Windows To The Soul

by Kadorienne

 

The next time it happens, I'll do it, Dorian promised himself.

The next time Klaus looks at me that way... I'll kiss him.

Dorian never knew when that look would appear on his beloved's stern face. That look that said Dorian had actually gotten through the Iron Major and made contact with the human being who presumably existed underneath. And Dorian was certain that at those moments, Klaus also saw through his beautiful "flashy" clothes and disdainful manner and saw him, Dorian. How could the two of them stare into each other's eyes, into each other's souls, that way, if that look did not mean what Dorian thought it did?

Sometimes there was a hint of shame in that look, like the time the Major had grabbed him by his shirt front, about to hit him, and Dorian had calmly reminded him that he, Dorian, was not built to shoot a Magnum one-handed, unlike some people. Klaus had stared at him for a moment, and then released him and offered him mercurochrome — a surprisingly caring gesture from such a man, even if he had literally thrown the bottle at him.

Klaus had looked that way when Dorian had seized an opportunity to come to his defense. That KGB oaf Mischa had dared to taunt his Major's passionate patriotism with the jeering words, "Heil Hitler." Taunting Klaus, who had put more Neo-Nazi terrorists behind bars than any other single agent, like that. Dorian had been as enraged as his love had been, and had acted more quickly. Before Klaus could lunge for the man, Dorian had stepped in and backhanded the despicable swine. Then he had turned to his beloved and informed him, "He is not worth raising your hand to." And in return he had gotten that heavenly unguarded look — if only he'd acted on it then....

He'd hoped that he would see that look again, the first time he had told the Major that he loved him. But all he had gotten was Iron Klaus, a stone-faced man who was capable of answering such a declaration with a punch in the face.

He had seen it when he had awakened Klaus from that half-hour's badly needed sleep after that bomb had gone off after they removed it from the world peace summit. Dorian had been sorely tempted to let his Major sleep for ten hours — the poor darling was exhausted — but he did what the Major had asked, with no small regret. Klaus's enchanting green eyes had opened and fixed on him, slightly surprised that he had trusted Eroica enough to let him keep watch while he slept.

Surprised, and — frightened? That was the one thing that Dorian thought he saw in that look he watched for. Dorian breached the Major's defenses from time to time, and that frightened the Major. Well, it had to. He was in his metaphorical citadel all alone. Did he trust anyone at all?

And Dorian was sure that when Klaus was looking like that would be the best possible time to kiss him. Not when he was looking indulgent and ever so slightly affectionate, as he occasionally did. No, Dorian tried to be as tamped down as possible when his beloved had that look; it happened so seldom, and trying Klaus's rare moments of patience was, one might say, pure idiocy.

And not when Dorian got too close and Klaus got that deer-in-the-headlights look. Klaus had looked that way in Arabia when Dorian had put that emerald necklace around the Major's neck, telling him that emeralds suited a brunet. Klaus had also looked that way on numerous occasions when he had realized that Dorian was in much closer proximity than he had realized — in one case, in his very arms, when Klaus had mistaken him for a KGB agent. That look was what made Dorian certain that, under all that vehement denial, Klaus wanted him. But that look was also only a step away from panic, and one could hardly seduce a panicking man.

And certainly not when Klaus was his normal self, in control and irritated and ready to lose his temper at the slightest provocation. All that provoking Klaus in that state ever got him was a sore jaw.

No, it was that sudden, unguarded look that would be Dorian's opening. If he could only be swift enough to take it, because it never lasted long, and always appeared out of the blue, inspired by who knew what. And it was so intriguing that Dorian often found himself simply returning his beloved's gaze, too mesmerized to act. And if Dorian could only be brave enough, because thus far his courage had always failed him. At those moments, Klaus looked so — not exactly vulnerable, but as close to it as a wire rope could. And even while it made Dorian want to take his darling in his arms, it also made him hesitate — surely it would be cruel, even hurtful, to take advantage of such fleeting weakness?

But it was his only chance to win his one true love, he was certain... and Klaus's only chance to allow himself to be loved. For the sake of the man he loved, Dorian had to do it.

And I shall. The very next time, Dorian convinced himself as he walked toward the object of his affections, who was standing in front of the coffeeshop, waiting for him. Dorian was only a minute or two late, but Klaus glared at him and gave his watch a pointed look.

"So sorry I'm late, my darling. I couldn't do a thing with my hair," Dorian greeted him sweetly. As expected, Klaus scowled. He wordlessly jerked his head, indicating that Dorian should follow him, and began striding down the sidewalk. Even though Klaus was only two inches taller, Dorian still found it difficult to keep up.

"We certainly look like idle passerby marching along like this. Not like spies at all," Dorian remarked, and slowed to a more casual pace. Klaus was forced to slow down.

