'Hey-- hey! I'll betcha I can guess where you got your shoes!'
'On my feet,' said Louis wearily, pushing past the hustler and through the throng of tourists.
'Rude, man. Rude! At least give me a dollar for ruining my goddamn party pieces!'
'I'm afraid I don't carry any money on me.'
'Who are you, the motherfucking Queen of England?'
He didn't stop to argue. He was hungry and needed to feed before the rain broke. The weather was taking a turn for the worse and clouds were gathering overhead already. There'd be a thunderstorm tonight; he could smell the it on the air.
It was late June and New Orleans sweltered in that thick swampy haze. People complained about the heat incessantly and Lestat swore that it was uncomfortable and sticky and horrible, but he embraced the warmth. The nights were shorter in the dog days of summer. He was dispirited to realise he was grateful for that, too. Counting down the days and weeks the way he had for so many years in San Francisco, which had been punctuated only by the excitement of the occasional chase from a would-be assassin or the too-brief, desperate love of that affair which he didn't dare dwell on. And once again, what was he doing? Counting down to Lestat. Waiting for Lestat like some idiotic, scruffy Penelope while Lestat created adventures for himself.
Pretending he didn't want to stay longer when he visited, pretending that he wasn't seduced by all that heady luxury, because the depth of his devotion and the knowledge of how much he depended on that foolish, deadly creature frightened him.
Somehow, he'd thought it would be different. He'd read enough self-help books to understand post-traumatic stress disorder and generalised anxiety and such, but Akasha had been dead nearly four years now and besides, he'd seen a lot worse in his time. Lestat still burst into his life, in all his golden splendour, at regular periods. If he could bottle the feelings and the excitement that Lestat granted him, and use it as some regular dru.g in small doses instead of having Lestat pop up, overbearing and loud, at the most inconvenient times ('will you put that book down! Why were you staring at that tree like a zombie, huh?'), he'd be much happier.
As it was, Lestat hadn't been around for nearly two weeks. He was ashamed to realise he was grateful for the respite.
It was supposed to be different.
As a force of habit, he’d made his way to the French Quarter from his little house but he did not seek to kill there. He wandered up Canal Street, into the streets where fragile-looking men tended not to venture. He killed; he embraced the fatal transporting swoon, came to and disposed of the body. He shook off the drugged splendour and came to in a tired street with chain link fences and broken paving. His clothes were damp with rain and his shoes squelched as he trudged along the sidewalk. He really must get some new shoes. The damp had crept up the legs of his jeans, lending them a heavy, uncomfortably wet sensation.
He walked back towards the Quarter at a good pace, drifting once more onto Jackson Square. It was still only 10pm. Too early go back and read.
At the foot of the steps of St. Louis Cathedral, a group of black musicians were performing jazz. An old man sang along to the tune.
You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you're trying
You're trying now
Another year and then you'll be happy
Just one more year and then you'll be happy
He listened a short while, but he felt irritable tonight and disinclined to standing amongst overexcited tourists clapping along despite the drizzle. He stepped through the crowd, strolling down Pirates' Alley and onto Rue Royale.
The rain started in earnest; his clothes were soggy and uncomfortable. He smirked, thinking of how Lestat would rant if he came across him in this state. But Lestat avoided this street like the plague. He gave another humourless smirk at that thought.
He slipped into a shop on Rue Royale selling tourist tat and paintings of the Quarter. It was uncomfortably bright and busy in there. He left within minutes to brave the rain instead of the cacaphony of voices and coats slick with rain brushing against him. He walked past his old property on that street without giving it so much as a passing glance: he was not in the mood for nostalgia tonight. He drifted past the the tourists and the bars spilling drunks out on the street and made his way back to the little shack he currently called home. He’d had enough of humanity for one night.
He was tired and cold by the time he returned to the house, scaling the high brick wall and wending his way through the close cluster of trees and into the house. It was humid inside, but anything was preferable to the cold damp permeating his clothes and seeping into his skin. He stripped quickly, snatching a shirt from the desk and putting that on. His jeans were still damp but he did not have anything else to wear, so sat in his chair (he did not use the bergere in case of surprise visits from Lestat and more nagging about messing up the chair), wrapping a blanket around himself. He trembled as the stolen blood in his body heated the cocoon he made.
