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The reluctant Gentleman

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When he was a young man, he often wandered alone the lush green swampland that surrounded his family's plantation, a book under his arm and many a dream in his head. He did this so often that he got to know the lizards, possums and all the creepy crawlies that populated the remote wilderness of Louisiana much better than the young people of his class and surroundings. It was in fact to get away from people that he lost himself in aimless wanderings this way. He read aloud avant-garde novels and philosophy to the secret, shy creatures of the night and they responded with pleasant squeaks and scurrying sounds, rather than with snorts and heartfelt manly laughter. He spent many a pleasant hour this way.

In the evening of the 1st of May 1791, he was wandering so in a particularly dark mood. His mother was giving a ball in order to find him a wife. From nights on end, he had suffered terrible nightmares at this prospect: he had always hated balls in general, and this one in particular since, as the guest of honor, he would be unable to escape unnoticed to a dark corner. A couple of hours before his frightful ordeal, he was enjoying his last minutes of peace and serenity, reading a book of Greek myths at the foot of a giant oak covered in Spanish moss, sweetly dreaming of suntanned athletic young men frolicking in the Mediterranean dust rather than corseted young ladies swirling in the suffocating ballroom of a plantation house.

Hearing a noise in the bushes, he lifted his eyes from his book, expecting to greet one of his tiny wild friends. But the creature that stood before him, though undeniably wild, was like nothing he had ever seen! Was it a faun, a satyr, with its wild mane of blond hair, its muscular bare chest gleaming a subtle sheen of red under the moon ? Louis (for that was the name of the young man) stared transfixed as the creature flashed him the most lustful of grins and asked “How come a young, ravishing creature such as yourself look so forlorn ?”

Louis' mind had gone on overdrive, loosing itself utterly in the most perverse fantasies, but the sight of the creature's sharp and bloody fangs, and its question that reminded him of his plight, brought him back to earth brutally. “It's a damn nuisance” he answered in a sulky tone, pouting his lower lip in a way that caused the vampire's (for that was what the creature was) trousers to be suddenly several sizes too small “My mother is giving a ball to find me a wife and there's no way I can escape.”

“And you complain!” the vampire sighed, waving his arms theatrically “I have to prowl for hours in the swamp to find myself a juicy lady to eat, and you moan about a flock of them fawning and fighting all over you!”

At these words, all of Louis' dreams mercilessly shattered to pieces, and he looked at his feet, blushing in shame, and answered in a miserable voice “I'm afraid I don't enjoy feminine company very much”.

The tragic sight of tears threatening to well from his stunning green eyes, and the depth of despair and loneliness in his low, melodious voice caused love and protectiveness to flourish in the vampire's wicked heart, alongside the burning lust he had instantly felt.

“Ah, but Cher” he purred, leaning closer to Louis to force his face up with a gentle caress of his hand on his jaw “I am not talking about feminine company there. Merely a quickly discarded little hors d'oeuvre to better enjoy the plat de résistance afterwards ...” With these words he licked his fangs in such a suggestive way that all of Louis' shattered dreams rose from the floor in a glorious rebirth, like an advertising for Super Glue.

“You could go in my place” Louis suggested hopefully, casting puppy eyes up at the vampire “We're about the same height, and in the dark, nobody will see you too well, and they'll all be drunk anyway. You could feed as much as you like at the ball! I have seen Mother unload truckloads of food from the finest Chef in New Orleans!”

“Ah, my Lovely” the vampire sighed, almost sounding nostalgic for an instant “I'm afraid I have not fed thusly in a long time. But I will take your kind offer of a free meal on the job, it may even be that my feeding rids you of some of these would-be-brides you seem to find so tiresome...”

“But my services have a price!” he continued in a business like manner. “I, The Vampire Lestat, am the Greatest Shakespearian Actor in Paris!” he declared dramatically, striking a theatrical pose with his right foot on the bench next to Louis, his knee up, exposing the stretched muscles of his legs, as though to demonstrate the quality of the merchandise Louis was offered to hire. “I am afraid my playing your part for this little soirée will cost you dearly!”

“Oh ...” Louis said disappointedly, pouting again in his sullen way that had gotten the vampire instantly addicted. He had expected the vampire to perform his little service out of sheer admiration for him and here he was, talking about money. “And how much would that be ?” he asked, his ego clearly bruised.

