We were walking down Castro Street, and the air was warm and pleasant. I felt very content; I'd fed well earlier, and Louis had agreed to come out with me after five nights spent indoors reading with David. Trust David to create an unrivalled library after only three months living in his new house. And trust Louis to find that library more interesting than me — though not, it would appear, this night. At least he hadn't complained too much when I'd dragged him away from the books.
I looked at him walking next to me in his dusty black clothes: ripped jeans, a t-shirt with both sleeves and most of the neck missing, the remains of what might once have been a pair of black Converse high-tops on his feet. For once I hadn't asked him to change. With his clothes all but falling off him, he looked wonderful.
I wasn't the only one who thought so. Louis walked on, completely oblivious to the admiring looks he was drawing from at least half the men around him on the sidewalk, and some of the women as well. His innocent expression amused me, and at the same time a familiar feeling woke inside me, the glitter of mischief, and I wanted to tease him, and torment him just a little, and embarrass him, just to see him blush.
All right, it isn't nice. But drawing a reaction from Louis can be hard work.
I pride myself on being good at it, though.
With two long strides I caught up with him and placed my hand in the small of his back, pushing him towards an open door. "Come on, let's go in here."
He looked at me with questioning eyes. "A bar?"
"Very good, Louis. Yes, it's a bar." I exerted a little more force and he started moving again, in the direction I wanted.
"But they're all men," he said over his shoulder, and almost stumbled into a mortal man who was leaving at the same time. "I thought that at a bar— Oh, I am so sorry."
Trust Louis to be polite. Judging by the man's stunned expression, he might have overdone the smile a bit. I moved forward and made myself obvious, and the man shrank back and walked away.
Louis turned his eyes reproachfully on me. "You scared him."
"Nonsense," I said briskly and headed for the back. It was fairly crowded, but most of the crowd was around the bar itself; there were a few free tables.
Louis slid in on the opposite side of the table from me, and I shook my head. "What?" he asked.
"You'd better stick close to me," I advised, "or someone will try to pick you up."
His face was half in shadow and I saw his teeth gleam as he smiled. "Lestat, I lived in this city, remember? I can take care of myself."
Yes, I wanted to say, I'm sure you can, but won't you let me do it instead?
I didn't say it. Instead I watched the other bar patrons, men in jeans and checked shirts, men in leather pants, men in slacks and blazers. This was a pretty mixed place, and so neither of us stood out very much. Not because of the way we were dressed, anyway. Louis, of course, draws everyone's eyes, when he isn't deliberately trying to be inconspicuous.
It isn't just his beauty, although he is too lovely for words. It is the way he moves, the way he sits, the way he holds his head... the way he looks, remote from the world, set at a distance from the rest of us. Many of those who see him feel an almost irresistible desire to do anything to get him to notice them and smile at them; they want to be the one who can get his lovely green eyes to light up with laughter. I know; I feel that way myself. When Louis graces me with his complete attention, when I see him smile at me, I feel privileged, chosen.
Ridiculous, hmmm? That only proves you've never seen him.
The lights dimmed suddenly and a couple of red spotlights highlighted a tiny stage. I found to my delight that we were quite close; so close that two other men made for our table to share it, and Louis politely moved over to sit next to me.
"I believe we're in for a floor show," I said.
"Floor show?" Louis wrinkled his brow at the unfamiliar expression. "The floor looks quite crowded to me. Will there be enough room?"
"No, the performance will be there, on the stage," I pointed.
"Then why," he asked reasonably, "do they call it a floor show?"
I became aware that the men who were sharing our table were grinning as they listened to us.
"Hush, Louis. It's starting."
Everyone else did not, of course, fall silent. On the contrary, a raucous cheer rose from the men gathered around the stage as loud rhythmic rock music began to pound from the speakers and a blond dancer entered, giving the audience a provocative wink before spinning into his 'act'. He danced well, and was astonishingly supple for a mortal; some of the contortions he put himself through were nothing short of amazing.
But it didn't stop there. After a while the dancer began to shed his clothes gradually, stripping down to reveal a slim but well-muscled body. He flung the discarded items of clothing into the audience, and was rewarded each time with a massive cheer.
I glanced sideways at Louis, bent towards him and whispered, "I could do that, you know."
"I'm sure you could," he said, unmoved. He probably didn't believe me, and for a moment I was tempted to rise and join that dancer on the stage, to wallow in the audience's delighted attention. Oh, I wanted to. But I didn't, realizing that Louis would probably leave if he saw me do it.
The dancer had stripped down to a tiny g-string and was gyrating his hips in a most provocative way; hands were stretched towards him from all sides of the small stage, until he finally, with a last suggestive wiggle, disappeared again behind a red curtain. A hand appeared, flinging the g-string into the crowd. The spectators roared.
When I looked away from the stage, I found that the men who had come to share our table had apparently found the show most stimulating. One of them, the strawberry blond, had his arm across the other's shoulder and as I watched, he bent closer and nuzzled his brown-haired friend's neck. The second man's eyes half closed and he tilted his head back to provide better access; one of his hands began to move slowly up the first man's leg. The openness of their display startled me a little, particularly with the two of us so close, just across the table from them. The red stage lights were turned off and the rest of the house lights turned up again, though not as much as they had been before the show. Across the table, the men kissed, slowly and lingeringly. It was perfect; it was just what I had hoped for, going in here.
Turning my head to look at Louis, feeling certain of what I was to find, I was startled to see him sitting relaxed, leaning back in his chair, head tilted to one side in that thoughtful way of his as he watched the two men. His face was serene, his green eyes calm, with something lurking in their depths I could not exactly define.
