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P is for . . .

PARIS was one of their first stops, Charles having put it at the top of his wish list of places to visit. Once there, he walked the pavements with his mouth partly open and his brilliant blue eyes wide as he turned them here and there, as if he would swallow the city whole just by optic ingestion. He even stared at the pigeons with a kind of fascination, as if a French one must somehow be different from those on the other side of the Channel.

“You speak French,” Charles had marveled when they’d checked into the George V and Peter had used his fluency at the desk.

“Certainly,” said Peter. Even before his service, he’d learned French at school; indeed, he had a knack for languages that had served him well given his occupation. Or ex-occupation. The remembrance of Monsieur Durmont, his rigid back and perpetual scowl, prompted Peter to remark, “You must have taken some kind of foreign language in school.”

“A bit of German,” Charles confessed, “but it didn’t take.”

Two days later, as they walked through the Tuileries, Peter found Charles’s awe oddly charming. He glanced around and tried to see it all for the first time, just to recapture, if possible, that sense of wonder. But it was all too familiar, and Peter’s eyes were trained for other things: quick movement, inexplicable behavior, the suggestion of a weapon under the drape of someone’s coat.

Peter closed his eyes briefly as if to reset them, then looked again at Charles, who had slowed to look at one of Rodin’s statues outside the Orangerie. “She looks very sad.”

“That’s Eve, expelled from Eden,” said Peter, and if Charles flinched a bit at this, Peter chose not to remark on it, instead saying, “I much prefer this other Rodin. La Baiser.”

Charles turned a confused gaze first at Peter then in the direction of the gesture that had accompanied Peter’s statement. The intertwined bodies of the statue required no further translation, and Peter was gratified by Charles’s quick blush. Peter leaned in, felt the vacuum as Charles sucked in a short breath. “Here?” Charles asked in a fervent whisper.

“It’s Paris, love. Let’s do Rodin one better.”



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