The Third Day

 

After an hour or so, Klaus was quite cramped and stiff. Gently and carefully, he slid out from under Dorian's head and stretched out on the icy mattress.  With discomfort, he realized he had to go to the bathroom.  Thank God Dorian was asleep.  The Earl was right.  It was rather hard to piss in the cold, especially when he was sure that Dorian would wake up at any moment and watch.

Afterwards, he crept back to the fire and checked Dorian's sweater.  Still damp.  But the Earl himself seemed to be drying out.  The curls around his face were golden and shiny again. Klaus considered rolling him over to dry out the back of him.  He gave him a gentle nudge.

"Mm-hm-hm..." the sleeping lord chuckled, "Sweetie."

Klaus stopped and felt himself blush.  Dorian was having an erotic dream right there beside him.  Klaus was curious.  He touched Dorian's cheek.

"Mmmmm yeah," Dorian mumbled.  "Sweetie."

Klaus chuckled to himself.  Dorian looked so cute, all curled up and happy.  He tickled Dorian's neck.

"Yeah... "

"Yeah?" teased Klaus, softly and close to Dorian's ear.

"Sweetie."

"Who's your Sweetie?"

"Black is the color of my true love's hair..." he mumbled almost unintelligibly.

At least he was able to satisfy the Earl in dreamland.

Dorian sighed.  "Mr. James..."

Klaus gasped so hard he choked, which woke Dorian.

"Major?  Are you all right?"

"Mr. James?!?!?!  You were having an erotic dream about that little weasel Mr. James!?!?"

Blue eyes flew open wide as did a pretty pink mouth.  Then he laughed.  "Was I talking in my sleep?"

"Yes!  What is this about you and that little rodent? Calling him 'Sweetie' and all!"

"Why, Major Klaus Heinz von Eberbach!  I do believe you're jealous!"

"I am repulsed is what I am!  Mr. James?!?"

"It was just a dream, Darling.  You know he's not my type. Give me a little credit."

Klaus' face grew red with embarrassment.  They wouldn't be found by rangers, they'd be found by the Ass of the Year Awards committee, looking for Klaus.

"Yooou were-er jea-lous!" Dorian sang tauntingly.

"Why should I be?  I do not care if you take another lover. Just not Mr. James!"

"Why not?  He's cute. A bit neurotic, perhaps, but then, so are you."

"Shut up."

Dorian smirked.  "Don't worry, my Darling.  You're the only neurotic for me."

"Shut. Up."

"Okay.  This time."  He felt the sweater.

"It's still damp," said Klaus, as if Dorian couldn't tell that himself.  The Earl felt Klaus' own shirt.  "So's yours. Better have it off."

"It's not too bad."

"Take it off.  If I can't catch pneumonia, neither can you." He held the coat open.  "There's room.  I'll be good.  I promise."

There was nothing warmer than skin on skin, he reasoned, and so took off his own damp shirt and laid on the hearth as well. Then he and Dorian sat close together, his arm carefully around Dorian's shoulders, that hand holding the edge of the coat. Dorian, with his arm about Klaus' waist, held the other edge.

***

It was in Dorian's every impulse to stroke that beautiful smooth chest and stomach, to encircle that neck and plant kisses all along that stubborn strong jaw.  The fire was warm, but not as warm as Klaus' body.  The smell of his skin... Every time he smelled it, it conjured up fantasies that he would play in his mind: romantic rescues, passionate trysts, tender interludes. Each story was catalogued in his mind like a library.  All the stories ended the same:  they lived happily ever after.  Now they all mocked him.  Yes, he could hold Klaus, as long as it meant nothing.

He doesn't want me.  He doesn't even love me.  And he never will.  With that, he tried to stop the endless reels of daydreams, to darken the screen behind his eyes.  To stop loving him.  He looked up at the face, tried to make it seem ugly and hateful.  Klaus' eyes regarded him questioningly.  Dorian clenched his jaw and glared up at him, trying hard not to feel the love.  Still, in his ears the soundtrack ran, and he could hear their voices, laughing, whispering, sighing.

Klaus was too beautiful.  Even with a short stubble on his chin and chimney soot on his face, he was beautiful.  And Dorian loved him.

"You promised to be good," said Klaus.  "That means no fighting."

Dorian turned his face back to the fire.  "I was just trying to stop loving you."

