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(When We Put Emotions On The Line) Know That We Are The Timeless Ones

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Armand

They both had him, though they never shared him – different timeframes and all, more than a century passing between the years Lestat spent at the Théâtre des Vampires with him and the others Louis spent with him traveling the world after all had been turned to ashes there.

Sure, none of them really ever owned him – if there’s one, only one, who could ever claim any ownership over the boy, that must be Marius; it’s unclear whether he wants to claim anything at all in that sense, though, and, in doubt, no one asks – but they both spent with him much more time than they’ve spent with any of the others, possibly except beautiful, splendid little Claudia, and for reasons none of them is really sure they understand, on nights like this it’s on them that the duty of taking care of him falls back.

Sometimes they would like to know why. They really would like to be able to corner Marius somewhere in the palace and force him to explain. Why us? We didn’t make him. We didn’t raise him. We never taught him anything – quite the contrary, as a matter of fact.

So why us?

Why indeed.

“Lestat,” Armand sighs tragically, leaning back against the armrest of the couch, his head so tilted back his long auburn hair almost brush against the floor, “I’m so utterly bored.”

“I swear,” Lestat growls, clutching his hands in fists, “If I have to hear that from you one more time.”

Sitting in his favorite chair in front of the hearth, Louis lazily flips the pages of the book he’s reading. Or, better yet, he’s pretending to read. Even with all his weaknesses, even if he was still human, he couldn’t flip them so slowly, if he was indeed reading for real.

Armand barged into the studio they were peacefully sharing in perfect silence almost twenty minutes ago, and he hasn’t stopped whining ever since. They both tried to ignore him as long as they possibly could, but it’s starting not to be possible anymore.

“Take me out,” Armand whimpers, turning on his stomach, looking at Lestat with big, rounded eyes, “Let’s go out.”

“Why don’t you go by yourself?” Lestat answers offhandedly, his fingers never ceasing to tap precisely on the keyboard as he completes his memoir of the whole Queen ordeal, “I’m busy.”

“You’re boring.”

“I’m busy.”

“I’m bored,” Armand sighs again, covering his face with both his hands. Such utter despair. Kids, Lestat thinks with contempt, kids. Even 500 year old ones. Not that he blames him for that, of course. Well, no, he does. He does blame him for it, because the child is ridiculously annoying. Louis, the more balanced between them, he doesn’t blame Armand for his being like he is. He probably blames Marius for making him so, but not Armand. Armand can do no wrong to his eyes – of course he cannot. Such a soft spot his lover has for the child. Lestat will never be able to understand. Sure, the boy is stunningly beautiful. But he’s impossible to be dealt with.

Louis finally decides to put his book down, and stands up from the chair. Both Lestat, suddenly distracted from his work, and Armand, suddenly forgetful of his personal tragedy, turn to look at him, following his slow yet graceful movements, so humanlike, so unwillingly seductive and, for this very same reason, so mesmerizing.

“Armand,” Louis says with a gentle smile, “Come. Let’s go hunt together.”

Armand instantly jumps up from the couch, his ruby lips parting into a wide smile as he quickly ties his hair behind his head. “Yes!” he says cheerfully, “I’ll go get ready,” and his voice is already an echo down the hallways of the palace.

Louis sighs deeply, barely shaking his head as a father unable to deny his favorite child even the most absurd whim. When he turns around, he finds Lestat already looking at him, disappointed, and offers him a small apologetic smile that Lestat simply chooses to ignore. “Of course you’d take him out hunting,” he says, offended, “But you never take me.”

Louis smiles enigmatically, buttoning his jacket up in preparation for the cold weather that’s waiting for him outside. Not that cold would ever touch him, not really, but it’s a human habit he was never able to drop. Just one among the many he kept, and Lestat loves them all just as much as he despises them. “I don’t very often, do I?” he muses. Then his smile widens. “Come along, then,” he says, gesturing him to come closer, “If it serves to tear you away from that diabolical machine.”

“It is not a diabolical machine but a computer, and you should know by now that I’m not doing this because it’s fun but because it is my responsibility to register what happens to us and how—“

“Are you coming or not?” Louis cuts him short, that ethereal smile still curling his pale lips upwards.

There are moments in which Lestat is at a loss in front of him. Moments like this, in which he’d give up everything, and for once not to be followed, but to follow him to the end of time, if ever there is one.

He sighs, pretending to be extremely annoyed by the whole thing, when really, he isn’t. “Fine,” he says, combing his hair back, “Let’s go. I wouldn’t want to leave you alone trying to bat some sense into that crazy child’s head anyway.”

Louis chuckles softly, leaning in to place a soft kiss on his cheek. His lips are cold, and Lestat can feel, despite being unable to hear his thoughts, that he aches for blood, now. “Because you’re so good at batting sense into others’ heads, right?” Louis comments, “Almost as good as you are doing it with your own.”

“You are the most annoying son,” Lestat pouts, grumpily.

Not that any of them really cares, though.

Blood

Lestat stays a few feet away, just watching. It doesn’t happen often that he can witness the beauty that is Louis feeding.

Armand has gone, Lestat doesn’t know where. After basically bullying them into going out to feed together, his eye got caught by the mesmerizing silhouette of a blonde tiny thing Lestat couldn’t identify as a boy or a girl for his preternatural life, as it’s customary nowadays for young things like those. The tiny thing smelled good, anyway, and Armand followed it, leaving them both behind.

They didn’t mind. They had supposed something like that would or could happen. Armand usually needs to follow to make a first step, but once he’s on the road, he also usually wanders away very easily.

They’re happy to spend some time together, anyway, so they didn't complain, they didn't try and follow him, they let him go. And then at some point Louis moved a step further than Lestat, after having walked alongside him for almost a full half hour, and then Lestat knew, he knew he had smelled his next victim, and he had stepped back, setting to simply follow him without disturbing him, hoping that, this time, he might let him watch.

Louis doesn't like to be watched as he feeds, mainly because he doesn't like himself when he feeds. He knows he turns into some sort of starved, bloody beast when he does, and he's disgusted at himself for not being able to help it. But he can get lost so easily in the power of blood, in the entrancing thumping of his hunger echoing in his heartbeat, that at some point he can't ignore his urges anymore and he gives in to them, and at that point he doesn't mind if someone's watching anymore, he just needs to feed.

Lestat hangs by a tree, folding his arms over his chest and watching the scene as it takes place in front of his own eyes, as if he was watching a movie.

The little park is dark but tidy, there's a good, deep scent of blooming flowers around them. Lestat could identify each different smell if he wanted, link it to the right species of flower or plant, make an accurate list of which is which and what fits and what doesn't, but he decides not to. It's way more intriguing to just stand by there, letting the confusing mix of different scents envelope him together with the strong, powerful smell of blood as Louis pierces open the flesh of his late night dinner and feeds.