Klaus did not speak until they had walked a couple of blocks. Then he said, "The grey building up ahead... look it over as we walk by."

Dorian did so, gathering that he was going to be expected to break into that building. It was an office building, apparently occupied by one large company, not a collection of rented suites. That meant tighter security right off. Chattering about architecture, and certain that Klaus was not heeding a word he said, Dorian scanned the windows and looked for balconies or fire escapes — there were none. He noted where all the doors were, and found it necessary to saunter right into the main entrance and ask the receptionist for directions. She gave them kindly, responding to his charm as everyone except the love of his life did, while the security guards watched him with boredom and Klaus with irritation.

As they resumed walking, Dorian asked, "Do you really think getting a look inside was a stupid idea, or is your expression directed at my clothes? And here I wore something dull just for you." Certainly his soft, voluminous powder-blue sweater was tame compared to his usual garb, though it looked quite striking with his golden mane tumbling over it and it matched his eyes perfectly.

"I appreciate that," Klaus said, without a trace of irony.

"Then why are you frowning like that? You know, I never believed my mother when she said that my face would get stuck if I made the wrong expression too much, but perhaps she was right."

"Our sources say that the documents we need are on the eleventh floor." Klaus briskly recited the building's known alarm systems and what types of locks were thought to be within. "Can you get through all that?"

Dorian laughed and tossed his curls over his shoulders. "Darling, can't you come up with a challenge for me? Of course I can." Klaus nodded curtly as they turned the corner. They would go around the block and return to their respective cars. Giving Klaus his most fetching sidelong glance, Dorian murmured, "But then, you always do present a challenge to me, don't you, darling?"

The Major grimaced. "I knew it was coming sooner or later. Don't bother. It won't do you any good."

"Spoilsport," Dorian pouted. "At least allow me to hope, Major." They walked on in silence for a minute before Dorian drawled, "You know what I would hate more than anything else I can think of, darling?"

Klaus scowled. "Do tell me. Perhaps I can arrange it."

Dorian dimpled. "If some other man succeeded where I, thus far, have failed." He ran sparkling eyes up and down Klaus's irresistible six-foot-two form, leaving no doubt as to his meaning.

Klaus stopped walking, looking outraged, as expected. He turned several shades of red and purple while Dorian watched composedly. At last he said through clenched teeth, "For once we agree on something!"

Dorian nodded cheerfully. "And towards that end, Major, I'm going to give you some free advice about how to avoid that very situation. About how to discourage queers like me from making advances to you."

Klaus looked a bit startled at that. It took a few seconds for him to recover himself sufficiently to resume walking, saying, "Excellent! Straight from the horse's — mouth."

Dorian fluttered his eyelashes; for that crack, Klaus deserved it. "If another of us perverts makes a play for you, darling, don't react quite so violently. Act rather bored when you turn them down. They'll be more likely to believe you mean it then." Klaus was listening as if Dorian were speaking an unfamiliar language. Dorian continued, "The way you react to me just screams 'closet case'."

That did it. Klaus stopped walking and turned to Dorian, shouting, "Verdammt! Why do you pester me like this?"

"Because I love you, Major," Dorian replied simply.

Klaus's lip curled. "Then please tell me, how in God's name can I make you hate me?"

"I do, darling," Dorian replied, and at moments like this, when his one true love was being utterly impossible, he meant it. "That doesn't stop me from loving you. The two are not mutually exclusive."

Klaus froze, and his mask of fury dropped with startling abruptness, and his eyes met Dorian's.

And what Dorian saw in those eyes. Was that despair? Did Klaus regret what he had become, what his work had made out of him? Did he ever look at his ideals of patriotism, duty, and honor and feel that he had strayed from them by striving for them too much and becoming too hard? Did he ever think, late at night when he was alone, that he had paid too high a price?

Was that something in those catlike green eyes loneliness?

And could he see the genuine concern in Dorian's eyes? Was that what held his gaze captured like this? He claimed to believe that Dorian's declarations to him were motivated only by lust and perversity, but surely when he truly looked, as he was now, he must see the truth, that Dorian truly loved him, that he cared about the terrible burden Klaus had taken onto his shoulders....

I love you, Dorian thought, so intensely that surely Klaus must hear the words even though they had not been spoken aloud. How could Klaus possibly not know now, and not respond in kind?

When Klaus spoke, Dorian almost jumped, even though his voice was quite soft. "No, they're not." He gave Dorian a long, cool look before adding, "I hate you."

Dorian caught his breath. Klaus spun on his heel and strode off. Dorian sighed, looking after him wistfully, his heart pounding.

"I hate you too, darling," he murmured to his beloved's swiftly retreating back.

