Warning: Spoilers for all the books up to Memnoch the Devil. This story is set between The Tale of the Body Theif and Memnoch.
|Dusk in Rio
by !Super Cat
Yes, I am the Vampire Lestat, and all of that trash.
If you know me, skip over this section. It's an introduction, written in my usual style. And you've heard it all before--right? I expect it will bore you utterly.
If on the other hand, you and I have not yet met... Mmmm, well, that changes everything. Let me pause, smile slowly, and properly introduce myself. Lestat de Lioncourt. Blond, blue eyed, quite rakish male vampire. I'm to be the hero of this tale, and I'm absolutely determined, dear reader, to have you fall in love with me.
Is that arrogance, you ask? Vanity?
Or so I have been told--
There is Marius, to whom I'm the Brat Prince. David, who calls me the James Bond of vampires. Louis, who calls me you fool and you absolute monster depending on his mood. And Armand, who...
Ah, but let us keep this introduction civil. Time for Armand, later. An eternity to catch up with him, dear little cherub that he is.
Besides, I'd much rather you think of me as a I am. A pretty devil of a young man with lovely clothes and a great propensity to indulge in whim and high drama. That's all. I promise. Really, I do.
Just don't forget that I could rip out your throat out with a single gnash of my pearly little teeth, if I wanted to. If I wanted to, my sweet little piece of meat, you'd be powerless to stop me. And make no mistake of my intentions.
I want to.
For all the charisma and the good looks and the snug, lovely tailoring, I'm a predator. You can see it in my grin; in the tiny, wickedly sharp fangs that make my smile so charming, and so sublimely dangerous.
My deadly nature is partly the reason why I so recently gave up the narrative. I was back in my vampiric body, after all. And I was going to Rio, with my fledglings, with David and with Louis.
Raglan James was dead.
But there's something so arbitrary about endings, isn't there? The Prince comes and the sun sets--and then what? Darkness? Closure? Or perhaps the actors creep around behind the sets--caught up in secret stagings--long after the audience has left the theatre.
There's always more to tell.
I had called it the beginning of a new era. Lestat, Louis, David.
Naivety, to think the question was 'if'.
The question wasn't 'if'. It was 'when'.
It's a tourist's city, a remarkably western city. Its streets have a duty-free shop air, and the strident horns of American voices honk out over the glissandos of conversational Portuguese. There are even designer boutiques and MacDonalds food stores to be found, if you want them. The fast food industry is flourishing; Brazil's indian traditions are dwindling away. The Dahomeyan voodoo cults and other various fetishistic societies are dying. Christianity has its hand about their throats.
It's a very religious city.
Rio de Janeiro is well peppered with this kind of killer. I can sense them, my beautiful prey. And that first night, with Louis on my right, and David ambling at my left, I was itching to hunt amongst them.
But there was sort of an unspoken law between us on the subject: We would hunt alone. We would respect one another's privacy. And I was to behave.
Well, not really a law. More of a guideline.
In fact, what we were doing, I believe, was pretending--through polite avoidance of subject--that we were nothing more than mortal men. Blood? Don't speak of it. We'd never feed on someone. Oh, shocking, that idea. We'd never drink a person's blood.
Utter nonsense, right?
Two quick steps put me ahead of them both, and I immediately turned to face them, blocking their way on the path. "Hungry?" I asked, delicately displaying fangs.
Louis flushed. "A little," he said softly.
He held eye-contact. He's stubborn about that sort of thing. We both are, of course. Makes life... interesting. "Hunt with me?"
"I will not."
"I think I'll... walk a while, Lestat. If you can bear my company, Louis?"
Louis gave him a warm smile. "Of course, David."
New era. Old rules. Right?
I didn't have to hunt at all, as it happened. I simply had to walk through a certain part of the city. And, though it was late, late, late when it happened, somebody started hunting me.
I slowed my pace, ambling now, rounding a corner, and feeling him pass round it, too. His mind was monstrous. His mind was like mine, actually. And like me he was hunting--wanting so much to enjoy this--this game, this small scene, this life he was to take. So familiar, the feeling. I smiled to myself and let him follow me, just as I would have done in the old days, when I'd played with them, dined with them, talked with before... before...
He played along quite deliciously. He followed me right into the alleyway. He thought sick and rather wild thoughts about hurting me, marking me, fucking me; these activities indistinguishable from one another in his blurry, dark little head.
He began to speak Portuguese. When I smiled, he pulled out a big gun.
"What is it you want from me?" I whispered, as he shoved me hard against the wall. There was dirty water running down the bricks, garbage piling up. I watched it, letting him touch me. He was taller than I was, and I was letting him... "Hmmm?"
He didn't speak. Perhaps he didn't understand. His gun was wedged against my ribs, his breath was rank where it touched my face. It wasn't a particularly dignified attempt at rape. He didn't even remove his clothes. He simply pushed forward, humping against me, grinding his hips and huffing; finding a rhythm, furrowing in.
I exhaled a sigh, and looked up at the starry sky. And as this man's movements gained a kind of urgency, I watched that delicate plume--breath--frost over in the night air. Pretty, the condensation... oh God.
I began to laugh.
He clamped a hand over my mouth. It was heavy. Stifling. Absolutely precious. I parted my lips, and grinned; licking at his palm, tasting the sweat, and something sour, some ghastly substance that didn't come from human flesh. Oh, he tasted good. He was making small sounds now, grunting. He was close to the apex of his pleasure.
My mouth opened, almost of it's own will. And he was pushing down -- down, into my mouth--as though responding to some unconscious, irresistible invitation. Oh, yes. Yes, I thought. That's lovely. And as his eyes closed, I bit down on that hand, hard.
He screamed as I bit him--though not in pleasure. He came, screaming, terrified. The gun went off. I was laughing again. I wrapped my arms round him and as he struggled, desperately, I lowered my lips to his neck, and ripped out a piece of his throat.
Oh, sweet heaven, the taste of his blood.
Cradling his body, I lowered myself, kneeling, then pulled back, a little dazed, letting him slip from my mouth. His blood was filling my veins and sliding, warmly, across my vision. I let him go, finally, untangled my fingers, and he fell, sprawling out; his limbs landed awkwardly. His body arranged itself oddly, at angles.
He was dead.
I looked up.
Louis stood, a little way in from the mouth of the alley. How long he'd been there I honestly didn't know. I licked the blood from my lips and managed not to grin over at him. I know Louis. Were I to do such a callous thing--grin, in the face of death--he'd vanish. Leave, without a word. Merciful death. Oh, yes.
"Is this your answer to me?" he whispered. "This, and David?"
"I thought you liked David," I said.
"Is he your answer to me, Lestat!"
"Yes," I said to him, evenly. "Yes."
I knew what he meant. I knew what he meant. I knew what he meant--yes.
David chose the hotel.
It was not the penthouse of the Brazil Hilton--this time--rather, it was a three bedroom suite in an establishment which called itself "The Hotel Rosa". David had chosen well. There was an incredibly decadent air to the accommodation. The furnishings were rich, and heavy. The curtains in the rooms were so thick it was conceivable that we sleep in the beds.
Not that any of us would... well. I might.
In fact, I was so enamoured of the prospect--a bed! sheets!--that the very first night I spent almost an hour doing nothing but kneeling there, one palm pressed flat to the coverlet, feeling the roughness of the thick, tastefully coloured material.
