We had wandered relatively far from the Quarter tonight, heading north up Esplanade towards City Park. It was good to prowl my city with no real purpose sometimes, Louis with me, talking of sweetly domestic things. It made me feel like I was part of the mortal crush around us, one of them. I loved it.
It was a sultry, balmy night that was something resembling a sauna from hell for the tourists we had encountered en-route -- if their loud complaints were anything to go by -- but for us it was a welcome heat, lending our bodies extra stolen warmth. The nights were, after all, beginning to draw in. Mortals probably didn't notice so much, but we did. Rising earlier every night was more than welcome.
We were at the street where Ponce de Leon crosses Esplanade when we noticed a gathering of people and a stage laid out along the quieter section. There was a distinct party atmosphere and I grinned to see the stalls laid out, the smell of yeast on the air that told us people had been drinking.
'A festival!' I said, delighted.
Louis smiled. 'I wonder what they're celebrating today.'
'It's Wednesday And We're Excited,' I suggested, 'or perhaps Hoorah It's July! Who cares?'
He arched an eyebrow. 'Sarcasm doesn't become you, Lestat.' He peered at the stalls, frowning when he realised they were decorated with the French flag. 'Bastille day,' he muttered.
'Let's go,' he said shortly.
'No, wait.' I grabbed his wrist and pulled him back to me. 'I want to see what's going on. What harm can it do?'
'I don't want to celebrate such a bloody festival!' he whispered, struggling against my grip. 'It may mean nothing but fun to these modern people, but to me--'
'Hush, you're American.'
He scowled. 'Then so are you!'
'I wasn't born here.'
'Neither was I!'
'You grew up--'
'Lestat. Do I need to educate you on the Louisiana Purchase yet again?'
I pulled him closer. 'Why are we even arguing? Let's go and see this. Five minutes, deal?'
'No!' he snapped, but he came along anyway. He had to, considering I still had hold of him.
'Why do you get so angry about it, anyway? We've seen so many bloody eras in history, Louis.'
He swallowed. 'I don't... it's hard to think about it, Lestat.'
'After all this time? It didn't even really--'
He sighed. 'Paul.'
He hated to talk with me about Paul, ever. I was surprised he had even mentioned him; the understanding was that his grief for his brother was his and his alone. He wasn't even angry when his film came out and they tried to heterosexualise him with a wife and child. All the better that he hadn't had to see his brother's head cracked open on celluloid. Of course, I must never talk about it, any of it. I had to tread carefully. 'Oh. What... what about him?'
'I just... I wonder, sometimes. What might have been.'
'He would have been killed in France, Louis. You all would have perished.'
His eyes flashed. 'I don't wish to talk about it.'
Ah, how he liked to romanticise his crazy brother. A leader to turn the revolution! What rot! The revolutionaries would never have listened. He would have been martyred for the cause. St. Paul of New Orleans! His statue could have taken pride of place outside the French Market.
'Poor Jeanne!' I said aloud.
'I beg your pardon?'
I waved my hand. 'Nothing.' I strolled along the display tables. He followed at my side, waiting for me to speak. 'They were all idiots in the end,' I said, 'Desmoulins, just a pretty face. Apparently. I think he looked rather like a caveman in that painting we saw in Paris.'
'That was Danton, surely.'
'No, Desmoulins. I was profoundly disappointed. I had the most wonderful ideal of some gorgeous-- nevermind.'
Louis rolled his eyes. 'Astounding, Lestat. Truly.' He linked arms with me and I thrilled to feel his weight against me, casting all thoughts of pretty Desmoulins from my head. 'Besides,' he went on, 'you could hardly call Robespierre an idiot. The man was a genius.'
'Such a genius that he was sent to the guillotine.'
'It seems everyone was in those days.'
'What do you know about it, huh?' I said harshly. I regretted that because he pulled away from me, probably fearful I was going to give him the old 'You-were-just-an-ignorant-planter-tell-me-who-was-Marcus-Aurelius-huh?' speech.
He cast a sly glance at me. 'Oh, nothing. After all: The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.'
I gripped his neck and shook him, not too roughly. 'Don't you quote that man at me!'
He smirked. 'What is it that offends you, Lestat? Robespierre or the quote itself?'
'You offend me, with your inspid insistence that I was some tin-pot dictator keeping you under my thumb for sixty-five years!'
'Sixty-nine,' he murmured. 'And weren't you?'
I snorted, turning to him with a wounded glare. I wasn't being dramatic- his constant judgements do wound me. 'I did it out of love!' I hissed.