“My price, Beautiful One” the vampire purred in a mere whisper, caressing Louis' jaw and leaning so close to him that his groin was almost straight in his face “is your utter, unconditional surrender to the very last of my basest whims...”

Louis looked up, surprised, and had to use all his wits to repress a sly grin. For all of his existentialist angst, Louis was no fool. The truth was that he would have gladly surrendered right here and now for free to the magnificent creature's basest whims, but then, if he could get a pleasant evening of peace and quiet rather than dreary dancing on top of that in the bargain, he would be a real fool to decline the opportunity. “Deal done” he answered, blushing and gathering all of his own acting talent to sound reluctant and embarrassed.

“In that case, Precious...” the vampire purred in Louis' ear, nibbling on his earlobe in the process “this will constitute my down payment!” he growled louder, moving at preternatural speed to straddle Louis' lap, urgently forcing his chin up for a searing kiss, his other hand moving lazily underneath Louis' shirt, caressing his lean chest in abstract patterns. When the vampire gently bit his lower lip and began sucking on it, all conscious thought flew from Louis' brain, and when Lestat bit his own tongue, offering him a tentative taste of his powerful blood, the ecstatic haze almost burnt too hard to bear.

Finally the vampire withdrew and Louis, panting and disheveled, found himself staring with dark, unfocused eyes at his own hands that, most embarrassingly, seemed to have moved on their own volition to the bulge in front of Lestat's breeches. Flushing in shame, he said in what he hoped to be a dignified voice, trying hopelessly to regain his composure melted by lust: “We will need to disguise you a bit”. “I would never wear such clothes” he explained, pointing at Lestat's plum and claret silk brocade breeches, and at the ornate lace shirt the vampire had just retrieved from behind a bush to wipe the blood sweat coating his chest. “Also, we need to do something about your hair. Make it look black. I'm sure a mix of soot and shoe polish will do just fine in the dark”.

At these words, Lestat stiffened painfully on his Beloved's lap. Sure enough, he could cut it all off and it would grow back the next night but still, the mere idea of marring his gorgeous blond mane in soot and shoe polish sent cold shivers down his narcissistic spine. Plus, he was already thinking of his reward after he performed his little job, and who wants to spend their honeymoon with dirty, greasy hair or, even worse, bald ?! “Couldn't we use some sort of wig instead ?” he whined rather pathetically.

“Why on earth would I own a wig to match my own hair ?” Louis asked, genuinely puzzled. Despite the severe blow this may cause to common prejudice about men of his sexual inclination, he had very little interest for fashion issues.

“Is there anybody in your family with the same hair as yours ?” Lestat asked, frowning in a way that, as Louis would soon enough learn during their long happy years together, loudly screamed “Danger! Creative problem solving in progress!” …

“My brother Paul, I guess …” Louis answered after a second of deep thinking.

“Show me to your room, Precious Darling ...” Lestat purred mischievously, taking Louis' hand to pull him to his feet.

Louis obeyed and guided his new-found lover to his monacal little bedroom, spartiately furnished but for heaps and heaps of books, slowly molding away in the Louisiana dampness. Lestat wrinkled his nose discreetly: he was very fond of this young man and had every intention to keep him at his side by any means necessary, but all the passion in the world could not make him picture himself living in such squalid surroundings. “Well, I'll just have to burn the whole damn house down and get him to move in with me, problem solved!” he thought to himself with a Gallic shrug.

After brushing some dust aside, Lestat sat himself on the bed and pulled his Beloved down at his side. “I have a cunning plan, my Love” he said in a very patient and reasonable voice “you are going to call your brother, and I will pounce on him and scalp him to make myself a wig!” He grinned proudly, clearly expecting congratulations for his bright idea.

Louis stared at him in shock, eyes wide open and mouth gaping: “But, he'll probably be dead once he has been scalped, and we'll both burn in the flames of Hell for eternity !”

“Oh, don't worry, I'm hungry enough to eat him first” Lestat replied with another shrug “It's quite acceptable to kill for sustenance, isn't it ?”

