Louis lies beside me. He has been drowsy for a while but now his eyes are fixed on me. He’s just said something. I turn my head.
“Do you remember it?” His voice is so familiar that I often don’t hear it at all. The meaning presses directly into my mind just as if we could really commune without speech. This close to him, I can study the myriad tiny colors in his eyes. Green, of course, they’re very green, but I can see a tiny ring of blue and little embers of gold.
He’d said something about the past. I want him to speak again so I can listen to the soft timbre of his voice.
“Tell me,” I say. I close my eyes to embrace the sound. The air is thick and warm. He’s infinitely patient, waiting for my mind to stop racing and my endless preoccupation with my senses to ebb.
“Did you hear me?”
I nod. Our skin is cold. We can’t share body heat like mortal lovers do, but in the press of his flesh against mine something curiously intense connects us, an indefinable warmth born of prickly intimacy. I like the physical contact too. In bed, we lie like lovers seeking the infinite. We are at our most vulnerable here. Each new night bisects us and we part as if we had never known this harmony. He retreats into his habitual distance, that accusing coldness; my tongue grows sharper, confrontational.
I realize what he’s asking me.
“No.” I open my eyes again. “I couldn’t hear you. If I did, I can’t recall a single word.” I bite my lip. I’m a literal fellow. I often enact my own thoughts. Louis watches for signs of evasion or mockery but it doesn’t come. The clock ticks on through a squall of rain. He waits a beat before speaking.
“I didn’t think you’d wake up.”
I simply don’t talk about my time in the chapel, not even to Louis. I’d lain motionless for months. Countless immortals had gathered there to watch me, some in wonder, others to witness how far I’d fallen. Louis had stayed, almost to the end. He’d discretely wiped away the gathering dust and talked to me every night. I didn’t know this at the time; I’d heard it later, but this isn’t what he means now.
“Perhaps I did hear you,” I say, carefully. “After all…” I can’t say it. After all, I got up, didn’t I? I’d made a halting journey to find him only to be greeted by his blackened corpse.
The years slide between us. This is usually where it would end. This is the fault line which we dare not breach.
“I sat beside you for two hours before I could find the courage to speak.” His quiet voice probes the silence. Those little fiery flecks give his face an edge of defiance. “I wasn’t afraid of death. It seemed the perfect culmination of everything that had gone before.”
I sit upright. I don’t want to hear any part of this, but he continues anyway.
“Full circle,” he whispers with a strange half-smile. He goes on to tell me many things. He tells me how he’d suffered at Claudia’s unearthly hands, how her malevolence had shattered his control and he knew he would have no peace again. I hold my breath.
“I didn’t tell David that I’d come to see you. It didn’t concern him. I had no wish to see him before I greeted the sun.”
“Must we do this?” I sound terse. “I’m not talking about this.”
“I’m talking about this.” Silence again. I lean back against the headboard, staring up at the ceiling and the shadowy outline of the fan above. There is a firm pressure on my wrist. Glancing down I can see Louis’ hand on mine. Beneath it, my hand is a fist. He is smiling at me.
“What?” I say suspiciously.
“I haven’t finished.”
My sigh is theatrical. “I really don’t want to hear about what you did.”
“I said goodbye to you. Don’t you want to hear about that?”
Louis resumes his position in the mound of pillows. The subtle arch of his brow was infinitely eloquent. “I told you I loved you.”
“I still have the letter,” I quote it with a sweeping gesture. “’My sweet Master, Lestat...’ Do you still want my forgiveness?”
“Would I get it?” His tone is playful now.
I laugh and resume my place beside him, face to face. Rain splatters on the pane. The clock ticks us closer to dawn. I can feel it now, a creeping heaviness in my limbs. Something electric in the air. There is a steel blind attached to the window frame which can be lowered by day but I never do it. The sun won’t get me nor time itself. Tick all you like, you have no dominion here. Louis extinguishes the candle and settles.
“Don’t leave me again.” His sharp tone covers something else. I listen but his breathing is slowing. The delicious scent of smoky wax fills the air. For just a moment the clock rewinds two centuries.
“All right,” I say and close my eyes.