He didn't go for the kissing couples scattered everywhere in the most secretive and discreet boulevards of the park. Didn't go for the countless younglings embracing and softly whispering in the night. They were the ones to caught Lestat's attention the most, at first, so intense their smell, so ripe their soft moans, so full and vibrant their whimpers as they gave in to pleasure, but it didn't take him much to finally sense who was Louis going for.

The man was crouching behind a thick line of low bushes, when Louis struck him. He smelled sexual, just like all those half-naked and squirming boys and girls, but he was filled of another kind of sexual desire entirely. His forehead sweating, the thick, rounded eyeglasses he wore continuously sliding down the bridge of his nose, he just knelt there, one hand firmly pressed against his crotch, his eyes fixed on the young girls' couple making out on the bench on the other side of the boulevard.

He wasn't masturbating, or at least he didn't seem like he was. His hand was still. He just watched, perhaps drawing from that simple pressure and what he was seeing -- one of the girls had her legs sensuously parted and the other had one hand lost between her white thighs, caressing her slowly -- all the pleasure he thought he needed.

Louis pulled him back, struck him on the side of his face more to confuse him than as a sign of real animosity towards his depraved act, and then quickly pressed a firm, hard hand against his mouth to keep him silent as he leaned in to feed.

It's been just a couple of minutes from then, and Louis still hasn't finished eating. He's drawing the blood out of his victim slowly, and purposely so. The man's eyes are wide and his breathing, muffled by Louis' hand, heavy as marble over his mouth, comes out shaky, accelerated and erratic. He smells like fear, already conscious of his fate, and of the arousal that's still coursing through him, the vampire's touch as always heightening every kind of sensation and making it impossible for the human body to act accordingly to the situation it's experiencing.

The man is dying slowly, so slowly. Lestat watches life abandon his eyes as the light inside them grows progressively dimmer, and wonders if Louis will ever learn how to feed without killing.

Perhaps not. After all, the technique doesn't interest him. He never wishes to have human companions that he knows he should treat carefully, from which he should eat moderately. All he wants is to ravish. To put down, to annihilate. He's a killer, a proper killer, a natural born monster. Lestat watches his fangs dive deeply into his victim's flesh and thinks about the contrast between this and Louis’ natural kindness, his innate gentleness, and he finds it so beautiful he might weep.

Once Louis is done, he stands up. He looks vaguely confused, his eyes dark and covered by a veil of discreet lust. Lestat wants him as he's always wanted him -- not a day in his life ever went by without Lestat wanting him -- and he walks to him, passing a thumb over the corner of his mouth, where a tiny droplet of blood is slowly sliding down his chin.

"You were sloppy," he says.

Louis smile softly, following the movement of Lestat's thumb.

Coat

Lestat chose a dashing red velvet coat for the hunt, and as always Louis can't help watching him as he moves swiftly through that luscious city woods, stopping by the bushes where they found the man Louis fed upon a few minutes ago. When he stops and kneels there, just where the man was kneeling before, that long, soft coat falls behind him, covering a good deal of ground like a long tail.

"Couldn't you have chosen something more discreet?" he murmurs, kneeling beside him.

Lestat turns to look at him, raising an eyebrow. "Was that a real question?" he asks, "A real question you want a proper answer for?"

Louis sighs deeply, shaking his head and turning to look at the scene the man was so intently watching before, and Lestat is so intently watching now. The girls keep embracing each other, kissing deeply, hungrily. They look beautiful, but Louis doesn't feel comfortable watching them like that. What they're doing is intimate and isn't any less so because they chose to do it in public. It's a very private corner of the park, this one, after all, and pretty dark too. The fact that they're here doesn't necessarily mean they want to be looked at. Doesn't necessarily mean that man had a right to do it.

He feels no remorse for having killed him. That is his nature, and after all what he did was to eliminate a scoundrel no one will ever mourn the absence of.

"You're thinking about the man, right?" Lestat smirks, his eyes fixed upon the girls' trembling limbs, "I don't need to be able to hear your thoughts to know. It's written all over your face. You're thinking I'm being just as indescreet as he was." His lips curl into a wicked smirk for a moment. "Do you want to strike my face and tear my throat open too?"

"Don't be ridiculous," he sighs patiently, his shoulders dropping as he tries to get rid of the tension hardening his limbs. "I'm wondering what are you planning to do, though."

"I'm hungry," Lestat answers, folding the coat all around his body not to risk the girls to see a bit of it glistening, as red and bright as it is, through the darkness surrounding them. "Watching you made me so. I wasn't thirsting for blood a few minutes ago, but now I am."

"And it's my fault," Louis considers, raising an eyebrow, "Really?"

Lestat chuckles softly and grins in amusement, ever the devilish brat. "Let's meet them," he says, pointing at the girls.

"What?" Louis backs off, frowning, "No."

"Come on, Louis," Lestat's smile softens a bit, "You know, in a way, they're asking for it."

"I do not," Louis looks away, uncomfortably.

Lestat smiles once again and puts his hands on both sides of Louis' face, making him turn to look at the girls again. "Can't you read them?" He asks. Louis doesn't answer. He knows this was not a real question, anyway, which is why Lestat soon starts talking again. "They're related," he says, "Cousins. One of them is the daughter of the man you just killed. They were brought here by him. He left them at the entrance of the park and told them to go on, do their thing. He would be there, watching. They knew he would. They were doing it for the money he had promised them, sure, but also for the thrill. How can you refuse that calling? See how taken they are with themselves? They still believe the man's watching them. They're taking pleasure in it more than they're taking pleasure in touching one another, more than they're taking pleasure in the blood link between them making this whole thing so dirty. Oh, Louis, we must have them. I won't be able to go on a single more day in my life if I do not have them now."

"I choose not to believe a word you just said," Louis tries, frowning deeply.

Lestat's lips curl into a disappointed pout as he stares back at him. "You hurt me," he says, "Have I ever lied to you?"

"How can I be sure of that?" Louis answers, shrugging, "Even if you did, I wouldn't notice, and you wouldn't tell."

Lestat's scowl deepens. "You really hurt me," he repeats. "You really can't feel any of this at all?"

Louis turns to look at the girls again. One of them, the one who's touching the other, casts a lusty look towards the bushes where they're hiding, every now and then. He must admit there's something off about them. He must admit he knows there's something off about this whole thing, and that he had known from before, from when he chose the man to feed upon.

"I don't know," he gives in, sighing deeply. "I don't know, Lestat. Let's do as you like. As always."