Until I heard him speak my name, at which point I looked up.
David was resting against the door frame, leaning a shoulder on the wood. His expression was lodged somewhere between fondness and indulgence. A single lock of dark brown hair was falling over his face. "Lestat. I suppose I should have known."
"Should have known...?"
"That I'd find you lounging. In a bed."
"Mmmm, this reputation that I have--"
"--intolerable isn't it?" He folded his arms. I saw his gaze flit briefly round the room.
"Come here?" I offered to him, smoothing a place on the bed.
"Oh, no. That sounds suspiciously like one of your--" David blinked his self-awareness back, and regarded me now warily. He refused to come as I'd bid. "--one of your usual--"
"Are you shy?"
"I am not."
As though pulled by an invisible string, he moved over to me. When I motioned further, he knelt up on the bed, facing me. And as he halted there in that position, gazing at me strangely and no doubt feeling a little foolish, I slid my arms around his neck and drew him in for a kiss.
Oh, David. Yes.
It was not our first kiss. It was not so stunning as our first kiss, but his lips were warm. He'd fed recently, as I had. Indeed, in texture and appearance, we might almost have been two mortals kneeling there and--what is the phrase? Necking on the bed.
But he was frowning and ducking his head in avoidance. When I leaned in, he pulled away sharply and moved quickly from the bed. "Lestat... you..."
I propped myself up on one elbow and stretched myself out on the bed. "I have disconcerted you," I said.
"Yes," he answered, after a small moment. He nodded as he said this--once, firmly--as though he'd conferred with himself, and was only now agreeing on the matter. "Yes, I rather think... you have."
"Why?" I said to him. "Feeling guilty?"
He frowned and folded his arms. "You know what I'm feeling."
My lips twitched.
"That isn't what I meant, Lestat."
"You're going to lose this little fight," I said to him. "This little tussle. You know that, don't you. When we fight, you'll lose."
"Why do you keep trying to provoke me?" he asked, after a long silence. "You think I should hate you for this thing you've done to me? You think I'll grow to hate?"
I didn't answer him. He persisted:
"Don't you. You do, don't you, Lestat?"
"No," I said. I shook my hair back from my face and, in a single, fluid and rather mannish motion, I rose from the hotel bed. "It's one of the most irritating things about me, I'm told. I'm easy to love. Difficult to hate. Well nigh impossible to--"
"--I'll win David," I said, in a soft little voice. "The things I want, I get. I'll win."
I watched his brows rise. "Because you're the elder?"
Delight. I could feel it widen my grin. I paused mid-stretch, then continued the motion, deliberately, watching him watching me. "Oh no," I said. "That isn't why."
"You're incorrigible," he told me affably, pulling his eyes away. "Your arrogance is--" He was shaking his head.
"Is that a blush, David?"
"It is not," he informed me.
"So you're impervious."
"To your considerable charms? Lestat, it is hardly the point--"
"Isn't it? You took men into your bed when you were first deposited into that body, didn't you David? 'Safaris into the bedroom', I think is what you said."
He fell silent. He set his jaw, and moved his gaze to the left.
"Am I pushing it?" I asked him.
"Ever think of me?" I said.
Startled, his eyes returned to mine. "Think of you?" He repeated the words, sounding oddly shocked, disconcerted. Schoolboy caught with a secret, hiding it quickly behind his back.
"While you were loving them. Ever think of me?"
"God," he said softly, the shock segueing into something more thoughtful. His eyes were minutely searching my face. "Everything's a power play to you isn't it. You're overwhelming. Do you ever let down your guard?"
I let myself grin, lowering lashes and holding his gaze. "Only with those I love."
"Do I qualify?"
"You're dodging David. You didn't answer my question."
"I'm... I was a fool," he answered me. "And I believe that I have come to idealize sex in the same way I've begun idealizing all the many peculiarly human activities I can no longer enjoy. Eating. Walking in the sun. But I'll tell you this--since you're so obviously looking for an admission. The first man I loved in this body was twenty years old. He was blond, and had blue eyes. It wasn't a particularly satisfying encounter. I vividly remember the disappointment. I remember thinking: It would have been different with Lestat."
I found myself caught in his words, in his gaze.
"It would have been different, David," I said, in a rather husky voice.
"No." He gently shook his head. "But it's still early. Come, Lestat, perhaps we can find Louis--"
We stayed in Rio, conversing and feeding and making small exploratory forays, to Recife, to Sao Paulo, to Nova Iguacu and Fortaleza. We pushed through jungles. We lounged in restaurants. On one memorable occasion, we shopped the main streets of Brasilia, for clothing and expensive shoes and accessories for Mojo--for my beautiful big dog.
As for David, he oscillated wildly between two states, that of elder and that of child. He thought and acted as the man he had been. The Superior General. The Candomble priest. And yet, he was a fledgling, and as hungry for experience as he was for the richness of that life-sustaining liquid, blood. It was David's exuberance that buoyed us, reinvesting old feelings with new life.
But there came also a terrible sense of weight. Familiarity. Two hundred years of history, and this was a story we'd played out before--Lestat, Louis and their fledgling--and it seemed a hole had opened deep, deep inside myself and it could not be filled with blood. Its vastness pushed at the limits of my form. Its enormity dazzled me. And it was something to do with anger, and something to do with light. I think we felt it. All of us. It was hideous domesticity, and deja vu.
"I have been here before," Louis whispered one night, watching, almost shocked, as David answered the door of our suite and payed the hotel staff and told them to go on their way.
"Louis?" David inquired, tipping his head.
Louis simply shook his head. He wasn't going to say it, I knew. He wasn't going to say Her name.
How I hated the conspiracy of silence at that moment! Claudia, Claudia! She! The wicked vampire child who'd loved me, and seduced me utterly, and who'd tried to kill me with laudanum and the thrusts of her sharp little knife.
Had they tiptoed their way around my name, I wondered, after they'd left me for dead? Had they hushed their words? Had they spoken in soft voices? Had I suffered what was to become Her fate? Ashes and a pronoun, just like She?
Ah, I'd been easier to forget than I'd like. "A name I don't want to say again." Yes, I've read his trashy little book. But I'm here now. Alive, against all odds.
Well, of course.
I'm The Vampire Lestat.
Louis killed a tourist that night--a fact which charmed me utterly. He actually buried the camera and the money bag with the body. And the map. A holidaymaker, for goodness sake. He is so indiscriminate. And so fastidious--mon Dieu, he was replacing the dirt carefully, creating the illusion that the ground was undisturbed. As fastidious in death as he had been in life. I was laughing, silently. I couldn't hide the grin.
"I don't think I have ever killed a German tourist," I told him. "Let me guess--Hans? Sven?"
He turned sharply, and fixed me with a stare that was calm and suspicious in equal parts. I knew he was silently accusing me of having watched him make the kill.
"Oh, don't look at me like that, for God's sake. Turnabout," I said to him. "Is fair play."
"Nothing with you is ever fair play."
"Must you glare and sulk at me, Louis? I'm in the mood for such adventure! Violent delights with violent ends--" The words spilled from my lips, and as I spoke them I realised they were truth. The night was crisp and bright, and in it Louis's pale beauty was given a glorious edge. Jagged. Piercing. I wouldn't let this sweet mood crush. "Black mischief. Wicked strife! If love be blind, it best agrees with night--"
"You're completely mad," he said to me. But he was having difficulty maintaining his glare in the face of my enthusiasm. I could feel him uncurling from his defenses. He'd smile soon. That heart stopping smile would appear on his face, and just for the littlest while, it would mean everything. It would be enough.
