend... "She'll wake in a moment. Please sit down."
Just as he sat, Gaby's hand, the one weighed down with the enormous diamond of obvious origins, lifted itself slowly and touched Gunilla's face. Her eyes opened. "Salut..." she murmured wonderingly, and smiled as if in acknowledging her wife she'd made a truly momentous discovery.
Then she waved to Dorian, turning her head in his direction. "I'm so sorry about that, Lord Gloria... I, ah... oh, dear, what a lovely coat..." It was spilling out of the box where it had fallen from her hands, a swathe of luxurious darkness.
Gaby went to the full-length mirror by the door, her beloved following closely with the sable coat. All three watched Gaby's image as Gunilla draped the fur over her shoulders. Its high collar melted into her hair, and when it was fastened all that could be seen of the girl inside the coat was a hand stroking the fur, a hand squeezing Gunilla's, and a face made-up like a 1940s queen of the silver screen, beaming beatifically.
Dorian watched raptly. "May I try it on?" he asked as soon as he deemed a decent interval had passed.
Gaby instantly began to shimmy out of it, but Gunilla warned, "It'll be too short for you the sleeves, too." Of course, it had been made precisely to fit her diminutive wife... who still held it out to Dorian, because she at least understood the necessity of making absolutely sure of a divine garment's sizing.
Dorian simply draped the coat over his shoulders to admire the contrast of his golden hair against the inky fur. Gaby reached up and pulled his curls out of the coat's collar, gently spreading them over his shoulders. They smiled at each other in the mirror.
"Yes, you definitely have to give my husband some lessons," he purred at Gunilla, studying the effect. "Now, do you have anything else hidden away for your, er, friend here, or shall we be going?"
"Nothing I'm giving her in front of you," said Gunilla firmly. Gaby blushed; Dorian smiled approvingly.
The Baronin had been watching the whole performance with her arms folded and her face stern. It wasn't that she disliked Dorian; it was that she thought the coat looked a damn sight better on Gaby and should have stayed there... but it was on its way back again now, and she opened the coat cupboard and added soft leather gloves, a fur hat and muff, and a cashmere scarf to Gaby's ensemble.
"But, darling, I can barely see out," protested the Parisienne softly.
"I don't want you catching cold again," her wife sniffed.
"You should've asked first."
"Why? I wouldn't have listened if you'd said no."
"Yes, but I have to take it all off again first, dear, because I simply can't go out in these shoes. The snow would ruin them, wouldn't it, Lord Gloria? I'll have to get changed."
"You could just change the shoes," suggested Gunilla. They'd had this discussion before, and she thought she had an idea what was coming next.
"But I only wear this suit with these shoes. No, I'll have to put on something else entirely. I won't be a minute, I really won't." Gaby divested herself of what felt like her entire winter wardrobe, making sure to give her new sables to Dorian to hold, and scampered into her bedroom.
Dorian occupied himself with stroking the velvety fur of the coat and trying not to laugh out loud at the Baronin. She looked so terribly like Klaus, standing up straight, trying to conceal her impatience with little success, and having even less success at concealing her approval of the result when her beloved returned in a completely new designer ensemble.
"All right, let's go," Gunilla half-growled. Gaby only smiled at her.
Eyes dancing, she turned to Dorian. "Do you think this lipstick goes, Lord Gloria, or should I change it? Gunilla's no help there."
"It looks fine," the Baronin interjected. She'd been so patient when Gaby fainted, but apparently, again like Klaus, her patience only went so far
Smiling angelically, Dorian suggested a less rosy shade, watching the Baronin fume out of the corner of his eye. It's so much fun to have someone to play with like this, he thought happily.
After that they all went and got pedicures Gunilla was tempted to sit that one out, but she meekly offered up her feet when Gaby gave her the "Oh, darling, you just don't take care of yourself" look and lunched at the Ritz. It wasn't clear who dragged whom into Bvlgari; alas, they didn't have enough time to bankrupt Klaus, as Gaby had a fitting at Yves Saint-Laurent, and how could she possibly get through it without an advisory committee?
Dorian had more fun on that shopping excursion than he'd had on any other since before his marriage. It just wasn't as much fun alone, but if one had a dreadfully jealous husband who expected all other gay men to stay at least ten miles away from one, what could one do?
Gunilla went to bed at ten. In theory Dorian was joining his husband at their hotel; in practice, she could hear him in the next room with Gaby, gleefully ransacking the latter's wardrobe. They were going out to a cabaret, or so they'd said Humph, she thought grumpily, turning over.
A champagne cork popped somewhere close by.
"Darling," Dorian began nervously, "do you remember when you had to kiss Gunilla at your wedding?"
Klaus turned to his husband, nonplused at the question. "Of course. Why?"
"I just wondered... is... is kissing women really awful?"
"Not awful, no, but fairly pointless. It was about like kissing my sister would be, if I had one."
Dorian grimaced. "Bad analogy. I have three, and I'd rather die than kiss any of them. It couldn't be any worse than kissing a woman romantically."
"Well, that isn't likely to happen, so quit worrying."
"But that's just it." He bit his lip. "I have to get married."
"You are married."
"You know what I mean. I need an heir, just like you did."
"I thought you had a surplus of nephews."
"That's just it. I've just met Polly's oldest boy, Colin, who will be the next Earl of Gloria unless he has a tragic accident or I have a son. And well, I hadn't seen the boy since he was five or six and quite a beastly little thing, always shouting and breaking things... I hoped he would have matured, but he's seventeen now and he has one of those scraggly little goatees the young people go in for these days, and he was wearing Bermuda shorts." Dorian spoke those last words with horror.
Klaus said dismissively, "He's been watching too much American television."
"Why did someone let the Americans dress themselves?" Dorian asked, distressed. He wrung his hands. "I can't let Castle Gloria go to someone like that, who'd import who knows what kind of modern rot - not after all the effort I've put into making it beautiful."
"I suppose you have your eye on Mademoiselle Desjardins. That will be convenient, at least."
"Oh, yes. She's already accepted. But I'll have to kiss her at the ceremony." Dorian shuddered. "I don't suppose there's any denomination that lets you get out of that, is there?"
"No, Liebling. You'll just have to be brave."