Perfect. He closed his eyes and rested.
He dozed in the chair for some time, only dimly aware of the creaking of the house around him, the gentle patter of the rain against the aged and yellowed glass.
Flickers of memories, fragments of conversation came to him. There was no grand narrative, nothing in the memories; dozing on his bed in the afternoon sun at Pointe du Lac, Claudia asking him what time an opera began, glancing at a pretty woman as he had passed through Jackson Square tonight.
The rain grew heavier, rapping more incessantly against the window. A cooling breeze drifted through the house from one of the back windows, long since smashed by some delinquent. He shifted in the chair a little, opening his eyes briefly as he did so. He jumped a little when he realised that Lestat was sitting across from him in the bergere, arms folded, long legs crossed at the ankle.
His maker smiled. 'You're awake, then.'
'I was dreaming,' he murmured. How sad, infinitely sad, to dream of the sunshine and of good, innocent youth, and to wake up here with him in the ugly present, cold and pale and dead. Two monsters in a fairytale. He felt that remote chill come over him, as if he were viewing Lestat through a tunnel. He felt feverish, but decided he was probably imagining that. 'How long have you been sitting there?' he asked.
'Long enough. You're shaking.'
'If you'd light a fire in here -- you could make a nice little pyre out of all this disgusting trash you leave around to rot -- perhaps you wouldn't be sitting there trembling like a sick man.'
'I'm not cold.'
'Hmph. You don't take care of yourself. I regret coming to see you now.'
‘Then why did you?’
Lestat shrugged. ’I’ll be in Miami for a little while. I’m leaving tonight.’
‘You’re taking in the culture?’
‘Hunting a drug dealer,’ said Lestat with relish.
‘There are plenty here. Why you have to go running after them across the world, I don’t know.’
‘Oh, Louis. You want daddy Lestat to stay here and take care of you. I see how it is.’
He growled. 'I survived decades without you, Lestat.'
'Survived being the operative word. Subsisted is more fitting, I'd wager. Did you sit in a hovel, for weeks, months at a time, mourning your situation?'
'Yes,' he said shortly. 'That's exactly what I did.'
'I hate how you wallow in your misery!' exploded Lestat, 'I've never known anyone to wallow as you do!'
'Then why don't you go? Leave me alone. I didn't ask for your company tonight.'
'I wish you'd just leave me be,' murmured Louis, defeated. What would it take to... if he were really sick, if he were to die-- would it be different?
'Alors, what now!' sighed Lestat. ''Why are you so sad?'
'I was thinking about how I barely remember illness.'
Lestat laughed. It was not a kind laugh. 'I don't want to hear about your endless cogitations.'
'Then don't ask.'
Lestat picked up - of all things - a dog's ball that had somehow made its way into the house and flung it at him, smiling when it struck his chest. 'I'll never make you happy, will I?'
'Sometimes you make me happy,' said Louis, tossing the ball to the floor again.
He pulled the blanket around him closer. 'You should go, Lestat.'
'You're a fool, Louis,' said Lestat, but there was no heat in it. It was merely something he was required to say. He drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair, then studied his nails in the dim light. 'Some lights in here would make you feel better.'
'I am too much in the sun,' he quoted, because he knew Lestat would like it.
'Hmpf. No match for Macbeth.'
'I will not have this argument again.'
'I should cut them all down, hell's kite! I should terrorise New Orleans.'
'You're strange tonight.'
'I'm strange, am I?'
'You're the one curled up like a dying man, my friend.'
Louis waved his hand dimissively. 'I'm not going to die. Perhaps from boredom -- you never warned me about the crushing boredom of immortality. Every night, every night will be the same. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.'
Lestat smiled. 'Much better quote. Much more fitting, though you stole it from me, you thief.'
'You didn't coin the phrase.'