"Yes." I opened my arms wide and tipped back my head. "I feel completely mad. It is the perfect night. And there's no-one with whom I'd rather share it. There's only you, Louis," I said, quite earnestly, because I am an idiot, and sometimes these things slip out.
He coloured in the most delightful blush.
But almost instantly he cut off his own reaction, his face shuttering, his smile closed away. He hugged himself. Looked down.
Finally he managed, "I wish you would not play with me, Lestat."
It undid me, this small comment. I stared at him.
I thought of the German tourist buried beneath the ground, and my own good spirits, and the fact that we were two vampires standing in a clearing in middle-of-nowhere Brazil about to engage in a very old debate. Perhaps the world's oldest debate. If one does not include the arguments that occasionally erupt between myself and Armand which, regardless of content, feel older.
And though the pathos of his words was undeniable, I found I could not appreciate it. My sense of the absurd is too highly developed.
I started to laugh.
I tried to hold it back, but soon I was shaking uncontrollably. A real laughing fit. One of the bouts of near hysteria to which I am prone, and always have been, for the length of my rather long life.
When I finally wiped the blood tears from my eyes, perhaps several hours later, and rose from my knees (onto which I had fallen) I was alone. The moon had shifted in the sky. I drew in a long slow breath, and felt the cool night air fill my chest.
There was a breeze shifting around my legs, pushing into my clothes.
A tentative little thing. Just a wisp, a filmy tickle. I thought
of it with absent fondness, and I realised as I did so--with a feeling
not unlike surprise--that my good mood was intact. Fragile, but there,
hovering over the chasm that threatens beneath, the nameless emotions which
I do not care to face. Strange joy, and I was as helpless to this
feeling as I've ever been to fury. I wiped the dust from my knees
and flashed a toothy, fanged grin at the night. Straightening my
shoulders, I thought of Louis. I left that little clearing and made
my way back to the city.
It happened several nights later when David and I were alone in the suite.
Louis had slipped out at dusk, and though it was almost midnight he had not yet returned from his hunt. David had engaged me in conversation, and we'd meandered comfortably from topic to topic. Now we were discussing something rather serious. We were discussing Guilt.
Well, David was attempting to discuss Guilt. I was being stubborn, as is occasionally my wont. It's the symptom of my malicious nature, I think, and of a boredom threshold that has always been notoriously low.
"You think guilt is removed from this life? How many have you killed, David? Can you still remember each face individually? You won't be able to soon, you know."
"And yet I can't believe that we must all succumb to it, Lestat."
"Yes. You're right. We don't--because though guilt is a
great motivator, self preservation, self *justification*--"
"--is greater. Ah," I said evenly. "I was wondering how long it would be before you showed your face. Minutes, centuries..."
David was rising from his chair even as I spoke, an involuntary response which seemed at once startled and dreadfully... polite. I simply folded my arms. This was difficult, suddenly. And David, so restrained. David simply staring at the interloper, facing him with unruffled poise and a curious, impenetrable expression on his face.
Had he come to reassure himself, I wondered? Or to check up on David? I didn't know. I didn't know what to say to him.
I was thinking of Malcom's exclaimation--act four, scene three, Macbeth.
It has always fascinated me--in performance and conception. He hears
of the murders at Fife, and speaks:
I don't give a damn about the couplet which follows. It is the exclamation which draws my attention. How to make those words express the pain of a man at such a moment! How--using such words? Does one attempt to sound shocked? Horrified? Tragic? Furious? Or blasphemous? Ironic--is he railing at heaven? Or asking for mercy? Oh, impossible exclamation! Watching this scene, I never fail to lean forward in my seat, anticipating the words, and more often than not, I begin laughing at the fatal moment. Merciful heavens!
I remember sitting in the box of some dreadful, shabby theatre with Louis at my left, watching a truly awful performance--really, sets fell over, players quoted lines from other works, and Macbeth was thoroughly drunk. Merciful heavens! Malcom yelled this loudly enough to startle his fellow actors. I mean, he positively bellowed. I began to laugh and once I'd started I couldn't stop, hearing those words ringing out through my ears, pitched in his ghastly loud voice.
"Merciful heavens!" I'd exclaimed as they ejected us from the theatre. "Merciful heavens!" when Louis took me by the shoulder and proclaimed himself caught up in a fury. There was such a brilliance to the phrase. Such a dark, unholy light. I was gasping and laughing and Louis was telling me I was a monster to laugh at such a thing and must I make such a fuss and yes, the actor had been bad, but did I always have to carry on and on in such a manner!
And I was laughing. "Merciful heavens!" I'd said. "Merciful God in his merciful heavens, and you are Merciful Death! Merciful Death!" I repeated, and clasped my hand over my mouth, like a woman gasping and making a small exclaimation.
How he'd hated the appelation. How I'd taunted him with it during the months which were to come.
It was only later, much later, scarred over with burn marks and the cuts from Claudia's knife, that I crept into a theatre to watch, in secret, an enactment of the play which omitted this nefarious line.
"Your wife and babes savagely slaughter'd!"
Yes, I'd thought. No words. No bellowing, outspoken cry. For what can one do, at such a time, really? At the moment of greatest betrayal, during the darkest hour, when the pain is so deep that you can't think of tears, and you know if you cry you'll weep out your blood. What can one say--?
In your case, no doubt a great deal too much.
Marius, I answered him silently. Leave. Now. I'd rather kiss Armand than talk to you.
Well, that is--
DON'T say it--
Aloud, he murmured: "How I have missed your banter, Lestat. And I am glad, glad beyond words, that you beat this... Body Thief--"
Pleasantly, I interrupted. "Why don't you go to hell."
Marius smiled at me serenely. Then, turning slightly, "You must be David Talbot," he said.
"I... yes. Yes, as a matter of fact, I am." David said, shaking himself free of stupor, and ignoring my glare as he spoke.
Ah, now let me explain a little something to you, Dear Reader. Something it's difficult, I am sure, to keep in mind. David is a seventy four year old Talamascan scholar deposited in the body of a young, buff twenty-something male.
And in spite, or perhaps because of this fact, David really looks... cute.
I mean, really cute.
Marius, in my head again. You have really made him one of us.
"Yes. Take a long look."
He's Talamasca. He shouldn't be here. He should never have been--
"Made? How did I know you would say this? And don't you think it's a bit late for this conversation?"
The situation might be rectified--
"And what would you have me do to him, Marius? Stick him in a fire?"
"You'd have a devil of a time trying," David said, looking from me to Marius, and back again, most likely guessing at the 'missing' portions of our conversation.
"You'd have a devil of a time trying."
Oh, they sounded a little different, spoken in those wonderful English tones--a little less brash, a little less brassy--but they were my words nonetheless.
And I realised suddenly, and with a feeling akin to shock, that David was allying himself with me. David was staring down an immortal ten times as old as himself, and allying himself with me. With Lestat. With his maker. It didn't seem quiet possible. And what did it say about David, the state of his immortal soul? Would there truly be no recriminations? ("You made us what we are, didn't you!") No regrets?
A vampire without regret...
I thought of Claudia, little footsteps in the hall. I felt a tightening in my throat. David had... had...