He regarded me steadily for the longest time. I didn't break his gaze, though I was conscious of people brushing up against us, irritated that we had decided to have a spat right in the middle of a crowded street. At last, he spoke. 'I never said you didn't.'
He pushed past me and headed towards one of the little stalls at the rummage sale. I followed him, watching him keenly as he pretended to study the collective tat. I picked up a monstrosity of a sweater and showed it to him. 'Want this?'
'No.' he said shortly.
'It'll go well with your grunge look.'
He threw me a tolerant glance. 'That was fashionable in the early nineties, Lestat.'
'Yes, so I keep telling you.'
He lowered his head, letting his black hair fall foward to hide his expression. I saw him smirk, though. I relaxed. He was all right again. 'I had a cousin killed in The Terror, you know.' He picked up some trinket and began fiddling with it.
'You sound surprised. He wasn't all that close to our family. It didn't have a huge impact upon us.'
I lay a hand on his shoulder. 'Even so, I'm sorry.'
'Don't be. He was one of the advocates of the Terror.' He shrugged. 'His deeds caught up with him; that's the truth of it.'
'Lestat!' he moved away from me and hastily bought some ugly porcelain thing as an apology to the scandalised stallholder, who frankly shouldn't have been eavesdropping. I cast her a nonchalant glance as we moved away, making sure to grab the bag from Louis at the earliest opportunity and deposit in a trash can.
He sighed. 'You're horribly rude tonight. Worse than ever.'
'You're not turning my flat into a thrift store. Get away.' I placed one hand at his back and propelled him away from the stalls. He was deeply annoyed by this point, turning to give me a tiresome lecture.
Kind fate intervened and the band which had been preparing on stage burst into convenient song. I shushed Louis. 'Don't interrupt the band.'
'Don't interrupt me!'
I caught him up. 'Dance with me.'
'Not here!' he hissed, although he had no choice. I clasped him to me tightly, ignoring his threatening protests and losing myself in the song. It was fun, people around us dancing. I felt so alive. Even more so when I glanced down at Louis and realised he was grimacing at me, his kittenish fangs just discernible against his lips.
'Unhand me, you fiend!' he whispered in what I suspect he thought was a show of ferocity.
'You're so lovely when you're angry,' I laughed, twirling with him. 'The most delightful little dimples appear on your cheeks.'
He growled like a panther, struggling to get free. I gripped him tighter, until he winced in pain. He forced himself to calm under my touch, though his eyes crackled with green fury. He threw some choice insults at me in Old French and I nodded happily at each one. I knew I'd pay for this at some point tonight, but I didn't care.
I led him on his merry dance for a couple more songs before we broke away from the main crowd to stroll back towards the quarter. I had the whole night ahead of me to savour the walk and Louis' fine company. And his relentless nagging.
'Why do you constantly have to run counter to what I want! Am I some sort of ragdoll, to be manhandled by you in such a manner? And you know I hate these kinds of public displays! Is making me angry just some twisted game to you? Lestat? Are you even listening to me?'
'Of course I am, darling,' I soothed. I shoved my hands into my pockets, just to annoy him. 'I was thinking.'
He threw up his hands in the most sexy Gallic manner. 'About what!'
'The Revolution. About you and the Revolution.'
He was puzzled, which allowed me a few moments to dive in and turn this situation around. I just couldn't face being nagged for all those blocks. And besides, I really had been thinking. 'You see, it was rather necessary.'
'Are you quite mad? It brought nothing but--'
I placed my hand over his mouth before he could get his political hat on. 'Shh. Listen. Change was necessary. It was necessary in France. In Europe. In the whole damned world. It was necessary for us, Louis.'
'You're an imbecile.'
'And you're a cretin. Think about it: revolution didn't kill your brother - don't frown at me like that. Something could still have happened. You'll never know. It most certainly killed my family, but that doesn't really keep me up at night. In the morning, whatever. It did set me on an important path, though.
'En somme: if the Revolution hadn't happened,' I said, counting the flow of Fortunate Fate off my fingers, 'my father would never have fled to the New World. I wouldn't have followed him. And I would never have found myself in some decrepit little tavern in some strange foreign city staring at some overly dramatic, violent young man heading for a stroke.'
'Or the pox,' said Louis.
'Filthy thing,' I tutted.
Louis' smile was bittersweet. 'So you see, it begat nothing but tragedy.'
I took up his gentle hand and bestowed a chaste kiss on it. 'Nothing good came of it.'
He clasped my hand, a rarely serene smile spreading across his face. 'Nothing at all.'