DISCLAIMER - From Eroica With Love and its characters is the copyright of Yasuko Aoike and Princess Comics and no infringement is intended. The story, such as it is, is copyright Karen Colohan October 2001.

Warnings - Angst, schmoop, some more angst... And yes, there's a reason why there's a ghost in this story.

Klaus von dem Eberbach moved around his starkly functional bedroom, methodically getting ready for bed, just as he did every night. He paused for a moment by the window, pulling the heavy curtain aside and peering out into the darkness. It was utterly quiet and still and no other lights showed in the castle. He was alone, the few servants having been sent to spend the night in town. They didn't question the request; it was expected tonight.

Content with his preparations, Klaus let the curtain fall back into place and moved across to his bed. He hesitated for just a moment by the bedside table. In a slender crystal vase was a single long-stemmed rose. Someone had gone to the trouble of removing all the thorns. Its presence seemed somewhat incongruous in the otherwise austere room. Klaus reached out and lightly brushed the velvety soft petals with his fingertips. Satisfied, he climbed into bed and lay down, pulling the sheets up to cover him. Then he closed his eyes and hummed softly to himself until the conditioned reflex sent him drifting off to sleep.

On the surface it appeared to be a night like any other, but it was not - and Klaus knew it, depended upon it. It was October 31st, Halloween, the night when ghosts and spirits were made real and, for a few brief hours, were free to walk upon the earth. It was the night that gave Klaus the strength to face the other 364 nights of each slowly passing year. It was the only one when he did not have to be alone.

Downstairs in Schloss Eberbach a clock struck midnight, the sound deep and resonant in the deserted rooms and hallways of the old castle. And, as the last chime died away into silence, the air in Klaus' solitary bedroom grew chill and the quiet took on a new quality. It was as if the room were waiting for something - or someone.

Moments later the heavy curtains at the tall windows stirred, as if the casement had been opened by an unseen hand, allowing a soft breeze to lift the fabric. But a closer inspection would have shown that the windows all remained firmly closed. All the same, a new presence now inhabited the room - one that had not been there just seconds before.

The errant air current swirled, eddied and began to take on substance. Anyone watching might have doubted the evidence of their own eyes, but no one was awake to see. The disturbance in the air coalesced and slowly took form, becoming steadily more substantial. After a span of several minutes, where there had been simply an empty space a man stood, tall and poised.

The now undeniably real figure looked around, as if orientating himself. When his gaze lighted on the bed and the man lying there, rigidly austere even in sleep, a fond smile curved his lips. He moved forward then, a pale, ethereal presence in the oppressive shadows of the unlit bedroom. He stopped at the bedside and looked down at the still form, an expression of mingled love and regret glittering in clear blue eyes.

For a timeless moment he stood there, simply looking his fill. Then a soft sigh escaped the man and he bent down so that he could whisper in the sleeper's ear. "Klaus, do you hear me? It's time to wake..."

As he leaned forward a stray beam of moonlight slanted through a tiny gap in the curtains. It fell upon him, illuminating his mane of blond curls. The pale light turned the golden tresses to silver, giving him an otherworldly appearance, fey and beautiful.

A few errant curls fell forward, brushing against Klaus' cheek. The brief touch, combined with the whispered words, caused him to stir, slowly fighting off sleep. His eyes opened and he blinked owlishly, vision adjusting to the darkness. Now fully aware, Klaus looked up. A hauntingly familiar face hovered above his own, vivid blue eyes staring down into moss green. Their gazes meshed and locked, twin expressions of deep longing crossing both faces.

"Klaus..." whispered the blond man, one elegant hand reaching out towards him.

"Dorian! Ach Gott, you came," replied Klaus, his voice hushed.

He closed his eyes and slowly opened them again, but the vision remained. Each year Klaus had done the same thing, until it became a ritual of sorts. In truth, even now he couldn't quite believe that it was real; that for one brief night his dead love would come to him and they could be together for a few blessed hours. But, as he had discovered in each of the years since Dorian's untimely death on a mission gone fatally awry, it was true.

A sad smile touched Dorian's lips. "Of course I came, Klaus. Nothing in this world or the next could keep me away, if you wish it so," he said fiercely. "Don't you know that by now?"

"My heart knows it, but..." Klaus looked up at the impossibly substantial figure of Dorian Red Gloria in despair. "If this is real... I must be mad or - "

"It is real, Klaus," Dorian interrupted softly. "And you, my love, are perfectly sane."