It doesn't last as long as Louis thought it would. If anything, it's all pretty swift and bloodless. Clean, even. Lestat comes out of the bushes wrapped up in his dashing red velvet coat and the girls aren't surprised, not by him, nor by Louis when he joins them. They say they had heard noises, they knew something was going on, that the man was no more. They smirk, though, their honey blonde hair slowly swinging in the cold wind blowing in the night. They're alright with playing with the young men too, they look beautiful, the young men, so fit and sexy, that's the word they use, so sexy, the young men spying on them through the bushes.

They take one each. Lestat fondles his own for minutes before he decides it's time to sink his teeth. By then, Louis' one is already dead, so her cousin can watch her limp, lifeless corpse, horrified, as Lestat sucks her dry.

When it's over, they wrap their bodies in Lestat's coat, together. And as they fly back to the mansion, they throw them in the ocean.

David

Louis catches him sneak out pretty early, and given that he knows exactly where Lestat's going, and given that he doesn't like it in the least, this new habit of his, he doesn't refrain one moment from trying to stop him.

"There you are," he says, leaning against the doorframe with his arms loosely crossed over his chest, "Running out like a common thief. And you're not even stealing. So, I wonder, what is it you're shamefully running away from?"

Lestat chuckles softly, turning around to look at him. "That reproachful glare of yours, my beloved," he answers. Ah, there he goes, trying to soften him up by calling him names.

Louis isn't one to feel rage over petty arguments like this one. His fury's usually fueled by way greater things, murder, unfairness, utter stupidity (all things Lestat managed to show over the years, but that are not the case right now), but somehow the fact that Lestat's trying to sweeten the pill by using words of endearment with him manages to make him mad with anger.

"Am I, though?" he asks, "Your beloved."

"Of course you are," Lestat answers, his eyes wide in shock, now, "Where is this coming from?"

Louis looks away, his lips pursing in a disappointed pout. He doesn't answer, there's no need to. They both know where that was coming from.

"Ah," Lestat smiles sweetly, "I see. This is about David, isn't it?"

And yes, yes, of course it is.

This isn't the first time Lestat is so taken with some human pet, but this fascination of his for the head of the Talamasca Institute in London preoccupies Louis like no other fascination with mortal man ever did before, perhaps because he can feel, somehow, that it is different from them all.

This one Lestat would willingly and carelessly turn into one of their kind. And Louis can sense -- no, he knows -- it could only turn out to be a messy affair - and a bloody one. He doesn't want Lestat to go through that, not yet, at least. He's still too crazed about the whole Queen ordeal to throw himself into yet another ridiculous and crazy adventure. He needs to rest. (Or, well, they do, from running after him every time he starts one of his new foolish enterprises.)

"Are you going to hold the grudge against me for as long as I'm willing to go see him?" Lestat asks, his voice filled with amusement, curiosity and a spark of satisfaction at having aroused his jealousy like this.

"If we're lucky," Louis says, "He's going to die before you do something stupid and somehow end up cursing the world again."

"He is in no way old enough to die so soon," Lestat chuckles, "And I don't see how my relationship with him, or any evolution of it, could bring mayhem over the world in its entirety."

"Oh, I can't foresee that," Louis answers, shrugging, "But everything you do ultimately does it, so I wouldn't be surprised if you managed to turn even something like this into a sign of the Apocalypse."

"Ah, love," Lestat laughs again, "You're going biblical on me. I'll stop you right there." He holds out his hand for Louis, inviting him to take it. "Come with."

Louis frowns, backing off a little. "To see him?"

"Well, yes. Aren't you curious?"

"Not in the least."

"To keep an eye on me, then," Lestat offers, his smile softening and widening at the same time.

"You are impossible," Louis growls under his breath, combing his hair off his forehead. "Fine, then. I'll come."

Lestat simply smiles, victoriously, as he holds his hand.

Less than a few seconds after they're already flying through the thick, dark night sky. The weather is clear and there are no clouds shrouding the stars, that shine in a twinkly multitude right above their head, nor the pale white disk of the moon, casting its delicate beams all over Lestat's face, lightening up that wicked smile of his, making him look much more like a mischievous rebel kid than the ruthless, monstrous killer that he is.

As always, Louis looks at him in utter fascination, unable to tell apart the man from the beast from the picture his love carved in his mind and heart through the centuries they've been together and apart, and as always he loves him, and he'd do anything for him, including accept this new pastime of his, this David Talbot man, this scholar who's temporarily stolen Lestat's heart away, that Louis doesn't want to meet and yet knows will have to meet, because at some point Lestat will make it so, and he won't be able to say no.

The garden around the Institute is quiet and dark, but they see without making an effort through that darkness, and they climb unheard and unnoticed up the walls, towards the only window casting some light out into the night.

David's sitting in front of his desk, and there's an elegance to his straight pose, to his squared shoulders, to the graceful line of his spine as he writes on his diary, barely needing to rest his elbows over the edge of the table.

Lestat is excited and he doesn't hide it. He pushes the window open and lands inside, but Louis decides to stay out, cling to the wall like a flying creature of the night, though he cannot fly, not at all, and thankfully so.

"Ah, Lestat, my friend," David smiles, turning to look at him and then politely standing up to greet him with a handshake, "You came to see me."

"Only a few minutes, David," Lestat answers, "My companion doesn't want to come in."

"That's a shame," David answers, casting a quick glance at the window, "Is there anything I can do to change that?"

Lestat smirks, shaking his head. "I will take care of it, in due time," he says.

Is sounds like both a promise and a threat.

Extinction

Facing extinction helped Louis put things in perspective. Suddenly, things he would’ve found unacceptably annoying before the Queen turned out to be nuisances he can easily deal with, kind of a price he's got to pay to keep being around people he loves.

He's got to deal with Armand's whims if he wants to keep being with him, learn how to understand and overlook his crazy tantrums and his feeble and fiery passions if he wants to keep seeing those soft brown eyes and beautiful, flowing auburn hair every night when he wakes up, if he wants to keep having the chance to hold him, every now and then, and breathe in his enticing smell, and bask in the sensual tinkling of his boyish laughter.

He's got to deal with Gabrielle's coldness, her absolute refusal to ever get close to anybody who isn't Lestat, and even him, every now and then, her deep, endless need for solitude and silent, beastly hunt, if he wants to keep having her and her quiet understanding, and those rare but at the same time so relieving, so comforting moments in which they only need to look at one another to share a deep, totalizing connection based on the ground of love, of the love they both feel for Lestat, tying them together.