David had forgiven within a month the very slight Louis, my beloved Louis, had clung to for two hundred years.
"You made us what we are, didn't you!"
"My God," said Marius. "A month--a single month--and already you sound exactly like Lestat."
"Oh, yes," I answered him. I showed my fangs in a fierce little smile. Yes. He does, doesn't he. And why does it feel like you're complimenting him, hmmm? He's lovely, yes?
It was hardly a compliment--
Don't you think he's lovely, Marius?
He should not have been made, Lestat--
Ah, you are avoiding the subject.
"And you are being incorrigible!" Marius said aloud.
"Am I?" I asked innocently.
Of course, I'd been in a mortal body then, a lush casing of live male flesh, as capable of mortal need--mortal desire--as his own had been. At the hotel I'd all but besieged him. His reproaches each and every one had contained the seeds of desperation. Behave, Lestat.
I felt my smile widen.
Marius' blond brows lifted high. To David: "Well, you hardly run to form."
David blinked, his tone polite. "I beg your pardon?"
I folded my arms over my chest and raised my own brows. I could
hear the thoughts flying around in Marius's head. Aloud, I interpreted.
"He doesn't think you're my type, David."
Marius tilted his head. And it was beyond interesting, the look on his face. He looked like Claudia-- no, no. Like Armand. First time I've ever seen that look on his face. Well, Marius and I had never faced off, I suppose. That is, never, until now.
"You--" Marius explained with a brief nod to David. "--seem neither malleable nor hopelessly devoted. You don't exactly appear Lestat's--"
"Malleable?" I snarled, reading the insult implicit in his pathetic little attempt at speech. Cast me out, would he, and then dare to come here and say these things to me--? "This from the man who turned his sixteen-year-old boy whore into a vampire?"
I've called Armand worse things, of course. In the past. But that was different. That was to his face. Which was allowed. Well, in a way it was allowed. In a way it was expected, between Armand and myself.
I barely heard the words as David broke the silence, spoke.
"No, Marius," he said. "What are the features of Lestat's fledglings--really? Gabrielle, Nicki, Claudia--mother, mad lover, child. Malleable? Hardly. I have no illusions about the fact that Lestat made me to prove something--just as he made them, to prove--" David paused, making an uncertain gesture. And then he pushed his point. "It's Louis, of all of us," he said. "Who doesn't run to form."
My lips drew back from my fangs as he spoke the name. Louis. Hopelessly devoted. God, what utter trash. And I was going to hurt Marius. Hurt him very badly, if something wasn't done soon. If he didn't leave us, very soon.
--get out, get out, get out--
I watched him leave, feeling the strangest sensation in my chest. The emptiness rose. The anger vanished. The end of an adventure, I thought. The curtain closes here.
It occurred to me I might never see Marius again.
Melodrama. He'd be back. They, all of them, always come
"Well." I threw myself down on the settee and sprawled, draping my arms over the back rest, and leaning my head there as well. I felt empty. Hollow, as if drained of blood. I said, "Just think what joys await you, David. Not only Marius, but Maharet, Mekare, Khayman, Armand..."
"I simply... can't imagine."
"Armand," I said again. I wondered for a second what he would have made of all of this. My track record with Armand and fledglings was colourful, to say the least. He had tortured Nicki to madness, killed Claudia, seduced Louis and attacked Gabrielle. Armand was four for four, as they say. Or he had been. He wasn't now, of course. Now there was David, who he'd never even--
My lips twitched, and suddenly I was trying hard not to laugh. "David," I said, rearranging my posture and glancing over at him. "I wish you would do something really awful to Armand."
"I'm struggling to compass your train of thought, Lestat."
I mused on the possibility. "...Drop him down a well. Break a couple of his bones. Imprison him for a hundred years or so..."
"You're not taking this very seriously."
I sighed, deeply. Closed my eyes.
I tried to ignore it, really. I did.
But I couldn't forget the fact that he'd stood by me this evening, just as he'd stood by me against Raglan. David, my David. I returned my gaze to him, letting my lashes flutter open. I think I was absorbing the sight, storing it anew; the strong tanned arms, the gorgeous face, the body lean and well muscled.
Ah, David. I looked right into his eyes. Held that gaze. Waited.
And then, slowly and very, very prettily, I smiled.
He fell for it. Hard. The look on his face was priceless, though he turned away at the last moment, just as the answering smile I wanted began twitching on his lips.
"You're not taking this very seriously."
"Oh, David. Marius, for God's sake."
"I'd like to see him try it. You're strong enough on your own to crush him with one hand. Even the oldest ones couldn't kill you. No-one can kill you, David. The sun over the Gobi desert couldn't kill you. And anyway, you're--"
I pressed my fingers to my temples and tried to halt the flow of words. Marius. He wouldn't try to kill us. The idea was absurd. And I didn't want to talk about this, not now, not...
I glanced up again and caught David looking at me. His expression was one of peculiar concentration. You might even call it concern.
Yes, concern, and it was as though he meant to make a move in my direction. As though he meant to say something comforting. Something sympathetic. Something wonderfully British, suited to the moment, to express his care for me.
Hell with that.
I rose up from the couch, shook my hair back from my face.
"--You're mine," I finished, voice a dangerous, silken purr. "He'd have to go through me."
David took a step backwards. "Lestat..."
"Mine," I said again.
"Don't," he said flatly.
A curious change was occuring in his face, he was realising what I planned to do. Ah, there's no-one else here David. It's just you and I and the mortals in the city. And it's such a shame that you can no longer read these thoughts of mine. Because I'm dying to know--how do you think you are going to stop me?
I licked at my lips, and let the pretty, vicious little smile return to my face. "You know, lover, I've heard that one before. From you."
He was backing away again. One step. Then another. Oh, it really was delicious--the knowledge that I could back him right into the wall, just by walking forward.
"No," he said again. His shoulderblades hit plaster. His eyes opened wide at that. I grinned and moved in, pressing my palms flat to the wall on either side of his head. "No. Lestat, I swear to God, if you try this with me, you'll have the fight of your life on your hands--"
"Fight me?" Ah, I could smell him, the heat in his cheeks. His back flush to the brick, and our abdomens pressed together close.
He was going nowhere. And he knew it.
I leaned in, and said close to his ear, "Like a fight, would you?"
"Oh..." His head tipped back, baring to me the lean, lovely line of his throat. My lips parted, involuntarily. God, I wanted him, his flesh under my mouth, the hot jet of his blood on my tongue.
"Like me to take you before I take you. That it?"
"You're--you're not going to--" He was trying to distract me with words and failing miserably in his attempts to reach coherency. "--get away with this--"
"I get away--" I told him very deliberately, shoving a knee between his legs. "--with everything. Really, you know that by now, David."
He swore at me. But he spread his legs, too. And his cheeks were flushed. All that lovely blood.
"I know," I said. "I know you. Even before you became a vampire, it was always young men you fell hardest for, wasn't it? The lure of the young male body. My body--I was only twenty one when I was taken. Younger than Louis, did you know that--?"
Louis. The name whispered itself across my thoughts. I shook it off.
"Damn you, Lestat--"
I pressed the word to his ear, voice a soft snarl. "Darling...."
My teeth scraped along the line of his cheek, drew a little furrow of blood. I resisted the urge to simply latch onto that wound then and there, to bite into his cheek, tear at it, hurt him and love him and drink all his precious blood.