"Don't!" Klaus said, not angrily, but as if startled.

Dorian turned a perplexed look to him.  This time Klaus looked away.

"You're the one joy in my life.  I don't know what I would do without you.  It is selfish, I know.  But if you left me..."  He shook his head, shrugged.  "You are my only friend."

And with that, Dorian's heart melted.  How sweet.  How poignant.  How very close to love Klaus' dependency must be.

"I won't leave you, then," he said.  "As long as you want me close and need me, I will be here for you."

The most beatific smile broke out across Klaus' face.  Those emerald eyes sparkled brighter than sunlight in a mountain spring.  Dorian had never seen such a smile on Klaus' stony countenance.

"And I am here for you too," replied Klaus.  "I-if you need me.  I - I will try to be here.  For you."

Dorian smiled politely, but he did not understand exactly. As if in response to Dorian's confused smile, Klaus leaned over and kissed him clumsily on the lips.

"Klaus..."

"If you want, I will kiss you."

In his whole life, it seemed that was all he ever wanted. Just a kiss from those inviting lips.  But in his fantasies, Klaus had been more than just a mannequin, trying to make Dorian happy.

"No.  You have to want to too."

"I do.  Can you understand?  I like you.  I liked kissing you.  At least it's something I can do."

Dorian blushed.  "You'll just set me on fire."

"Oh."

But maybe Klaus would also catch fire.  If he would just let Dorian have his way.  Just trust him.

He pulled Klaus towards him.  "It's okay."

He had to probe past the tense jaw again, then claimed the submissive tongue he found inside.  To his relief, Klaus responded, if awkwardly, imitating Dorian's ministrations. Desire spurred Dorian onward, blotting out every thought but of the warm, complying body in his arms.  The coat was forgotten, left to fall back onto the mattress a moment before they did.

Klaus lay on his back and Dorian lay almost on top of him.  He kissed the musky throat, the smooth, muscular chest, the delicate nipples.  Klaus stroked Dorian's hair, all the while letting him do as he pleased.

This body was his!  At least to a point.  Klaus was finally willing to let Dorian have his way, and yet the Earl could not.  He didn't want to remind Klaus of what that bastard had taken from him twenty years ago.

He was on fire, giving Klaus every kiss and nibble he could think of without invading the Major's trousers.  His lips teased along the waistband.  He looked up at Klaus to get a response.

The Major gazed down at him with apprehension, but no hint of desire.

"Nothing?" Dorian sighed.

Klaus didn't answer.  He just pulled Dorian up to lay beside him.  "It doesn't matter.  I promised to try and make you happy.  Tell me what to do."

Dorian hugged him.  "Let me touch you there.  Let me just try. "

Klaus looked dreadfully uncomfortable.  "It will not work."

"Imagine it will.  Imagine I can heal you."

The Major shrugged.  "I will do what you want."

Dorian kissed him deeply again.  He slid his hand purposefully down Klaus' chest, down his rippled stomach, to the tight waistband.  He unfastened the button and slid his hand into the blissful warmth inside.  Klaus' organ was Dorian's favorite size, not too big, not too small.  A custom fit, he thought to himself.   He sat up with one arm under Klaus' neck and stroked and squeezed Klaus' penis while kissing and whispering encouragements to him.  Klaus' body responded a little, growing slightly firmer, but Eroica could tell it was just a physiological response.  Klaus himself was not aroused. Eventually, he even lost the erection.  Dorian gave up with a sigh and lay down on Klaus' chest.  The Major closed his fly.

"I have never let anyone touch me," he said.

Dorian sat up.  "I know."

"It was just as humiliating as I imagined it would be."  He sat up and scooted over to the fire, his back to Dorian.

It hadn't occurred to Dorian that Klaus would be humiliated by a failure.  He felt stupid and selfish.  "I'm sorry."

"You do have other lovers, do you not?"

"Only James," he teased.  "No.  My only love is you."

"Well, you must find another.  We can be friends.  Nothing more.  I cannot go through that again."

As much as Dorian hated to admit defeat, he had to agree. Either that or drive Klaus away.  "Okay.  I'll try."

"Gut."

But Dorian was still on fire.  Maybe he ought to stick it in the snow.  The taste and smell of Klaus still lingered on his lips.  First an interrupted erotic (if ludicrous) dream, then a desperate grope with the Major.  Would he never find relief?

