You Light My Fire
a From Eroica With Love fanfic
Notes: Written for entropynchaos in the Yuletide 2013 challenge.
Someone was screaming Klaus! and he knew it was his name.
The world hung askew, his head pressed against the leather ceiling of the car, his tie a flash of blue dangling against his cheek. He watched without comprehension as flames flickered in the crazed glass of the windshield and threw patterns on the dashboard.
His head ached abominably. He could not think where he was or why he was there.
The air tasted thick and heavy, ash swirling through the vents, along with the oily smell of plastic explosive. The warmth made him drowsy. He tried to take off his jacket, but his fingers felt like clay. They met the strap of the seatbelt, and he let go. Too much effort.
Then a face appeared at the window, haloed in gold, wreathed in flame, like an angel of mercy descending into hell. And it knew his name.
He didn't believe in angels, he vaguely recalled.
The man who was not an angel pulled at the door, but it did not open. He smashed at the windshield with his fists. Blood flecked the glass. Klaus shook his head and mouthed, Bulletproof, not knowing how he knew. The other man swore--definitely not an angel--and began yanking on the door again, savage and frantic.
Klaus watched for several dazed moments, then reached out, fumbling his fingers around the door lock. He was pleased it only took him two attempts to release.
The door was wrenched open, to a blast of air like a furnace.
"No time," the man breathed. He leaned in and put his hands all over Klaus. Klaus knew he should protest--we haven't even been introduced--but all he could manage was a groan. Embers smouldered in the man's hair, bright as jewels; Klaus watched in fascination, even as deft fingers explored their target.
The seatbelt clicked open. Klaus sagged on top of the other man, jarring his own shoulder hard, before he was dragged out of the car. He glimpsed cracked bitumen straggling with weeds, and decayed buildings shrouded in shadow. Sirens wailed in the distance.
"Can you walk?" the man demanded, hauling him upright.
Klaus said, "Yes," although he had no idea, and they staggered away from the burning wreck, arms draped around each other, until the man looked back and said, "Oh hell."
He shoved Klaus down and fell atop him, as the world exploded into red and black.
Klaus kicked open the door of the abandoned basement. Rats ran squealing into the dark. The man who had shielded him from the blast hung like dead weight in his arms, silent and unmoving. Klaus prayed he was still breathing.
The odours of damp and mildew pervaded the room. The sole window had been boarded up, and thin shafts of light outlined rows of shelves on the walls and furniture draped in dustcloths. Klaus ripped the dustcloths away until one exposed a stained mattress which he flung to the concrete floor.
He laid the man down as gently as he could.
Breathing, faint. Pulse, weak.
No obvious injuries, apart from his hands, all cut up--
He turned the man over, still gently, and stared blankly for several moments at the burnt tatters of cloth on his back.
Then he started swearing, in every language he knew.
It turned out he knew quite a lot.
It turned out he knew emergency first aid too.
Klaus fell into a sagging armchair, numb with exhaustion. It was hitting him at last, the fatigue beneath the terror and adrenalin.
The window had darkened to night. Beneath the bare bulb overhead, the other man lay at rest, his ruined shirt replaced with a swathe of makeshift bandages, his damaged hands wrapped in white gauze. His chest rose and fell reassuringly. His golden curls seemed to catch all the light in the room.
The emergency was over, but the nightmare was not. Klaus finally allowed himself to face the ugly truth he had been avoiding.
I have no idea who the hell I am.
His memory was a terrifying blank. He tried to dredge up family, friends, home, but nothing existed beyond the car accident--which instinct told him was not an accident--as though he had been birthed in flame. His pockets were empty of identification. If he ever had wallet, passport, photos, they had all been burned away.
He only had his name.
And only because that man had given it to him.
His one hope. He had to believe that this stranger who had come to his aid was not merely a good samaritan, but someone who could tell him who he was, someone who could link him to his past. But part of Klaus warned him to be wary, warned him that he couldn't know who to trust. He turned the dilemma over in his head, without a resolution.