And of course he's got to deal with Lestat and his ridiculous fixations, his constant traveling, his wandering heart, if he wants to keep having him. To keep calling him his own, at least in some measure. And he wants to -- oh, he risked losing him enough times already. Once he almost lost him to Claudia. Again he almost lost him to Armand and the fury of the years, of passing time. He risked the most with Akasha and her fire and her rapturous, blood-washed, godlike love. He can't risk a fourth time. Not again. This time, Lestat came as close as death as he possibly could without feeling her sunlit kiss on his marble skin -- he almost died, but he survived, and Louis could call him his own once again.

He won't let such a tiny, such a passing thing as a mortal man come in between them now. No matter how marvelous human life is, no matter how particularly glorious and fascinating this special specimen is -- he is but a man. The only bond they can share is the time Lestat allows them to spend together. What's that against eternity? Oh, Louis can wait a few minutes hanging out from the window in the cold -- cold he doesn't feel anyway. A few minutes are but the blink of an eye. There, they're over, now, and Lestat's walking to the window again, laughing in amusement at one of the Englishman's clever jokes, saying goodnight, goodnight, my friend, I've got to go.

He's the one Lestat has got to go to. Him and no one else. Not beautiful Armand, not wise and ancient Marius, not his mother and daughter Gabrielle, him, Louis. The weakest one, the dusty one.

"My beautiful one," Lestat says as he wraps his arms around him and jumps with him into the wind, flying swiftly and soundlessly across the sky, "I've missed you terribly."

"You've been in there no longer than ten minutes," Louis points out, laughing softly.

Lestat simply smiles. He knows talking would be of no use, now that the roaring of the wind surrounds them, making them deaf. They're flying fast, now, and the cold night air feels sharp and cruel against the skin. Cut by it, Louis presses his face against Lestat's chest and relaxes when he feels his hand rest easily on his nape, to keep him in position, to protect him.

They land on the balcony right outside Lestat's bedroom a few minutes later, and when he puts him down Lestat keeps his arms around his shoulders, to help him stand. He's gotten used to the Cloud Gift over the days, but Louis couldn't. He probably just can't, and never will. Not that it's a problem, as long as Lestat keeps smiling tenderly like that every time he sees him struggling to keep his balance after a particularly trying trip.

"Are you thirsty?" he asks as he ties his long, blonde hair into a low ponytail on the back of his head.

Louis shrugs vaguely, leaning against the banister and curling his lips into half a smile. "Not really, no. I could stay in, for the rest of the night."

"That's disappointing, you know I love to watch you hunt," Lestat sighs dramatically.

"Even if I had been hungry," Louis chuckles, "I wouldn't have let you come with me tonight."

"Liar," Lestat smiles knowingly, "This is one of those nights."

"Those nights?"

"When you can't do without me."

Louis has to bite at his inner cheek to stop himself from saying there isn't a single night he opens his eyes thinking yes, this is a night I can do without Lestat. Because there is no such thing for him as being able to do without him, not anymore. He's seen the world on his own. He didn't like it. He has never seen the world in such splendor again as he used to see it when it was Lestat showing it to him, pointing the wondrous details out for him, guiding him through Nature and Life's revelations as if he was writing out a new Bible just for him.

"I will stay in, for the rest of the night," he repeats, smiling kindly, his eyes fixed on Lestat.

Who bites at his bottom lip, taking a step closer to him. "Ah, but you've got to let me kiss you, tonight, my love," he says in a soft chuckle, pressing their lips together, "You look ripe as seasonal fruit. One kiss." Louis laughs softly, closing his eyes and giving in to the kiss. "And another," Lestat says with a smirk.

They end up both staying in for the night.

Fight

It still happens, every now and then. Despite all that's been between them, despite how new their relationship is now, how different from the bond that kept them together for seventy years before, despite all that fire and resentment gone, now, despite being held close by something deeper, something sweeter and softer, a velvet ribbon, so to speak, compared to the rough rope that tied their wrists together back in the Eighteenth century, sometimes it still happens, sometimes they still fight.

Oh, they used to fight so much, in the beginning. The only kind of preternatural strength Louis ever showed to him, he displayed when they were fighting. They were always petty arguments, money matters, mostly, inability to communicate at worst. They were young and foolish, no strings attached to them, no joys of paternity to resort to when things got rough between them, no real routine behind them, no true habits to adapt their lives to.

They'd been knowing each other for such a short time, they were madly in love with one another but their paces were different. Lestat was fast, impatient, greedy, despite all the time he had now, while Louis was slower, calmer, he needed a while to adapt to his new life, his new self, and Lestat wasn't exactly willing to give it to him, eager as he was to drag him around, push him into things, travel, see the world, take everything he could leaving nothing but ashes behind.

And so they used to fight, and theirs were mighty fights, really. They often ended up flinging each other against the walls or down the stairs. They hit one another, screamed in each other's faces. The whole house roared with their rage and their violence.

Then it got quiet. With Claudia, it got quieter. They didn't want to fight in front of her, much like modern parents do nowadays, keeping their problems between them, never involving the children, lest they think they might be cause of them. It's more or less what they wanted with Claudia too, after all. She was meant to be the one thing that would bind them together forever, like human parents often think of their children. She had united them for seventy years, much more than any child could. But she had also been the reason of their coming apart -- something human children rarely manage to be.

They fight less, nowadays. Louis got mellow in time, sadness and disappointment softening his hardness together with age, and Lestat, despite being still pretty much an insane rascal, got wiser. He knows better than to anger Louis with flimsy arguments, now, there's no whim really worth his stubborn silence, when Louis sets to punish him with it.

But it happens, nonetheless. And these days, it mostly happens when David's involved.

Lestat doesn't really understand Louis' jealousy for the man. There's nothing threatening about him, not any more than there was about Claudia. Louis loved her. Lestat can't see why he couldn't love David too. He's so sure Louis would love him, if he only took a chance at knowing him, because they are so similar, at times, they speak in the same sensible, practical way, and they both have such a disposition for scolding him, especially when the scolding is completely uncalled for. Lestat is a hundred percent sure, as people say nowadays, they'd get along splendidly.

Instead, here they are, him and his favorite lover, fighting about a man that's not even a vampire yet. That couldn't come between them if he wanted to -- and that doesn't want to, anyway.

"I'm tired of this, Louis," he says, looking away as he passes a hand through his wild, wavy blonde locks, sweeping them away from his neck, "I can't understand you."

"You rarely can."

"I don't need this, right now."

"When do you ever?"

"You want to make me feel bad just for the sake of feeling bad! You have a fragile ego and you try to lessen me not to feel belittled yourself!"

"My fragile ego does nothing but compensate for the overabundance of yours."

"Now you're being mean," Lestat snaps, frowning in disappointment, "And cruel on purpose."

"Maybe you are," Louis retorts, moving away, "And as always you don't even notice."