Cool fingers finally made contact with warm, living flesh as Dorian laid them gently across Klaus' lips. He frowned as he thought about the circumstances which drew him back to his lover's side each year. "I don't know that I can explain how it's possible, but it is. And I, for one, am never going to question it. Being with you like this, even if it is just for the one night, is the only thing that makes being dead bearable."

A helpless sound, halfway between a laugh and a sob escaped Klaus at Dorian's matter-of-fact statement.

"Gott, I know what you mean, Dorian," he admitted. "Without this I do not know that I could go on living."

"No, don't say that!" hissed Dorian fiercely. "I know you, Klaus, and you're stronger than that. Iron Klaus would never just give up and die. I don't believe that loving me changed you that much. Perhaps the wire rope has frayed in a few places, but it's a long way from breaking. No, it's me that's weak. I ought to let you go, let you get on with your life, but I can't. Every year I find myself drawn back, irresistibly, to you. It doesn't seem to matter how many times I tell myself that I shouldn't come..."

"Please, Dorian, don't!" Klaus reached up, amazed as he always was when his hands closed on solid flesh and bone, albeit deathly chill. "I don't want anyone else but you; I never did. Promise me that you won't stop coming to me."

"Klaus..." Dorian sounded desperately unhappy.

"Nein, Liebling, promise me!" Klaus sounded as determined as Dorian had ever heard him. "Please..."

Dorian had never been able to resist that fierce gleam in Klaus' eyes in life; he was no less susceptible to it now that he was merely a spirit - Dorian didn't much care for the term ghost. He sighed and nodded in acquiescence, blond curls bobbing round his face. "I promise. Never until you wish it otherwise."

Klaus seemed to relax then, a rare smile crossing his stern features. "Gut, I would not waste these few precious hours we have in arguing. We did enough of that when you were alive," he added ruefully. "Now, come sit beside me."

As Klaus pushed the bedcovers back out of his way, Dorian sat down on the edge of the bed. He kicked off the showy leather ankle boots he was wearing and the far more prosaic socks underneath. Then he slid back onto the firm mattress, stretching his long legs out as he lay down. When Dorian was settled comfortably against Klaus' warmth the major drew the covers back up over both of them.

Cool arms snaked around Klaus' waist as Dorian burrowed closer, enjoying the body heat and trying to absorb some of it into himself. It wasn't actually possible, Dorian knew, but it felt nice all the same. And touching life, warmth was such a rare treat that he wanted to store up the memories to help ward off the emptiness of another year spent in limbo. He was aware of Klaus' hands softly stroking across his shoulders and down the long planes of his back and knew that the major was doing much the same thing - relearning his lover's body to fuel the fantasies that would have to suffice until they could be together again.

Icy trails streaked down Dorian's cheeks and he knew that he was crying. Oh god, he'd promised himself that he wouldn't do this. He knew from years past how his tears hurt Klaus and he had wanted their time together to be joyful, a celebration of a love that had managed to transcend even death. Instead, his weakness threatened to spoil everything for both of them.

As he held Dorian close, Klaus felt the tell-tale shudders running through the well-loved form. He was trying to hide it from him, but Dorian was crying. Klaus felt his heart contract painfully. It was always the same. These nights seemed to hurt Dorian deeply and Klaus wondered, not for the first time, what kept drawing the man back to him if being together caused him such pain. Surely his spirit should be free by now... And yet, hadn't he just made Dorian promise to keep on coming back?

Klaus' blood seemed to freeze in his veins as a sudden realisation hit him. This was his fault. His selfishness was what caused Dorian this pain. It was he who refused to let Dorian go, not the other way around.

A deep certainty began to form in Klaus' soul then - this had to end... tonight. He had to find the strength to do what he should have done years ago and let Dorian go, for good. He felt the brief sting of tears in his own eyes at the thought of this being the last time that he would ever hold Dorian in his arms, but he knew it was the right thing to do. It was his duty. And Klaus never flinched from carrying out his duty.

He pulled the strong but slender form into a desperate hug, feeling Dorian's own arms tighten around him. The mass of blond curls nestled against the hollow of his throat in a heartbreakingly familiar gesture. Dorian had always loved to cuddle like this - a habit he'd wasted no time in persuading Klaus to indulge once they finally became lovers.

I can listen to your heart beating when you hold me this way, he would say. I love to feel it, just beneath the surface, so strong and alive.

Of course, the memory had an added poignancy to it now.