"You ought to be pink!" I hissed indignantly.
"Oh, Lestat." His smile was warm and affectionate, and to my surprise he reached out and touched the tip of one long, cool, white finger to my cheek, as though — but no, surely not, I could not be blushing like a mortal!
"Well, doesn't it offend your Catholic sensibilities?" I asked, trying again. His calm was beginning to have an unnerving effect on me.
At the same time, that gentle touch, the almost feather-light brush of his finger against my cheek, made itself felt with such stunning clarity that it unnerved me far more than his relaxed demeanor.
I also found it affecting me far more intensely than any more blatant caress would have done. When he withdrew his hand just as calmly, the tiny spot on my cheek burned.
"No, Lestat, it doesn't offend me," he said. "Love doesn't offend me." Again, he looked at the two men sharing our table with a strange little smile. "You should know that."
"Not even the public display of private emotions?" He shook his head, still smiling, though I wasn't certain if he was answering my question. "Perhaps not," I went on musing aloud, "after all, you did let me kiss you rather publicly before the San Francisco concert."
"So I did," he agreed. "And you have allowed me to give you a few cold and passionless embraces from time to time..."
I brushed that away with a wave of my hand. "Let's not quibble over words. I remember that night as well as you. Admit it, you weren't all that enthusiastic."
Louis looked straight at me and raised an eyebrow. "Under the circumstances, I thought I was being a gentleman."
Not understanding his meaning, and not wishing to ask, I turned back to watching the men across the table, who were now locked in a tight embrace; the first man had slid over to sit on the second man's lap, one hand clutching his friend's dark hair, the other lightly brushing his chest. They were so intent on each other, I began to suspect they had completely forgotten our presence. I watched them closely, studying their pleasure in one another. I could smell their excitement, a not unpleasant scent, particularly mingled with the blood scent that rises from all mortals. Yes, lovely.
"Quite irresistible," I said, touching the tip of my tongue to my fangs.
Louis smiled. "I'm sure they'd let you join in."
"What makes you think I'd want to?"
"The way you're staring, for one thing. Relax, Lestat, you're going to embarrass the poor men terribly."
"And you're not staring?"
He shook his head, but I could see the twinkle in his eyes. "I'm just indulging in aesthetic appreciation," he said, deadpan. "It's the difference between watching a porn movie and watching a painting, which difference I'm not too sure if you can appreciate, but anyway... there it is."
"How would I know how people watch porn movies? Everyone knows vampires aren't interested in things like that," I said teasingly, though so low that only Louis could hear me. "Everyone knows that vampires are only interested in blood." I gave the word a horror-movie spin.
Louis yawned theatrically, covering his mouth with one delicate hand. "Well, forgive me for failing to live up to the stereotype."
I drew back in mock horror. "You mean — it's not everything to you? You mean you have other interests?"
His lips curled in a smile. "Yes. Not porn movies, I admit, but I have to confess that I have on occasion been known to read books." My lips twitched. "And watch arty European films." I was starting to giggle. "And go to the theater. And even—" I was laughing hard now, and Louis took a deep breath. "—even talk to people!"
"Louis, get a grip," I gasped. "You know you don't mean it. And anyway, these are intellectual enjoyments. I believe we were discussing sensuality." I let my voice sink to a purr. "Physical pleasure, Louis."
"I suppose I'll have to include opera on my list, then," he said demurely. "I find music most stimulating to one of my senses."
"You mean aural experiences can be sensual?"
"Careful how you pronounce that, Lestat," he cautioned, "it sounded almost like 'oral'. Yes, of course they are. Just think of listening to music, monsieur le rock star. Or hearing the sound of a beloved voice."
I nearly jumped. Did he know I was hanging on his every word, not only because of what he was saying, but because he was the one saying it? I don't think I have ever sufficiently explained the charm of Louis' voice. It is low-pitched, but very clear; he speaks quietly but forms his words with great care and clearness. I felt a sudden urge to hear him sing, but knew that to ask him, particularly here and now, would only earn me a raised eyebrow, a shake of the head, and at best, a tolerant smile.
Then I wondered: did Louis thrill to the sound of my voice, as I did on hearing him? Or was there someone else in his mind right now, someone he enjoyed listening to even more...
I wasn't aware that I was scowling until Louis hissed in my ear, "Please, Lestat. They're probably starting to wonder which one of them you're jealous of."
Looking up I saw that the two men opposite were indeed distracted from their pleasure and giving me nervous little looks. I tried the effect of a small smile, turned to Louis and put a hand on his arm. Perhaps they would decide it had all been a lovers' quarrel and nothing to do with them, as was indeed true... at least, half of it was true.
"I'm jealous of you," I said. "Who did you think of, Louis, whose voice do you listen for? What is it that gives you... pleasure?"
It seemed my mouth had taken to talking whether my mind wanted it to or not and I almost tried to look down at my own tongue in surprise. Then I felt it again, that gentle touch, Louis' fingers just brushing my cheek.
"I love to listen to you," he said simply.
I wanted to reach out and hold him, draw him into a tight embrace; at the same time I hesitated. And while I did he bent towards me and kissed my cheek, the way he had done in the church, though more briefly.
It was not unpleasant. But it was not exactly what I would have described as sensual, either. And the worry that we had very different ideas about sensual pleasure held me back from returning his embrace.
Louis straightened up again and looked at me, and I thought there was a message in his eyes, though I could not read it. Was it my imagination or did he hesitate before leaning back in his own chair, before withdrawing from my grip on his arm?