He walks out of the room right after, leaving Lestat alone in front of his computer, to deal with the rage swelling inside him, and with the weariness coming with it, making his limbs heavier.

"You were at it again," Marius sighs, walking in a few minutes later. Lestat recognizes him from his voice, sweet and deep and measured as always, but he knew he was coming before he stepped in. He had heard his steps down the hallways. Marius always makes an effort walking like a human. He likes all those little, muffled sounds coming so naturally from the human body. He has to fake them, but he enjoys doing it. Sometimes, when it's quiet in the room, really really quiet, they can almost hear him breathe.

"I don't know what else to do with him," he answers, resting his shoulders against the back of the chair, "I've tried everything."

"Have you, though?" Marius asks, chuckling softly.

Lestat frowns, looking at him. "What do you mean?"

Marius' smile widens faintly. "You haven't tried giving up on Talbot, my reckless and selfish prince," he says, "You haven't tried that for him."

Lestat looks away, biting gently at his bottom lip. "That's because that's the only thing I cannot try," he answers, "And he cannot ask me to do."

"There you go, then," Marius chuckles, "The reason for his rage. He wants you to do it, and you can't give it to him, and he can't even explicitly ask. And you wonder why you cannot stop fighting?"

Lestat sighs deeply, closing his eyes. It's a problem without a solution. But he's still hoping to think of one in time not to lose Louis to jealousy and disappointment once again.

Gabrielle

Gabrielle starts walking by his side and, for a few minutes, they don't utter a word. The night is dark and quiet, nothing moves in the woods surrounding Armand's mansion, and all the fun and the games taking place in the city are so far away to be of no consequence at all, as if they didn't even exist.

Louis is hungry, and in a few minutes he'll have to hunt. He'll have to travel to the city, swift and silent like a shadow, and he'll have to find a new victim, and feed off it. He'll have to suck it dry and then orderly dispose of the corpse, so that it's never found, so that it can be mistaken for one of the countless victims of the Night Island and his casinos, a victim of gamble and debt like the hundreds the city has seen already.

Not yet, though, he doesn't feel like it for now. He wants to breathe in the cold, brisk night air, fill his lungs with it, hoping some peace of mind will come with the clarity that darkness usually bestows upon him.

It's not working yet, and he's been walking for almost an hour already. But he's a patient man. He was before becoming a monster too. And, as Khayman used to say before he disappeared, none of them really changes over time. They only become more fully what they are.

Funny he should think about sad, old, wise, perpetually smiling and careful Khayman, now that Gabrielle's walking beside him. Who knows what's become of him, where has he gone to. Has he followed Maharet and Mekare to their secret sanctuary, wherever it might be? Has he finally become the priest, to them, that he had wanted to become when he was alive?

"I can hear you think, Louis," Gabrielle says, interrupting the flow of his thoughts, "It's deafening."

"I'm sorry," Louis answers with half a sigh, closing his eyes, "I didn't mean to bother you."

"Oh, I know," Gabrielle smiles, her full, blonde curls bouncing with every step she takes. She doesn't really like to keep her hair untied, she finds their length and wavy mass bothersome, but she's getting used not to tie them up as she'd do were she alone every time she's staying around Lestat. She knows her son likes her best when he can see her like this.

She's warm and she smells good, blood and earth mixing to the sweet scent of her alabaster skin, clinging to her untidy, boyish clothes.

She's already fed. Her cheeks are only barely pinkened with a faint blush. It's as if she were discretely and classily covered in make-up, covered in make up as if she wasn't at all. She looks like more than just a statue. A perfect, humanlike, alive doll.

She's astoundingly beautiful. No wonder Lestat's crazy about her.

"You've had another fight, haven't you?" she asks. She's still smiling. Louis needs to look away.

"Why do you say so?"

"I picked it up," she curls her nose in amusement, brushing her hair off her shoulders, "You did, right?"

"I don't feel comfortable talking about it with you," Louis sighs.

"No?" she chuckles, "Why? Because I was his mother?"

"You are."

"I was," she insists, shaking her head and her leonine mane, "I've been reborn. I am his daughter, now, and so are you. There shouldn't be any embarrassment between us."

"I can't see how," Louis sighs again, shrugging. He keeps walking and, for a few more moments, as they walk deeper into the woods, they share comfortable and merciful silence.

Then she speaks again. "He's always been like this, you know?" she says, "Since when he was a boy. He falls in love very easily. But his love never wavers, never really fades away. His heart is easily distractible, but it's a faithful heart. You don't have to worry he won't come back to you. Haven't you got it already? He will always come back to you."

"And to a dozen other people," Louis snaps, barely managing to keep anger at bay.

"I'm not sure," Gabrielle smiles, "Perhaps. But even so. Does it matter? Do you really want him all to yourself? My dear," she adds with a loud laughter, "He's a handful!"

"Is this why you're never with him?" Louis retorts. He mainly aims at hitting a nerve with her. He wants to shut her up, to make her feel at fault so she will stop questioning him, but he should know better. He's been knowing her for a while, now. Long enough to know Gabrielle feels no guilt whatsoever. Not even to her own son and maker.

"No," she says, shaking her head, "My reason not to be with him all the time is that I've been with him all the time when I was alive and mortal. He was my son, and I lived for him. I had nothing but him, really. I didn't even have myself. But now," she smiles more fully, "Ah, now I have myself completely. And I only have him to thank for this. So the best way I can show my appreciation for what he's done for me, really, is to live my new life at the fullest. Even if it means being apart from him most of the time. Oh, he'd hate me if I stood around only to make him happy," she chuckles, "Because then I would hate him for forcing me to."

Louis sighs deeply, looking up at the night sky, searching for comfort. "Maybe, then, I can't help my jealousy any more than you can help your desire of traveling and wandering the world. And he should accept this like he accepts you."

"Oh," Gabrielle laughs again, "Sweet child. You're mistaken. He's never accepted me, never will. He merely loves me with all his heart."

And will that be enough?, Louis wonders silently.

Gabrielle hears the thought, and she secretly gives in to a tender smile.

Hunger

Louis wanders the luminous streets of the city, rambling through the crowd, drifting. He watches the people intently, though he usually doesn't like to hunt like this. What he likes is to make it swift: to prowl unseen in the shadows, to grab somebody he knows nothing of and doesn't want to know anything about, to drag them in a dark corner, tear their throats open, push his fangs past the soft barrier of their skin and suck them dry, and do it quickly, quickly enough to make it last only a couple of minutes, and then disappear as fast as he arrived.

He's more comfortable like this. He's not like Lestat, he doesn't like the attention. He's not a charmer, not at heart, at least, not willingly in any case. He's a monster, a killer. But he is one out of necessity, not out of fun. He doesn't play with his victims, just like his parents always told him never to play with his food.