Klaus kissed the moon-gilded hair, drawing in the faint, ghostly scent of roses that drifted up to him. He felt Dorian wriggle sensually against him, sighing in pleasure as his tears dried.

"I do love you, Klaus," Dorian murmured softly. "Always, no matter what..."

Even though Klaus' throat threatened to close on the words he replied, "I know, Liebling, I know. And I love you."

The resulting sigh this time had an undeniable air of contentment about it. Klaus wondered how he would find it in himself to give this up, to send Dorian away from him forever. And would it really be a mercy to the other man? No, he mustn't try and find excuses like that to justify his own selfish weakness. It ended tonight, no matter what.

Dorian stirred against him again, pulling free of Klaus' arms. "I want you, Klaus," he announced firmly. "As nice as this feels, we don't have enough time to just lie here. I want more than that."

"You're right," Klaus agreed, drinking in the sight of the beloved face. "There isn't a moment to waste."

He reached out, cupping the sharp chin in both hands. His thumbs slowly stroked the smooth, flawless cheeks as he stared deep into the clear blue eyes for a long moment. Then Klaus leaned in, claiming the cold lips with his own in a possessively savage kiss that quickly generated heat of a different kind between them.

The feel and taste of the mouth under his were achingly familiar as Klaus' tongue dove in deep, but the inhuman chill reminded him of how much had changed - what had been lost. Dorian's mouth had always been such a hot haven when he explored it. No matter that a firm tongue pressed back against his with equal fervour, there was no escaping the singular difference.

For just a second Klaus was close to tears of his own, regardless of how much he despised such weakness in himself. But Dorian remained too solid and real in his arms to ignore and desire quickly took precedence over sadness. Arousal curled heated fingers around Klaus' cock and he shuddered as he found himself hard and aching in moments.

Dorian's hands were busy on Klaus' skin, cool against his warmth. They had burrowed skilfully under both his pyjama jacket and undershirt without waiting to be invited. Not that Klaus minded; Dorian had stolen his inhibitions from him a long time ago and he welcomed the caresses. Soft palms stroked over his chest and playful fingertips teased his nipples to hardness. Klaus gasped and arched up more firmly into the gentle touch.

Light, gratified laughter greeted his reaction and Dorian wriggled closer. Agile fingers withdrew and then began to make short work of the buttons on Klaus' pyjama jacket. It fell open and Dorian tugged at it until he had managed to slide it off his love's broad shoulders. Carelessly, he threw it over the edge of the bed and onto the floor. Then Dorian turned his attention to getting Klaus out of his undershirt too. He urged him to raise his arms so that he could pull it up and off.

It was like peeling Klaus out of a protective shell to reveal the vulnerable body beneath. But whatever Klaus felt he needed to protect with his numerous layers of clothing, there was nothing weak about the strongly muscled body that Dorian uncovered. He mapped out the familiar contours with his eyes for a long moment before remembering the undershirt still clutched tightly in his hands. Dorian buried his nose in the soft fabric for a second, drawing in the scent of Klaus' skin that clung to it. Then he tossed it away and it followed after the pyjama jacket to land on the floor.

With Klaus' torso now bare, Dorian leaned in and began to trail gentle kisses over the pale skin. As cool as his lips were, still each touch seemed to leave a burning sensation in its wake. And always the soft tickling of Dorian's wayward curls provided a counterpoint to the moist caresses. He appeared determined to leave no part of Klaus' skin untouched and soon his attention turned to the nipples, his tongue stealing out to lap at the twin buds, where the salt taste was strongest.

Klaus groaned softly as the slight roughness of Dorian's tongue sent shocks of pleasure along sensitised nerves. And, as the pebbled skin drew up into tight peaks, sharp teeth nipped more firmly, just grazing the surface and redoubling the delight.

"Hmm, you taste delicious," murmured Dorian lazily between bites. "I always seem to forget just how good..."

The words seemed to pierce his heart and Klaus closed his eyes tightly against the sight of the adoring smile and the silvered curls, bobbing jauntily as Dorian moved over him. What would he be giving up if he really did let Dorian go for good?

"You're tense, Klaus," said Dorian, suddenly anxious. He pulled back to look at him critically. "Oh, darling, it's not making you sad me being here, is it?" he asked as he took in the closed lids and tight expression.

Klaus shook his head. "Nein, I'm fine. It's just..." He forced himself to relax and open his eyes, meeting Dorian's concerned gaze. "I've waited a long time for you to be here again. It takes me a while to know that it's real - not just another dream."