He shuddered. By the time I leaned in and tenderly kissed his neck, he was sobbing, desperately, pushing into me and making these luscious hot little sounds. "Oh, God, no, I--Lestat--"
A cool voice spoke from the doorway. "Mortals can hear you in the hallway, David."
Well, for God's sake. It was the second interruption in one night. Really, I was starting to get annoyed.
I leaned my weight on the wall and snarled the answer over David's neck. "This isn't a spectator sport."
Louis didn't move from the door frame. "Oh?" He spoke politely, in French. "Forgive me. But I'll remind you of these words, Lestat, when this scene turns up in your latest novel."
"Fine, then. Stay and watch--" But David was slipping away even as I spoke, moving to the centre of the room, straightening his clothing with short, sharp little motions. Running that hand through his hair.
It took me a moment longer before I could push myself away from the
"Oh, yes," said Louis, managing, through some miracle of voice modulation, to sound neither piqued nor sarcastic. "That much was patently obvious."
David blushed, a reaction which seemed somehow terribly unlike him.
I think I could almost smell it, the capilliaries in his cheeks distending.
I don't think I've ever caught him blushing before. No that wasn't
true. Once again I remembered the hotel. Two mortal males in
a hotel. David, you do blush easily.
I complained, "You're leaving me with him?"
"Yes," Louis said, folding his arms primly. "He is."
And then we were alone together.
I felt the press of the intimate little room, with it's lush carpets and richly papered walls. There were shiny brass fittings on the fireguard, and the furniture was dark, made from deeply blushing wood. Almost, but not quite, it resembled nineteenth century clutter. Luxurious and claustrophobic. It was an ancient setting, and he looked comfortable in it--though he always looks comfortable, really, whether he be decked out in splendour and finery, or wandering in the rain, in rags.
We locked gazes. He was the first to look away.
Maybe it was something in my eyes.
I watched the gentle rising and falling of his chest as he sighed out a breath even as, with uncharacteristic understatement, I was thinking, Well, this has been quite a night.
Imagine, the idea whispered. Making love like that to Louis. Oh, he'd never let me. I'd never make him let me. I remembered the first moments, the desperate young man bitterly in love with death. Ah, and I'd served as death for him. And he'd reached up, wondering, to touch my face. "But who are you!"
Why do I hurt suddenly, looking at him. I'm angry. I want to weep. I'd hurt him if there were one single mote, one cell of my being that could bear to act, to do such a thing. For him, I'd have defied heaven. I'd have descended into hell to help him. And I'd gone to him, and wrapped my arms around him, begged him to help me, and he'd cast me out--
"Marius was here?" he said in a small voice.
"Oh, Marius," I answered him. "I'm tired of Marius. He's
a bore when he's here, and everyone always insists on discussing him perpetually
after he's gone."
Almost definitely, I thought.
But, "You are in a mood," he remarked, when the silence had stretched on too long.
"Well." I didn't move my eyes from his face. "You always were the observant one, Louis."
His brows pulled together slightly. I watched him try to place it. This was a cause of strife between us too, on occasion. Who had written what of whom in which book.
"Why David?" he asked then, in the calmest, flattest voice.
"I would not be here," I answered him evenly. "If it weren't for David."
"But David," Louis said, almost wearily. "Is not Claudia, Lestat."
I blinked at him, startled. He was breaking his own rules, using her name. Claudia, Claudia. She.
"We'll see," I answered him, a certain amount of venom in my voice. "Give him sixty years, and a knife--"
I hadn't meant to say it, exactly. It's just that I was angry and a little restless, and Marius's visit had touched me in some way that I couldn't explain. It was a measure of how unsettled I was, I suppose, that I'd come out with something so bitter as that.
Louis was silent for a long moment. "Lestat. I--" He broke off. "I wanted you to live," he finished, more quietly. "Life without you, it was--"
Yes, I knew that. Really. I did. I knew. I know. I just--
I turned away abruptly, moving off to the fireplace, the richly worked mantlepiece of high, dark wood. Live. I ran my fingertips over the edge of that mantle, feeling the heat distantly on my face. I wanted you to live.
I wasn't going to weep.
"You love me?" I asked viciously, without turning.
I heard him answer, simply, "Yes."
It should have been enough.
I let him turn me. My marble-like limbs wouldn't have budged otherwise, and so I let him turn me, and we faced one another, his hand resting on my arm, and those beautiful green eyes haunting his face, darkened with pupil and dim light.
Armand had killed for Louis, killed Claudia to try and keep him. And I supposed, so had I. Well, in a manner of speaking.
"You're really pushing it, Louis," I said, about to shrug him off.
"I love you," he said, placing soft emphasis on each separate word. His touch slid up to brush across my shoulder. Startled, I allowed the caress, allowed the gentle press of his fingers against the material of my jacket.
Yes, and I'd been so sure, I wanted to say. So sure, when I came to you in that feverish, sick mortal body... so sure that you would...
I didn't answer him.
"Then you haven't forgiven Marius," he said, a little sadly. "And you haven't forgiven me."
"Oh.." I made a small dismissive gesture, knocking his hand from my shoulder. "Well. Give it a century or so. You know what I'm like."
He acknowledged this with a tiny nod of the head, pulling back. I thought for a second that I heard a breath, too, the kind of sharp, involuntary expulsion that is the precurser to a sob.
What was it Louis said to me that night? "I've read a great deal about your weeping in the pages of your books, Lestat, but I've never actually seen you weep with my own eyes."
Well, you know what? I have read a great deal about his weeping in the pages of his book, but I have never actually seen him weep with my own eyes.
He didn't weep now. He simply moved away to the great and ponderous armchair and placed his hands upon its back. I watched him, smoothing the leather with his palms. It was difficult not to watch him. His small unconscious gestures have always been his most seductive.
"Will you answer a question, my beautiful friend?" I asked him suddenly. "My conscience. My companion. Just one question. Something easy. Answer it?"
He nodded serenely, eyes quiet, reflecting muted light. "Alright."
"If we'd met as two mortal men, you and I," I said it whilst watching him. "Would you have been my lover?"
Blood moved in his face, spreading over his cheeks, then draining away and deserting them. He was probably furious, I thought. I hadn't shaken him physically, as I would have done in the old days. But probably, in his own predictable and inimitable fashion, he was furious anyway.
We'd certainly had blazing arguments over far milder comments in the past.
But damned if I was going to apologise. Besides, I was rather curious as to how he was going to answer this little question of mine.
"How dare you," he said. "How dare you ask me this. You think it's funny? It isn't funny Lestat! I'm not going to answer such a--"
I think I folded my arms in the face of his tirade. His splendid anger. He's just so... furious when he's furious. It was almost like old times. I imagined he'd throw something soon, and then I really would start laughing, and he'd storm off into the night.
"--and all you can do is laugh at me, damn you, I--" He was winding down, glaring. His cheeks were flushed, and his green eyes were furious, bright. And some of his long dark hair had fallen free from it's confinement--it was falling about his face, a floating cloud, silk, frame to that delicate expression.
And then I wasn't laughing, suddenly. We were just gazing at one another, and the fire was popping and sparking in the silence, and its warmth was pressing at my cheeks.