And as he headed for his own car, Dorian realized that he had missed his opportunity yet again. His heart sank. The moment had been so right, never mind the people walking past and the public street. When they were looking at each other like that, nothing else mattered, really.

Dorian unlocked his Maserati and sank into the seat dejectedly.

The next time, he promised himself. The very next time Klaus looks at me that way, I'll kiss him....

Dorian pulled off the heist two days later, toward the end of the workday on a Friday when everyone was too tired to examine his forged identification (which was excellent anyway) too closely or to see through his disguise (which was also excellent) or to care much what he was doing there.

He acquired the documents with no trouble. They were exactly where they were supposed to be, and Dorian delivered them into his Major's hands within the hour. They met in front of another coffeeshop, and Klaus stuffed the papers into his vest pocket brusquely. He scowled at Dorian.

"Want to go to a church with me?" he asked.

Dorian looked at him, startled, but only took a second to reply.

"Of course." He pulled his voluminous jacket over his snug, sleeveless shirt and joined the Major.

They did not speak as they walked down the sidewalk, the Major leading the way. Dorian seldom cared to disturb their rare truces.

The first time Klaus had asked him to go to church with him had been on the way to Rome. Dorian had been stunned. These amiable interludes had not yet become a habit with them, and he and Klaus were both atheists. But Klaus had smiled slightly, explaining, "Churches are nice. Make you feel serene much better than anywhere else." They had gone to San Salvatore, which dated back to the sixteenth century. Dorian had been thrilled at the location as well as at Klaus's unexpected friendliness; the church's artistic offerings included several works by Salveti and a Nativity by Pietro da Cortona.

Mostly they had sat in surprisingly companionable silence, but they had talked occasionally; Dorian had spoken a bit about the church's design, showing off his knowledge of the history of art and architecture, and Klaus, who had been raised Catholic, had made some remarks about the saints depicted by the stained-glass windows.

It hadn't lasted, of course. Later that day they had gotten back to the mission and had promptly been at each other's throats once more. But there had been other occasions, generally separated by years, when they had seized a lull in a mission to sit in a church together like this.

This one was not as ornate as some of the ones they had been in, but it had its own quiet charm. Looking around at the grey stone and vaulted ceilings, Dorian allowed himself to daydream for a moment about being in some Gothic romance, with magnificently gloomy settings, mystery and danger all around, and a handsome, dark, brooding hero.

"Until you started taking me to them, I hated churches," Dorian said softly when they had been sitting for a time.

"How can you hate churches? They're so peaceful."

"Even though you're an atheist?"

"Yes."

Dorian considered. "Why are you an atheist?"

Klaus responded predictably. "It's only rational. Science explains everything."

"No it doesn't," Dorian replied with irritation, but stopped himself. He was not going to start arguing with Klaus over his narrow worldview now. Instead he said, "I hated churches because I spent too much time in them when I was twelve."

"Why? What happened when you were twelve?"

Dorian hesitated. He licked his lips. "I realized that I was gay. And everything that went with it." He paused, and waited for Klaus to stalk out.

Klaus's expression seemed to grow colder, but he neither moved nor spoke.

Encouraged, Dorian went on, "I spent hours almost every day for nearly a year in church. I would kneel on the stone floor — there were velvet cushions to kneel on, but I had some sort of vague idea that mortifying my flesh would make God listen to me more — and pray for hours to be made normal."

Klaus was looking at him, frowning, not in disgust, but in perplexity. "You were that upset by it?"

Dorian tossed his curls over his shoulder defiantly. "What did you think? That one day I woke up and thought, 'I want to be a pervert when I grow up?'"

Klaus grimaced. "The way you always flaunt it, I thought—" He stopped. "You sure as hell don’t seem bothered by it now."

"It took years of work to achieve this blitheness," Dorian informed Klaus with unusual bitterness. He rarely thought of that long-ago struggle, but now the pain and self-disgust came flooding back to him.

"I suppose your father must have been disappointed," Klaus offered awkwardly after a hesitation. Dorian realized incredulously that Klaus was trying to be sympathetic. Sympathy never had been his long suit, but the attempt was touching.

"My father was gay too," Dorian said softly. Klaus's eyes widened. "That's part of the reason I didn't want to be. It's what split my parents up. They only stayed together long enough to produce a male heir — I have a lot of older sisters. Though of course, their heir isn't going to do them much good," Dorian finished wryly.

"So — how long did you keep on praying before you gave up?"

"Nine or ten months. After a few months of unanswered prayers, I gave God a deadline. My thirteenth birthday. Mother had arranged an elaborate party, even though she'd already walked out on us — it was the thing for her to do, I suppose — and every teenaged aristocrat for miles around was invited. I tried very hard to take an interest in the fetchingly attired future countesses and baronesses, but instead I found myself looking at their brothers. Still. Nothing had changed. That was the day I became an atheist."