Klaus flopped back onto the bed.  "I am going to sleep now. Please tend the fire."

Dorian gawked helplessly at the German's handsome figure. "Sure."

And while Klaus slept. Dorian took care of his own little blaze.

***

Little Klaus struggled in Father Haffemann's arms.  The fat red demon came closer, snapping its silver teeth at Klaus.  The child screamed and tried to cover himself.  Heat rolled off the demon's body, crackling like fire.  Its glittering eyes riveted on Klaus' little penis.  He screamed and cried.  He thrashed in the priest's embrace, only now it wasn't Father Haffemann, but Dorian.  He picked little Klaus up and backed away from the devil.  It followed, matching their retreat step for step.  Klaus clung to Dorian's neck and locked his legs around his waist.

Dorian kicked at the devil.  Deftly, it dodged to the side and suddenly scurried up to them.  Dorian hit the wall behind them and the devil pulled Klaus from his arms.

"No!" Klaus screamed and sat up.

The fire blazed before him and he jumped back, alarmed.

"Klaus!  Klaus!"   Dorian was suddenly at his side, holding him by the shoulders.  "It's okay.  You just had a bad dream."

Klaus looked around to make sure there were no devils about, then let out a deep breath.  "Yes.  Just a bad dream."

Dorian gave him a brief sideways hug.  "You all right?"

Klaus nodded.  He noticed he'd been covered up with the coat which was now sopping wet.  With sweat?  A water droplet fell onto his back, ice cold.  He glanced up.  The snow structure was melting on the inside.  The mattress itself was spongy and cold.

"Yes. I see you've noticed it's a bit damp in here now," said Dorian. As if to punctuate the point, he sneezed.  "I don't think we're in any imminent danger, however."

"I hope not. Just the same, We should prepare for the worst."

"How?"

"We'll prop the mattress against the mantle, over us.  It will be extra insulation, as well as an umbrella."

As they picked up the mattress, Klaus noticed something on the floor beneath it.

"My gun!"  He was so delighted that he let go of his end and Dorian was left to struggle with the weight of a wet mattress.

"How did it get under here?"

"I put it there yesterday because I was worried about you. Now help!"

They propped the mattress up against the mantle.  Then Klaus returned to examine his precious gun.

"Oh, I thought I'd lost you," he cooed like James over money.

"You were acting so strange, I thought it best if I hid your gun.  I hope you aren't going to go patchy now,"

"I feel one-hundred percent better with it," he sighed.

Dorian rested his chin on his hand and shook his head, chuckling.

It was better than Christmas.  Klaus lovingly and blissfully lost himself in checking and cleaning his gun.  He used his shirt to polish the handpiece and barrel.  Each bullet was laid side by side on the floor to receive its personal polishing.  Dorian watched with what seemed to be a sort of horrified fascination. Klaus reloaded it, then lay it safety-latched beside the fireplace, folded inside his shirt.

"Crikey, I wish you'd found me under that mattress!" Dorian teased.

Klaus was too pleased to care.  He gave a boyish grin.

"Well, I do say, I believe it's getting warmer in here," remarked Dorian.

"I told you it would help."

"It's rather like a sauna in here.  Wet and hot."

"Complain, complain, complain," Klaus snarled, unconvincingly.

Dorian laughed outright and began to cough.  "You're right," he gasped, "I'm never satisfied, am I?"

"Sorry.  I would have hidden a piece of art under the  mattress had I known you were coming."

"Really?  What would you have chosen?  A Gaugin?  A Picasso?"

"Nein, mein Lieber. Maybe a Van Eyck."

Dorian rolled his eyes up and to one side, as if fantasizing.  "Mmm.  Really?  For me?  A Van Eyck?"

"For you?  No.  A Dali."

Eroica cackled.  "Why thank you, M'lord Major!"

Klaus grunted and nodded.  Dorian was right.  Hunched under the mattress, it was rather hot.  Cool air came in through the sides of their feather-bed lean-to, and Klaus backed over to his side.  He really did prefer to be colder than most people.  Eroica, with his furs and mufflers always bundled up against the chill, or else basked in sunlight.  Yes, sunlight...  A creature of warmth, of flame.  The Angel of Summer.  And Klaus was the Winter: cold, solitary, grim.  Fire and snow,passion and numbness.  Dorian, across from him, was smiling, despite all the Hell they'd been through.  Maybe to him. Hell was nothing but heat.