As soon as I had taken my eyes off them, the men across the table had returned to their previous occupation. They were crowded up against the wall, out of sight of most of the other bar patrons, but it seemed obvious that fairly soon they would have to leave, and pursue their enjoyments somewhere more private. I watched as one of them flicked his tongue over the other's ear, and all but felt myself the delicious shudder that the action engendered. Touching their minds lightly I felt their hot intensity, their concentration.
Indeed, I was being drawn into their minds rather deeper than I had counted on, so powerful was the world of sensuality they were creating together. Memories were beginning to stir in my mind, of half-forgotten mortal nights spent in the arms of some peasant girl who'd whispered love words in a thick country accent, or in the arms of Nicki, my long-lost lover... It startled me that I could remember it all so clearly. It also startled me that those were the memories that came first, unbidden, instead of the nights with Gretchen, so much more recent, or even my failed attempts at persuading David.
But then, my mind whispered to me, it was far more pleasant back then. Before I knew the power of any other kind of embrace...
Between sensing the men's excitement, and thinking about the blood swoon, I was starting to feel slightly uncomfortable. I rose abruptly. "Come, Louis, let's go someplace else."
"But we only just got here," he said innocently.
"And now we're leaving."
He raised an eyebrow. "Where do you want to go?"
"Just... outside. Let's go for a walk, Louis." I turned my very best smile on him. "Please?"
Louis is a sucker for good manners. He rose immediately and I let him walk ahead of me out of the bar. I wanted to keep an eye on him so no one tried to approach him. He'd be so shocked. At least, I thought he would be shocked. When a man in a flannel shirt reached out and pinched Louis' butt, I was the one who jumped. Louis turned to look at the man, smiled, and winked!
"Another time," he said sweetly. "I'm busy," he nodded back towards me. Then he just walked on.
"Lucky bastard," the man drawled and I realized he was speaking to me.
I was about to snap out a reply, and show him who he had provoked, but Louis was getting close to the door and there was no time to punish this insolent mortal who dared to paw at my Louis. And then I thought about what he had said.
"You're right. I am." With a few long strides I caught up with Louis and we were outside. "You know," I said conversationally, taking his arm and leading him down towards 18th, "that man thought I was lucky to have you. He was right."
"Yes. I am lucky... very lucky." I pressed closer to his side.
He looked at me with a smile, his green eyes alight with mischief. "But Lestat," he said sweetly, "what makes you think you have me?"
In an instant I held him pinned against the wall, my arms around him. "Don't I?" I breathed into his hair.
"You are shattering my ribs," he said with hardly less composure than he had shown before. "Please remember that I am neither as strong as you are, nor in possession of your amazing powers of recuperation."
I loosened my grip. "And would you want to be?"
"Not necessarily," he said. "Does someone who is rich already want to become even richer? I suppose it depends on the preferences of the individual. And, of course, the manner in which it comes about."
I released him and we continued down the street. There was the usual Friday night crowd milling up and down, the occasional voice rising above the hum to call out to a friend, music spilling out along with light from open doors. Cars crawled by at a leisurely pace. It felt good to be here, on this street, in this city, on this warm night, with Louis at my side.
"Well, I can't imagine..." I let my voice trail off.
"You can't imagine seeing something desirable and not wanting it. You can't imagine wanting something and not taking it." Louis' voice was low and there was an edge to it that I had never heard before.
"Yes, I can," I said, stung.
"Oh? And when was the last time you did? When was the last time you did not instantly gratify one of your own whims?"
Turning my eyes full upon him, I said, "Ten minutes ago inside that bar."
That comment broke his dark mood and he said with a smile, "When you didn't start a career as a stripper? Oh, Lestat — such restraint!"
"All for you," I said flippantly. That had not, of course, been what I meant at all. But if he could not take my meaning...
"You're too kind. At least your policy of instant gratification makes it very clear what you want and don't want."
"You don't know the half of what I want," I said with half-suppressed violence. "I want — I want — I want to feel alive the whole time. Every moment. I want to be in the middle of every moment. I want to savor it, all of it. I'd like to make love to the world... to feel alive, to make it feel alive."
"You're dead," he pointed out, but he didn't sound too sarcastic. Instead he slipped an arm around my waist. I was startled, but certainly not about to object. "No, I did not mean... You are very much alive," he said, "if that word can be applied to one of the undead. You shine, Lestat. I'm sure the world would be pleased to have you for a lover."
At that moment I did not give a damn, as the mortals say, about the world. I turned my face away from him and studied the crowd around us. Two young women, both with long dark hair, were talking, and I heard one of them say, "...hit him over the head with my skates if he ever—"
The rest of the peculiar remark was lost as Louis dragged me away.
As we walked on we left the busy Castro nightlife behind us and began to climb up towards Noe. It was more quiet here, room to slow down, talk softly, notice the sky above.
"I don't care about the world," I said.
"Oh, Lestat." Louis was laughing at me; soundlessly, but I could tell. "You love it. You want it to love you."
"That, yes." I made a dismissive gesture. "That's not what I meant. You said you were sure the world would like me for a lover. I don't care about the world. I would like to be your lover."
He walked on for a few steps more. It is a pleasure to watch him walk, a long-legged shadow moving like a mortal man, his feet making the lightest of sounds against the ground. When he stopped it was outside the gate to a lovely house, not a Victorian, a modern imitation, but still quite appealing. Lights burned in a window by the balcony.
"Take me up there," he nodded.
"What? Louis, I—"
"Up there, on the balcony." He smiled at me. "You've never minded displaying your abilities before." Louis held out his hand. "Fly me up?"