Klaus contemplated the sleeping man. There had been half a dozen IDs in his wallet, each bearing a different name. Did Klaus know him? Surely he couldn't forget someone so striking, with that bright hair and those elegant features. Someone who had the courage to burn, who had the loyalty to bleed. Did Klaus have the honour of calling him friend? He searched inside himself for any hint, but there was no recognition.
He hoped his dreams would provide some clue, but he didn't remember them.
Klaus slumped in the armchair, dozing, when he heard his name again. He snapped his eyes open, already half on his feet.
The man was awake, eyes wide and staring. "You're alive! Thank god--" He surged upright, just as Klaus said, "Don't--"
He was barely in time to catch the other man as he buckled. "I'm fine. You're not," he chided, as he eased the man back onto the mattress. He crouched beside him, marshalling his thoughts. "You were knocked out. You could have concussion." He peered sternly into the other man's eyes. "Do you remember your name?"
"Of course I do." When Klaus did not relent his stare, the man said, "Oh, very well. My name is Dorian Red Gloria. Or you can call me Eroica." He flashed an easy smile. "You can call me anytime."
Klaus looked away, trying to dispel the sudden heat of that smile. "I should have called you an ambulance," he said gruffly. "You should be in a hospital."
Dorian craned his head, the naked light bulb illuminating their grim surrounds. "But you didn't."
"No. It didn't seem like a good idea." Every instinct in him had urged caution, go to ground, avoid attention. Even with a stricken comrade in his arms.
"Probably not. Once they know their bomb missed, they may well try again."
"They?" Klaus repeated. It pushed the limits of his pretence, but it seemed important enough to justify the risk.
But to his disappointment, Dorian shrugged, wincing at the movement. "Whoever you've enraged this week. I suspect the Russians." He tried to reach behind him.
Klaus clasped Dorian's wrists. "You'll disturb the bandages."
Dorian stilled at the touch. Then he saw his hands properly for the first time. "Oh no."
"Don't disturb the bandages," Klaus said, inanely. "You have to let it heal."
Dorian clearly tried to flex his hands, a shadow of pain crossing his face like a cloud against the sun. He glanced up at Klaus again, searching. "Are you--"
"I'm fine." He tried to ignore the concern on Dorian's face. He had to concentrate on what he meant to do. "What's the last thing you remember?"
Dorian moistened his lips. "I was trying to catch up to you, but you got in the car and slammed the door. You started the engine, and there was a boom, and then the car was doing backflips through the air--" He gazed at Klaus in wonder. "They blow up your car, and you walk away without a scratch? How do you do that?"
Klaus groped for a response. "I was wearing a seatbelt."
Dorian burst into peals of laughter. "Of course." He looked down at himself. "You changed my clothes?"
"There wasn't much clothing left to change you out of," Klaus said. Dorian still looked a little stunned, so he added, "Don't worry, your virtue is safe."
"Oh, I wasn't worried," Dorian said, his voice gone low and throaty.
They tried to find local newscasts on the battered radio, but it was tuned to a foreign station, playing vintage ballads in English. Klaus drifted off to a woman singing about a war long ago and a love far away, and fell asleep before he learned if her man had made it home.
There was food when he woke again: tinned meat of dubious origin, served cold and congealed. Klaus chewed his portion dutifully, while Dorian poked at his and sighed.
"So," Dorian remarked, "how long until your Alphabets sweep in and whisk us away? Not that I'm complaining about the company, but I can think of much nicer locales for R&R."
Klaus glanced away. He could no longer continue with this masquerade. Paranoia or not--and someone had tried to kill him--it had surely not been Dorian. He clearly expected Klaus to have their rescue under control. He was going to be sorely disappointed.
Klaus set down his fork. "There is something I must confess."
"You haven't sold me out to Interpol again, have you?" Dorian said, lightly. "Because I shall be quite cross with you."