Dorian was nothing but heat.  Klaus had to back away.  The top-bare Earl pushed his heavy hair from his dirty pretty face. Firelight turned the alabaster body golden.  Klaus wondered if, perhaps, he wasn't sexually void, he would find Eroica desirable. There was no denying that the man was beautiful.  But was that admiration purely platonic?  He cared for Dorian. He would give up a kidney for him if he needed it.  He's take him in if he was homeless, feed him if he was hungry.  Kiss him if he was lonely.

Maybe if Klaus had had other friends, he would be able to tell if this was friendship or love.  He didn't want to be in love.  What an inconvenience that would be.  What a disgrace.

"What a bitch," Dorian said.  "This lovely fire and no soup. Wouldn't that be lovely?  Soup and toast?"

"Shut up.  Let's not think of food."

"That's a bit hard to do."                              

"Practice self-discipline.  It is not hard to do.”

"So tell me, how do you keep from thinking about food?”

"I think of other things."

"Like what?  Raindrops on roses?"

Klaus scowled.  "Just things.  Why don't you think about-- your stolen treasures?" 

"I can't.  My stomach's growling.  All I can think of is roast lamb and raspberry sauce."    

"Well then, think about our rescue.  By now your men should be worried sick.  I am sure they expected to hear from you once you found me."

"I don't know.  They've learned not to expect me to act predictably.  Hell, they've learned not to expect, full stop."

Klaus merely snorted.  Who could blame them?  It was a lesson learned early on in his dealings with Eroica.

Dorian turned so that his back was pressed to the stone fireplace.  "Am I still so bad?"

Klaus mirrored his pose on the opposite side of the fireplace.  "Well, perhaps not as bad as you used to be.

Dorian coughed.  "Thanks."

"You're coming down with a cold."

"Feed a cold." he smiled.  The silence resumed between them but it was comfortable, each lost in thought.  Dorian was right, it was hard not to think of food.  Bratwurst, Kartoffelsuppe, Kohlroulade, and a stein of Schlenkerle.

"Major?"

"Uh?'  

"If I die first, I give you permission to eat my body."

"That is disgusting!  Do not be melodramatic!  I cannot believe you would say such a repulsive thing!" Klaus ranted.

"I just want you to know I wouldn't mind."

"You would be dead.  It would not matter if you gave your permission or not!"                        

"But wouldn't you rather eat someone who gave you their blessing than someone who expressly forbade it?"

 "I do not see the difference.  Animals do not give their permission, and we eat them!"

"That's true enough, but still, I want you to know I would understand if you had to eat me."

"Shut up! Stop talking about it!"  

Dorian shut up and Klaus settled into the peace. But it was temporary.        "Aren't you going to give me your blessing?

"What?"

"To eat you if you die first."

"No! That is disgusting! You will do no such thing!"

"You couldn't stop me. What difference would it make to you?"                 Klaus couldn't think of any reply except, "Shut up!!"

Dorian pouted for a few minutes, wonderfully silent, then:  "Well, I wouldn't eat you anyway. I was just asking."

"Idiot!"

"You'd probably taste too bitter."

"That's enough!"

"And constipate me."

"And you'd give me gas!!!"

Dorian crowed, "I'd melt in your mouth!"

Klaus tried not to laugh, but it burst through close-pressed lips in a spray. How could Dorian's smile be so genuine and dazzling in this terrible situation? How could he keep Klaus from losing his mind, as daffy as that Earl/thief was himself?

"I can't believe it," he said aloud before he could stop himself.             "What can't you believe, good Major?" Dorian replied, composing himself.

"I am playing your nonsense games! Wookies and pumpkins and cannibalism...  I cannot believe I am beginning to act like you.  It is disgraceful!"

"Well, Darling, we've been together for what, four, five, six years now? It's inevitable we'd begin to reflect one another."

"Reflect? There's nothing of me in you."

"Oh, Klaus. There's so much of you I see in myself.  Sometimes I give an order or make a remark and it sounds just like you. Sometimes I even dress like you and go stomping about the manor. Sometimes I sing myself to sleep."

"You do? Why?"

Dorian smiled and shrugged. "You're my hero."