"Oh, I think I understand." Dorian sighed. "I'm sorry we can't be together more often, love, but there are some things I can't change."

"I know."

"I only want to make you happy..."

"You do," said Klaus honestly. "I am never happier than when we can be together."

Dorian's smile was blindingly brilliant. "I am so glad." His expression softened, the blue eyes lambent with the familiar spark of adoration. "Mm, let's get rid of the rest of these clothes, shall we? Then I can touch you properly and make you feel even better."

Dorian matched actions to words and Klaus promptly found himself being stripped of his pyjama bottoms, leaving him naked to his lover's touch. His cock was hot and hard and already leaking onto his belly.

Grinning delightedly at the sight, Dorian bent down to lap delicately at the sticky fluid. Sitting back he savoured the taste, licking his lips provocatively as he glanced sideways at Klaus from under seductively lowered lashes. Leaning down again he ran his tongue slowly along the length of Klaus' shaft, all the way from his balls to the tip.

Klaus groaned helplessly and almost came on the spot.

"No, please," he begged. "Not so soon, Dorian. Let me touch you first. I want to."

"Oh, lover, whatever you want," said Dorian. "Do you want to undress me, or should I...?"

"Let me," Klaus insisted.

Klaus quickly scrambled up to a sitting position and reached for Dorian. In keeping with his usual sartorial preferences, his lover was wearing a white silk shirt, loose and flowing, over tight black leggings that emphasised his gracefully athletic build. But Klaus was in no mood to admire Dorian's innate dress sense and tore impatiently at the small pearl buttons that fastened the shirt. He needed to touch Dorian - now. When the buttons refused to yield to his fingers swiftly enough Klaus simply tugged sharply. The delicate material was no match for the strength of his hands and quickly gave way.

In spite of the abrupt manner of his disrobing, Dorian did not seem at all put out. In fact, he appeared delighted by Klaus' eagerness and turned and lifted as required to ease his love's task. With his active cooperation it didn't take long before Dorian was as naked as Klaus.

In the dimly lit room - the moonlight stealing in through the slight gap in the curtains provided the only illumination - Dorian's skin gleamed, creamy pale and flawless. Klaus tried not to mentally add the adjective bloodless; he didn't need the reminder. He had learned over the years since these ghostly trysts began that while Dorian was solid and real to the touch his body remained cold and white as marble, even at the height of his passion.

Klaus had discovered that he missed the warmth of another body pressed to his. A simple pleasure, and one he had only truly come to appreciate when it was too late. Now he could only conjure up in his mind images of the heated flush that used to colour Dorian's cheeks and the sheen of sweat that slicked his skin, easing the glide of body against body...

Nevertheless, Klaus treasured what he did have. He could have been bereft of everything when Dorian had been so unexpectedly and tragically killed. Instead he had been granted these brief moments of joy, stolen from time itself, and they had sustained him when Klaus had almost lost all hope, believing he had nothing left to live for. All the same, Klaus wished things might have been otherwise. In truth, he and Dorian had had so little time to be together.

With an effort Klaus pushed away his regrets and, instead, concentrated on what had been offered - Dorian real and substantial in his arms for the duration of the night.

The last night.

It would be enough. It must be more than enough.

Klaus reached out and ran his hands lightly over the finely muscled body lying beside him, sprawled carelessly in wanton invitation. It had always come as a surprise to him, the hidden strength Dorian possessed, irrespective of the context in which it was revealed. In his foppish clothes, with his too-pretty looks and studiedly flamboyant gestures it had been easy to underestimate the man. And, in the early years of their acquaintance, Klaus had been glad of any reason he could find not to admire Dorian. He had, eventually, learned better, though. And Dorian was also graceful and agile - good traits for a thief, or for a lover.

It was the lover Klaus sought out now, his hands hungry on the pale skin as he looked to awaken a desire to match his own. He was avid for the small sounds of pleasure that escaped Dorian's throat in response to his touches and eager to encourage the way he arched up to deepen the contact between them. Everything Dorian asked of him, Klaus gave and, in return, was granted the joy of seeing Dorian's enjoyment and arousal grow.

Pleasure built slowly upon pleasure and Dorian moved fluidly into Klaus' arms, using his weight to push him back onto the bed. He stretched out full-length over him, covering the strong, perfectly honed body with his own. Dorian smiled down at Klaus as he settled himself very precisely, his swollen cock sliding tantalisingly against his love's. He rested for a moment, nestled comfortably atop Klaus as he listened to the rapid beat of his heart.