"No," Klaus said, and tucked away 'again' for future reference. He took a deep breath. "I have been deceiving you. I have been pretending otherwise, but I have no memory of who I am, or who you are, or what we are doing here in the first place."
Dorian opened and closed his mouth, several times. At last, he said, "This isn't funny."
"It's not a joke."
"But you--" Dorian stopped, wheels turning in his head. "The bomb."
Dorian stared at him, appalled. "My god. You could have been shot down ten times over in the street. And not even know why."
"Well. I gather I've made some enemies."
Dorian choked back a laugh. "You could say that." Then, sharply, "Why didn't you say anything?"
Klaus opened his hands. "I seem to have a suspicious nature. But if I don't know what I should be doing, that puts both of us at risk. I know I'm a wanted man. Am I a criminal?"
"No." Dorian gazed at Klaus for several seconds, wistful, and then shook his head. "I think sometimes I really do deserve to be called an idiot."
"NATO Intelligence." Klaus furrowed his brow. "Was I any good?"
"Of course you were good." Dorian sounded almost indignant.
"Good officers don't get themselves blown up by the enemy."
"You've survived worse, Major, I assure you." When Klaus raised an eyebrow, Dorian said, "Like the time we were prisoners on a Russian submarine headed to Moscow. Or when we were trapped in Alaska fighting off a pack of wolves with only one gun. You've saved countless lives, including mine. You're the best there is."
Klaus smiled. "Are you trying to spare my feelings?"
"I don't have to make anything up. Trust me. Everyone knows Iron Klaus."
Iron Klaus? "Except me."
"You will," Dorian said emphatically. "Until then, I'll remember for both of us."
"You said 'we'," Klaus noted. "Are you an intelligence officer too?" He wouldn't have thought it, but Dorian knew so much about his missions, his work--
"Hardly. I'm a civilian. But I've worked for NATO in the past."
"Like a consultant?" Klaus hazarded.
"You could say that." Dorian brooded a moment, then looked Klaus square in the face. "I'm a thief. An art thief." His chin lifted. "A queer art thief."
You steal queer art? was Klaus's first thought, before his brain clicked into gear. Oh. He stared at Dorian, who looked braced for a thunderstorm, tense but defiant.
Klaus took a breath. Whatever his predilections, this man had saved his life. They were colleagues. They had a working relationship. He couldn't throw all that away on a kneejerk response. "You must be very good," he said mildly, "for NATO to seek out your services."
Dorian smiled tightly. "Yes, I am. I'm the best."
"Pardon me, but you don't look much like a thief to me." He couldn't imagine Dorian going anywhere without every eye being drawn to him.
"It's my secret identity," Dorian said, which didn't explain the essential question. "Gloria by day, Eroica by night. No one suspects a foppish aristocrat of that kind of cunning, Major."
"My title is the Earl of Gloria."
A man of many facets. "I should call you Lord Gloria then."
"Dorian is fine."
"Dorian," he said, tasting the name. "Then you should call me Klaus."
The payphone stood under a broken streetlight, in a pool of shadow, but Klaus still felt exposed. He inserted the coins and heard them drop into the slot. He dialled the number Dorian had made him memorise.
"It should be me who goes," Klaus had insisted. "You're far too--" he searched for the word--"conspicuous."
"I stick out like a sore thumb, you mean." A faint smile. "Honestly. You can't remember how to contact your people, so you'd have to contact mine anyway. There's absolutely no reason why you should go instead of me. Even my hands are better now."
"You're a civilian. It's my job to protect people like you."
"Be careful," Dorian said. "All the KGB informants will be on the lookout for Iron Klaus."
The phone rang a long time, without answer. It wasn't the wrong number. He had recited it back. Twice. Had they been forced to abandon their base?
The backup plan then. Except that the phone refused to return his coins. He cursed. It did not help. Nor did thumping the wretched device. He had to break a note buying cigarettes at the corner shop. "What brand?" the clerk asked, and he pointed to one at random. She counted out the change, and watched him go out the door.
"International call, please," he told the operator, and asked for the West German embassy across the border.
