~23~

Dorian sat in a black Benz beside the man he loved. They were quiet for the moment, both gazing into the night, waiting for the signal that the guards at the back entrance were — taken care of, that it was time to break in.

Another mission. How many had there been? And all he'd ever gotten for them was insults and rejection and worse. Now here he was again, a week in Firenze and he hadn't been allowed near the Uffizi, and had only a few precious hours shopping at Salvatore Ferragamo's. Klaus just wasn't any fun at all.

Well, the naughty chaps they were snooping about tonight were wealthy. Maybe there'd be something interesting besides that bloody microfilm to make up for the privations, not to mention invective, of the past week. A painting, a figurine, perhaps a piece of jewelry or—

"Don't steal anything in there besides what we've hired you to steal," the Major ordered, getting to his point without warning or preamble as usual. Well, after so many years, it was to be expected that Klaus would be able to predict his train of thought.

"Major. Nothing of the sort was even in my mind." Dorian assumed his most innocent expression. No one ever turned their backs on him when he looked like that. Or let go of their wallets.

Klaus snorted. "Idiot," he said.

Some things in life could be depended upon.

"Major, the people who own this building are more than suspected of selling weapons illegally, drug dealing, and contract killing. You're worried about my stealing paintings from them?"

Only the deepening of Klaus's frown revealed that he saw the logic of this. "It's the principle of the thing," he retorted.

Stuffy, overused words. But Klaus meant them. Dorian knew he did. It was part and parcel of what made Klaus Klaus. The thief laughed softly, shaking his head. "I love you."

"I love you too."

What?

Dorian felt as if a third martini had just hit. He looked around, but there was no one hiding in the back seat. And of course, he knew from experience how difficult that distinctive, accented baritone was to mimic.

Klaus was looking straight ahead. His jaw was set, his eyes narrowed at the window they were watching the same way they narrowed at a target he was about to fill with well-placed lead. But when he was shooting, the tension of his body was focused. Now — every muscle was locked up like a stalled engine.

"What?" Dorian asked blankly, after a long time.

Klaus scowled, parting his lips and instantly clamping them shut again. Dorian waited for his love to find words. At last Klaus ground out, "I've been trying all week to find a way to...." But he couldn't find any words for it that he was willing to say.

You could at least crush me to your muscled chest and kiss me breathless, Dorian thought ruefully. Why couldn't he have fallen for someone romantic? This was hardly what he had hoped for, dreamed of.

And yet....

He knew his beloved. The man didn't know how to ask for love. He had no idea what to do with it when it was offered. Dorian had known for years that teaching him would be difficult.

But then, he had always loved challenges.

Before Dorian could move closer, a light flashed twice, briefly, in a second-floor window. The signal. Klaus's hand automatically went to check his shoulder holster.

Ah, reality.

Dorian buckled his tool belt on. "Tonight," he said softly.

Klaus nodded, once, just enough that the motion could be seen. It was too dark to be sure, but Dorian thought the man was blushing.

Dorian nodded too. They got out of the car and walked silently toward the building. Where they might snatch the microfilm and save the free world before retreating to their hotel for the most beautiful night of their lives. Or maybe get shot. Or be captured and tortured for days. Or maybe just search for the bloody microfilm all night when somebody had moved it to another city the day before. No telling.

Just be sure to scream my name instead of 'idiot', Dorian thought as he knelt to pick the lock.

 

 

Snippets

Eroica