Klaus was still frowning. "I see," was all he said. After considering, he informed Dorian, "You were not an atheist that day. You were telling yourself you were because you were mad at God."

Dorian smiled slightly. "I suppose so. You understand that?"

Klaus ignored the question. "You don't seem mad now. You seem cheerful as a lark."

Dorian sighed. "Larks aren't easy to hurt, Major." At Klaus's inquiring look, Dorian clarified, "If you let the world know that something hurts you, people will use it to hurt you. If you flaunt your own cheerfulness about it, people will believe that it isn't a weapon. But you're quite right, I was mad, at God and at the whole world. I didn't ask to be like this! If the church and state think they can punish me for something I didn't even do on purpose, they can go to hell!"

Klaus was looking at Dorian as if he'd never seen him before. "That's why you — act like that. Like a queer. You're much more serious underneath all that nonsense."

"Of course, darling. My superficiality is only skin deep."

"And that's why you're a criminal. It's your revenge against society, for being queer."

Dorian shrugged. "You could say that."

"Could? Why else would you do it?"

Dorian paused. "You must be right, considering the circumstances of my first theft."

Klaus gave him an inquiring look. "Tell me. I want to know how someone with your potential got sidetracked like that."

"I was not sidetracked," Dorian informed him. "Theft is my life’s work. As for my first theft… a friend of my father’s owned an exquisite painting, a shepherd by Giorgione. For years, whenever we visited him, I would stand in front of it and gaze at it for hours. I adored it. That painting was my first love."

"So you stole it." Klaus’s mouth was a thin line of contempt.

"He offered to give it to me, when I was thirteen," Dorian said sharply. "As a bribe."

Klaus snorted. "What the hell can you bribe a thirteen-year-old boy for?" As he uttered the sentence, the answer dawned on him, and he gave Dorian a look of pure disgust. "You prostituted yourself for a painting?"

"I suppose you would have held out for a tank!" Dorian snapped. "And no, I did not ‘prostitute’ myself, I was raped! I was thirteen, he was fifty! And I’ll admit that he wasn’t violent, but only because he didn’t have to be — I was too frightened to resist and he damn well knew it!" A tremor had worked its way into Dorian’s voice. He rarely thought about that occasion — he had worked hard to banish it from his mind — but now he discovered the memory was as painful and angering as ever. The memory of the man’s leering face and groping hands was still acute, and even the taste of his own fear. And Dorian also remembered how he had gazed steadily at the painting the whole time, trying to derive solace from it, and he had fancied that the shepherd was encouraging him, promising that things would be all right, that he had the strength to survive this.

Dorian realized that Klaus was still looking at him, in horrified fascination. "Did you tell your father?" he asked hesitantly.

Dorian shook his head. "It was years before I told anyone. I was too ashamed."

"There’s no reason for you to be—"

"Of course not, but that was how I felt." Dorian quickly moved on with the story; he could not bear to discuss that event for one more minute. "Shortly afterward, the painting was delivered to me, but it was a forgery, I saw that at once. First he raped me, then he cheated me. It was the last straw. I decided to exact revenge and take what was rightfully mine. So I stole the painting."

"I see," Klaus said after a long time. "And —- that didn’t stop you from being gay?"

"It couldn't," Dorian replied. "Though it did influence what I like to do with men."

Klaus averted his face quickly. "I don't want to hear about it!"

Before he could stop himself, Dorian drawled, "Well, actions speak louder than words."

Klaus uttered a word not altogether appropriate for a church, rose and stormed out. Dorian sat still, cursing himself. He never could seem to stop pushing it.

Too dispirited to move, Dorian sat gazing abstractedly at the altarpiece, remembering.

He remembered the many times he had cheerfully declared that for him sex was purely physical and purely fun, and confidently asserted that it did not touch his soul at all. He remembered trying very hard to empirically demonstrate this by spending a decade bedding everything male and cooperative that came along. His lovers had to take him on his terms — they did what he wished to do, they accepted what he wished to give them, and when he tired of them he dropped them without preamble — but seducing the Earl of Gloria was not a challenge. No one, Dorian least of all, noticed the paradox, that a thief who would not steal for mere money but had to be inspired was yet so indiscriminate in matters of romance.

He remembered the night, just over a year after meeting the Major, that he had asked himself, after another fruitless attempt to communicate his feelings to the insensitive bastard he loved, how he could prove the depth of his devotion to the decidedly prudish German. What sacrifice would be great enough for a man of iron? He remembered his dismay when the inevitable answer had presented itself.