"Certainly," the operator said. The line clicked. "Who may I say is calling?" Another click.
Klaus hung up. Tension pinched his spine. The clerk still watched him out the shop window. He took the long way back, to make sure he wasn't followed. He got back an hour later.
"I only have bad news," he said, as he entered the basement.
"I'm afraid mine is worse," Dorian said, eyes flicking sideways.
Klaus stilled, as men stepped from the shadows, and the cold muzzle of a revolver met his temple.
Their interrogator was a bear of a man in dark sunglasses, who seemed inordinately pleased to have Klaus dragged before him. He had not liked it when Klaus had refused to respond to any of his questions. So he let his minions ask instead.
"Stop it, Mischa!" Dorian cried. "He can't tell you anything!"
The booted feet gave one final kick and then, miraculously, withdrew. Klaus curled in on himself, trying to wheeze breath into his lungs. His ribs were afire.
"Of course he thinks that," Mischa said, jovially. "He has to protect the agents on the microfilm. He is mistaken, of course. How can he protect them when he can't protect himself? Or even the man in front of him?"
Dorian cried out. Klaus jerked his head upright, as though he had been shot. Mischa gripped one of Dorian's wounded hands, twisting it behind his back. Dorian was white.
Klaus found a vile string of oaths unrolling from his tongue in harsh German. "Let him go, he knows nothing. I'll talk if you let him go."
Dorian and Mischa stared at him in equal shock, Mischa even loosening his grip.
"You can't--" Dorian said.
"So it's true," Mischa said. "The two of you are lovers."
It was like another kick in the ribs. Klaus could only stare back at Mischa in utter astonishment. He could not think what to say. He could not think what to think.
"Did you really imagine you could hide that kind of secret from us?" Mischa watched his face intently. "Your relationship is obvious, whatever smokescreens you try to throw up."
Klaus looked at Dorian, seeking confirmation. But Dorian already had his sparkling mask up. "How amusing! Everyone knows Iron Klaus has a heart of steel. Alas!"
It did not fool Klaus for one second. It all made sense now, those cryptic comments and abortive gestures, that mix of easy affection and odd hesitation. They were more than professional colleagues. There was a deeper connection there, and Klaus had failed to see it, until it was too late. Dorian had been holding something back all along. Himself.
"Stop looking so shocked, Major," Mischa said. "We are in the business of intelligence, after all."
Dorian tsked. "You KGB have been watching far too many American soap operas. A covert affair, really?"
It explained a great deal, actually. Including the stone cold certainty that Klaus would kill anyone who touched Dorian again.
"It's all right," he said to Dorian, who stopped smiling. He crawled to his feet, swaying, a dozen rifles tracking his every move. "If you know these things," he said to Mischa, "you must know what I would trade for his safety. Release him, and I swear I will tell you everything I know about the microfilm."
Mischa smiled thinly. "We'll need a little more assurance than that, Major."
"Hurt him again, and I'll see us all dead before I breathe another word."
Their standoff seemed to last a lifetime. Finally, Mischa gestured to two of his men. "Drop the thief at the edge of town."
"Wait," Klaus said. "I need assurances too. A message, when he is safe, that only he and I know."
He limped towards Dorian, who hissed, "What do you think you're doing?"
It was up to Klaus to persuade him. "You can get help once you're out of here. Reinforcements."
"The Russians aren't stupid. They'll move you straight away. If they don't kill you first."
"I'm too valuable to kill," Klaus said. Dorian looked disbelieving, but dared not expose Klaus's amnesia now. "As soon as you're safe, send me word. The song we heard on our first night here."
"I remember," Dorian said. "I will be back. With an army."
"I'll be waiting," Klaus said, and hoped Dorian would forgive him if it became a lie.
The room had no window to tell if it was night or day. Klaus could only hope that every passing minute took Dorian further from this place.
If they were lovers, it meant--
Images rose unbidden of the two of them, together in bed, doing unspeakable things to each other. His face grew hot. Could he really be that kind of person? A man who desired other men?