The ache in his chest was immediate and intense. He couldn't respond.

Dorian said, "We are like two mirrors hung on opposite walls.  We reflect each other and ourselves in each other into infinity, 'til there is no telling the reflections apart. There are no 'parts' of you or I. Only endless reflections of us both."

The ache rose to his throat. Would it be so terrible to love him? Being the object of love was terrifying at first, but now he was glad of it. Dorian wouldn't be here, and Klaus would be dead, but for that love.

The mirrors gazed across the hearth at each other. Slowly, Dorian lifted one hand, outstretched towards Klaus.  It looked so pretty, all aglow in the firelight, that Klaus only gazed at it for a few moments before taking it in his own.  It was warm as flame, strong as steel.

And in that instant, he felt the world fall out from under him.  There were no swirling lights, no golden mantles, but he had a revelation just the same, and joy beyond words filled him. His hand tingled and the sensation traveled up his arm and throughout his body.

Dorian must have felt it too, for he remained utterly motionless, his eyes wide and staring straight into Klaus'.

"You must sacrifice."  The voice echoed inside his head. "You must sacrifice.  Then you shall find-"

"Gloria..." Klaus whispered.

Dorian crawled over to him, curling up against Klaus' chest. The Major wrapped his arms around him.  Sacrifice?  Sacrifice what?  What did he have left to give?

"Did you hear the voice?" Klaus whispered into golden curls which tickled his face.

"Voice?  No.  What did you hear, Klaus?"

Klaus clenched his teeth.  Was he slipping into madness again?  "Pelagia, telling me to sacrifice."

Dorian snuggled closer.  "You gave all you could.  You made your vow and even though you forgot, you somehow kept it, living like a priest, devoting your life to duty.  You just displaced your fervor.  You found another God, your job."  He looked up at Klaus.  "You can break that vow.  Set yourself free."

"I made that vow to God.  To myself..."

"It was a child's vow, made by a little boy half-starved and exhausted.  Is your God so cruel and hateful that he would not understand?"

"I do not know my God anymore," Klaus murmured.  Inside, the child Klaus raged in tears at the betrayal of his God, his priest, and his religion.

"Then set yourself free.  The vow was null and void the second that man laid his hands on you."

Klaus rubbed his face with one hand.  Dorian was making too much sense.  Or maybe he just wanted to believe what Dorian said.

"Maybe God's a mystery," the Major said, "but I know the Devil.  I have seen him in my dreams."

"Father Haffemann is the devil," Dorian snarled, hugging Klaus tight.  "You never did anything wrong."

"I know that now, but for so long I forgot it all, and the devil was locked inside the tower.  For so long..."

"There is no devil!  The devil is what we make it.  What we blame our troubles on.  Or what we call that earthy, animalistic, sexual part of ourselves."

And then it all fell into place for Klaus.  "Dorian?"

The Earl sat up.  "Yes?"

Klaus found that he was not even slightly embarrassed to tell Dorian about his dream and the devil that eats his sex organs of, then enters him as Father Haffemann rapes him.

"Klaus..." Dorian breathed when it was all told.  "Don't you see what this means?"

Klaus lowered his gaze.  "I think so."

"It's your guilt, your shame, that has killed all your sexual feelings."

Klaus shrugged and nodded.

Dorian clutched him by the shoulders.  "Let go. Break your vow.  Forgive yourself."

“I have tried."

Dorian seemed to be thinking hard for a minute, then: "Come here." He lay down on his side, propped up on an elbow, and patted the floor between himself and the fire.

"I do not think that's going to work," Klaus replied with a dubious cocking of an eyebrow.

"No, silly. We're going to do a little creative visualization."

"Oh, no. None of that new-age nonsense."

"Klaus, I want to help. Please try."

And Klaus really did want to lie next to Dorian, but old habits die hard and he had to act reluctant. So with some obligatory grumbling and sighing, he lay down on his back, Dorian's right forearm under his neck. The Earl held him close, leaning over him protectively.

"Close your eyes and relax," he murmured.

Klaus snickered. "Are you going to hypnotize me?"

"If I knew how to hypnotize, I'd have made you mine long ago. Now hush." He stoked Klaus' hair and forehead with gentle fingertips. "Close your eyes."

Klaus obliged, settling amazingly comfortably in the heat and closeness.