I would have taken him anywhere. Seconds later we were standing side by side on the balcony. I would have liked to prolong the leap up, just for the pleasure of holding him. And why hadn't he responded to what I'd said? Was he just going to ignore it? I couldn't let him do that. I had to—
"Look here, Lestat," he said, over at the window. He was motioning me to join him in looking inside.
I stepped up next to him, bewildered. Inside, two naked mortals were writhing on a bed, so lost in passion that they would not have noticed us had we walked right into the room. The woman's long blond hair spilled out across the man's chest; his back heaved, muscles ripping.
Louis was watching this with nothing more than a calm, thoughtful expression on his face. "You know, I remember doing that," he said conversationally.
"That," he nodded at the mortals. "Making love. Though I am sure you remember it even better than I, having had more recent experiences..."
"I cared nothing for that," I burst out. "You know that. It wasn't — wasn't—"
"As good as you remembered?" Louis smiled. "As good as you wanted it to be?"
"Both," I admitted. "I have a different basis of comparison these days, you know."
"I know," and a small smile hovered on his lips for a moment. "Lestat, why do you want to be my lover?"
I drew breath to answer him. Then I fell silent. Finally I said, "I don't really know."
He turned away from me, and I studied his profile as he watched the couple in the bedroom. Flawless, and completely unrevealing. "If you don't know," he said, his words clipped, "I suggest you go home and think it over. I'm sure it's just a passing fancy."
There was something about him right at that moment... I had never seen him look so lovely, so strong, so vulnerable. I moved closer to him, put an arm around him yet again, reassuring myself: he was there, was real. My hand roamed learning the exact shape of his shoulders, the length of his back. The reality of him. So solid, there, inescapable.
"I don't know what it is about you," I said, wrapping my other arm around his waist. "You drive me crazy."
"No, Lestat, you've got that wrong," he said with the barest hint of a smile. "You drive me crazy." He turned within the circle of my arms and regarded me gravely. "Can't you tell?"
"I've never quite known," I said slowly, "what I want. But I want you."
"You and your possessiveness," he said. "You've already proclaimed me yours in three books, Lestat. What am I, something to put on the mantelpiece?"
"No! You're—" He was bewildering me. I no longer knew quite what we were talking about. "I know I do that," I said finally. "It's just that I... I do feel you're mine. And I'm very pleased with the way you are. I'm sorry but that's the way I am. You are lovely and I'm very proud of you."
He shrugged, and I let my arms drop again. "Just call me Galatea."
"Louis." I let my voice drop, trying to cajole a smile out of him, a soft look, anything. "You're entirely too well read, that's the trouble with you."
"I certainly know you think that." Another little dart, as he reminded me of how hard I had tried to drag him out of that damnable library. "There is nothing intrinsically wrong with education."
I watched him as he remained stubbornly turned away from me, still watching the mortals twined around each other on the bed. "Louis. Tell me what's wrong."
"Nothing," he said lightly. "Should we return to the house? David will be wondering where we disappeared to."
"No, we should not. To hell with David. Tell me what's wrong!"
He did look at me then and his green gaze froze me in place. I was unable to move as he turned to me and came closer still, looking straight into my eyes as though trying to dredge the truth from the depths of my soul.
I'm not sure that I have a soul. Or that it has any depths. But Louis is sure, and I have his certainty to rely on.
"Why do you want me?" he asked again. "Why do you think you want me?" I tried to speak but the words just wouldn't come. I was stunned by the sheer force of his presence, silenced by his beauty. "And what makes you think this whim of yours will last more than five minutes or more than the length of another volume of the continuing adventures of the Vampire Lestat?"
I blinked. Then I could move again. "Look at them," I said, motioning towards the mortals inside the house. "Look at how caught up in each other they are. At this moment they are each other's universe, knowing nothing else except the other's presence. That is how I would like us to be, Louis. That is how close I would like us to be."
"But why, Lestat?"
Of all the questions in the world, I didn't expect that one. His face gave nothing away. "If you think it's pointless," I said, "then just say so. If you don't want me—"
"Lestat!" He gripped me by the shoulders and actually tried to shake me. My Louis, angry! Such a rare occurrence. He was magnificent. Those eyes... "Lestat, just tell me why!"
I began to laugh, and removed his hands from my shoulders, and took him in my arms. There are moments when I revel in being so much stronger than he is. I buried my face in his hair and held him close.
"Because," I whispered in his ear, "because I love you, Louis."
And all at once I felt him relax against me, and I thought I sensed a brief tremor that might have been laughter, or tears. "Ah," he said, not much more than a breath. "Now we're getting somewhere."
"Slowly," I agreed.
He snorted. "You could have told me that to start with."
"But I have told you before," I said. "Haven't I?"
"Only," he said into my shoulder, "only — in — books!" Then he did laugh. "I thought you hated me, then, in the church."
"No!" I said, shocked. "I don't think I could ever hate you, Louis."
"Well, then." He had lifted his head and now he was looking at me and smiling, a thoroughly unnerving smile, and my eyes widened. "Let's forget about the cold and passionless embrace, shall we..." And Louis, my shy and retiring Louis, again touched my cheek with his fingertips, and let those fingers drift down along my throat, and then his hand slid around my neck and his fingers tangled into my hair, holding me securely. "What do you really mean," he asked thoughtfully, "when you say you want to be my lover? I do hope you were intending something like this."
And then he kissed me.