Tentatively, he explored the edges of that idea. There was deep disquiet, certainly. But also, a fluttering fascination. And when he thought about Dorian, that disquiet and fascination collided in a way that made his stomach knot and his heart beat faster.
Evidently, his old self had not found the concept wholly distasteful.
Fine, he told himself. This is who you are. Deal with it.
It must have cut Dorian, that his lover did not even remember his name, and yet he had said nothing. Was he afraid that Klaus would reject him? NATO would surely not look favourably on such a liaison. But Dorian was the exception to every rule. If Klaus had the chance again--
Keys jangled in the lock. The door banged open. Mischa stood flanked by his men. He thrust a folded paper at Klaus.
There'll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow, just you wait and see
"Now, are you a man of your word?" Mischa said. "Or shall we do this the hard way?"
Klaus curled his hand around the paper, its edges biting his skin. He smiled. "The good news is, I will tell you everything I know. But you may not like the bad news."
The van swerved to a halt. Klaus rolled against the wall, unable to brace himself with his hands cuffed behind him. He landed badly, on his bruised side, and sucked in a sharp breath. In the pitch darkness behind the blindfold, he listened for identifying noises: the zoom of traffic, voices raised in argument, an engine rumbling as it idled.
The sharp whine of bullets. The stutter of answering fire.
Klaus jerked to a sitting position. Who was shooting at whom? He shuffled forward on his knees to what he hoped were the doors, trying to get a better sense of what was happening outside. The doors swung open and Klaus nearly toppled out, but a heavy hand seized his collar and dragged him upright. The wind was loud in his ears, but the shouting and gunfire suddenly ceased. He could see nothing through the blindfold, but cold steel pressed against his jaw.
"Drop your weapons," Mischa said, "or your boyfriend gets a hole in the head."
Klaus's heart caught. He raised his voice. "Don't do it!"
"Of course I won't do it," Dorian carolled. "That would ruin the whole point of reinforcements."
"So you want to watch his brains blown out in front of you?" A click as the hammer pulled back.
"My dear fellow. There is exactly one thing stopping me from ordering my men to shoot you." A lazy smile in Dorian's voice. "Can you guess what that is?"
"Then this is stalemate." Mischa shifted his grip.
"I propose a trade," Dorian said. "You for the Major. Leave him, and you can walk out of here."
"Neither of us are yours to trade right now. We're both going to walk out of here." The gun prodded Klaus into motion. He slid out of the van, trying to balance upright without the use of his hands.
"How far do you think you'll get on foot?" Dorian scoffed. "And you can't drive and point a gun at the same time."
"I have a driver." Mischa tore the blindfold away. Klaus blinked in the sudden glare. The white beams of headlights washed over him from multiple vehicles, Dorian's blockade meeting Mischa's convoy. All he could see were silhouettes. But he knew which one was Dorian, leaning on the bonnet of the lead vehicle, backlit by the beams behind. Around him, men lay in groaning huddles.
"Say goodbye, Major," Mischa said. "Maybe you can send a postcard. From Russia with love."
Dorian stiffened, like he had been slapped. He was about to do something rash, Klaus feared.
"It was a good effort," Klaus said.
"Don't patronise me," Dorian snapped. "It's not over yet."
He was going to get himself killed at this rate. "Then what's your clever plan?"
"I'm still thinking!"
"Enough," Mischa cut in. "You've had your little farewell." He pulled Klaus towards the front of the van, gun still pointed at his head.
"Forget about me!" Klaus said. He had to shout to make himself heard above the rising wind.
Dorian shouted something back, but his voice was lost in the roar of engines. The choppers floated out of the night, unmarked and unlit, the whirlwind of their blades kicking up dust and debris.
"You're not the only one who can summon reinforcements," Mischa shouted.
Bullets raked a deadly path as the choppers strafed the highway. A windshield exploded under machine gun fire. Everyone scattered--except Dorian, who ran straight for Klaus.
