Two: Mission In Paris
A and B looked at one another and then over at Bonham, who was trying to make himself invisible. Across the room, the Major was silently glaring at Eroica, who was silently glaring back, his arms folded, a determined look on his face. If someone didn't speak soon...
"No way in hell," the Major growled finally.
Dorian tossed his hair over one shoulder. "I'm not wearing a dress again for you, Major," he said haughtily. "They make me look like an old Hausfrau, I believe you put it recently."
The growl continued to rise in the Major's throat. "And what you have on now makes you look like a broken down old Queen. I don't see you changing out of that!" Before he could go on, he was stunned into silence when the Earl slapped him across the face.
"You detestable swine!" Dorian spat. "You're lucky your Director came to me himself, Major. And that NATO is paying me handsomely, otherwise--" He waved a hand at the door, but did not go on, his meaning clear.
Klaus controlled himself with visible effort. "I am not wearing that fucking dress," he said between clenched teeth.
"It isn't a dress, you cretin, it's an evening gown."
The Major gave a loud snort, folded his arms, and turned his back on him, going on to light a cigarette to steady his fraying nerves.
"Don't nag me like a wife."
Dorian's eyes narrowed, but he did not reply. He picked up the garment in question and held it up. "It's too big for A or B, and you can't have G do it with a sprained ankle."
"Bloody idiot, falling off a pair of high heels," the Major grumbled without turning around.
A and B, in the meantime, were breathing a mutual sigh of relief, while Bonham absently brushed a finger over his mustache.
Dorian held up the garment, giving it an appraising look. "Well..." he said, cocking his head to one side. "I suppose Z might fit into this..."
"Nein!" The Major spun around. "You stay away from Z! You've corrupted enough of Germany already." He practically snatched the dress from the thief's hand. He looked at it in distaste before looking back at the Earl.
"Anything for a mission," Dorian reminded with a smirk.
"You really are a malicious and vindictive man."
Dorian smiled innocently, idly wrapping a blond curl around one finger. "I don't know what you mean, Major," he said breezily. "It's a lovely color. It suits you. Anyway, it's about time you played the wife."
The men across the room winced upon hearing this. A and B found themselves wishing they were on their way to Alaska, and Bonham wondered if walking back to England by way of the Chunnel were any more dangerous than staying in the room. To their relief, the Major did not pull his gun, nor did he explode into a ranting fit. He simply ordered the Earl to go change himself before storming into the next room.
"Remember to shave close," Dorian called. "And for God's sake don't burn a hole in the material!"
"I hope you cut your own bloody throat!" Klaus shot back, the door slamming behind him.
The Earl gave a disapproving snort, turned on his heel and left, taking the reluctant Bonham with him.
A and B suddenly realized they had been holding their breath and exhaled.
"How long has it been now?" B asked in a low voice.
"Twenty-nine days," A replied in an equally low voice, his eyes fixed on the far door.
Twenty nine days, with no sign of a reconciliation in sight. Normally the Earl would be making small overtures within days. Not so this time. In fact, they seemed even more at odds than ever before.
# # #
Dorian had changed into a tuxedo and returned to the room to find A and B still nervously awaiting the reappearance of their commanding officer. They were attempting to look busy by going over the surveillance equipment that had already been checked by the Major. The Earl waved a hand in the general direction of a table as he crossed the room. Bonham set the case he was carrying down and opened it. Then he drew a deep breath.
Dorian looked at his watch, his eyebrows going up. Then a small smile played at the edges of his mouth. He crossed to the door, rapping his knuckles on it. "Klaudia, darling, we're going to be late," he sing-songed.
"Fuck off," came the terse reply from the other side of the wooden barrier.
"Major," the Earl said, his voice dropping into the most masculine tones the watching agents had ever heard him use, "if you want this mission to succeed, we have to leave within the hour. Being fashionably late is one thing, missing the party entirely is another. You're the one who said there's a small window of opportunity on this job. Now come out of there so I can finish getting you ready and we can get this mission over with."