"You are here with me and you're safe," Dorian said in a voice low and soft. "You're safe. I want you to picture yourself at ten years of age, but from a distance, like you're watching a picture show." He gave Klaus a moment to get the image in his head. Klaus visualized himself, ten years old, in his school uniform, playing on the playground.

"I want you to imagine that you are in Father Haffemann's office, alone."

His stomach fluttered, and he must have made a face, because Dorian stroked his cheek and said, "Don't be afraid. It's from a distance. You're only watching."

It was hard to keep from becoming the child, from seeing everything from a child's point of view.

"The door is opening. Who is it?"

Klaus pictured the huge black door opening and the priest entering. "It's Father Haffemann."

"What's he doing?"

Klaus watched from his perch somewhere high up the wall. The priest grabbed young Klaus and pushed him backwards. "He's going to do it again," he said. "He is pushing me over to the desk."  Klaus opened his eyes. "I can't.  I don't want to..."

"I know, I know..." Dorian soothed, sweeping his fingertips over Klaus' temple. "It's hard.  I've been there. But it's important we get through this. All right?"

How could he not trust so compassionate a face? He had a mission. To defeat the devil.  "All right." He closed his eyes.

"Imagine Father Haffemann is there. Tell me what you see."

"He is telling me to take my clothes off. I am afraid to say 'no'. You never say -'no' to a priest. You have to obey."

"You're watching from a distance, you're safe with me. What happens next?"

"He picks me up and puts me over the edge of the desk. It hurts, the edge of the desk against my groin... but not as bad as...  Dorian?"

"I'm here.  It's okay."

"He rapes me.  I just stare at the picture on the wall."

"How do you feel?"

"Scared.  Ashamed.  Dirty."

"Is the devil here?"

"The devil made him do it."

"Father Haffemann is gone.  You're alone."

"I put my clothes on,"

"Where is the devil?"

Klaus' heart skipped a beat.  He didn't want to face the devil.  "I don't know."

"You have to face it."

Klaus' breath came in short, deep gasps.  "But it hurts."  He screwed up his face as tears rose.

"You don't have to feel it.  You're watching.  You're still here with me."  He held Klaus tighter.  "Face the devil."

"It comes out my ass."

"Because that's where Father Haffemann hurt you.  What does the devil represent to you?"

"It made him rape me.  It is lust.  It is desire."  He took a shuddering breath.  "I don't want to look at it.  It's obscene."

"What does the devil want?"

"To bite it off."

"Why?"

He didn't know.  He shook his head.

"Ask it."

Klaus swallowed, "What do you want?" he demanded.  The demon gibbered and clacked its teeth at him.  "It won't answer."

"Make it answer."

"I can't."

"Yes, you can."

"No..."  Klaus turned towards Dorian.  "I'm just a child."

"No.  You're Iron Klaus.  You have to rescue that child. Make it talk.  Use your interrogation skills."

Big Klaus stepped down from his lofty perch.  Little Klaus looked up at him with large, tear-filled eyes.  He pushed the child behind himself.  The devil was only child-height and not so imposing to the tall Major.

"What do you want!?" he demanded, snarling down at the vulgar, red creature.

"I want you," replied the Devil in an evil, metallic voice. "You are mine."

"No!  I am free of you."

The devil regarded him with shining eyes, then made a lunge for Big Klaus' crotch.

"Nein!"  He grabbed the devil.  "You are my prisoner now!"

"You have him?" asked Dorian.

"Yes!"

"How do you feel?"

"Triumphant. Afraid.  What do I do with it?"

"What do you want to do with it?"

"I want to kill it!  I want to kill it and then kill Father Haffemann so they can't hurt me anymore!"

"Then do it."

"I shoot it!"  Klaus could feel the weight and coldness of steel in his hand.  He could feel the discharge and recoil as he laid bullet after bullet into the demon, blasting it into tiny bits.  "Shoot it and shoot it and shoot it..." he growled through clenched teeth, his hands wrapped around an invisible gun.

"Father Haffemann too?"

Klaus heard the priest re-enter the room.  He whirled, gun aimed.  "You son of a bitch!" he spat.  He fired.  The bullet exploded Father Haffemann's head like a pumpkin.  He shot him in the groin as well.

"Got him!"

Dorian embraced him.  "Good for you.  Now let your child-self free.  Let him break his vow."