Mischa turned his gun towards this new threat. Klaus, desperate, barrelled into him sideways. Mischa stumbled. The gun went off into the sky.
Dorian hooked his arm around Klaus and said, "Run."
Searchlights flashed through the grimy windows of the factory, barely penetrating glass smeared with dirt and grease. Conveyor belts stood silent; steel drums lined the walls.
"They'll have to break off the search soon," Klaus said. "The local authorities will be up in arms."
"Depends how much they want you," Dorian said. "Hold still." He fished a piece of wire from an inner pocket and began work on the handcuffs.
Klaus stood still as he could manage, aware of Dorian's hands brushing his skin, Dorian's breath warming the nape of his neck. "You should have told me."
"Told you what?"
"What we really are to each other."
Dorian's fingers slipped; the wire jabbed into Klaus's wrist. Recovering, he inquired, "And what would that be?" He worked more quickly now, as though he too was suddenly conscious of their intimate proximity.
"Did you think you had to protect me?" The handcuffs clicked open. Klaus turned around, rubbing his wrists. "Do you think I am a coward?"
Dorian looked completely flustered. "No, I--that's not what--"
"I hope I have enough courage and loyalty not to abandon someone I love." He took Dorian's hands, with infinite care. "I can offer you precious little right now, as I am. But I will not betray our promises."
And because Dorian was looking at him with such torn longing, and because they might not live to see tomorrow, and because it was the most natural thing in the world, Klaus leaned forward and kissed him.
It was only the lightest brush of lips against lips, but Dorian went rigid as though electrified. Then he softened, melting into the kiss. For some reason, Klaus thought of roses.
Dorian drew back far too soon, eyes glistening. "You have no idea, how long I've waited to hear those words from you." He traced his fingertips along Klaus's face, leaving invisible tracks of fire. "I only wish--"
"What do you wish?" Klaus said, throat dry.
Dorian let his hand drop. He stepped back, his smile gone sad. "I wish--"
The windows shattered inwards. They were both thrown backward in an explosion of glass. The chopper loomed like a giant predatory insect, spotlight pinning them in its merciless glare.
"Stay down!" Klaus shouted, as the guns spat fire again. He pushed Dorian along as they crawled on hands and knees towards the door.
Bullets tinged off machinery, sparks flaring in bright showers; bullets stitched a line across the rusted drums opposite, releasing an acrid chemical smell. The last drum bloomed suddenly into a fiery rose, and expanded until its petals engulfed the whole world.
"Sir! Sir, are you all right?"
Klaus opened his eyes to the night sky and a worried face looming over him. It was A, his usual anxiety cranked up to real distress, as he crouched over his fallen commander.
It was A.
And Klaus remembered him. Remembered all his agents. Remembered the mission. Remembered himself, Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach, NATO Intelligence, West Germany.
Remembered confessing his love for Dorian--Eroica--that man--in front of a room full of KGB. Remembered confessing his love for Dorian to Dorian.
I was out of my mind.
Dorian had to be in transports of delight. Klaus wilted at the thought of facing him again. He wondered if he could post himself to Alaska for the next fifty years.
God, his head hurt.
He sat up from the concrete pavement, touching his forehead gingerly. "Agent A, report."
"We've recovered the microfilm," A said, straightening, relieved that the world was returning to normal. "The perimeter is secure. The KGB are headed for the border. We're ready to pull out on your order."
"Good, good." Klaus pushed himself to his feet, A hovering but not daring to offer a hand. "How did you find me?"
"We had a tip off, sir. From Eroica's men." A looked apprehensive. "They tracked both of you to this location."
He wouldn't yell at A about fraternising with the enemy. Not today. "Where is that idiot thief, anyway?"
A's eyes slid behind Klaus. To the burning factory.
His blood went cold. "He's still in there?"
"The explosion threw you clear," A said rapidly. "But we haven't seen any sign of him yet."