The reply was unintelligible to those listening across the room, the stream of curses that followed were not. The door opened and Klaus appeared on the threshold in a full-length dark green evening gown. He had a shawl slung over one arm, held a pair of low-heeled shoes and evening bag in his hand, and had a look of thunder on his face. The watching agents' eyes grew wide, their jaws dropping open.
The Major turned an icy glare in his awestruck subordinates' direction. "Not. One. Word," he rumbled from between clenched teeth as the Earl moved behind him to zip up the dress.
All the speechless A and B could do was shake their heads. Bonham tried to hide a snicker behind a hand and found himself the sole object holding the officer's attention. Suddenly it seemed a good idea to stand behind the Alphabets. Across the room. Near the door.
"Oh, this fits perfectly!" Dorian cooed. He received a murderous look in reply. "It's still not too late to have Z--"
"Then stop threatening everyone and sit down." Dorian took the Major by the arm and steered him to a chair near the table where Bonham had placed the case. "Now...hold still while I see what I can do with this hair of yours."
The Major sat with a rustle of petticoats, closed his eyes, and started counting to one million as the Earl started fussing with his hair. He didn't even have to look into the case to know what it contained. He knew only too well, having seen all the numerous odds and ends the Earl used on his own mass of curls. Klaus had no idea what the other man was planning as his long dark hair was pulled back and then pinned into place. It wasn't until the Earl was fluffing out a dark wig that it finally dawned on him.
"Just how long have you been planning this humiliation of me?" the Major wanted to know as the wig was being put into place.
Dorian gave a small tittering laugh but did not reply directly. He was too intent on getting the wig properly secured in place. After a few quick flicks of a hair-pick, he took a step back to admire his work, nodding in satisfaction. Dark green eyes looked balefully up at him. He ignored them, reaching into the case again. "Now, about your accessories and make up, Klaudia, dear..."
The Major continued to endure the indignity in silence as a jewel-encrusted necklace--undoubtedly stolen--was placed around his neck. The Earl picked up an earring and then, to the amazement of the watching agents, pushed back the Major's hair to reveal pierced ears. Pierced ears? The Major! When did he get that done? To their relief they realized they had been mistaken as the Earl adjusted the screw-type backing.
"Be careful with that," Klaus growled.
"This would be a lot easier if you'd gotten them pierced," Dorian sighed.
Klaus continued glaring at him. "You said all you wanted was for me to admit that I'd lost the bet. I admitted it."
"I should've insisted."
"I still say you cheated just to--OW! Dammit, Dorian, not so tight!"
"You say that one more time and I'll tell everyone just how I won the bet."
The Major's eyes widened and then narrowed dangerously. He remained silent until the first earring was in place. "Christ, that's heavy!" He reached up a hand to stop the mate from being put on his other ear. "I am not wearing these."
Dorian opened his mouth, only to close it again. He had gotten this far and wasn't going to trifle over a pair of earrings. He removed the offending item, and then held up a smaller pair of teardrop pearls. "How about these?"
Klaus took them, tested their weight, examined the clip, and handed them back. "Fine," he practically snarled.
The earrings were clipped into place, after which makeup was lightly applied to the soften the hard lines on the glaring officer's face. After another brief squabble over perfume--in which Dorian insisted, Klaus refused, and Dorian finally succeeded by pointing out that the officer was supposed to be disguised as a women and should not arrive smelling of aftershave--nearly forty-five minutes had past and the metamorphosis was complete. The Earl stepped back and smiled devilishly. Klaus put on the low-heeled shoes, got to his feet, and went to look at himself in a mirror.
"You look ravishing, Klaudia, dear," the Earl said breathily. He glanced across the room to see three awestruck men looking back. Had they not seen it for themselves they would not have believed the woman standing before the mirror was in truth Iron Klaus.
Klaus turned, put his hands on his hips, and looked Dorian in the eye for a full ten seconds before saying, "I hate you."