He's hungry. He's been since before Gabrielle joined him in the woods. Her presence, her sweet smell of blood, her warmth only aroused his hunger even more, and now he's famished.

That's the only thing he regrets about his weakness. He doesn't like the idea of growing stronger, of learning how to use supernatural skills more easily, or to even gain a few new ones, like Lestat and the others did over the years, but he knows, because he's seen it happen, that if he were stronger he'd need less blood to sustain himself, and he wouldn't need to kill every night.

But then again, if he were stronger he'd probably end up killing every night anyway, just because he could. All considered, the risk isn't worth it. Lestat's ability to fly, or Marius's alabaster skin, or the ancient ones' fiery magic, he doesn't want all of that. He struggled enough to accept himself as the monster he now is, and he hasn't managed that well yet. He doesn't need to make himself even worse. He's barely able to live with himself as things are -- he's not sure that'd still be the case if he changed again.

He stops in a dark alley filled with people crawling in the shadows like vermin. He can see their outlines moving slowly, he smells their stench attacking his nostrils, enveloping him in a thick, damp cloud, and stick to his clothes. Fine clothes Lestat chose for him. "On my life," he said with great contempt, "As long as you live under the same roof as me, you're not gonna go out dressed like an 18th century tramp." And he gave him black trousers, black wool sweaters, black shirts with necks he has to wear loose, smiling proudly as he tried them on in front of him. "Black really suits you, love of mine," he said.

Louis sighs. He needs to stop thinking about Lestat, at least for now.

He knows he looks good in those clothes. He knows he looks rich. He knows it's just a matter of time before one of the creatures crawling in the dark comes out to try and get him. Not knowing he's the one who's going to be gotten.

Soon enough, a couple boys come close to him. One of them is tall and blonde and stunningly beautiful. Louis doesn't really care for the beauty of his victims, he doesn't fall for them each and every time like all the others have been taught to do through the centuries, or have a talent to do anyway, like Lestat. He just wants their blood, he craves it, but this guy, this blonde beautiful thing, he captures his attention. He's too thin and he smells unclean, but his deep blue eyes almost look violet in the dim light of the alley, and Louis wants him. It's got to be him.

"Do you wanna have some fun?" the boy asks, "You're beautiful. I'll let you have me for free, sir."

Louis looks intently at him, studying his features. The squared jaw, the tempting curve of his Adam's apple. He sounds unwell and confused, his voice almost drowsy. He must be high, or drunk, or both.

Louis wants to ravish him, and he's barely keeping himself together. Not right now, he tells himself, not in front of all of the others. Just a few more minutes. Time enough to drag him somewhere quieter, where they can be alone.

He gestures the boy to follow him, and the boy simply complies. He doesn't need a word from him, he doesn't need to trust him. He doesn't even need the promise of payment. Maybe he wasn't lying about giving himself to him for free, or maybe he's counting on him getting distracted enough to give him the chance to steal his wallet.

Too bad there's no wallet to be stolen. Too bad the only thing that's going to be stolen, tonight, is his life.

They walk for but a few seconds. They're in a dead-end street, and there's no light whatsoever there. Just a few stinky trash cans and a moldy wall.

Louis presses the boy against it. Actually pushes him towards it hard, unable to manage his own strength. The boy hits his shoulder and whines, but that whine quickly melts into a soft and excited laughter, as he raises those deep blue eyes up towards him. "Are we impatient, sir?" the boy asks, surely pleased with himself, "Don't be hasty. We've got all night."

Louis moves closer, trapping him between his arms. There's something wrong with the boy, he sounds too happy, too aroused, and Louis can't smell alcohol nor drugs on him. Maybe he accidentally glamoured him. Sometimes he does that. He doesn't even notice it, as it happens, he only understands afterwards, and not all the time.

"Kiss me, sir," says the boy.

Louis presses his lips against his neck and bares his fangs, fulfilling his wish with a different kind of kiss.

Island

Lestat likes the Night Island. If there's something he could never object to Armand was his taste. Sure, it happened, in the past, that there was a slightly too morbid taste for decadence to his interior decorating activities, but since they all came out alive from the Queen's ordeal - he should probably stop referring to it with such a simple word, as if the whole thing had been insignificant, and not the tragedy which threatened to destroy their whole race; he should find a better term, isn't he a writer or not, after all? - Armand's only desire seems to be celebrating, and it shows in the way he decorated the palace they're all sharing and will be sharing until they start scattering around the world as they usually end up doing every time.

It also shows in the location he's chosen for the palace itself.

The island isn't big, but Armand filled with all human sources of entertainment he could think of. There are dancing clubs, casinos, huge villas Armand rents out to actors, singers and politicians, or whoever else is rich enough to afford them, really. The streets he had built around the mansion on top of the highest hill are large and crowded, constantly illuminated by streetlights and neon lights, and there's music playing at all times of the day and the night.

Lestat knows Armand bought this island for Daniel, but he's not clear on what Armand thought the final use of this place would be. A playground? Hunting grounds? And if that's what the Island was supposed to be, was it thought exclusively for Daniel or for them all? Lestat never took Armand for a generous person, but perhaps there's something he still doesn't know about the boy, something escaping him. He wouldn't know, Louis always understood him way more than Lestat could - their common ache for darkness, guilt and penance binding them together more than bloodlust ever could.

(Sometimes Lestat is jealous of that, admittedly. But he still remembers it was funny to listen to Armand complaining about having been left by Louis, back in the day, as if it was Lestat's fault, and deeply knowing it really was, at least in part, because there's always been something Lestat could give Louis that no one ever could, not even Armand.)

It's bloodlust, though, what he sees in Louis now, ad he spies on him behind the corner of this dirty back alley - because that the perfect replica of a sin-ridden human city couldn't miss, dirty back alleys, cheap brothels, abandoned building swarming with drunk and high people moving blindly like rats in the darkness, the kind of people they all prefer to hunt for. It's bloodlust, and it's the Island that's firing it up, with its hot weather and its multitude of people, with its music and its light, with the shadows of its dark corners, calling to human and preternatural creatures alike.

Louis is sucking the life out of this poor unfortunate blonde boy, and Lestat watches him, reveling in the amazing show Louis is offering him, without even being aware of it. Louis is always savage with his victims, but he's less savage when he knows he's being watched - which is why these few precious moments are indeed so precious. Now he's as savage as he's ever going to get, and Lestat feels overjoyed at the mere idea of being there to watch.

Jawline

When he drops the lifeless corpse of the boy, listening to the soft thud the body makes impacting against the ground and to the shaky melody of the aluminium lids of the trash can it hits in its fall, he turns around, and he's startled for a moment when he sees Lestat standing there, watching him.

