torch, flambeau@strangeplaces.net
October 28 - December 10, 2001 (January 2002)

Disclaimer: Aoike plots much better than I do. Thanks to Laura Shapiro for making me realize how this should be done. The title comes from a poem by Brian Patten. Beta type things by elynross. Do not archive without permission.

More furious and ugly

The roof blew off the munitions storage building. Fire shot up, blossoming across the night sky in red and orange. They ran, racing each other down the deserted street and then into a cobbled alleyway, and Dorian laughed as he ran, the sound drowned out by the fire and the way his heart pounded in his ears. Klaus grabbed his elbow, and they ducked into an abandoned pet shop as sirens began to wail. Excitement bubbled through his blood, hard and almost metallic, like mineral water. "We did it!" he said.

The inside of the pet shop smelled musty and rather unpleasant in ways he didn't want to think too closely about. Klaus kicked a few overturned cages out of the way, most of them empty. "We'll wait it out here," he said. "These houses back onto the river. It's cold, but we can swim for it if it's necessary."

"Do you think we'll have to?" Dorian walked from one wall to another. He felt like bouncing. It was like pulling off a perfect theft, only better.

"We'll see." Klaus' voice was clipped and low. "Do you have to run around like that?"

"Yes." Dorian rocked on his heels. The sirens outside came closer, then passed them by. He could smell smoke through the broken windows. "Maybe I should have applied to join MI6 instead of pursuing a life of crime. I had no idea doing the right thing could be so exciting."

"Exciting," Klaus repeated. "You think this was exciting."

"Oh, very exciting." Dorian turned to peer through the darkness at his beloved major. "Very, very..." Laughter bubbled up, and he walked over to Klaus. "Perhaps I'd better show you," he said, leaning in for a kiss.

It was short and hard and sudden and over, like a single flicker from a strobe light. Klaus jerked away, and Dorian tried to keep from laughing, and felt the bubbles inside rise faster. He'd been planning to step back out of the way of whatever words or blows Klaus would launch his way, but somehow, between one siren wail and another, Klaus' hand closed on his shoulder and held him fast.

"Exciting." It was a snarl now. "This gets you excited, you pervert?"

"Adrenalin, darling. Don't tell me you've never—"

"Shut up." Klaus had a grip like a bear trap, inescapable and hard enough to shatter bone. Mechanical. Uncomplicated. "That's sick. You're sick." The usual comments from Klaus, words that should have seemed familiar and gone in one ear and out the other, the way the hard grating grip was known and familiar, but there was something in the tone of Klaus' voice that made Dorian stiffen a little. Something different. "You don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh, I assure you the subject of human biology came up during my school years." Dorian shifted on his feet. If he could get closer, he could lean against Klaus, and put some judicious pressure here and there, and Klaus would explode in a predictable manner. "I even paid attention to some of it. Some of the anatomical drawings were quite pretty."

Before Dorian could shift far enough, Klaus moved. Towards him, not away. It was like being pushed along by a moving wall. Dorian could feel his skin bruise under the pressure of Klaus' hand. He had to move his feet or fall, and didn't regain his balance fully until they were standing by the big window and he was pressed back to Klaus' front, with one of Klaus' arms locked around his throat and shoulder.

Klaus' free hand came to press against Dorian's belly, sliding slowly downwards until it curved in a firm, assured grip that made Dorian's mind go blank. "So you're excited by this." Klaus breathed the words into Dorian's ear, and his hand flexed, creating a slow, pulsating pressure. "You think you did something useful, something that's worth the lives of the guards who didn't get out in time. Somewhere in this city, a soldier is raping a woman, and another is taking the food from an old couple's table, but you're excited because some people chased you and didn't catch you."

"No. Klaus." That hot touch, that hand was stroking him just right.

"I've caught you. And you've always wanted me to touch you. Did you think that would change anything?" Klaus gripped a little tighter, but it wasn't painful; it was anything but painful. Not that. "It's always going to be like this. Always. You think you've made a difference? You've done a job. That's all."

Dorian tried to breathe. Every attempt to break loose pressed his windpipe into the unyielding steel of Klaus' arm. He struggled to free himself. He struggled to keep his hips from pushing forward. Blood thundered in his ears, outpacing the rhythm of Klaus' warm, impersonal breaths. "I did a good job," he said, though his lips felt stiff.

"You did a good job. You always perform well," Klaus said, with dispassionate scorn. "Would you like this to be a new, amusing game for you to play? Does it amuse you, to — to succeed in snatching a hot coal from the fire while the world burns?"

"Klaus. I don't want—"

"You don't want to live in my world. Don't pretend that you do." Klaus moved his hand faster, and Dorian whimpered. "Keep the fun and games where they belong."

Staring wildly, Dorian saw himself reflected in the glass, a shadow wrestling a shadow, pale face, open mouth. He could hear that shadowy reflection gasp for breath, and it struck him as a strange and curious thing that the image in the glass wept, and Klaus worked his hand with rough expertise, putting an end to thought.

The sirens wailed in the distance like hired mourners.

When Klaus released him, Dorian fell to his knees. He felt as though every bone in his body had shifted out of place. Wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand, he felt more than heard Klaus move to stand by the half-open door. He struggled against his own breathing, his own heartbeat. After a drawn-out, nauseating moment, he could hear the sound of boots marching on cobblestones.

Dorian scrambled to his feet again before Klaus even began to move. He tried to brush the dirt off his knees, and got a splinter in his palm. Klaus went into the darkness at the back of the shop, and Dorian followed him past a dingy curtain and through a pitch-black storage room. The sound of Klaus wrenching at a locked door seemed very loud. "I'll do that," Dorian said, although he seemed to have lost all sensation in his body. His lips were numb, his feet were numb, his fingers were numb and stiff, but he touched the lock and it sprang open.

Cold river air breathed in on them. They went out on narrow, damp steps and saw fire reflected in the wide black water. Little eddies rushed and swirled among the orange glints. "Aim for that house," Klaus said, gesturing in the dark. "Come."

He pulled at Dorian's arm, impatiently rough, and Dorian let himself fall forward. The water met him, parted around him, and closed over his head. Everything went quiet.

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