Be faithful to Klaus? Before they became lovers? Go without sex for God only knew how long until the muleheaded wire rope came to his senses?

He remembered the weeks of struggling with himself before he had made up his mind that faint heart ne'er won fair Major. He remembered the sleepless nights over the months that followed. He remembered, ruefully, the cold showers. He had even taken Klaus's oft-given advice to his agents and done a lot of running.

He remembered the day he had realized that not making his body available to every man who wanted it was a relief and not an effort. He remembered the night he had received an inordinately tempting offer and had declined it without regret.

He remembered the night when Klaus had insulted him one too many times, and Dorian had stormed to the nearest gay bar intent on breaking his resolution with the first attractive male who looked at him. He had chosen a prospect, bought him a drink, and begun chatting him up... and after a few minutes, had realized that he really didn't have the heart for it. Never mind what Klaus had said to him; the fact was, recreation with a man who meant nothing to him simply held no more appeal. He had shaken his catch loose and gone back to his hotel and slept alone.

He remembered the day he had realized that his blithe words had been so much bravado and that he could not separate his heart from his body, that every man who had had his body had taken a piece of his soul as well, and that it had taken years of celibacy for it to heal. That was also the day he had no longer been able to lie to himself about his first time, about the terrible violation to his spirit it had been. The pain and anger he had been refusing to acknowledge for so many years had exploded in him, and for a few months he had thought it would never ease. In time, of course, it had. It never completely faded; it was always a bruise on his spirit that would ache if pressed; but there came a day when it was no longer foremost in his thoughts and emotions, and a day when the pain no longer crippled him.

And he remembered, ruefully, the dozens of times that he had almost told Klaus about his fidelity, but had never been able to. All this effort and self-deprivation, and he hadn't even let its reason know of it. Because Klaus would almost certainly not believe him, and if he didn't, Dorian didn't think he could endure that. Not after so many years of lonely nights.

Loud footsteps coming down the aisle jolted Dorian from his reverie. For an instant he wondered if the Major had returned, but it was two men he did not know, both grim-faced and wearing trenchcoats. They stalked to the front pew and sat down, where they began a tense conversation in low voices. Dorian stole a discreet glance at them. One was handsome, in a caveman sort of way; a rather flat face, high forehead, dark ominous brows, wavy shoulder length dark hair. The other — well, this was definitely one of the boys Dorian's mother had told him not to play with. The black leather was rather dashing, but the scar across one eye, together with a feral expression Dorian had seen in rather more faces than he liked, were danger signs.

The handsome one stood up abruptly, apparently outraged at something the other had said. He clutched his coat around himself as he did, and something in the movement caught Dorian's attention. With a practiced pickpocket's eye, Dorian evaluated the man, deduced he was hiding a large and nasty weapon underneath it, and concluded that the wisest course would be to casually stroll out and go back to his hotel.

Dorian had only been back in his suite for half an hour, sipping Mosel's and trying not to feel sorry for himself, when a familiar hammering sounded at the door. He spent a minute messing with his hair in front of the mirror. Patience was a virtue; the Major could stand to learn a bit of it.

Dorian opened the door, and Klaus shoved his way inside before the Earl could manage a greeting. "I need you to stay here a few more days. This mission has gotten complicated; I'll need your services again."

"Of course, Major. What's the problem?"

"I won't tell you until it's time to act. The less you know, the less risk you run. But I need you to stay — but I'll warn you: it could be dangerous. If you want to leave—"

"Don't be absurd. Of course I won't leave. That would be sensible." When Klaus snorted, Dorian added, "I wouldn't run out on you when you needed me, Major."

Klaus acknowledged this brusquely. "We have to wait till after the weekend for this, so you've got the next couple of days off." He turned back to the door.

"And you, Major? What will you be doing?"

"A lot of running, I expect. To keep from dying of boredom."

"Why don't you let me take you to dinner, darling? I know a lovely Italian place where—"

Klaus gave him a derisive glance. "Save your energy for someone else. That rugby team that's staying at this hotel, for instance."

Dorian felt his face go white. An instant later, before he knew it, his palm was stinging from its resounding impact with Klaus's cheek.

The slap seemed to echo in the silence that followed. Klaus stared at him, more shocked than angry. He stood motionless, the angry red imprint of Dorian's hand across his cheek.

And there it was again, that look. The startled, unguarded look of a man whose defenses have swiftly evaporated. So many times Dorian had seen that look, and had been too stunned by it to seize the moment, had allowed the opportunity to slip through his fingers.

Not this time.

Before he had time to reconsider, Dorian closed the short distance between them with one stride. Delicately, he placed his fingertips along Klaus's jaw, and without hesitation, leaned in and pressed his lips to Klaus's.