A and B exchanged glances, uncertain what to say, or if it were even safe to say anything. The next thing they knew, the Major was storming across the room. "Have you checked everything out?" he demanded.
A felt a chill run down his spine as the Major's voice issued forth from the striking creature striding towards him. He simply nodded, holding out the earpiece. Before the Major could snatch it from his hand, Dorian intervened. "No! Good God, Major, you'll ruin your nails!" he cried, stopping the officer cold. Angry green eyes turned in his direction.
"Here, let me..." Dorian took the earpiece, carefully moved the wig aside, and put it into the Major's ear. Then he put one in his own ear. He picked up a silk flower for his lapel that hid the microphone that would allow the Major's men to hear what was being said. The microphone for the Major was concealed in a broach that the Earl affixed to the front of the dress's high collar.
The Major adjusted the earpiece, ignoring the Earl's protests about painted nails that he already knew were dry. The thief was not going to distract him now. The equipment was tested one last time and then the Major said tersely, "Let's get this over with."
Dorian put a hand on his arm. "Wait."
"I'm sorry, Major, but... This isn't going to work."
Klaus's eyes narrowed menacingly. "If you're gonna say you put me through all this just to spite me..."
Dorian actually looked shocked. "In the middle of one of your missions? I'm hardly that stupid, now, am I?"
"Dorian, don't try my patience."
The Earl held up a hand. "Truce. We can't be sniping at one another at the party, can we?"
The Major sighed heavily. This, unfortunately, was true. "Your point?"
"I can give you a quick lesson in the proper way to walk, stand, and sit, but I can't change your voice." Dorian pulled a small bag from his pocket, reaching in and extracting what looked like a thin waxy leaf. "Chew on this."
"What is it?"
"If I told you, you'd be none the wiser."
"I warned you not to--"
"It's Dieffenbachia," Dorian said matter-of-factly. "Now chew it. There's not enough there to kill you. It will just alter your voice for a few hours."
Klaus took the item as if it might bite him, cautiously checking it over. "If this makes me sound like I've been sucking on helium..."
The Earl rolled his eyes to the ceiling.
Reluctantly, Klaus put the "leaf" into his mouth. "Ugh! It burns!"
"No, don't spit it out yet!" Dorian ordered, receiving a dark look in reply. "Chew!"
The officer pulled a face, chewed the offending item a few more times before finally spitting it out. Then he coughed and tried to demand a glass of water for his burning mouth and throat. Tried but did not succeed, as the sound that came from his throat was a croak. He put a hand to his neck. It felt as if his throat were swelling shut.
"Excellent!" the Earl said happily, holding a glass of water out to the horrified Major. "It's worked."
All Klaus could do was stand staring wild-eyed and mouth the words, "What the hell did you do to me?"
"Don't panic, my dear Major, you didn't swallow near enough to kill you," Dorian replied calmly. The officer looked daggers at him before draining the glass. "The Dieffenbachia is also known as the Dumb Cane. It paralyzes the vocal cords." He took the now empty glass and set it down, going on to take the Major by the arm and start towards the door. "It's only temporary, unfortunately," he sighed. "Now when we arrive at the party, no one will bat an eye because my poor darling Klaudia is suffering from laryngitis."
The Major shot him a murderous look after which he started to commit to memory every curse he would lavish on the Earl the instant his voice returned. Barring that, he decided that, dress or no dress, he would beat the shit out of him as soon as the mission was finished.
"Come along boys," the Earl called over his shoulder, waving a hand in the air. "And don't forget the Major's wrap and handbag!"
Despite the fact that it was impossible for the Major to scream any angry retorts, A and B still cringed and exchanged a look of mutual ill ease. Could it be? Had the Major and the Earl actually broken up for good? They watched as the pair moved arm-in-arm down the hall toward the lifts.
Eroica in proper gentlemen's clothes and Iron Klaus in a dress.
It was going to be one hell of a night.
# # #