Then Dorian began to move, thrusting against the taut muscle of Klaus' belly. Pre-come spread between them, slicking both their stomachs, and it eased the sensual glide of flesh on flesh. Dorian quickly found a rhythm that pleased them both and Klaus began to rock with him, moaning softly as the sensations became more intense.

A year of waiting... It was too long for either of them to be able to make it last, even if they had wanted to. As it was, orgasm came swiftly for both of them. Rushed, frantic, each of them desperately needing the release, they climbed to the peak together and, in a gloriously messy explosion of pleasure, tumbled over the edge as one into a blessed state of satiation. They clutched each other tightly, shuddering and gasping as the feelings crested and crashed down upon them, finally abating to a quieter contentment.

When it was over they cuddled together in silence, waiting for the world to right itself and their bodies to return to a calmer state. Klaus had never been one for cuddling or other such, as he saw it, unnecessarily sentimental expressions of affection. Dorian, on the other hand, loved the closeness and the warmth, a shared peace in the aftermath of their wilder passions. It had taken time, but eventually Dorian had managed to convince Klaus of its merits. Now neither of them could imagine making love without sitting like this afterwards, close and quiet.

Dorian's hands wandered aimlessly over Klaus' skin, seeking only to soothe now, not to arouse.

Klaus enjoyed the gentle touches and reciprocated with caresses of his own. As always, his fingers soon found their way to Dorian's hair, petting the blond curls and sliding in deeper to curve around the back of Dorian's head, stroking carefully.

Like a cat seeking attention, Dorian leaned into the touch. He turned blindly, nuzzling against Klaus' hand and planting a kiss squarely in the centre of his palm.

"Mm, that was so nice," he purred. "Tonight is going to be just wonderful."

"As always with you, Liebling," replied Klaus softly. "Nothing could be better."

As far as Klaus was concerned it was the absolute truth. He found it bleakly ironic; that he never felt more alive than when he was in the arms of his dead love.

"You say the nicest things to me, Klaus," said Dorian. There was a trace of wistfulness in his tone as he added, "I only wish you could have said them to me sooner."

"I'm sorry." Klaus rested his cheek against the top of Dorian's head, rubbing softly. "I was a fool. I didn't understand what I had... and how much more I might have had. So much time wasted, Dorian, I wish I could go back and change things."

"Oh, darling, so do I."

And Klaus knew that Dorian was referring to something else entirely. Not Klaus' regrets about the way he had treated Dorian in the early years of their acquaintance, but Dorian's own wish to change the circumstances that had led to his untimely death.

He had died in the course of a NATO mission he hadn't even been contracted for. But when had Dorian ever been able to resist appearing, unlooked for, to offer his help to Klaus? Only, this time, he'd got in out of his depth and Klaus had been forced to watch, helpless, as a bullet stole the life of the most aggravating, wilful, beautiful, loving and loyal man he'd ever known. It had almost destroyed him too.

But Halloween had been only a few weeks later and that night, just as the final stroke of midnight faded into silence, the strangest thing had happened. Klaus had roused from sleep to find he was no longer alone. Instead, Dorian had been lying in bed beside him, as real as any of his memories of the man. This memory had substance, though, and they had made love for hours, until sleep finally claimed them both just before the first light of dawn crept into the room.

When he woke, alone again, Klaus had, at first, been convinced it was just a particularly intense and vivid wet dream. That belief lasted until he got up to dress and opened his curtains. On his windowsill lay a single, long-stemmed rose with all its thorns removed. On seeing it, Klaus hadn't been so sure. And when the rose remained alive, week after week without fading, he had found a new certainty within himself. He was not alone. In some way, Dorian was still with him. Klaus had taken strength from that knowledge and found the heart to recover from his loss and go on.

When Halloween came around again Klaus had no expectations, but his ghostly visitor had appeared once more... and the year after, and the one after that. Dorian never failed him. And in between those now much-anticipated visits there was always a rose, softly scented and enduring, that kept Klaus company, an unspoken promise.

That promise was once again being fulfilled as Dorian lay at Klaus' side, breathing softly. His hand rested on his lover's hip, stroking slowly along his flank and then back, a soothing gesture.