Klaus's body tensed defensively in response, but only slightly. He made no attempt to move away. And slowly, tentatively, his lips were responding, moving helplessly in concert with Dorian's.

Iron Klaus. Helpless.

Eventually they had to break apart. Dorian moved a few inches back and surveyed his beloved. Klaus looked trapped. If there had been half a dozen guns trained on him, he would have looked like this, as if he wished to bolt, but couldn't. His emerald eyes were trained on Dorian as if mesmerized, and his jaw was set in that way that meant that he was going to face this if it killed him.

The man had just been kissed, and he looked like he was about to be assassinated.

Dorian leaned in for another kiss. He could not have resisted for the world, though a corner of his mind whispered that perhaps he was pushing too far, too fast. But Dorian had waited for far too long. This time, he kissed more aggressively, running his fingers through that silky dark hair at last, then letting his hands roam over Klaus's broad shoulders — oh, those wonderful muscles — over his strong chest and his back, pressing his own body close as both of them began to breathe more rapidly.

Klaus kissed as if it hurt him. He was shaking, but he did not resist; his arms went, very hesitantly, around Dorian and rested on his back gingerly.

Dorian released his beloved's mouth reluctantly. He opened his eyes to find Klaus still gazing at him in that intent way, trembling, but waiting like a sacrificial animal, as if he were incapable of resisting.

You pushed too far, Eroica, Dorian chided himself, and with effort made himself take a step back, withdrawing his arms from around the man he loved and wanted so badly that it was physically painful at times, like now….

Only to find his wrist seized in a viselike grip, preventing him from moving further away.

He searched Klaus's face, but Klaus would not meet his gaze now, was intently examining his own strong fingers wrapped around Dorian's slender wrist.

"Klaus?" Dorian whispered.

Trembling, Klaus parted his lips as if to speak, then pressed them back together. He did this a few times before finding his voice, which was hoarse and quite unlike his usual tone.

"You can't start this and just—-" He broke off.

"Does that mean you want me?" Dorian asked softly, knowing that he could simply reach out and take what he wanted, but unwilling to press his advantage so far, not if it would hurt his darling….

Klaus shuddered and closed his eyes. Dorian found himself having all sorts of second thoughts. He had wanted to seduce Iron Klaus, not turn him into Tinfoil Klaus. This, after all, was exactly why he hadn't taken advantage of that fleeting unguarded look long ago — he had felt it wouldn't be quite cricket to pounce on a defenseless man, to play on a moment's vulnerability. But now he had opened Pandora's box and was simply going to have to contend with whatever emerged.

They stood that way for what felt like hours, Klaus with his eyes tightly closed and his head bowed, his trembling hand still clamped around Dorian's wrist in an aching grip; Dorian holding his breath, watching the other man's face carefully, waiting for whatever Klaus was able to decide.

At last Klaus raised his head and opened his eyes. "Dorian," he whispered, his expression helpless, and then broke off again. Was that pleading in his eyes?

But Dorian’s poor militaristic machine had to find voicing such a request impossibly difficult. Dorian would have to find some way to make consenting easier for him. Slowly he reached up and let the fingertips of his free hand trail lightly over Klaus’s cheek. Klaus squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his face into Dorian's open palm, still shaking, breathing with difficulty.

Good God. The poor man. A couple of kisses and a caress and he fell apart. He must be starving to be touched, and loved. Dorian found himself leaning closer involuntarily at the thought. But he couldn't make it easy for Klaus to lie to himself about it afterwards, and besides, Dorian did have a conscience of sorts.

"Klaus? My love?" Dorian whispered. Klaus did not respond. "If you want me to stop, darling," Dorian continued softly, "you only need to say one word." He waited, straining his ears to hear over his hammering heart.

Klaus did not open his eyes. At last, he managed one choked word. "Don't…."

Dorian's spirits crashed to earth. Painfully, he stepped back, away from the man he loved.

To find the vise grip renewing itself, and Klaus opening his eyes reluctantly to growl hoarsely, "Don't leave."

An equivocal consent at best. Dorian drew a steadying breath and then spoke gently, trying to reason — with both of them. "Klaus… love… why don't we just go over and sit on the couch together, and just hold each other?"

Klaus's response was to drag him to the couch without a word. They sat that way for a long time, Klaus's face pressed into the curve of Dorian's neck, Dorian slowly stroking his dark hair and restraining himself from doing more, just, every now and then, pressing his lips for a moment to the top of Klaus's head.

It took a long time, but eventually Klaus drew a shuddering breath and stopped shaking. His body relaxed in Dorian's embrace. God, the poor repressed darling. He needed Dorian desperately.

Klaus lifted his head. He met Dorian's gaze calmly now, though still somewhat apprehensively. "Dorian," he said again.

"My love?"