There was such an overpowering sense of him at that moment. Of being in the room with him. His beauty. His muted, lovely light. Quiet was twining around us both, a witchy, invisible fetter, and it was difficult to breathe in it--it was too intimate a captivity in which to breathe. The colour sharpened in his face, too.
"Would you have wanted me?" he whispered.
I felt something harden in my gaze.
He'd opened a part of himself, in asking me this question. I knew it. It had cost him more than telling me he loved me. He was the doe trembling before the forest fire, closing its eyes, whispering a request to be consumed. And in all the years, the many years, we'd never come this close.
I just couldn't do it. Couldn't do something like that to him.
What the hell was this, anyway--a cheap and tawdry mortal affair? A love scene, for God's sake?
I couldn't do it.
It hurt him, deeply. He didn't flinch, as a mortal might, but his face transformed, his eyes narrowing slightly, his chin tilting up, his posture shifting and assuming that gorgeous, slightly defensive air that is just so utterly characteristic of him, that has been as long as I've known him.
The only reason he wasn't leaving the room, I knew, was because I was watching him, and he thought I expected him to leave.
"--I can't imagine it, actually," he said in English, his accent crisp on the words. My brow creased. I had a moment of feeling lost, unprepared. Exposed. He was about to go on the attack--he did that occasionally--and I was totally unready. I was casting about myself for some kind of defence. "I can imagine being plied with wine perhaps, like you did--did--what was his name? And I can imagine feeling a headache. I can imagine not wanting to be there. I can imagine you at your most grotesque, bullying, because subtlety is not part of your repertoire of too-obvious charms--"
I didn't know where these words of his were coming from. They were bitter and relentless, and not very pleasant. Nor were they like him, not at all. I found myself pressing the heel of my palm to my forehead, and wishing that he would stop.
"--But a love affair? Can I imagine a love affair? No, well, that sort of thing is not really your style, is it, and besides--"
"Alright, that's enough--"
"--all I really have to fall back on in comparison is an attack in a filthy alley--sound familiar? Your attack in that alley. And then what amounted to little more than--"
"I said that's--"
"--a revolting form of rape, of which we both know you are capab--"
I was moving before I realised it. I had him by the throat, in a grip from which he couldn't release himself, and I slammed him hard against the wall, so hard, in fact, that the wall shook, and the plaster cracked and flaked and fell down in small chunks and pieces to the floor.
He wasn't David. He couldn't fight. He was the weakest of us, and I was the strongest. I had my hand around his throat. And I was angry. The preternatural blood was scalding in my veins. I knew I could kill him with a single blow. I could kill him just by squeezing.
"Yes, I wanted you," I snarled at him. "And I came to your rooms, and wooed you with words, or have you forgotten that at the end of it all you turned your face to me and begged me to take your life?"
"I would never have said yes," he returned. "If I had then known you."
I tried to stop myself. An image of Raglan James flashed before my eyes, and I tried to stop the reaction, the sheer fury that lashed out of me now. I must have partially succeeded, because Louis didn't burst into flames before my eyes, he just stood there looking mildly shocked at what he'd said.
My fist slammed out hard, yes, but it impacted into the plaster of the wall beside his head.
I hadn't hurt him.
I closed my eyes when I realised this. Thank god, thank god, thank god. I hadn't hurt him. I had let him go.
Breathing hard, I pulled my hand from the significant hole in the plaster. I had ruined this wall, I observed. The damage extended through to the second layer of brick which had crushed and crumbled beneath my knuckles.
But it could have been worse. It could have been--
I knew I had tears on my face, I could feel them. I could smell them too. They were blood. God, I thought, I'm crying. How utterly typical. And then I felt the wall at my back, and I was sliding down against the fragmented plaster until I just slumped there, sitting on the floor, knees up, staring at some point in the air by the settee.
A few odd thoughts floated into my head. A curiosity as to where Louis was. An irrational annoyance that my knuckles didn't hurt. The realisation that David had probably gone out into the city, else he would have long been back in here, demanding to know why I was dismantling the hotel.
I wished the tears would stop.
"Tears," said Louis, in a strange, raw voice. "He weeps."
Ah, Louis was still here. And that was nice. Here. Stay with me, Louis...
"Lestat, are you--?"
"It's just late." I told him tiredly, without moving. "And you know... you know what I'm like."
The fire was crackling, and the wall was making small noises as it readjusted to my blow. And Louis was breathing, long, slow, wonderfully hypnotic breaths. Behind me, a couple on the street were talking about money for the carnival. Calculations, figurations... An hour might have passed, or two, I'm not sure. When I looked up, I saw that Louis was watching the blood on my face. The dried, bloody tear-streaks. They must have been tempting. He hadn't fed. He was too restrained to do more than look, however. I tried and failed to imagine him leaning down and licking the tears from my face.
"Do you want the blood?" I found myself asking, more from force of habit than anything else.
And he answered in a soft, dull voice, "Not this conversation, too."
I closed my eyes. Time passed.
After a while he quietly left the room.
Pain on my skin. The sun was rising. Move, I thought, get up. Go find somewhere to sleep.
I hunted early the next night.
It didn't take long to find what I wanted, a young tough with drugs and a gun in his pocket, and a thatch of dark hair on his head. He swore at me in Portuguese when I took him, a stream of liquid words that gurgled off into silence when I sank my teeth into his flesh and tore open the veins in his neck.
I returned to the hotel to find David awake and standing with a hotel employee, regarding the wall.
"This," he said, when the young agent of the hotel had left. "Was a wanton and unconscionable act of destruction, of which, before this evening, I would have doubted even you were capable."
"It was an old wall," I said.
"Lestat, what did you do?"
"Nothing I won't pay for."
I saw his eyes narrow. "And where is Louis?" he asked softly.
"Asleep, probably. He doesn't usually wake until well after dusk." I gestured vaguely at the wall in question. "David, we're vampires. We kill, every night we're alive. It's ludicrously disproportionate to make a fuss simply because I slightly damaged a piece of this hotel."
"That we kill is--" David broke off.
Louis had chosen that moment to enter, padding in over the carpet from his room.
Incredibly, he was wearing pyjamas.
I stared. We both... stared.
They were rather expensive looking black pyjamas made from some kind of heavy, textured raw silk. And they made a small rustle as Louis greeted David in French and then, ignoring both the wall and our expressions, moved in and kissed me briefly on the cheek. "Lestat," he said. He picked up Le Monde from the table and unfolded it. Appropriating the comfortable armchair, he began to read.
"Mitterrand has just replaced Rocard with Edith Cresson," he commented.
"What?" I said.
"She will be the first female prime minister of France," he explained, pointing politely to the headline.
Ah. I recovered slightly, and made a small internal observation. I know this mood.
"Louis," David began. "Have you seen the wall?"
I could have warned him about the difficulties of engaging with a sulking Louis, but I chose to say nothing. Let's see how David manages, I thought.
Politeness. "The wall?"
"Lestat has destroyed it!"
"Yes," Louis answered calmly, turning a page. "I was there."
Louis looked up from the print. "I am required to comment?"
Receiving no support from my direction, David once again addressed Louis. "What happened here?"
"David," Louis said, with dazzling composure. "You are Lestat's fledgling, you are his friend and his lover. You are not a friend of mine. And you are more than one hundred years my junior. I wish you would consider this, and stop blustering, posing, chastising, and generally acting as if you were the superior general of this coven. I--"
"I don't think--"
"David. Please say all of this away from me, or not at all. I am not interested in hearing from you."