Well. Cold and passionless it was not. I was so startled that at first I did not respond as I felt his lips, so soft, on mine. But then I remembered the sheer joy of touching him that I had felt on that night in San Francisco before the concert, and at other, earlier times. I tightened the grip of my arms around him and he seemed to melt into my embrace, molding himself against me as his mouth opened sweetly under mine and our tongues met and began to talk and it was all turning so very deep and hot and intense and complex, and my senses were spinning. His nails scratched the back of my neck and I could have sworn I heard him purring like a great cat.
I try not to think about the fact that we cannot speak mind to mind, that that intimacy is closed to us. But this was one of those times when I felt the lack keenly. Because I had to tear myself away from him, just to be able to gasp his name.
"Oh, Louis... Louis."
He smiled at me. "Theoretically," he said, "this was just a calm display of affection, using a mortal custom out of sheer habit."
"What?" I couldn't believe he wasn't even breathing hard. "Louis, what are you talking about..."
"You have such a short memory, monsieur le rock star. Didn't you say just a little time ago that vampires were only interested in blood?" He even teasingly echoed the way I'd said it.
"I lied," I said and reached for him again, but he eluded me and leaned back against the balcony railings and went on with his discourse.
"It certainly ought to be that way," he said. "You have written several times, mon cher, that all other pleasures are submerged in the blood, and wholly inferior to it."
"Oh, and you never said that?" I glared at him, calculating exactly the swift pounce needed to grasp and hold him.
"Well," he said, "I may have mentioned something like that... But if we really are only interested in blood, then why do we like to kiss? At least, I'm assuming you liked it."
"You're assuming... Louis!" I did pounce, and this time he made no move to avoid being held in my arms. "Stop being so bloody academic! What is this, a scientific experiment?"
"Yes," he said sweetly. "I thought I'd experiment a little." And he kissed me again. Very lightly, nibbling at my lips though not hard enough to break the skin, then more deeply, intensely. One of his hands rubbed up and down my back and ended up twined in my hair again. Oh, I wanted to hold him so tight. It even frightened me, and instead I relaxed my grip, fearing I'd hurt him. He instantly broke the kiss. "And that, did you like that? Or not?"
"Where did you learn to kiss like that?" I growled.
It wasn't what I had meant to say at all, of course. I'd meant to make a suave comment about vampiric pleasures and the advantages of heightened senses. But really...
He laughed. "Jealous?"
"It's none of your business."
"How can you say that!" I objected.
"I mean it," he turned serious. "Lestat, you have no business being jealous. Need I remind you that you just published a book detailing your encounters with a mortal woman? Not to mention trying to seduce David."
"Well." I tried to look abashed. "I was mortal again and I had the urges of a mortal body..."
"And how exactly," he asked, "did they differ from what you feel now?"
"Now you're back to being scientific again. Are you jealous, of Gretchen and David, or are you not?"
"Of course I am," he said in an even voice. "Lestat, I've been wanting to kiss you 'like that', as you put it, for centuries. I wasn't particularly chaste as a mortal man."
"But you were what the mortals nowadays call straight, weren't you?" That was the impression I had always had, at least. Every woman who had encountered Louis as a mortal had fallen under the spell of his green eyes and he had certainly not seemed to mind; though oblivious to his own beauty, he had known how to charm.
Louis shrugged. "I don't really know," he said. "I had a taste for women, certainly. As to men, I never really thought about it. One didn't, at the time," he held up a hand to stop me from speaking. "Yes, I know that you did. But the idea didn't occur to me — not until I'd seen you, anyway."
"Really?" I felt absurdly gratified. "But Louis, why did you never kiss me like that back then?"
"The time never seemed quite right," he said. "And if you recall, we had some... personal problems."
I closed my eyes for a moment, not wanting to remember quite as clearly as his words were making me do. A time of happiness and trouble, laughter and anguish.
"I know," I said quietly. "Still, to think that we could have—"
Louis put his fingers over my lips, hushing me. "Forget about the past," he said quite seriously, words I never thought I'd hear coming from him. "It doesn't matter what we could have done, what matters is that we are doing it now. And," his words took on an edge, "that you do not immediately rush off and try this out on David."
"Who's David?" I kissed his fingertips.
That put the sparkle back into his eyes again. "Tell me then," he said, "monsieur who was mortal just the other day, how the urges of a mortal body differ from what you are experiencing right now."
"What I am experiencing?" I was kissing his palm now, tracing its lines with my tongue.
"Oh, I beg your pardon," he said, "what we are experiencing."
"Well," I floundered, "it just isn't the same thing at all. As a mortal I experienced a localized physical desire to get certain parts of my own anatomy in contact with certain parts of other mortals'..."
"Do go on," Louis said sweetly in my ear. "You express yourself so beautifully."
"Sarcasm doesn't become you, Louis. And certain parts of that mortal body were more responsive to touch than others, whereas a vampire body is equally sensitive everywhere and, since vampires aren't interested in sex, has no erogenous zones—" Louis was teasing my ear lobe with the tip of his tongue and I had to break off in order to breathe.
"How fascinating," Louis said, deadpan. "You mean I could equally well get you to gasp like that by kissing your elbow?"
I leered at him. "Want to try?"
He looked over my shoulder at the lit-up window. "It did cross my mind that the owners of this house are going to stop making love at one time or another and they might be surprised to find two immortals necking on the balcony. Much as I'd love to nibble on your elbow, this may not be the right place..."
I turned around, to find that the two oblivious mortals had stopped making love; they were no longer there. The rumpled bed was empty. An idea crossed my mind and I swiftly stepped over and opened the balcony door, ignoring Louis' startled exclamation behind me.