Goddammit. Klaus stared helplessly at the flames. They were roaring like devils, already several feet high, and licking away at every inch of the building.
There was very little time to act, and no time at all to think.
Klaus shed his jacket and hunted for a nearby tap. A trotted after him.
"Go tell the men to retreat in an orderly fashion," Klaus said, as he drenched the jacket in cold water. "We will regroup at the agreed rendezvous point outside the city limits."
"Yes, sir," A said, watching with trepidation as Klaus shrugged on the dripping jacket. "And what will you be doing in the meantime, sir?"
Bloody insolence. "I'm going to go find that idiot thief. And when I do, he's going to be sorry I did."
"But sir--the building's on fire!"
Klaus turned a scathing look on him. "Thank you, A, for drawing that to my attention. You are now in charge of emergency measures."
"What emergency measures?" A looked bewildered. Too bewildered to stop him. Good.
"Commandeer a fire engine, I don't know! Use your initiative."
Bits of the ceiling flaked down like fiery rain. Klaus shook them out of his hair as he strode through the building. "Dorian!" he yelled. "Answer me!"
He forced down the lumpen dread in his stomach. He could not afford to think of those lively eyes shuttered, that teasing voice silenced. He held his sleeve up to his face, trying to filter the worst of the smoke. Hopeless: he could taste charred wood and bitter ash in every breath. His lungs protested, demanding clean air. Grimly ignoring them, he ploughed on into the next room.
Dorian lay sprawled on his back, a fallen beam pinning him into the corner. He did not respond to his name. Klaus moved like an automaton across the room. He dropped to his knees beside Dorian. "Hey," he said. "Wake up, you idiot." His voice cracked on the last word.
Dorian opened his eyes. "Klaus?" He coughed. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you, of course."
Dorian broke into a beatific smile. "I can die happy now."
"No one is dying today," Klaus told him, and hauled on the fallen beam. One end was snagged beneath other rubble. The charred timbers broke off under his hands, leaving the main part unmoved. He cursed and tried a different position.
A roar from behind made Klaus turn. A chunk of the ceiling had collapsed, sending another burning beam to the floor. It was going to be a damn obstacle course. That was on fire.
"Klaus," Dorian said. "I think you should go."
"I will," Klaus said. "In a minute." He heaved on the fallen beam, without looking up.
"Don't pretend you don't understand."
Now he did look up, anger flaring. "You think I would walk out of here without you?"
Dorian said, gently, "I never expected to die an old man in bed."
"I am not leaving you to die!" Klaus exploded.
"I was afraid you might say that." Dorian drew out a small pistol from inside his shirt. He aimed it at Klaus. "Go."
Klaus stared, incredulous. "Have you gone mad?"
Dorian cocked the trigger. "Leave me. Or else."
"Or else you'll shoot me? Don't be ridiculous." Klaus reached across and snatched the pistol from Dorian's grasp. He almost threw it away, but a thought occurred to him. He eyed the fallen beam speculatively, calculating the width of the steel joint that wedged it in place.
He raised the pistol, Dorian watching him wordlessly. "Don't move."
He pulled the trigger. And again. Six shots in a row, stitching a neat line through the narrowest part of the joint. Klaus thumbed on the safety and shoved the pistol in his belt. Then he laid both hands on the beam again and heaved. The joint gave, tearing along the line of bulletholes.
Dorian gazed at him, openmouthed. "You really are a miracle worker."
"Don't canonise me yet." Klaus pulled Dorian to his feet. "Can you walk?"
"I think so."
They halted at the exit in dismay. It was blocked by the collapsed ceiling. Smoke masked the air more than a few feet ahead, and the flames dazzled the eye.
"Up," Klaus said, pointing at the stairs. He draped an arm around Dorian, who was coughing. They had to get into open air, out of this deathtrap.
They burst onto the roof, flames licking at their heels. Klaus hauled them both to the edge of the building. They were three storeys off the ground, and fifty feet away from the closest neighbouring roof.
"You should have gone," Dorian said. He sounded bone weary.