'But I made sense of it. I gave it context. You'll forever associate it with me.'
'Is that the only quote you know?' he asked irritably.
Lestat shrugged. 'I tried, didn't I? Goddamn it. At least I did that.'
'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.'
'You have to be patient with me,' said Lestat, wagging a finger at him, 'It's taking me a while to catch up on decades of literature. And it's your fault.'
'You're making me tired,' he said crossly.
'Don't pretend you don't like me haranguing you. It gives you an excuse to mope and I know how you relish being able to blame me for everything.' He turned to the desk, where amongst the clutter was the book Louis had been reading earlier. ‘You know what time it is!’ he said, flicking to a page Louis had bookmarked with a scrap of paper.
‘Dramatic reading time!’
Was it really crosses I wanted from her? Oh, how low I’ve fallen! No-- I wanted her tears, I wanted to see her frightened, to look at her heartache and torment! I wanted to cling at least to something, to linger, to look at a human being! And I dared have such hopes for myself, such dreams, abject as I am, worthless-- a scoundrel, a scoundrel!”’ Lestat finished the quote on a hysterical note. ‘A scoundrel!’ he repeated, fanning himself with the book.
Louis gritted his teeth. In truth, he had been the one to mark the passage and to see the sentiment mocked mercilessly sent rage crashing through him. ‘Stop it!’ he snarled.
‘I’ll do as I please,’ said Lestat carelessly. ‘You idiot. You melodramatic idiot. Hallo! Here’s another page you’ve bookmarked!’
Louis wanted to fly out of the chair and hit him. He wanted to wipe that smug smirk off Lestat’s face, but of course his maker had monstrous strength now and would have loved to beat him off like a child. He wanted the reaction. Instead, Louis shot him green poison while Lestat coughed, preparing for his next dramatic reading.
‘‘‘You’re right, she doesn’t love me,”‘ he shrieked, ‘”but never swear yourself to what has gone on between husband and wife, or between-- “’ he broke off, frowning.
Louis closed his eyes, feeling the heat of a blush creep over his cheeks and down his neck. He knew the passage by rote: but never swear yourself to what has gone on between husband and wife, or between two lovers. There’s always a little corner here that’s always unknown to the whole world and is known only to the two of them. He cursed himself softly. He should never have left the book lying around.
Lestat placed the book back onto the desk with a shrug. ‘Idiot,’ he said softly.
'I really don't want you here...' whispered Louis. He felt melancholy crest within him. God, had it always--
'I'll stay in New Orleans a little longer!' burst out Lestat. He stood up. 'Devil take Narvaez! I'll get him when I'm good and ready.'
'But you don't need to stay!'
'I'm not staying out of pity for you,' sneered Lestat, 'and certainly not for your stellar company. I just remembered that I have business to conduct tomorrow. And what's with this dishabille? We'll go shopping, tomorrow night. Come and stay at the penthouse with me, just for a few nights. I never did see the ending of that five-year-long Hungarian film. What happened to the mailman in the end? I must find out!' He gripped Louis by the arms and pulled him up. Louis resisted, but he'd anticipated that; he lifted him easily and carried him to the bergere, settling him on his lap.
'This is ridiculous,' hissed Louis. 'How dare you manhandle me in this--'
Lestat pressed a lip to his cooling brow. 'Hush. Don't interrupt me when I'm talking.'
Louis gave up his pretence of anger and burrowed his head into his maker's neck, curling his hands into fists. 'You can't fix it, you know,' he murmured. 'Not really.'
The only indication that Lestat had heard him was a tightening of his maker's grip around his middle. 'Do you remember that time, at Lafayette?' asked Lestat, 'Mme. Sevigny's ball, the time when the kitchen caught fire?'
'Mmm.' Louis closed his eyes, lulled by the warmth of Lestat against him.
'You don't remember that time, do you? I -- no, listen! -- I met the most most handsome woman. Thirty-two she was, and already a widow! Such strength, Louis. We simply didn't meet women like that back in those times, did we? I don't mean your wretched, crazy Babette. We danced. I remember how she looked, I remember--'