He turned to where Little Klaus stood, hands clasped under his pointed chin.

"It's all right," he said, kneeling down in front of him. "It's over.  He can't hurt you anymore."

Little Klaus began to cry.  "Saint Pelagia..."

"Shush.  Let go."

"Hold him," said Dorian.

Klaus took his child self into his arms.  He picked him up and embraced him.  He loved him.  "It's all right.  It's all right," he whispered.  Little Klaus rested in his arms, sniffing and snuffling.  Big Klaus began to hum to him a sweet, simple tune, like a lullaby.  A song he'd heard only once before: that night at Schloss Durdenstein when Dorian had hummed him to sleep.

He opened his eyes.  He was holding himself, rocking slowly and humming.  Dorian still held him.

"Dorian," he smiled.  "I saved him."

"Yes."  Dorian smiled tenderly. "I want you to remember that.  Picture it all again, just like before."

"But why?"

"Because you must instill the belief that the devil is dead as deeply as you instilled the belief that it was alive."

So, under Dorian's encouragement and reassurance, Klaus relived the scenario again.  Then once more.  By the end of it, Klaus was feeling both exhausted and exhilarated.

"That's good enough for today," said Dorian.  "What would you like to do now?"  His voice sounded hoarse.  His cold was worsening.

"I'd like to eat," Klaus smiled.  "And I'd like to exercise.  I feel cramped."

"Well, there's room for push-ups and sit-ups and little else," replied Dorian.  "But the air's so heavy.  We're not going to run out of air, are we?"

"Not as long as the chimney's clear.  The air is fine."

"Oh.  Well, I guess I have a bit of a chest cold.  It's getting hard to breathe."

"Dorian?"  Klaus sat up, alarmed.  How bad off was he?  "It's the damp and the change in temperature.  Are you seriously ill?"

Dorian's eyes got large.  "I hope not.  I guess I'm a little achy, but that's just from being cramped and sleeping on the floor. "

And getting beaten, thought Klaus, grimly.  "Lie down.  I want to listen to your lungs."

Dorian lay down obediently and Klaus put his ear to the smooth, pale chest. "Breathe deep and slow."

There was a faint rattle in Dorian's breath.  It worried Klaus greatly, but he didn't want the gentle Earl to fret.

"You have caught a cold, he said.  "Just stay warm." The coat lay discarded to one side of the lean-to.   Put the coat on."   

"I'm plenty warm," Dorian protested.

"Do not argue.  You must not get sicker.  We have no medicine"

“All right, all right," Dorian said and donned the heavy coat.  "You're as bad as my old governess."

K1aus chuck1ed.  "Poor kid."

"Oh, but you're much better looking."

“Danke.”

He sat Dorian front and square before the fire, then settled down beside him.  He felt... thoroughly scrubbed.  There was no other way to say it.  Dorian had come into his soul, read everything there, everything, and made him feel clean again.  He could even picture Dorian, in an apron, rubber gloves, with a mop and pail, his hair tied up under a kerchief, ready to do battle with the demons of Klaus' soul.  His friend.  He put his arm around Dorian's shoulders.

 

Dorian leaned against Klaus, feeling exhausted and triumphant himself.  He simply could not worry about food or air or rescue right now.  Everything had changed for the better.  Love had triumphed over cruelty.  He felt as though he himself had been inside Klaus, killing the devil that held his beloved Major in bondage.  They'd faced the greatest adversary and won.  Now to the victors go the spoils.

"If we get out of here," he said, looking up into the grubby, unshaven face. "Will we still be this close?  I realize you'd never have let me in so close under any other circumstances, so what I want to know is: what will happen out there?"

"First of all," replied Klaus, "we will get out.  Never doubt that.  Second, I don't know what will happen.  We are friends.  I will treat you like a friend, but as I have no other friends, I cannot say what that treatment will be."

"Will you hold me?"

"Privately."

"And kiss me?"

"I do not see why you would want me to, but I gave you my word..."

"You said you liked to kiss me."

Klaus smirked.  "So I did."                                   

Dorian's heart sang.  They had to survive.  After all these years, to have come so far in one night and one day -- they couldn't die.  It would be too cruel of Fate.

