I couldn't prevent him from destroying himself if that was his choice. Sooner or later he would succeed. In fact, my efforts to preserve him would probably give him the extra spur he needed to carry it out. If there is anything Louis really likes, it's showing me I'm wrong and if he can be a martyr at the same time, all the better.
I don't think he was bent on taking it to that extreme, but it's still not a chance I'm willing to take.
And I couldn't lock him up again because imprisonment would only strengthen his resolve. He's had a taste of that already. I couldn't shock him twice. Solitude has always been his refuge. He folds in on himself like tempered steel.
I couldn't force him into the care of Marius or David. He refused to co-operate and he must participate for it to work. Besides, he was co-operating with Nicki, more or less. And Nicki was his own choice. If I foisted my own choice of guardian upon him, then he would resist all the harder.
So I was left with one course of action. Before the night was out, Louis would drink.
I didn't care what I had to do to accomplish it, but those pitiful wounds of his were going to heal. A wounded vampire is a target. A starving vampire is nothing but a monster, once the human parts him have wasted away. I can't fix what might come next, but I could fix this.
I arrived early. Nicki met me with a look of amusement, but he stood aside. His smile vanished when he saw Armand. I saw Armand look through the doorway to the bedroom where Louis rested. Something like ice passed between them.
I brushed past. Louis was standing in front of the window, his body rigid.
'Louis...' I began, stepping closer, but Louis suddenly made for the door as if he intended to march through me. I grasped him by the shoulders. 'Louis!'
'Take your hands off me.' His voice was full of low menace, eyes glittering. 'I will not go. I will not allow you to lock me up again. I am not insane. I do not require any assistance from Marius, you or anyone else. I know exactly what I am doing.'
I shook my head. 'That isn't why I came back.'
His eyes widened.
Before Louis had a chance to move, I had him about the neck, pulling his back tight against my chest. It was as if he weighed nothing. He struggled and kicked, but in his weakened state it had absolutely no effect. I still had ample leverage to work the knife out of my pocket and draw it across the tender flesh of my forearm, peeling open the flesh.
A few heavy drops of blood pattered to Nicki's floor. The irony didn't escape me.
"Let me go!" Louis whipped his head back as far as he could. 'I will not drink!'
As I pressed the wound up to his mouth, he twisted away.
'You will drink.' I said, silkily. 'You're going to drink even if I have to prise you open and pour it down your throat.'
He made a strangled, inarticulate sound, pushing his weight against me in the hope that I might lose my footing. I held firm. My arm brushed against his cheek.
'Wait!' he said suddenly. 'Wait! If I drink, will you go?'
'What?' I relaxed my hold a little, but I didn't let him go.
'If I agree to drink enough to make myself whole again, will you leave me alone and never come back?'
'You must do it now,' I said, ignoring the sting of the contempt in his voice. 'You must do it here.'
He straightened up in my arms and I found that I had released him. He turned to face me. His face was a mask.
'Get on with it,' I snapped.
'Ask Nicolas to come in here.' His voice was deceptively soft.
'Just do it.'
I didn't have to. Nicki appeared out of nowhere, his gaze burning into the healing scar on my arm.
'What is this?' I looked from one to the other. 'He's not a part of this deal!'
Louis ignored me and beckoned Nicki closer.
Before Nicki could open his mouth, Louis had grasped Nicki's hair and tore at his throat.