But with the insistent caress, Klaus could feel the heat beginning to rise in him once more, his desire for Dorian growing. If this was going to be the last night he ever shared with his love he wanted it all. He wanted to claim Dorian's body, bury himself deep inside and never let go. At the thought of taking Dorian that way, Klaus found his breathing becoming deeper and more rapid. And his cock, lax and sticky from their previous exertions, nevertheless stirred with renewed interest.

The first signs of his new arousal must have transmitted themselves to the other man because Dorian propped himself up on one elbow and stared down at Klaus with quiet intensity. The blue eyes glittered with an answering desire and Klaus felt as if he would drown in that all-encompassing gaze.

"You want me." It wasn't a question.

"Yes." Klaus answered anyway.

Dorian gave a pleased smile. "Then you shall have me. Now, let's see what we can do to make you properly ready."

Without another word Dorian slithered down the length of Klaus' body. He settled himself between the strong thighs and surveyed his prize. Klaus' cock was half-hard and still sticky with come from their first, mutual climax. Dorian drew in a long breath, savouring the musky scent. Then he bent his head and began to lick Klaus clean.

The recumbent figure tensed and gasped as the rough tongue lapped at him, as if his cock were the greatest delicacy at a banquet. Then Klaus was helpless to control the instinctive movements of his hips as he sought more contact with that teasing mouth.

Dorian delighted in the unguarded response, and even more so in the taste of his lover - clean and earthy and unmistakably Klaus.

When he had removed the last traces of come from Klaus' skin, Dorian set about encouraging the renewed erection more directly. Long fingers stroked the smooth shaft and a talented mouth engulfed the head, suckling firmly.

Klaus writhed under the erotic assault, moaning Dorian's name softly as his arousal intensified.

But Dorian didn't want to stimulate Klaus too much. He wanted his lover to last a long time once he was inside him. So, reluctantly, he released Klaus' cock and crawled back up to lie beside him. Dorian leaned over and claimed the stern mouth, letting his tongue carry Klaus' own taste to him as it slipped between his parted lips.

With a soft cry Klaus rolled over, pinning Dorian underneath him. He took control of the kiss from his lover and plundered the glorious mouth, plunging his tongue in deep. In turn, Dorian gave back as good as he got, biting and sucking at the slippery invader, a duel of tongues that left them delightfully breathless. By the time they finally drew apart they were both panting harshly, their lips swollen and, in Klaus' case, bruised.

"Oh my, I do love it when you go all masterful on me," sighed Dorian happily, brushing disordered curls out of his eyes. "It's so refreshing. My Iron Major, there's no one else like you... And I think you're ready for me now, don't you?"

"Yes," Klaus growled, almost beyond words now.

He reached a hand between them, finding Dorian's cock was hard and ready too. Klaus ignored it, though; he had another goal in mind. His fingers traced a path behind Dorian's balls, all the way back to his opening. Klaus stroked the ring of muscle carefully and felt it ripple and then relax under his touch. With surprisingly gentle consideration, given his state of need, he eased the tip of one finger inside.

Dorian, however, did not seem to have the patience for such niceties. He wriggled and bore down on the invading digit firmly.

"Another!" he declared, an expression of fierce joy lighting his features.

Klaus did not deny him, adding a second finger at once and, soon after, a third. He moved them carefully, stretching Dorian and making him ready to take his cock. Dorian tried to hurry the process along, but Klaus refused to be rushed any more. A strange sense of peace had descended on him and he wanted to savour every last second of holding Dorian and touching him so intimately. Eventually, though, he was satisfied with his preparations and carefully withdrew his fingers.

"Thank god, at last!" breathed Dorian impatiently. "Damn it, Klaus, I want you!"

"And I want you," replied Klaus evenly. He looked Dorian steadily in the eye. "I will always want you. Remember that."

Dorian seemed to glow, his blue gaze softening with a tender affection. He tilted his head, looking up at Klaus through his golden lashes. The expression was almost demure. "Then you shall always have me. You remember that."

"I will," Klaus promised.

He shifted his weight so that he could draw Dorian's legs apart, tilting his hips to a better angle. There was no question of them doing this any other way than face to face. Then Klaus lifted up, steadying his cock and guiding the tip to rest against Dorian's opening. He would have gone slowly, but Dorian apparently had other ideas and surged up from the bed, taking Klaus inside himself in a single, smooth lunge. Klaus gasped in surprise as his cock was engulfed. He pulled back sharply, only to sink deep into Dorian again almost at once. The tight clutch of his lover's body was simply too enticing to relinquish.

Dorian gave a loud sigh of pleasure. "See, I can be masterful too, darling," he teased.