Dorian's lungs were getting tighter.  Probably all that snow he inhaled in the chimney.  He didn't want to worry Klaus though.  Klaus had to give himself all the TLC he could spare. Klaus was the one in need of care and nurturing.  Dorian would not trouble him with his illness. Besides, the moment was too sweet.  Here at last he was with Klaus, the real Klaus, without the armor of the Iron Major.  He lay his head back down on Klaus' shoulder.

"Are you not going to make me prove it?"  Klaus said with mischief in his voice.

Dorian looked up, surprised beyond all thought. "Prove it?"

"All right." grinned Klaus, who then kissed him deliciously, lips parted. Dorian saw fireworks. Too quickly the show ended, with Klaus beaming down at him as though he'd just won a medal.

"Darling!" was all Dorian could gasp. "I'm breathless! How are you?"

"I feel reborn! I feel exalted!"

"Then you love me!" he exclaimed.

"I do?" the Major asked.

"You do. I'm sure of it."

"If you say so."

Dorian gave another cry and nearly knocked Klaus over with an exuberant embrace. Laughter and tears battled within and without. "Oh, Klaus! My Klaus, my Klaus, my love..."

"Dorian. Dorian!" Klaus wrestled him off. "Easy now.   He held the Earl by the wrists.  "I still do not desire you."

Dorian panted. "That's all right. I love you. You love me.  I should die of joy were there not so much to live for!"

"Ach, Dorian..."

He couldn't breathe. In his enthusiasm, he had begun to wheeze asthmatically, his throat and lungs feeling constricted.  Klaus' demeanor changed.

"Dorian! You're getting worse!"                   

"I just (gasp) over-taxed myself, (gasp) I'm all right." In truth, his whole body ached. Klaus mustn't worry. Nothing must darken those eyes now that happiness had finally brightened them.

"Sit still," said Klaus. The Major crawled out of the shelter. He returned with two handfuls of snow. "Here. Keep from dehydrating."

Dorian took the snow and ate it.

"I'm sorry," said Klaus. "If we had a cup I could warm some for you."

"It's all right, (gasp) I know."

"Maybe you should lie down."

Dorian nodded and lay down in his sheep-hair slumber bag.  Klaus lay spooned up behind him and ran his hand over the coat, along Dorian's side. The fire was hot on Dorian's face. His body was hurt inside and out, but all he felt was dear Klaus strong body against him, the warm breath in his ear.

"Relax," murmured Klaus.  "You will breathe easier."

"Okay."

"Do not speak. Just rest."

Dorian nodded. "I'll try." He gasped for air.

"I'll sing to you now. Just rest, all right? I will sing to you. "

Dorian nodded.

"All right. Let me think.  I fear I am not as much a music fanatic as you, so my selection is not as good. When we get home, I will let you take me to one of your damned operas, all right? I promise."

Dorian could tell Klaus was dreadfully worried.  It pained him but at the same time it only proved that Klaus really did care about him.

"Two," he wheezed.

"What?"

"Two operas."

"All right.  Just hush.  You're supposed to be relaxing.  I relaxed for you, now you shut up and relax for me."

Dorian lay still, laboring for breath.

"Good boy.  Now I shall sing to you.  Uhh...

 

There were bells on the hill
But I never heard them ringing
No, I never heard them at all
Till there was you

 

There were birds on the hill
I never saw them winging
I never saw them at all
Till there was you

 

And there was music
And there were wonderful roses
They tell me in sweet fragrant meadows
Of dawn and dew
There was love all around
But I never heard it singing
No, I never heard it at all
Till there was you."

 

Dorian wanted to say something, but it was too much of a struggle.  It was a wonder how fast his lungs were shutting down. His back ached most of all from his efforts to breathe.  The coat was hot and even Klaus' touch now failed to comfort him.  He rolled onto his back, throwing off his cover.

"No, no. Dorian.  You must stay warm."

"Hot," he wheezed.

"God, Dorian, please hold on."

"Yes."

Klaus gathered Dorian's head and shoulders in his arms. "Please."

"Sing."

"All right, but not another word from you."

As Klaus sang to him.  Military marches, including the precious tank-force song, plus the first stanzas to a few popular tunes such as "Star Dust", "Du, Du, liegst mir im Herzen", "Snowbird", and even "You Are My Sunshine."   And as Dorian drifted into sleep or unconsciousness, he heard Klaus insist, "Please don't take my sunshine away."

 

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