He frowns, backing off a few steps. "You're here," he says, perhaps redundantly.

"I am," Lestat takes a step towards him. Louis backs off again. He's still angry at him and he doesn't want him near. He doesn't trust himself as far as proximity with Lestat is concerned. He's not himself when they're too close. He doesn't follow the same set of rules he usually would. "Stop moving away."

"Are you ordering?"

"I'm asking."

"You never ask for anything."

"That's true," Lestat nods. He looks vaguely feverish, his cheeks uncannily flushed, his eyes lucid, sparkling of the reflexes of the distant lights of the street, "Then why did you ask if I was ordering it or not? You already knew the answer."

"I don't know why I asked," Louis backs off again, and ends up hitting the wall with his shoulders. He feels in the same position he put the boy he just drained moments before. It's upsetting and he hates to be in such a position against Lestat. (There's being in a position with Lestat and being in a position against him. More often than not, Louis finds himself facing the second of the two options - the worst of the two options.) "I want you to know I stopped because I hit the end of the road, not because I wanted to."

"As long as it's convenient for me," Lestat shrugs. He stops but an inch away from him - then closes that distance. Louis feels his chest against his own as Lestat carelessly invades his personal space, and he wishes he could find a way to explain Lestat that this way to deal with him doesn't always pays. That he needs to breathe, every now and then, that he can't live the entirety of his mortal life sharing everything with him. He needs to be on his own, every now and then, as they always do. And Lestat needs to learn how to respect that.

"I wanted to be on my own for a while," he says.

Lestat ignores him. "I hate to fight," he says instead. Louis growls. "Let's solve this."

"There are some things you just cannot solve."

"And is this fight one of them?" Lestat arches an eyebrow, "Are you seriously going to throw away everything we have, everything we've built over the centuries, on a whim?"

"Mine is not a whim."

"No, but mine is." He sighs deeply, raising a hand and stroking Louis' cheek with his fingers. "David Talbot is a whim. One of my many whims. He's not you. No one will ever be you."

"Being me apparently means nothing, because you treat me just like you treat everyone else."

"You know that's not true," Lestat smiles uncharacteristically gently, "You're the only one I always come back to."

Louis groans, resting his head on the wall behind his back. He closes his eyes and feels anger swell almost to the point of breaking out of him, like water ready to break the dam holding it in the shape of a lake, and then that very same rage deflates, and he breathes out, though he doesn't need to do it, and he relaxes.

It's always like this with Lestat. There's no way to win. If he can't win you over with his acts of madness and bravery, he uses his words as weapons. And he always knows where to cut to make you bleed.

"You're impossible," he exhales in a low voice.

Lestat smirk. "And you're sloppy," he says, "As always."

Then, he licks the trail of blood left there by his last victim up his jawline.

Kiss

He licks his way up to Louis' lips and Louis pretends not to like it, he pretends to be still angry at him, he pretends not to want this as he does, but Lestat knows - if there's something time has taught him is that no one ever admits to wanting something that puts them at a disadvantage, but at the same to be subdued is what most people most intimately desire.

Louis is a quiet creature with fiery passions. The combination of the two things makes him a bomb always ready to explode. One minute he's peacefully reading on a chouch, or romantically staring at the sea from the shore, the minute after he's jumping at your throat, demanding explanations, roasting you for answers - sometimes metaphorically, sometimes not.

He's always wanted two things from Lestat, knowledge and affection. The first, Lestat was never able to provide, so he ended up searching for it in someone else, and the second he always provided on his own terms. Marius' words come to his mind once again as he kisses him. You haven't tried everything for him. Doesn't it count for anything that he tried everything he possibly could without betraying himself altogether? He's not build for exclusivity.

But then again, Louis has never been jealous of him because of his multiple different partners, now that he thinks about it. So perhaps there's something else behind this, something Lestat didn't quite grasp. Something that would be better explained by Louis himself.

He breaks the kiss and Louis lets out a tiny, surprised whimper that makes Lestat's heart swell. He wasn't expecting it. He never expects Louis to do anything actually cute. His inner darkness usually makes it impossible for cute things to happen around him, which is why every little smile and every little sound are worth more than all the gold in the world.

"Louis," he says, leaning against him, drawing on himself the warmth emanating from his lover's body thanks to his recent hunt, "Let's talk."

Louis tenses up instantly. He wasn't expecting this. "It's not like you to want to talk."

"Nothing is ever like me to be done, my beloved. I deal in the unexpected alone."

"Don't be a clown."

"I'm trying not to. I want to talk."

"Here."

"Yes." He grins, amused. "Are you making excuses?"

Louis frowns, he hates it when Lestat calls him out. It so rarely happens.

"Well, then," he says, pushing Lestat away with a discreet but decisive movement to cross his arms over his chest, "Let's talk."

His attitude contrasts so evidently with his words Lestat can't help but being amused by it. Louis is usually uncharted territory for him, but this he can understand.

"Tell me what you want from me, Louis," he says at first, but then he grins, and he corrects himself, "Better yet: tell my why you don't want me near David Talbot, my love."

Unpredictably enough, but oh, ever so delightful, Louis blushes.

Love

Louis used to think he hated Lestat. For a very long time after his baptism in blood and for yet a longer time after Claudia's death, he firmly believed Lestat to be the source of all his pain. He didn't delude himself into believing he was an innocent, on the contrary, actually, he firmly believed himself the worst of sinners, deserving of any badness life would send his way, deserving Lestat, even, whom back then he saw as the capital punishment he was supposed to endure to try and clean his soul (sometimes he still does believe that), but still, Lestat was the thing from which all evil came, the source of all suffering, and Louis blamed him for that.

Hate was an easier concept to understand than love. Love was a feeling that had always been linked to simple relationships, in his life, he loved his parents, he loved his brother, he loved New Orleans, he loved the things he was supposed to love and couldn't even grasp the concept that love was a dramatically complicated emotion, that it sometimes ended up sticking with complicated situations, complicated feelings.

Lestat was too complicated. Therefore, he couldn't be loved. He could only be hated.

Then, things evolved with the passing of time. He came to understand that conflicting and complicated feelings can mean love too. That sometimes you can be scared of a person and still want them near. That you can despise some of their choices, and still ache for their closeness. That you can consume yourself with anger because of their behavior, and still wish to open your eyes again the following night just to witness their recklessness once again, be part of their messy lives, simply be with them, ultimately.

Now that's the only tool he uses to measure love. Desire for proximity. Because it's the only thing that never changes: fear and anger and even disappointment come and go, they fade away. Aching to be near someone, that's a constant. (Or better yet, it isn't normally. But when it is, it always means love.)