Klaus merely snorted and immediately set about showing Dorian just which one of them was the master here.

Not that Dorian minded a bit. It was what he wanted: Klaus wild with desire and on the brink of losing control. He loved it when Klaus let go like that - the man was magnificent. It was why Dorian had never really minded in the past when Klaus got mad at him and yelled. Klaus angry was very nearly as sexy as Klaus passionate. Though, on balance, Dorian preferred to be on the receiving end of his major's passion rather than his fists - and now, unquestionably, he was.

Pushed beyond restraint, Klaus took Dorian hard and fast, though not without consideration for his pleasure. He had learned just the right angle at which to thrust in order to find Dorian's prostate and he moved his hips so that his strokes found the sensitive spot over and over again. And Dorian rewarded him with moans and gasps and a subtle clenching of his inner muscles that soon left Klaus shaking and gasping for breath.

They moved against each other relentlessly, Dorian's erection finding stimulation in the press and flex of their bodies. He impaled himself on Klaus' driving cock, hot and deep and, faster than he had expected, Dorian found the peak. He clutched Klaus tightly to him as he came, hard, cool wetness spreading between them.

In response, Klaus' mouth descended on his in an almost brutal kiss that stole his cries of completion before they could be given voice.

Dorian clenched even harder around the thick cock buried inside him. He felt Klaus tense against him and then thrust convulsively once, twice more. All the muscles in that strong body seemed to shudder and tremble in concert and then Dorian felt a rush of heat deep inside him as Klaus also came.

The blue eyes closed in bliss as Dorian welcomed that flood of liquid warmth into himself. Klaus' head had drooped as exhaustion suddenly hit him and his forehead rested lightly against Dorian's. His rapid breaths fanned hot and moist over Dorian's face and strands of dark, silky hair fell forward to brush his cheeks.

It was a perfect moment and, in that moment, Dorian knew perfect happiness. He was with his love, Klaus' sated body slowly relaxing to press down on his with a welcome and reassuring weight. For now their bodies were still joined, though Dorian could feel Klaus' cock softening within him. But that didn't matter, the connection was still there.

Then Klaus mumbled something sleepy and incomprehensible and slid off of Dorian, curling up close beside him instead. The loss of that final contact hurt in some way that Dorian could not define, but he let his love get more comfortable. Klaus must be tired, he should sleep now. And, as he slept, Dorian would watch over him - as he always did, whether Klaus knew it or not.

Klaus was already fast asleep and snoring gently when Dorian threw a protective arm around his waist and held him close. But the sense of safety seemed to penetrate into his sleeping mind, deepening his relaxation and letting him rest untroubled by dreams.

********

Klaus drifted slowly out of sleep and stretched, feeling how much the brief rest - and what had gone before it - had relaxed his body, leaving it sated and content. It felt good, as did the solidly real presence of Dorian, still snuggled close against his side. But, with the urgency of desire gone, Klaus was enough of a realist to recognise the feeling for the illusion it was. In the morning life would go on, reality intruding once more.

For just a moment Klaus wished that he could make time stop - here, now, in this place. It wasn't as if he didn't have the means at his disposal, if he so chose. Then he need never be parted from Dorian again. That was the coward's way, though, and Iron Klaus was not a coward. He would face up to what needed to be done and he would do it, before this night ended.

Klaus sighed, clinging on to his illusion of happiness for one more moment. He wanted to remember this feeling. The memory would, God willing, have to last him for a very long time.

He lay still for a few more seconds and then turned onto his side. He propped himself up on one elbow and looked down at Dorian, at the beloved face and beautiful body. The blue eyes were open and looked back at him trustingly as Dorian gave a sleepily endearing smile. This was going to be even harder than he had imagined. Klaus took a deep breath and steeled himself for this most unenviable task.

Knowing no way to make what he was about to ask any easier, Klaus decided on directness. "Dorian, I don't want you to come to me again."

There was an almost desperate insistence in Klaus' voice as he spoke the words, but the green eyes which pinned Dorian fiercely told another story. They were full of a bitter unhappiness and Dorian shook his head, rejecting the suggestion.

"No, you don't mean that - you can't," he said firmly, disbelieving.

"Dorian, please - believe it," said Klaus, his heart breaking. "I am serious. This has to end - for both our sakes."

"No..."

"Yes - we should both be free; it's been long enough."

"It can never be long enough, Klaus, not for us." Dorian caught hold of Klaus' hand, holding it tightly between both his own.