Louis delivered this last with such precision venom in his tone that it turned the relatively harmless phrase into a silvery blade, slashing forward, drawing blood.
Some time ago in his little memoir, Interview with the Vampire, Louis gave an account of his final hours with the vampire Armand. I'd observed whilst reading it that I knew exactly the mood Louis had been in at the moment when, with brutal and perfect calm, he'd shattered Armand's heart.
Now I watched David try to recover from the small attack.
"I'm not his lover," he said, finally.
Louis put the paper aside, and rose from his seat. "If you believe that, then for all your seventy four mortal years, you are a fool." The paper was folded now, neatly. "Excuse me." And with a last, pointed little look, he left the room again.
There was a pause.
"Well, that was brief," I said.
David was blinking oddly. He finally turned to look at me. "He loves you, you know."
"Yes." I stretched, yawning. "So do you."
"I read the books," he said. "I read Interview with the Vampire God knows how many times while I was with the Talamasca. And do you know what? I thought I knew what it would be like. You and he and--what did you call it? 'The old atmosphere'?"
"Oh, David, really, you know how it is when I write these novels. The old atmosphere, what--"
"I can almost feel it," David continued. "Two hundred years of
history. Quarrels and adventure and gentleman's frock coats."
"You never speak of it, Lestat."
"Don't I?" I asked.
But it was a tepid, rhetorical question. It was not a cue for him to ask me to speak. I realised I had my back to the mantle. My eyes were on the view.
When I transferred my gaze to him I could see he was guaging my mood. He was deciding I might actually tell him, if he asked me. For the anger that is always so quick to spark in me, somehow this evening, was refusing to ignite. I was just gazing at him softly, and thinking of his request. I hadn't exploded, or changed the subject, or told him to go off and buy Louis's book.
What was I supposed to say? I was twenty five, when it happened? And the year was seventeen ninety-one?
I was shaking my head. "Leave it alone, David," I answered, more gently than I would have, perhaps, under other circumstances. "You know the story. No purpose is served by getting me to tell it again."
He paused for a moment. "Lestat, there is something I need to say to you. And I need for you not to rant, and not to rage when I say it. I need for you to behave sensibly. Can you promise me you will do that?"
"Oh, yes, alright!" I threw my hands up into the air. "I'll behave. What is this thing you must tell me that I must take so seriously?"
"I'm going to leave you Lestat. There are things I must do on my own."
I drew away from him just a little. I absorbed this information. "When?" I asked him.
"In a week--or two. Soon. Do you understand what I'm saying to you?"
I lifted my brows and nodded at him, silently. Silence, you see. What can one say?
He was walking towards me. He took me by the shoulders in a firm little grip and he squared me off to face him. "Lestat," he said. Just my name. "Lestat."
I wasn't certain what he wanted. He'd asked me not to rant and rage--and I was doing neither. And yet he was looking at me oddly, searching my face. And I had to look up to meet his gaze, because his body is a few inches taller than mine, and bigger too. He rarely pushes it. I don't like feeling overpowered. I fight back.
But he was pushing now, and I wasn't fighting. I think I was trembling slightly. I'd let him manhandle me into position and now I was letting him touch me.
His hand slid up across my shoulder to my neck, his fingers tangled themselves in the strands of my hair, he was cupping the back of my head. I remember thinking, Oh, he can't be going to-- even as he leaned in. Even as he dropped his other hand to my waist, pulled my body firmly against his own, and kissed me.
My own hands found a grip, twisting in the flimsy cotton of his garment, fiercely. My instinct was respond in kind, to show him everything, all my power, to devastate him with this kiss, to let him know that this was I, Lestat, and that he was never going to feel this way with anyone else. Ever.
I shuddered as the kiss deepened, some vast emotion moving in me, confounding all my plans. It was sorrow. I think it was sorrow. Our bodies were cold, unresponsive. We were mimicking the forms of mortal passion without really feeling... anything.
The kiss had broken off, and now we were just holding one another, tightly. An embrace of might-have-beens. All we might have known as mortals in that other time. A memory of orange juice, and sunlight, and wet clothes in hotels.
Don't leave me, I wanted to say. If you leave me, he will leave me. And there is no way to describe the loneliness of two hundred years, of bitterest hurts and longings that cannot be assuaged. My God, I'm so lonely, David.
"I don't want to hurt you," he said.
"I know," I told him, pulling back. "I understand, really, I do.
And I'll behave. I promise, David. I am not such a monster
that I'd... that I'd fight against you on this. I will behave."
Some actions are so expected of one that they are unavoidable, automatic. I was finding it impossible to stay mired down in self pity, for example. Something else was niggling at my mind. I lasted almost half the night before I gave in to it, but give in to it I did, and with a sense of such inevitability that I actually expelled an irritated puff of breath. It covered for the grin.
It was time to go and confront Louis about his pyjamas.
The door closed behind me with a neat little click and I immediately pressed my back to it, liking the feel of the wooden planes against my shoulders, and liking the small support.
"Pyjamas," I said to him.
He was resting on his side on the bed, cocooned in a hollow of sheets. He was absorbed in some book. He had the look of a mortal, clean skinned, luxuriating in crisp new linen and the heavy weight of blankets; a child wiggling it's toes beneath the sheets, perfectly happy, perfectly safe, before the lights go out and the monsters from story books come.
"Est-ce que tu n'as jamais porté un pyjama?"
"No, and neither have you," I answered this too-innocent question, employing
all the firmness the English language has to offer.
He was still wearing them.
I surrendered a little more of my weight to the door.
"You're impossible," Louis said as I did this. "How is it that you can resist the most vicious of insults and yet be utterly floored by a pair of pyjamas?"
"Are you angry with me?" I asked him. I had to ask him this.
After a hesitation, he slowly shook his head. "I wish I were angry with you. I wish I could hate David. I cannot."
"Why are you wearing pyjamas?" I asked him. I had to ask him this, too.
"Lestat." He spoke to me as he would to a child. "It is pyjamas. It is not the end of the world."
"It feels like the end of the world," I sulked. "Alright, alright," I relented at the look on his face. "I have had every carefully cherished illusion of your sense of propriety and self grooming shattered this evening, but alright."
Louis smiled a moment.
We fell into the silence that has haunted our relationship for the last two hundred years. Not an uncomfortable silence. Rather, a familiar one. Neither of us showed any inclination towards speech. Louis watched me, ignoring his book.
"You wore a nightshirt," I said to him slowly, as the wheels of memory turned over in my mind. "White cotton, soaked in sweat."
His gaze was essentially calm.
I wondered at his equanimity. Perhaps time has dulled the scene for him. Not for me... I remember... remember the room. Ill lit. And small. And malodorous. Modern notions of sanitation did not exist at that time, and the scent of candle smoke and tallow had been heavy in my nostrils, mingling with smell of sweat. And blood. They'd bled him, after my first attack, and some of that gorgeous red liquid was even now smeared across the linen. Its scent left a sharp metallic tang in my mouth. Louis's blood--a very human Louis, a Louis who had struggled to push himself up from the sheets, determined, his hair damp and tangled about his face, his skin sheened over with sweat, his eyes fever bright.
"It is you!" he'd whispered. He was like a mad priest at that moment, reaching a kind of demented epiphany. He was already worshipping me with his gaze.
I remember, Louis. I remember everything.