Louis frowned, carefully considering this unexpected argument but, as he still did not look very convinced, Lestat continued: “Look, your brother is a devout catholic, isn't he?” He had plucked this from Louis' thoughts. “And doesn't the Bible tell us “Feed thy neighbor” ?” Actually, he wasn't quite sure the Bible said any such thing: after all, quite a long time had passed since he was a starry-eyed 13-year-old attending the seminary. He wondered whether the accurate commandment was rather something like “feel thy neighbor's wife” but somehow, this did not ring quite right, and did not seem very relevant to his problem at hand, so he decided to go for the first one. “So, as a good catholic, your brother will only be doing his duty in feeding me. He will be glad to do his duty in front of God, won't he ? Plus, he will go to Heaven instead of wallowing for years and years in the shadow of the valley of death that is this earthly world, the lucky soul!” This last argument had also been plucked from the depth of Louis' darkest thoughts.

As a dedicated reader of philosophy, Louis knew that the most immediate, instinctive reaction was often the furthest from the Truth. The Truth was usually obscure and unattainable but by the rockiest, most treacherous intellectual path. That is why, morally repulsed as he was by Lestat's suggestion, he still took time to ponder it logically. And he soon had to admit that he could find no flaw in Lestat's perfect logic. His argument was perfectly sound, both philosophically and theologically.

“Is that all right, then, Jewel of my Heart ?” Lestat asked tentatively, encouraged by his silence and lack of belligerence.

“Only if you promise to kill him before scalping him, it would hurt too much otherwise” Louis requested sternly.

“Anything to please you, my Beautiful One” Lestat crooned, kissing him tenderly on the cheek.

Louis opened the door to the corridor and yelled towards the darkness “Paul, my brother, please come to see me, I need to talk to you!”

Paul arrived shortly after. Indeed, he had lovely soft black hair just like Louis'. He wrinkled his nose in disgust as he took in the sight of Lestat, sprawled on the bed in his shirt and breeches, and stared icily at his older brother with undisguised contempt.

Louis ignored it and spoke softly to him “Paul, my dearest brother, tonight our beloved mother is finding me a wife, and I want to be cleansed of my sins for my betrothed. I beg you, Brother, absolve this sinner's soul!”

Paul nudged his chin towards Lestat and sneered, hatred burning in his voice “Such a strange way you have of renouncing your evil perversions, Brother”, the inflexion on this last word making perfectly plain his exact opinion on their blood ties. “I'm afraid this is too late for you and you'll burn in Hell for your wicked ways!” For such was the exact extent of Paul's Christian compassion and forgiveness.

Tears threatened to well from Louis' eyes again, for he still loved his little brother deeply despite his bigotry (and despite planning to murder him for his hair, but he would never even have considered such a thing if he had not hated balls so desperately).

White hot temper flared in Lestat on seeing his Beloved so distraught and, without further ado, he pounced on Paul and drained him dry in a couple of big noisy gulps. After licking his lips and fangs clean like a well-bred boy, he proceeded to scalp Paul using one of his hard, shiny fingernail as a scalpel. After carefully licking the blood from the skin and knotting his own blond mane in a tight bun at the back of his neck, he placed the scalp on his head and indeed, it made a very decent looking wig.

“Look, Beloved, how beautiful I am!” Lestat said proudly, fluffing his new soft black waves, and proceeding to kiss Louis' sorrow away, altogether with his lips, eyelids and every inch of his face.

The kisses, and the sight of his lover as sexy as a brunet as he was as a blond, instantly cheered Louis up, and he leaned into his touch, shivering in anticipation for the moment when he would get to pay his debt in full. Those were, after all, dark times when loosing siblings to cut-throats or the yellow fever was daily routine, and those losses usually did not afford you the possibility to escape a dreary ball. On the contrary, they usually forced you to attend a dreary funeral. So, all things considered, the situation looked pretty bright and Paul's drained corpse was soon forgotten.

“Yes indeed, you've made a good job of it, my Demon!” Louis agreed between kisses “But now we need to attend to your clothing.”

Lestat beamed enthusiastically at the suggestion and immediately proceeded to peel off his clothes, parading around his nude body for Louis' benefit. Blushing at the sight of his lover's considerable endowments, and starting to feel uncomfortably tight in his own garments, Louis escaped to his closet where he fussed around longer than necessary before extricating a plain black dress suit and unadorned white shirt. Lestat put them on reluctantly but his mood soon brightened again where he realized than the clothes, slightly too tight for his build, hugged those very endowments in a most suggestive fashion. Preening himself in front of the mirror, he roared in a booming voice “I feel in fine form! I've the impression I'll be a big success tonight!”