"Dorian, please, don't make this even harder than it is already," Klaus pleaded. The chill touch of Dorian's skin seemed to seep into his bones and he shivered. Then, decisively, he pulled his hand free of his love's cold grasp.

"Then don't ask this of me," Dorian retorted. "It's that simple."

"I have to; it's time." Klaus rested his palm lightly against Dorian's flawlessly smooth cheek and looked deep into his beautiful blue eyes. He put his whole heart into his next words. "Can't you see that we both need to move on? I love you and I will never forget you, Dorian, but I can't live like this any more. It isn't natural and I feel as if I'm the one in limbo, always waiting... only alive for this one night each year. If I don't let you go now... I'm not sure I'll ever really be alive again. I need to know you're gone, beyond my reach for good. Then I can grieve, find closure and go on. Like this, it's never over... I can only live in the past. Do you understand?"

Dorian's eyes were wide and very bright with unshed tears. It was probably the longest speech he had ever heard from Klaus in all the time he'd known him. Eventually he nodded, slowly. "I understand... I'm sorry, Klaus, I don't think I ever realised before what this must be doing to you. Always the reminder... God, I've been so selfish!"

"No, don't ever think that," said Klaus quickly, his fingers tangling in Dorian's hair to stop him from pulling away. "Knowing you were still here with me in some small way - that was what kept me going after you died. I don't know what I would have done without that, but now..."

"Now you're ready to move on - I do understand," said Dorian sadly. "And I respect that. Oh, Klaus, but I don't want to let you go..."

"You must."

"I know. I have no choice. Without your will for me to be here... I won't be able to come back, no matter how much I want to." The tears finally spilled over onto Dorian's cheeks.

"What?" Klaus stared at him, appalled.

"You mean you didn't know?" Dorian looked at him, curious. "I could only come to you because you wanted me to. Without your summons there would be no way for me to cross over. It doesn't matter how much I might wish to be here. If you tell me to stay away I shall have to. I won't want to, though..." He managed a strained laugh. "It's as if our relationship has come full circle, with you telling me to keep out of the way and stop interfering with your missions. I suppose it must be fate."

"I'm sorry, Dorian." If it were possible, Klaus looked even more unhappy than before. His thumb moved over Dorian's cheek, brushing away the icy teardrops.

"Don't be. I know you haven't taken this decision lightly. So don't go back on it now. You wouldn't be my Iron Klaus if you did." Dorian smiled bravely and pulled carefully out of Klaus' grasp. "Goodbye, Klaus."

"Dorian..."

Klaus stretched out his hand again, but Dorian stepped back out of his reach. And all at once he was fully dressed in the silk shirt and leggings he had been wearing when he first appeared. The only difference was the single long-stemmed rose he now twirled between the fingers of one hand.

"I love you, Klaus, don't ever doubt it." With that Dorian tossed him a jaunty salute - all at once, every inch Eroica. "Never forget, darling..."

Standing tall, Dorian blew Klaus a final kiss and then he was fading. His substance seemed to unravel right before Klaus' eyes, spiralling into nothingness. A chill breeze stirred the heavy curtains, blowing them away from the windows for a moment. Outside, dawn was starting to brighten the sky and in the glass Klaus saw a faint reflection, just for a second. It was Dorian, hand raised in farewell. Then the breeze died away and the curtains fell back into place, hiding the image from him.

There was no longer any sense of another presence in the room with him and Klaus could feel the temperature rise noticeably. It was over - for good. He had broken the last ties between himself and Dorian.

Even though he knew it had been the right thing to do, Klaus' heart felt leaden inside him. He glanced at his clock - the alarm would be going off at any moment. Then his gaze fell on the crystal vase and the rose it held. The bloom was no longer frozen in timeless perfection. It had faded; its petals were withered and dry - quite dead.

With an angry gesture Klaus lashed out, sweeping both rose and vase onto the floor in a glittering shower of broken shards. Another abrupt movement silenced the shrill buzz of the alarm the moment it began to sound in the still room.

Then, for perhaps the first time in his life, Klaus ignored his duty - the insistent voice in his head that told him it was time to dress and get ready to go to work. Instead, he crawled back into the disordered bed and pulled the sheets up over his head. There, in a protective cocoon that still held his lover's distinctive scent, he let grief claim him. Hot, bitter tears trailed down his cheeks as Klaus at last let himself truly begin to mourn Dorian's loss and, in doing so, finally started to heal.

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