I arrived at the hotel just before 2am, paying the driver more than was necessary to wait for me by the front doors no matter how long I might take. I located the room easily enough and after one final glance around the empty hallway, I pulled open the door and stepped inside. The suite was dark save for the moonlight that shone in through the open terrace doors. A sheer curtain waved in the cool breeze and just beside this I could make out a familiar figure leaning back in a leather office chair by the desk. He obviously had not moved from that place since he had agreed to let me come to his aid.
I stepped forward and my fingers found the chain on the desktop lamp. The moment the room was illuminated, he raised his arm to shield his eyes.
“God damn it, Louis!” He groaned in protest.
Only then did I realize the extent of the damages he had sustained when he foolishly attempted to outrun the sun as it rose between Paris and Dubai. Earlier that evening he had nonchalantly referred to it as “maintaining his tan” yet now, standing only a few feet away from him, it was clear to me that he had done much more than that. His once golden skin had deepened to an exotic shade of reddish-bronze and when I reached out to move his hand carefully away from his face, his eyes gleamed unnaturally in the lamp light. If Lestat stood out amongst a crowd of mortals before this, he would be absolutely impossible to miss now.
“Stop staring,” he mumbled and tried to swat my hand away. The pain induced by this sudden movement caused a hiss to escape his dry, cracked lips.
“Let me take you home,” was my only reply.
The drive back to the apartment was thankfully free of discussion and the profanities mumbled as we traveled down a few bumpy streets were kept to a minimum. Once inside, I left him standing in the darkened living room while I made my way down the hall to run a cool bath. Despite the sheer stupidity of his actions, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat responsible for all of this. It was because of me that he had returned to France in such haste.
I lit a single candle on the shelf by the mirror so the overhead lights would not hurt his still sensitive eyes and returned back down the hallway to retrieve him. He followed me without complaint and stood fairly still as I slipped the white silk shirt off his shoulders and carefully removed his remaining clothing as well.
A sharp intake of breath as I helped lower him into the tepid water was the only indication that he was still in a great deal of pain.
I scooped up water in my cupped hands, letting it trickle down the darkened skin of his face and neck. His head tipped back and his eyes closed. My hands moved gently over his body, remembering all too well how sensitive my own flesh had been after a day in the sun. I lost track of time as I sat on the side of the tub, listening to the steady sound of his breathing and the occasional ripple of water as he adjusted his position to prevent putting too much pressure on any one area of skin for long.
Eventually, he rose and stepped out the bath. I pulled a plush, royal blue towel from the rack and passed it to him, but he didn’t take it. Instead, he made a small whimper of pain until I finally understood and began to dry him off.
“Ahh!” He yelped, pulling his arm away suddenly as if I had somehow hurt him. His elbow hit the shelf behind him and dozens of bottles of scented oils and lotions that he had accumulated when he was here previously went crashing to the floor.
“That towel!” He looked at me as if I should already know. “It’s too rough.”
On any other night, I would have rolled my eyes and left him to it, but not this time. This was my fault and I would tend to him until the daytime slumber could heal his preternatural flesh completely.
“I’ll get another,” My tone was patient and calm.
I left him there and went to the bedroom to search for a softer towel. Surely he kept dozens of towels in every color and fabric known to man, but I didn’t have the slightest idea of where to look. I started at one end of an antique, mahogany dresser and began to work my way down, searching each drawer.
“Forget the damned towel.”
I looked up to find him standing in the doorway of the bedroom, naked as the day he was born. His golden hair was soaking wet and each drop of water was illuminated by the low light of the beside lamp as it traveled down the angles and contours of his body to join the growing puddle at his feet. The look in his eyes was one of anguish and an increasing frustration that his skin was not healing itself as quickly as he would like. Lestat cannot stand feeling any sort of weakness and craves control in all things, so this must have been pure torment for him.
“I don’t know how I can help you,” I sighed as he made his way into the room and sat on his side of the bed like he had never been away at all.
“I do,” he proclaimed confidently.
He slid open the drawer of the bedside table and produced a small dagger. I looked at him curiously. The weapon was curved with the handle and sheath decorated in a typical Indian style. It may have been an antique or perhaps something more recently forged. I did not know nearly as much about such things as he did, nor was I surprised to discover that he had it tucked away so close to the bed. It most likely was not the only one in that drawer. Lestat has always had a taste for razor sharp steel. He removed the sheath and the blade caught the lamp light immediately, reflecting glowing line across the ceiling. When he spoke again, I let out a breath I hadn’t even realized I was holding.
“Blood,” He looked at me. “Yours.”
“What?” I was dumbfounded.
He reminded me then of the incident that we rarely ever speak of - of my own encounter with the New Orleans sun and how David, Merrick and himself had spilled their blood on my blackened corpse to bring me back again. If it had worked for me, surely my blood could heal his skin as well. After all, his injuries were not nearly as dire. I couldn’t disagree with him, of course. None of us truly knew how these preternatural bodies of ours worked and if my blood could help to ease even a little of his suffering, I was certainly willing to try.
Lestat lay back against the mountains of pillows as I moved to sit carefully on the bed beside him. I thought I saw the corner of his lips curve into a smile as I rolled up my sleeve and rested my wrist on his waiting hand, but I may have been mistaken. I looked straight ahead when I felt the cold steel press into the crook of my arm and gasped as he dragged the blade all the way down to my wrist, opening up my cephalic vein completely. I had expected a smaller cut.
My first reaction was to grasp at the wound to prevent my blood from spilling onto the sheets, but before I could attempt to do so, he pulled me closer until I was leaning over him watching my own blood spatter against both his shoulder and the white satin pillows behind his head.
He was breathing heavily when I raised my bleeding arm and rubbed the wound across his one side of his face. I looked closely and was almost certain that I could see the slightest change in color on the skin around the edges of the blood. The fingers of my free hand trailed down his shoulder and chest, clearing some of the blood away to reveal the flesh beneath. Was the skin paler there or was I only seeing what I so desperately hoped for?
Absentmindedly, I brought my fingers to my lips and licked them clean.
That was when he grasped my upper arms hard and pushed me onto the bed beside him, rolling on top of me in a movement so fast that I didn’t have a moment to protest. Heat radiated from his sun-burned body as he pressed it against mine. One hand tore at the buttons of my shirt while the other slipped beneath my head, fingers tangling into my hair, pulling my head back until my neck was bare before his lips.
Without the slightest hesitation, he tore into my throat with his fangs. I moaned aloud as I began to feel the familiar pull on my heart. My hands found his back, fingers digging into his heated skin with hardly a thought of the pain I might cause him. I expected him to break free and chastise me for being so careless, but he didn’t react at all. This seemed odd, considering his fragile state. Curiosity got the better of me and I dug my nails into his flesh, raking one hand down his spine hard enough to draw blood.
He paused long enough to growl hungrily against my neck before dipping his head lower to tear a new wound.
That was when I realized that he had been greatly exaggerating the extent of his agony in order to gain exactly what he wanted. Certainly there had been pain, but it was nothing that such a powerful creature couldn’t have dealt with on his own.
“Bastard…” I whispered, but he was too far gone to hear it and I was fading too quickly to repeat it.