Klaus pressed his lips together. God, what would it take to make him say the words? Dorian decided again to try to make it easy for him.

"Klaus." Dorian was speaking in the gentlest tone he could muster. "Do you want me to make love to you?"

Klaus shivered and closed his eyes for a second at the words. When he opened them, he was looking down at his arm, loosely wrapped around Dorian.

Dorian caressed Klaus's shoulder. "You don't need to decide now, darling. I'll make love to you when you want me to. Tonight, or tomorrow night, or a year from now — when you want me to, darling…."

Those words seemed to reach something in Klaus. His spine straightened, and he met Dorian's gaze again. "Tonight," he said, his voice low but very firm.

"Only if you're certain—-"

"Tonight." His fingers had tightened on Dorian's upper arms almost painfully.

Dorian had a few misgivings still — this was hardly the capitulation he had imagined — but then, he knew what his darling needed. The first time they had looked into each other's eyes, they had both known what Klaus needed, and that Dorian could provide it. No wonder Klaus had been fighting him ever since. He hadn't wanted to realize that even he could not be in control for every moment, that even he needed to let go and give in on occasion. Oh, but he could do so safely with Dorian, Dorian who loved him and would tread gently on those so-few sensitive spots, he would learn that Dorian would take proper care of him….

Dorian stood, taking Klaus's hand and pulling him gently to his feet, guiding him into the bedroom. Klaus followed docilely. It was downright eerie. Well. Dorian would take a long time and do this right. It was going to be wonderful for Klaus, no matter how nervous he was now.

And oh my, wasn't he lovely. Dorian undressed him slowly, making love to every inch of skin as it was revealed. Klaus was still acquiescing rather passively, but there was no doubt he was enjoying what Dorian was doing to him; he clung to Dorian and let out inarticulate moans and gasped for breath beautifully.

Dorian lowered his beloved onto the bed and then stretched out above him. He knew what he was doing.

"Don't worry, darling. I won't do it until you feel like you'll die if I don't."

He took a long time to prepare his darling to accept him. A little pain was perhaps inevitable, but Dorian drowned that pain in waves of pleasure, and Klaus’s face was drawn, intent on the sensations Dorian was giving him, surrendering to them — to him — utterly.

Dorian’s triumphant cry blotted out Klaus’s stifled moan.

Unable to restrain his satisfied smile, Dorian collapsed into a more comfortable position, cradling his lover close. Klaus buried his face in Dorian's abundant hair without a word. They fell asleep like that, without another word.

Dorian was disappointed, though not especially surprised, to wake up alone the next morning. No note, nothing except for a couple of long strands of dark hair on the rumpled pillow. Dorian allowed himself to bask in his victory for a few minutes before rising to bathe and dress.

He found the alphabets in the hotel's restaurant. "Where is my one true love this morning?" he asked, trying for his usual wistfully teasing tone. He thought he got it; at least, none of the agents seemed to see anything amiss, and they were no more nervous to see him than usual.

"He's not here, Lord Gloria," Z supplied with his habitual perfect courtesy. "He told us he was called away, he didn't say why, and that he would be back in time for our next maneuver."

Dorian kept his expression arch, concealing his thoughts. It was so like Klaus to check in with his agents before running off to hide or have a nervous breakdown. "And that will be?"

"You'll be notified," A cut in, attempting sternness. "See that you're on hand and ready." At Dorian's steady gaze, A's authority crumbled just a bit and he added, "My lord."

Dorian cast a glance around the table of agents and managed a pretty pout. "Oh, well, then. I suppose there's nothing for me to do but go shopping."

He returned to his suite and spent the next hour making quietly frantic phone calls. He roused his people and sent them in all directions, making inquiries. He checked the hospitals, the bars, and the churches. No Klaus.

Having exhausted his theories, Dorian spent the rest of the day worrying.

The next day there was still no sign of Klaus.

"Has he at least phoned any of you?" Dorian asked Z with a show of petulance, hoping the pose would conceal his genuine worry.

"No, Lord Gloria. He'll be back soon, though," Z assured him. The alphabets did not seem at all concerned. Dorian decided to take that as a good sign, even as he sent his people on another round of checks of Klaus's possible locations.

By now he was beginning to wonder if perhaps he had been wrong after all. That the Major was starved for affection was beyond dispute, but had giving it to him been a wise idea after all? Perhaps Klaus had reached the point where to receive what he needed was unbearable for him. Appalling, but entirely possible. Over and over, Dorian replayed their evening together, asking himself if he should have stopped at this point or that, if he should have resisted Klaus's thorny consent.

Dorian's team literally dragged him out of his suite for a late dinner at a high-tone restaurant. James was sufficiently worried about his employer not to object to the prices, which induced Dorian to try to eat some of the excellent food to reassure them. But he was able to force little of it down his dry throat. He doubted he would ever want to eat again.