The room was hot and smelled of sex, mortal physical pleasure, a smell unique to every couple yet easily recognizable for what it is. That smell brought it all back more clearly, the nights with Gretchen, tangled up with her in the sheets, struggling with the intricacies of her body and the body I'd borrowed and long-forgotten memories and those troublesome little latex sheaths. And I found that I did not miss it at all. Not at all.
I tugged the covers and pillows off the double bed and bundled everything up in my arms, and went out on the balcony again. Louis was looking quizzically at me, until I swept him up as well and we rose swiftly into the air. He gripped me tightly, a little fearfully — as though I would actually have let him fall!
Our journey was brief; we swooped up over Twin Peaks, and drifted down towards the beach, landing out beyond Lake Merced. I did not set us down on the beach itself but up in the dunes, in a pleasing little hollow. The muted roar of the sea was in the background as I dropped first the bedclothes, and then Louis on top of them, and then myself on top of Louis.
He did not even try to wriggle away. Instead he put his arms around me and snuggled his face into my neck. Oh, this was so comfortable, so pleasant. He was cool but not cold as I touched him.
"Now let's try that business with the elbow," I said.
He giggled. "Elbow sex."
"Have you never seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show?"
I didn't have the faintest idea what he was talking about and dismissed his words with a wave of my hand. "Louis, you seem to have though this through very thoroughly," I whispered in his ear. "How, exactly, were you planning to proceed with this scientific enquiry?" As I waited for his reply, I pressed my lips to his throat and flicked the tip of my tongue against the smooth white skin. A shudder ran through him, his body pressing even more tightly against mine.
"It seems," he gasped, broke off, and started again. "It seems fairly obvious to me that there is something more than just blood lust involved here. That the altered senses of a vampire — Lestat, stop that, I can't think — the altered senses of a vampire make us experience everything more intensely, and that this includes sensations that are normally thought of as erotic." With an effort he lifted my head from his neck, and I let him do it, only to feel his fingers at my throat, beginning to unbutton my shirt. "Of course it would be very interesting to see just how far these sensations correspond to those of mortal sexual urges. Though of course you are free to call the experiment off at any moment, monsieur de Lioncourt."
I grinned at him. "I don't care how long it takes, Louis. I am going to keep kissing you until you stop talking."
He grinned back and I saw a gleam in his eyes that made me feel almost faint. "Is that a challenge?" he purred. "I warn you, I can be very stubborn when I want to accomplish something..." Louis began to slip the shirt off my shoulders. He bent forward and kissed my shoulder, my chest, the hollow above my collar bone. "How does this feel?"
"I see." It was the laughter in his voice that made me break away, and grab him and hold him down and kiss my way from his wrist up the silky inside of his bare arm, pausing to lick the tender fold at the elbow.
"And how," I asked him, "does this feel?"
"Elbow sex," he said breathlessly. "You know, it may be that the sensations are — related, since I do want you to — bite me — just a little—"
"Like this?" I did not allow my teeth to break the skin, just nibbled lightly at his delicate flesh. He moaned, such a sweet sound. "You know, I used to enjoy this while I was mortal, too. Didn't you?"
"Yes," he gasped. "But not quite — so — much!" With an effort of will I had to admire, even if I deplored it, he pulled his arm away from me. Before I could begin to complain at this, his deft hands were tugging at my shirt again, and soon he had removed it completely. He stroked my shoulders, my chest, my upper arms. "Nice tan."
"You think?" I craned my head to look down at myself, and he threw himself at me, sending me tumbling backwards.
"Don't ever," he hissed, his nose perhaps a millimeter from mine as he glared into my eyes, "try to kill yourself again. All right?"
"I assure you," I said, "killing myself is the last thing on my mind right now."
His weight on top of me was very pleasant, though I was thinking I had to get what remained of the t-shirt off him. I wanted to feel his bare skin against mine, to know the silk of his body against the hardening marble of my own.
"Less of the 'right now'," he said. "Did you hear me? Not ever."
"Louis." I wrapped my arms around him. "You know me and forever. I have to think up ways of making the time pass. But I promise you," I hushed him before he could protest, "I promise that if I ever think of ending it again, I'll come to you first. Wherever I am, wherever you are, I will come to you then." He nodded gravely. "Satisfied?"
"No." He kissed my cheek. "But it will have to do."
"Really? I mean, if you're not satisfied, I had something rather different in mind..."
"Lestat!" He grinned at me. "Getting quite caught up in my scientific enquiry, aren't you? Now, where was I... oh yes."
He planted a series of little kisses along my chest and ended up flicking his tongue over my nipple. No one had ever done that to my vampire body before. The result was astonishing. Pleasure so intense it almost bordered on pain... I was on the verge of drawing back, asking him to stop, claiming I didn't enjoy it. But I can suffer a great deal in a good cause. It did occur to me that this might be the reason vampires did not have sex, and as beads of blood sweat formed on my forehead I began to wonder just how much more of this scientific enquiry I could bear without passing out.
Louis moved on to the other nipple. I bit the nearest pillow to keep from screaming. "No... please, no..."
He lifted his head to regard me gravely. "So it isn't enjoyable any more?"
"Enjoyable... isn't quite the right word, no," I gasped. "I think we need a whole new vocabulary to deal with these sensations, mon cher. I think it may be easiest if I just — demonstrate—"
Since his t-shirt was already in rags I did not hesitate in simply ripping it off him, and I would like to state for the record that he did not protest, did not even give me one of those reproachful looks he specializes in; he simply snuggled closer, and the look he gave me from beneath his long lashes was provocative going on wanton.
For one instant, looking at him, I felt such an uprushing of complete and tender love that I even hesitated in submitting him to the delicate torture he had introduced me to. But then I just couldn't resist. I kissed his throat, the hollow of his shoulder, let my tongue trail the outline of his really quite admirably developed muscles.