"Too bad," Klaus answered. He glanced sideways at Dorian, pressed against him, warm and real, hair illumined to shining gold. Klaus didn't believe in heaven or hell. But if he did, he supposed there was worse company in which he could spend eternity.
The night sky rumbled, like distant thunder. The rumbling drew closer, and a beam of white light cut through the darkness to flash upon them. Klaus squinted against the brightness, made out the shape of a Soviet military chopper. A ladder unfurled before them like a lifeline. "Hurry, sir!"
A had used his initiative.
Klaus pushed Dorian up ahead of him. They both collapsed into the back seat. "I didn't know your pilot's certification included helicopters, A."
A turned a look of glassy panic on him, and Klaus was sorry he had asked.
The roof caved into a cauldron of flame. Klaus shut his eyes and lay back against the seat, listening to Dorian breathe steadily beside him. They flew onward, up and away from the rising ashes.
When the chopper touched down on the tarmac, airbase security swarmed towards them like ants.
"Deal with it," Klaus told A, hopping out. He tugged Dorian along, into the shadow of a hangar.
A white dawn stole across the horizon, bleaching the landscape stark and luminous. Dorian said not a word, exhausted into silence, content to rest against the wall beside Klaus. A streak of ash smudged his pale cheek.
Klaus brushed it away with a thumb.
"Never do anything that stupid again," he said. And pulled Dorian in for a kiss.
This time, it was long and deep, and Dorian melted like wax beneath Klaus's mouth. But he was the one to push away, chest heaving.
"What's wrong?" Surely he wasn't having second thoughts, after all his hopeless protestations of love.
Dorian said, in a low voice, "I don't want you to hate me any more than you already do."
Klaus lifted an eyebrow. "Why would I hate you?"
"You don't remember. But you would sooner die than be touched by another man." Anguish throbbed in every word. Melodramatic as usual.
"But Dorian," Klaus said, in his most bewildered voice, "aren't we lovers?"
Dorian looked haunted. "Everyone thinks so. But our relationship has never been more than professional."
Klaus let his face go blank with incomprehension. "So you don't--" he swallowed--"you don't actually love me?"
Dorian made a choked sound. "That's not what I mean! I--wait, what are you--"
Klaus had buried his face in Dorian's shoulder and was shaking uncontrollably, making muffled noises.
"Oh my god," Dorian said, horrified. "Klaus--I'm sorry, I take it back, just stop it, please--"
Klaus lifted his face and howled. With laughter.
Dorian stared at him for several seconds before his shock flowed into comprehension. "You're fine again. You bastard." He slapped Klaus hard.
Klaus rocked back, pressing a palm to his cheek, still laughing. The look on Dorian's face was going to get him through many a long and dreary night.
Dorian watched his paroxysms with cold affront. "Think it's funny, do you?"
"Yes," Klaus gasped, heaving for breath. He could not stop the grin bleeding all over his face.
"Is this the thanks I get for risking my neck to save yours?"
"You got a kiss," Klaus pointed out. "What more do you want?"
"You were messing with my head."
"If you don't like it, then you'd better give it back." His eyes met Dorian's in challenge.
Dorian scowled. "Don't be ridiculous, how--" He faltered. "Major?"
"I thought I was Klaus now," Klaus said. He turned away, whistling, shoving his hands deep into his pockets. He could use a cigarette about now. Miraculously, one seemed to have survived the ordeal intact. He cupped it in his hands and lit up, inhaling deeply, as he strolled across the airfield.
Dorian caught up, hanging on his arm in his usual clingy way, babbling flowery nonsense in his ear. Behind them, the Alphabets wrangled with airbase security over the stolen helicopter. Klaus exhaled a wisp of smoke and cast an affable glare at the man leaning on his shoulder. All was right with the world.
"We make a good team, don't we?" Dorian said, dreamily.
"Well, you're not completely useless," Klaus told him.
They walked across the airfield, together, as the sun came up.
- fin -