It was with relief that Dorian escaped to the privacy of his own suite after dinner. He closed the door behind him and leaned on it with a little sigh of relief before reaching for the light switch.

He jumped at the sight of Klaus standing at the window, staring out, his back to Dorian. It showed how unsettled Dorian was, that the presence of an intruder could have escaped his notice.

Klaus did not move or speak; the tension in the muscles of his back was his only reaction to Dorian's presence.

Dorian breathed for a moment, gathering his thoughts. If he had bungled the other night, he was not going to bungle this moment. He would have to proceed carefully, and not upset Klaus's hair-trigger nerves, not now.

"I was worried," he said quietly. "Would you like a drink?"

It took a while, but at length Klaus nodded, once. Dorian poured two drinks in silence. It would be best if Klaus spoke first. Dorian approached, stopped a good three feet away from the other man, and held the drink out, aloof, non-threatening. Klaus took it and knocked back half of it before turning his head to look at Dorian. Who met his gaze evenly.

Klaus's eyes were a bit red, perhaps from lack of sleep. His glance was a bit troubled, but more... curious. Searching.

Dorian waited.

And waited.

When he could wait no longer, he said in a soft voice, "I hoped... I would be good for you."

There was a flicker in those Mosel eyes, but no more.

Dorian could not endure it. "Klaus, please. Say something."

Klaus's lips thinned grimly, as if he had been awaiting this command. He swallowed, then turned back to face the window again, looking out at the night sky.

"Dorian," he began. His voice was harsh and low. "I have never told anyone this."

Dorian remained silent, afraid to do anything that might break the moment.

"What you told me," Klaus said finally, as if every word had to be forced out. "About when you were thirteen."

It took Dorian a few seconds to understand. His eyes widened and his stomach turned over.

"Klaus?" he whispered. Please tell me you're not trying to tell me what I think you are….

"When I was twelve," Klaus stated, and stopped. It was enough.

Dorian wanted to run to his love and hold him, but that might not be the wisest course. He stayed where he was, trying to breathe. "Oh, God," he whispered. He pressed the back of his hand to his mouth. "And then I… oh God."

"Nein," Klaus said emphatically. "You were… completely different."

Dorian's lungs at last consented to accept air once more. "Thank God."

Judging from the tension of Klaus's back, there was more that he needed to say. Dorian wondered desperately if he should go to him, or say something. He was afraid to do anything.

"There was pain," Klaus said at last, his voice tight. "And it was… I was so…."

"Ashamed," Dorian supplied gently. "Furious."

"But that was not the worst of it," Klaus continued, as if the words had to be wrestled to the ground and subdued. "The worst of it was—" He cut himself off abruptly.

When he was sure that Klaus was not going to be able to finish the sentence himself, Dorian finished softly, "I know. The worst of it was that, in spite of the pain and the violation… you didn't entirely hate it."

Klaus shuddered.

"I know," Dorian repeated in a gentle voice. And suddenly understanding dawned. "You thought that was why. You thought that you desired men because that happened to you."

"I don't think that now," Klaus said in a voice so low Dorian had to strain to hear it. "No matter what, I don't think that I would have been able to help... wanting you."

Dorian closed his eyes in anguish. "God, Klaus, if I had known.... I never would have...."

Klaus said nothing.

"I'm sorry," Dorian whispered.

That got a response. Klaus turned swiftly and fixed him with those piercing emerald eyes. Dorian's next words were stopped by the intensity of Klaus's stare.

Their gazes met, and Klaus's eyes were unguarded. And in them, Dorian saw everything. He saw that old pain, and quailed at it, but he also saw relief at having been able to share the burden at last. He saw something that could only be described as yearning — and the sight made his heart break and renewed adoring compassion pour from the breach. And he saw something he did not dare to put a name to, for fear he was wrong about what it was....

And he had no doubt that Klaus saw everything Dorian was feeling in his own eyes. Love, of course, and desire, always, but also the understanding of what Klaus had battled, and the sense not to probe the wound.

Irrelevantly, the sentence he had recited to himself so many times floated through his head:

The next time Klaus looks at me that way, I'll kiss him.

Perhaps Klaus really was reading his soul in that shared gaze, because without a word he stepped to Dorian, cupped his face in his hands, and kissed him.

Dorian relaxed into the embrace with relief. Everything was going to be all right.

The kiss ended, and they looked at each other, for the moment more comfortable than passionate.

Klaus spoke at last. "If you ever touch another man ever again," he said in a level tone, "I’ll break your neck. And his."

Dorian smiled radiantly. "I love you too, darling."

 

 

Eroica

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