Chapter 10

After the ceremony in which Klaus, Eroica, and other agents were given honors by the government of Cairo, they were invited to a viewing of the treasures in the Cairo museum.

Klaus slowly wheeled Dorian down the long gallery, past golden statues of gods and goddesses, elegant pottery, the throne "Herr Scherer" had bid on, and other treasures. It was almost three weeks since the night at the hangar. Dorian had suffered several broken ribs, a broken nose, a broken forearm, numerous contusions, and had a few teeth replaced. But his spirits were unshattered. Thankfully, Klaus had been too busy wrapping things up, to pardon the pun, to visit him in the hospital. This was the first occasion that he'd been together with Dorian. The thief seemed delighted, as always, to see him and hadn't made a wise-crack all evening. Yet.

"Oh, can we go in there?" Eroica suddenly exclaimed, gesturing with his good arm towards a room on their right. Klaus indulged him and pushed him into it. He'd barely taken a look around when Eroica said, "Major? I left my laprobe in the banquet hall. Would you mind terribly fetching it for me?" He asked so politely, Klaus could not refuse. Besides, he was glad to get away from him for a moment. He was on pins and needles just waiting for Eroica to mention the kiss. The anxiety was almost worse than he imagined the confrontation would be.

When he returned with the laprobe, he found Dorian standing at a tall pedestal, upon which lay an opened class display case. In the Earl's hands was the large carved emerald containing the perfume of the gods.

"Eroica!" Klaus growled. In a few long strides, he reached the thief. "Put it back!"

"I will," said Dorian dreamily. "I just want to smell it."

"No, Eroica. You'll break it."

Dorian's face was white with pain. It obviously hurt to stand. The Earl looked at him with bright eyes. "Aren't you the least bit curious?"

"No," he lied. He was curious, but not enough to risk breaking a thousand-and-then-some-year-old emerald. He'd have to sell Schloss Eberbach to pay for it.

Dorian shook his head. Then he lifted the lid.

It stuck at first but Dorian persisted and it gave a crack. The emerald shattered into dust, and spilled from between the Earl's long white ringers like fairy glitter. A phantom fragrance wafted up between them. It was the most exquisite thing Klaus had ever experienced. It was more than a scent, it was a moment in time. It was emotion. Klaus breathed in desert winds, wild gardens, laughter, rain, strength, tenderness.... There was no scent he could compare it to. No blend. It made him feel so happy, so peaceful. Almost like crying, were he so inclined.

Dorian's eyes had filled with tears. Klaus normally resented such displays of emotion but this time he could not fault him. As the fragrance died away, he could almost hear a shimmer of tiny bells and fading song. But the feeling remained. Dorian fell against him and Klaus caught him without reserve or hesitation. He let Dorian rest against him. Klaus breathed in again. This time, he only smelled the summer roses of Eroica. His heart beat faster. Neither moved, savouring the peace, letting the moment last forever. The crumbled emerald was forgotten.

At length, Klaus gently lowered Dorian into his chair, covered his lap and wheeled him out.

Dorian tried to hold on to the scent, to remember it, but it was useless. It was lost forever. Still it had been true. The fragrance was magic. Even Klaus had experienced it. But had the whiff been enough?

Dorian looked up at Klaus, who was wheeling him towards the lift. "Do you love me now?" he asked, trying to sound playful.

Klaus gave him a smirk. "Nein. I told you it wouldn't work."

Dorian's heart sank even though he'd expected the reply. Then, an idea struck. "Why did you kiss me?"

The wheelchair slowed for a moment, then Klaus resumed his pace. "It wasn't a kiss. I was merely trying to resuscitate you."

Dorian let the subject drop, in order to keep the peace that had settled over them. He wanted the magic to work as long as possible.

"Well, then," he said as they reached the lift. "I guess I owe you my life."

Klaus snorted. "I'll be glad to collect my due any time."

"Oh, darling," Dorian sighed, "my life is yours."

Klaus leaned down and put his mouth close to Dorian's ear. "How would you like to be permanently confined to that thing?"

"It would make your job a lot easier, wouldn't it?" The touch of Klaus against his hair sent a shiver through him.

Klaus laughed and stood up. He felt closeness to the little thief that was both tender and terrifying. Dorian would have called it "love". Klaus had no word for it.

Klaus hit the 'down' button of the elevator. "So what are we going to do about you-know-what?" Dorian lifted his hand. Microscopic sparkles winked at them both conspiratorially.

"Nothing. No one saw us." He dusted his hands on the laprobe. "And we're heroes. I'm sure they won't question us."

Klaus rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Well, it's your problem if they do."

"Yes, I know," replied Dorian, "but it was worth it." He looked up at Klaus with an expression of pure bliss. "What did you feel?"

Klaus didn't want to try and explain. Not because he was embarrassed but because words were inadequate and would cheapen the event. "I don't know," he mumbled.

Dorian looked away. "Yeah. I know what you mean."

Klaus cocked his head to one side. Yes, Dorian probably did understand. He sighed. Why did elevators always take so long?

"It's too bad it's gone," Klaus mused aloud. "If one could have analyzed the fragrance and copied it, one could have made a fortune."

"True," agreed Dorian. "We could have filled the world with it. World peace. International harmony." He paused, then; "You'd have to get rich off of it. Major. You'd be out of a career, and-" The elevator doors slid open. "-in my complete power."

Klaus pushed Dorian into the elevator. He took his pristine handkerchief, unfolded it and ceremoniously covered Eroica's face with it.

"Don't stop till you get to hell," he said, pushing the button for the lobby. He stepped back as the doors closed. He heard Dorian laugh within.

Inside, Dorian held Klaus' handkerchief to his face lovingly. It smelled of Klaus' cigarettes and aftershave. Maybe it wasn't the Perfume of any Gods but it was truly the scent of love to him. And as soon as he got home, he was sewing it onto the empty pillow. Just until Klaus decided to claim it. And him.

THE END

 

Eroica