And then my mouth descended on his left nipple, and he went rigid in my arms, nails digging into my back with such force that I felt certain he was drawing blood. Louis did not make a sound, and I became quite worried. When I looked up at him, I met blazing green eyes and almost shied back. "Lestat!" he hissed.
"I'm sorry," I said regretfully, "but I thought I'd—"
"Lestat, don't stop!"
And as I went back to kissing, licking, sucking gently, I felt him begin to shiver and shake in my arms, soft tremors like those presaging an earthquake. Oh, he was delicious. I licked the blood sweat from his skin, kissed his hard ridged stomach, then shot up to nuzzle briefly at his neck. "Louis," I whispered in his ear. "Louis... you've stopped talking."
He turned his head and kissed me so fiercely that I lost my breath. "Do you miss the running commentary?" Long fingers found one of my nipples and pinched it mercilessly, and I threw my head back and moaned. "Lestat, if you're not enjoying that I won't do it any more."
"It hurts," I gasped. "And I love it... But you, what did you feel?"
"Pleasure. And pain. And pleasure. And pain." He smiled at me, a truly wicked smile. "And yes, Lestat, I do find that an interesting... combination. I'm still wondering, though..."
"Where this will lead," he said with remarkable calm, considering I was nibbling at his throat again. "What kind of fulfillment do we want, and what is available to us? Are we feeling blood lust, or another kind of lust altogether?" One of his hands was on my thigh, squeezing it gently, moving upwards.
"I really don't know," I whispered into his neck, his skin. "I just know that I want you in every way that's possible and some I never thought were possible. Louis..." I touched his cheek gently. "Let's just get out of these damn clothes and see what happens."
"The Lestat approach," he teased. "Very well, beloved." He rolled away from me and wriggled his way out of his jeans in two seconds flat. I just lay there staring at him, unmoving. "Lestat?" He waved a hand in front of my eyes. "You still there?"
"What did you just call me?"
"Lestat, what else?"
"No, before that..."
He rolled towards me again and snuggled up tight. "Beloved," he whispered with his lips against mine. "My love. My lover."
"Oooooh..." All I could do was kiss him. "It's so strange. One moment I just want to rip your clothes off and make you scream with pleasure and the next I want to hold you as though you're made of glass..."
"I think it's called love, Lestat." He was smiling at me, but it was a tender smile, a very special, just-for-me smile. "That's how you feel when you're in love. Trust me, I know." He winked. "Now, that part about making me scream with pleasure..."
"Oh yes, I knew we were doing something interesting..." It did not take me long to get out of what remained of my clothes. Once again we were wrapped in each others arms, writhing together. And the difference it made was amazing. His skin against mine, the sheer closeness! The skin of a vampire is very, very sensitive. A simple touch can feel almost as intimate as a kiss. All of me wanted to get closer to him, closer and closer. And at the same time I felt a fear of these sensations precisely because they were so intense.
I discovered that it was possible to get more accustomed to the sensations his mouth elicited from my sensitive nipples, and to relax into the pleasure and let the pain take care of itself. Louis did not seem to have any trouble with this, and I marvelled at the way he abandoned himself to sensuality in my arms, writhing shamelessly and encouraging me with incoherent words. He trusted me this much... that thought thrilled and excited me quite as much as the touch of his surprisingly skilled fingers. I could not quite reconcile my sedate, bashful Louis with this uninhibited lover. But this was my Louis, and I certainly was not about to complain...
Then I let my hands roam all over his body, learning his shape, finding the spots where even the lightest touch would call forth a soft gasp and moan in my ear. And when I drew him against me I became aware of something I should have noticed a long time ago. I had not noticed any difference in my own body, since I am already hard all over. But my lover... I raised myself on my elbow and looked down at him. "Louis."
"Yes," he agreed quietly. "Remarkable, isn't it? And it hurts, too."
"Hurts?" I cradled him protectively. "Louis, we should stop this, we should—"
"Oh no," he said and his eyes were shining. "I can't believe you said that, monsieur I-just-have-to-see-what-happens. But the question remains... now what?"
"I'm sure you have a few ideas."
"I do," he said and kissed the corner of my mouth. One of his hands was stroking my chest, working one nipple gently, a sensation by turns blissfully pleasant and painful enough to border on nausea. "I just don't want to do anything you won't like."
"You haven't managed that so far." I was amazed and bewildered at the whole sequel of events and most of all that Louis felt he had to protect me against his own... curiosity? Lust? He couldn't hurt me, after all.
Then I got an idea of my own, and licked my way down his chest. He pouted when I avoided his nipples, then his eyes widened as he realized where I was headed. "Just don't bite me, okay—"
Then his words were abruptly cut off as though he had very suddenly forgotten how to speak. I heard a slow tearing sound, a blunt rip, but it wasn't until a myriad tiny white feathers began to dance about my head that I realized he had torn a pillow to shreds. He was breathing in short shallow gasps, like a shock victim, and his whole body was rigid, trembling.
I knew I should probably stop. I knew that I couldn't possibly stop. I was far too fascinated. There was nothing deathlike about this rigidity. I could feel his organ moving against my lips, my tongue, alive. It was still more cool than hot, and both smell and taste were so faint as to be almost unnoticeable. But I noticed.
I did want to bite, of course. Oh, how I wanted it... the blood lust pounded in me, oh all those delicate veins that my tongue could feel, oh the deep arteries there in the upper thigh, if I were only to turn my head...