How different he looked now. I moved towards the bed, letting my fingertips drag over the covering as I approached. I liked the feel of that rough little fabric against my skin. I liked being close to him.
"You were like a lion," he said to me softly. "You were magnificent. The room seemed too small to contain you. Just as it does now."
A tiny smile flirted with my lips. "Compliments," I said. "Careful. You know how easy I am to win over."
"Here," he said to me, holding out his hand. I acted on the unspoken invitation, letting my fingers move from the coverlet to the raw, textured silk of his garment. Feeling it slide over his skin, too. He murmured, "See? It is not the end of the world."
It was difficult to draw back from him.
I frowned, and began to pull away.
"That feels nice," he said, voice a quiet sigh of pleasure, before I had the chance. "That feels..."
I was helpless to it. I thought, Yes. It really... does.
And then we were both of us on the bed.
He lay his head against my shoulder. My arm slipped about his waist. I could feel his heart beating delicately and too slowly in his chest. He was like the aloof neighbour's cat who, with unexpected and touching elegance, deigns to curl up in your lap. Feeling his shiny fur tickle you, his tiny chest rising and lowering in breaths, you nevertheless discover that it feels... wonderful.
Louis was trembling slightly.
It was almost dawn.
"You haven't fed," I realised, speaking the words aloud.
"It doesn't matter," he murmured back, his lips against my neck. "It happens sometimes. Every now and again. I can... go without..."
His limbs were stiffening slightly. He was falling into the sleep. I tilted his chin up slightly and found his gaze, found eyes that were slitted, languorous. "Louis..."
"No, I..." He drew in closer, shaking his head. His lashes closed. His lips murmured. "Please don't... I don't want... Lestat..."
Fatigue drew over him, a shroud, cold and irresistible. It drained the colour from his face.
Louis was deep, deep in slumber. His pallor was startling. He really looked dead. He was not dead, but I had the strangest impression, as I drew back from the ice of his limbs, that he might well be. I hadn't seen him like this--asleep--for well over one hundred years.
I have always been an early riser, more so with Akasha's blood, and I have grown accustomed to spending this muted, new-born portion of the night alone. Only on Night Island did I encounter another vampire who rose at sunset's edge. I can still remember clearly the shock that came when, bounding down the stairs of Armand's pseudo-mansion, I came face to face with Pandora. Her bright eyes had watched me, absorbing the details of my person. Her fascination silent, freakish. Too early. We were the only ones awake.
It was early now. There was a strange luminescence pressing at the curtains, but it was fading.
I watched Louis.
He was not breathing.
It is the small things which are the most frightening, is it not? We don't breathe in our sleep. Though you can't appreciate the true horror of this fact until you have watched a vampire at rest. It was only after the room had descended into pitch that he drew air into his lungs.
His fangs were showing. He pushed himself up, a little unsteady. He didn't have the ancient powers, and one night without blood seemed to have devastated him utterly. Imagine the hunger. Imagine... I flirted just for a second with the idea of slashing my wrist, and proffering the wound to him. In this state, he'd be unable to refuse the blood. Look at him--could he see in this darkness? I could. He was blinking strangely. He looked hungry. He looked almost as if he'd attack me anyway, even without the scent of blood to spur him on.
But of course he wouldn't.
Two things happened at that moment.
The first was that Louis rose completely from the bed. Staggering slightly, he clasped onto my shoulder. "Lestat..."
The second was that outside of this room, David opened our door to a young woman, staff of the hotel.
"Shhh," I murmured to Louis, yielding my shoulder to him. My mind reached out as I spoke. I had her in a second, and through her eyes, I saw David, his expression confused. Ah, she was failing to respond to his mental attempts to steer her back. She was approaching the door to this room. I was saying, "Easy, my beautiful one. The hunger has made you weak. Hold on to me..."
I steadied him as he dressed. He put on some of his usual black rags.
"Can you stand alone?" I asked softly.
He thought about this for a long moment, then, frowning, he nodded. I drew back carefully. He kept to his feet.
I felt a very dangerous smile move towards my lips.
It was time to open the door for the girl.
She was shaking her head. I hadn't been... exactly gentle with her mind and releasing her, I caused her some confusion. I could see her trying to add things up in her head. She'd been in the hallway, and now she was here, in a private room, with two gentlemen staring at her and one approaching behind her back--
David. He'd followed her in. And he took in the scene in
an instant, his gaze travelling from Louis's too-pale face to mine.
I interjected my body between his and the girl's and forcibly held him back. "Try it," I said, in a thick tone, like a warning. "Just try it with me, David--"
Behind me, she started screaming.
"Oh God," David said. He stilled, broke off every attempt to struggle. "Oh my God."
Ah, he'd never seen Louis kill. He'd never seen any of us kill.
I followed his gaze.
Louis had taken hold of a fistful of the hair at the top of the woman's head. He was silent, focused, and absolutely impervious to her struggle. Like some powerful creature sinking teeth into its prey--or its mate--he exposed the back of her neck in one expedient motion, and bit down into it, hard. The woman froze, shuddering, her cries tapering off into small desperate sobs. Louis's arm was about her waist. He was moving behind her like a lover, holding her still for his pleasure. Her eyes glazed over. Her gasps slowed.
I heard David make a small sound, involuntary empathy, deep in his throat. He couldn't look away. Neither of us could. God, I could smell the blood--
At the point of death--rather neatly, I thought--Louis removed his teeth and his grip. Stepping back, he just let the woman drop. She made a little thud as her dead limbs hit the carpet.
"She was the mother of a three month old child," Louis said, pressing the back of his hand to his mouth, an absent gesture that wiped away some blood. "Let me leave, Lestat."
I was blocking the doorway.
"Are you angry because you killed her? Or because I was the one who--"
He wasn't looking at me. He wasn't looking at David, either. I watched the frustration well up in him until it was breaking in the almost desperate words, "God, must you mock everything, everything that's--"
He pushed past the moment I moved back.
David and I were left in the room with the body.
I was staring at it. Pretty lady, I thought. Dreadful uniform. I was staring her dead body and not doing what I should be, which was working out what we were to do with it, exactly. I believe David was attempting to impart to me something of the seriousness of the situation, but all I could think was: Sixty five years. Maybe it was good, a good thing, that this little tryst was--
"Lestat, she is going to be missed and when that happens--"
--over. Because our time was passed. Our era had long since drawn to its close. Covens didn't last sixty five years.
"--I mean, they're bad enough at home, God knows what they'll be like here, and we--"
"Louis is gone," I said.
The tone in which I spoke these words brought David up short.
"I know you're going to run off to some jungle somewhere, and hunt tigers and make wild and improbable discoveries, David, but don't... don't... You know what I am trying to say. Don't become Gabrielle, turning up at odd intervals every one or two hundred years."
He asked, "Is this your way of saying goodbye to me?"
"No," I answered him. "It is my way of saying goodbye to..."
We parted company in Mitú, near Colombia's border. David pushed on into the heavy jungle. I wished to stay in the city. I was hunting again, a "drug lord" who exported yearly tons of coca. Like my old games with the serial killers, it was familiar. I found I liked it. I found the sameness of hunting this man as seductive in it's way as the white powder that he sold. It had a certain charm. It catered to the need I had to... return to familiar places. To walk familiar paths. To wake at dusk and look about myself and think, Ah yes, I know this.