"It's not out of jealousy," he says.

Lestat grins, tilting his head. "You said that, not me. So perhaps--"

"No," Louis shakes his head, "I only said it because I know that's what you think. Because that's the force that moves you, most of the time. Desire for possession. You want to own. You want to own life despite having lost it, and that's the point everything originates from. You want to own, and so you think that's what moves everyone else. That's why you believe I'm moved by jealousy."

Lestat frowns, the line of his jaw tensing instantly. "Don't presume to know me that well."

"Oh, but I do," Louis offers him a short smile, curling his lips upwards, because he knows that's the quickest way to have Lestat forgive him, "I know you. I stopped long ago to blame you for this desire for life that animates you. I cannot understand it, not in our conditions, but it's there, inside you, and we all have to come to terms with it."

"If there is something like that inside of me, I'm the only one who has to come to term with it. It's mine."

"That's where you're wrong," another short smile, "We all have to come to term with what agitates your soul, because all your soul ever does is constantly pour out of you and sink us like a tidal wave. We're all continuously left wandering in the aftermath of your disasters. The consequences are ours to deal with, and you have to own up to that."

"You're being dramatic," Lestat grunts, "And you're painting a very poor picture of me."

"You can't ask for an honest talk and then be disappointed when people tell you things you didn't want to hear," Louis actually chuckles, because that's so very like Lestat it's funny, "But anyway. I just wanted to clarify that. No matter what I think of your desire for life and possession, no matter what I think of your jealousy, mine is not jealousy." He offers him another small smile, apologetic, this time. "I'm merely worried about you."

Lestat is so surprised by his words that his eyebrows almost rise up to meet his hairline. "This is preposterous" he says, shaking his head, "You have nothing to worry about."

"David Talbot is the head of the Talamasca, Lestat. These people hunt us."

"They don't hunt. They observe."

"It's the same. And that's not even the problem, anyway," he shakes his head, because he knows there's no point in talking about words meaning with Lestat, "What worries me is that you're too taken with him."

"So you are jealous."

"No, Lestat," Louis sighs, "I'm not jealous. I just know you do mad things every time you're too taken with somebody."

"Ridiculous," Lestat snorts, "When did that ever happen?"

Louis smiles, crossing his arms behind his back and leaning against the wall. "Your last lover almost killed us all," he says. And then adds, "My love," as Lestat often likes to call him.

Blushing both because of the nickname and because, for once, he's been made incapable to deny, Lestat wisely decides not to answer.

Marius

Lestat is not surprised to find Marius waiting for him in his studio when, a couple of hours later, he comes back.

Louis is not with him anymore - it's late enough and he understandably answered the call of the vampire's dreamless sleep - but Marius doesn't seem to be disappointed by that. On the contrary, he seems to be expecting that, and he's smiling as he sometimes does, when there's something witty going on in his mind, something he intensely wants to share.

"I'm behind with my work," Lestat says to cut him short before he even begins talking, as he sits behind his desk and turns on his computer again, "So make it quick."

"You're still working on that book of yours?" Marius asks, smiling faintly as he stands up from the armchair and approaches the desk.

"I am," Lestat nods, "I intend to publish it as soon as I'm done."

"Do we really need it, Lestat? As a people?"

"I don't know and I don't care," Lestat shrugs, "I'm not a leader of people, I am merely a person."

"Merely seems overly reductive when you're the subject of such a sentence," Marius chuckles.

"This notwithstanding," Lestat insists, "I do what I need. Not what the people need."

"Am I to understand from this that your little scuttle bore no fruit?"

Lestat frowns, crossing his arms over the desk, inches away from the keyboard. "What ever do you mean?"

"I mean I saw you running after Louis," Marius smiles indulgently, "And I know Louis was angry. I felt it. And you, my prince, you're always running after angry, potentially lethal things."

"Louis isn't potentially lethal."

"It is for anyone who might love him hard enough. Which includes you."

Lestat sighs, passing a hand through his hair. He cannot deny that. He's got pretty strong instincts, as far as self-preservation is concerned, but Louis is a weak spot. He knows there are things he could do for him that would end up putting him in danger.

Luckily, this is not the case.

"We merely talked," he answers, hoping that'll be enough to get Marius off his back.

"And what conclusion did you come to, about your little quarrel?"

"No conclusion, Marius," he spits out nervously, "No conclusion yet. It's hard to come to any conclusion at all when none of the party involved are prepared to back off at least an inch, after all, isn't it?"

"Undoubtedly," Marius nods pensively, standing straight in front of the desk for a moment. Then he sits down on the edge of it, one hand on the surface to balance his weight as he elegantly crosses his legs. He's wearing such fancy nightwear underneath his deep red velvet robe. Yes another habit only Marius would entertain - sleeping in actual pajamas, despite doing it in a coffin. "Listen to me, Lestat," Marius snaps his fingers in front of his eyes and Lestat frowns, looking back up at him. "Talking is important, that's true. But so is meeting halfway."

"I've never met anyone halfway," Lestat protests, outraged, "I don't see why I should. I'm far ahead of everyone else. They must make an effort to cover that distance."

Marius nods again, ever so slowly. "That's what I thought too," he says, "So I kept running. Expecting others to follow even if I gave no explanation. So I wanted Pandora to do, urging her to drop her humanity altogether when I made her a vampire, just because I had done it so much faster than her. And so I wanted Avicus and Mael to do, when first I dragged them in a battle against the Children of the Night back in Rome and then disappeared for fifty years, only coming back to drag them away again, to Costantinople, where once again I forced them to undertake a task I refused to explain them, just expecting they would follow - and then I wondered why Mael held such animosity against me," he chuckles briefly, shaking his head. "I expected that of Armand too," he adds after a while, sighing, his smile fading away together with the playful light in his eyes, making room for a darker cloud, making them foggy. "I expected him to understand things I refused to explain, and I lost him. You don't want that to happen for you and Louis."

Lestat lowers his eyes, frowning deeply. "Funny you should say something like that," he replies, "You're the reason I lost him the first time. You made me promise not to ever tell anyone else what you had revealed to me about our origins. And so, whenever he asked, I refused to answer. And I lost him to Claudia and to his own thirst for knowledge. Because of you." He raises his eyes again, ready to battle. "And now you're trying to suggest me how to mend our relationship? That's rich!"

"I know," Marius nods, holding his gaze, "It's exactly because I feel guilty that I'm trying to help. You do with my suggestions what you will," he says, standing up from the desk.

He leaves the room silently but a few seconds later. Once again, Lestat can find nothing to contradict him with.

Twice in a row. That's never happened before.