But there was something else I wanted more than that. And by now I was prepared to go to almost any lengths. Here I was, hurting Louis in an attempt to give him pleasure. Perhaps it was, I managed to think over the roaring in my head, a mistake. But then his body relaxed a fraction, and tensed, and relaxed again, and one of his hands tangled in my hair in a gesture of unmistakable encouragement, and I heard the lightest of breathy moans. And I knew. I knew it was pleasing him, that the pain must have passed.
His obvious pleasure made it even more difficult to hold out against the blood lust. I knew I was getting things mixed up. Sucking. Biting. The sounds, the little movements, holding a body tight. And it was important, so important, that I didn't — didn't—
I drew back. Louis made a sound of disappointment and confusion.
"I'm sorry, but I was about to bite you..." I moved up and we clung to each other, bodies grinding together, straining to get closer, closer. "And I really didn't think..."
It took him a couple of tries to find his voice but then he said, "It would be sad if I lost a body part the very night that I find a use for it."
I nuzzled his neck. "Did you always have a sense of humor and I've just missed it?"
"That's not the only thing I've always had that you've missed until now."
"But we're not supposed to laugh," I said, half-joking. "This is serious, it's—"
"It's love," he said, suddenly soft as silk in my arms. "And it's everything. And I want to give you pleasure, Lestat, I want to make you feel all that you've made me feel, and more."
While I was very much appreciative of this statement and the feelings that prompted it, I felt I had to ask, "How? I mean, if I wanted so badly to bite you, and I don't need the blood nearly as much as you do..."
"As you guessed, I do have a few ideas," he said. His right hand was gently caressing the curve of my buttocks. "More than just one, at any rate."
"Mmm, but—" His fingers strayed farther, reminding me of all but forgotten pleasures, beginning to blur the lines between his body and mine. All at once I realized what emotions had caused the pillow to suffer its sad fate. "Louis! Oh God, Louis!"
I bucked violently against him, biting his shoulder. And then, when I thought I couldn't bear it any longer... the softening, the sweetening, the sneaky feverish fire glow of desire building up to new heights. I had never felt like this. Never. All the raging need I had ever felt as mortal or as vampire seemed to come together and it was all focused on this black-haired angel, this demon lover who was so strangely fearless and who even now was doing things I'd never have expected of him, dead or alive. My fingers were leaving bruises on his arms, and I sobbed. There was a tiny drop of blood on his shoulder where I had bitten him, and I licked it away, slowly.
"I rather think that answers my question," he breathed.
Somewhere I found the intelligence to say, "Yes, but have you ever..."
"No." His mouth smiled into mine. "I'm sure you have experience enough for both of us."
If anyone else had said that I would have deeply resented it. But this was Louis, and I wanted him more than I had ever wanted any other lover, and besides, he was right. As a mortal, I had done nearly everything my body was capable of, in bed (and out of it) with other mortals. Why hold back now? I nodded silently. I'd give him anything he asked for; to give him myself seemed the best gift of all.
Slowly, so slowly, he shifted, and I shifted, bodies gliding together slick with blood sweat, and as the vast slow waves of the Pacific thundered inexorably into the beach, he moved into me. My hands clenched on sheets and sand and we were frozen in place, and I had bitten my lip, and tears of pain squeezed out from beneath my tightly shut eyelids.
"Oh Lestat, no," Louis whispered, his voice ragged with his own suffering. "Let's stop — I'll—"
"No," I insisted, hardly more than a whisper. "Everything else — has passed — listen to the waves—"
And he did, and I did. It is always there, that muted thunder, the heartbeat of the coastline, and in time it caught us up and its rhythm became ours. We were part of it, part of this night, part of the world... and then the rhythm was too slow for us and something else caught us up, swept us up, and all thought of pain, every memory of pain was forgotten. There was nothing wrong. There was nothing strange. Just the two of us, crazy with desire, wild, noisy, together. Making love. Yes, love.
Blood on my lips from the small puncture in his shoulder... I glimpsed his face by moonlight, brows knotted with concentration, and what looks like pain but isn't, and knew that my own face echoed his, wanting nothing else, feeling nothing else, just this, this, forever, Louis, and it was suddenly unendurable that we couldn't share it even more closely. I wanted to be one with him. I caught his head, dragged it down towards me. I sank my fangs into his neck.
I honestly don't think he hesitated. I cannot remember that he hesitated. He gave a keening moan and then his teeth were piercing my skin, too, and we were joined yet again, locked together in every way as blood and heart and soul and body strove towards the same goal. No visions here, just shared feelings... his love, my love, his lust, my lust... the great overwhelming passion that was the two of us together, the pent-up feelings of two hundred years expressed at last in this double joining.
And surely the sea was beating faster on the shore, surely a storm was breaking, surely we would break and shatter, nothing could feel like this, nothing—
Everything went white, and black, and white, and we fell like angels, plummeting to earth, burning as we fell.
:I love you.: One of us thought it. Both of us knew it.
The silence let us sink back into reality...
...and then we could hear, again, the sound of the sea welcoming us back.
I felt Louis' lips move against my throat; he was whispering something, but not even I could make out what it was.
"What?" I said sleepily, holding him closer, pulling a blanket around us with the power of my mind since I could not be bothered to move a muscle.
"I never realized," he murmured, "how useful a scientific approach could be."
I groaned. "Louis..."
"Shut up. Or I'll..."
"You'll what?" He snuggled closer still, wrapping an arm more securely around my waist.
"Or, " I said, smiling at him, close to laughing from love and happiness, "I'll have to kiss you till you stop talking."
He raised himself on his elbow and looked at me. Then, slowly, deliberately, he winked. "Promise?"