Louis could now hear the orchestra tuning in the ball room downstairs, and ordered to his lover: “Go on, now, and remember not to stand next to my mother and sister: they'd know it wasn't me, for sure. Apart from them, I know nobody. Good luck.” He kissed Lestat before he left, offering the taste and feel of his tongue as a token for the full payment to come.

Tired out by the emotions of the day, Louis collapsed on his bed and gave himself over to rest. He tried to plunge himself back into his Greek myths, but the mere mention of healthy young warriors caused ravenous visions of nude blond satyrs claiming payments with interest rates qualifying as usury to torture him mercilessly, until he was forced to put the book away and picked up “Gulliver's Travels” by Jonathan Swift instead. He tried to read to while the evening away but often his mind wandered to more pressing issues, such as eagerly trying to remember any fragments of Louisiana law stipulating that wages had to be paid double for jobs carried after 9 pm, or that 200% tipping was a legal requirement when hiring an actor …

Meanwhile, Lestat attended the ball. It was a sorry affair, a tight-lipped gathering of bourgeois pretenders, united by nothing but their feeble and doomed attempt at creating an oasis of French refinement in the midst of this godforsaken corner of the Savage Garden. But he was not one to dwell on life's little miseries and proceeded to enjoy whatever little pleasures he could get on the job, driven by the prospect of the reward that would come afterward... He smiled, he bowed, he kissed countless hands, gave away countless hypocritical compliments, danced till his head started to swirl and, indeed, fed gluttonously, taking the little drink from several young ladies who were none the wiser for it.

Sometimes later, the music stopped and dinner was served. Lestat seated himself between the two prettiest and dimmest young ladies, planning on having a grand time as only a trio of blonde bimbos can have! Obeying his Beloved's orders, he had avoided Louis' mother and sister all evening, and they were now seated at the other end of the table from him. Reading the mother's thoughts, he was darkly amused by her surprise at her son's graceful manner with the ladies tonight and her hope that, even though he was unable to refrain from his invert ways, he might at least be able to keep them sufficiently secret to spare the family's honor …

Soon after, one of Louis' uncles gave a boring little speech about hard work, family values, and the evil of the Revolution back in the Fatherland, wine was served and a toast proposed. The wine was grandiosely presented as a Grand Cru from Louis' birth year especially imported from the family vines back home.

Though his preternatural constitution was unable to digest mortal food, Lestat could still smell it and occasionally taste it without swallowing when the fancy took him, and God knows he was a fanciful creature. Still, this particular fancy rarely took him, for mortal food mostly seemed bland and tasteless compared to the magnificent headiness of the blood. But he had been a lover of wine in his mortal days, and the grandiloquent speech had amused him, that's why, raising his glass gallantly to Louis's mother, he dipped his tongue curiously in the Grand Cru.

He instantly spat it to the floor, roaring in disgust “Crevindiou! Quel infâme picrate!” Even the dirt cheap wine he and Nicky used to drink had tasted better than this! But then, they had been nifty bohemians, knowing all the good deals and best places to shop, whereas the present company were a bunch of bourgeois pretenders, panting and lolling their tongue when teased with the shiny bobbles of aristocracy. Lestat heavily suspected that all the wine so ghastly that not even a flea-ridden hobo would have deigned to drink it in France was packaged in shiny bottles with elegant labels, and shipped off to the New World to be sold at exorbitant prices. Such a ploy would not be beneath the cunning Frenchmen ...

“Not only do you have to bring shame on this family, but you can't even stick to the ladylike manners of those of your sort !” Louis' sister hissed hatefully.

“Loosen up, Juicy Gueuse! You'd give a man blisters on his private parts!” Lestat roared salaciously. And, with joyful relief, he let out a sonorous burp, for spitting out the offending wine had soothed his delicate palate.

As Anglo-Saxon wisdom has it, a tiger cannot hide its stripes and, as French even greater wisdom had it, try and shoo your true nature away, no sooner will it come back galloping. Just a few hours passing as a mortal among mortals, and Lestat could feel his old Feudal Lord persona take over again. And he felt quite in his element!

Ignoring the paled and gasping faces staring at him, he picked up a scrap of meat from his untouched plate and threw it at Louis' sister's poodle. “Come on, boy, catch!” he ordered merrily. He always had been very fond of dogs. Maybe Louis would let him have one of his own. Wouldn't that be grand, he thought, grinning in childish delight.

The poodle, used to a diet of saucerfuls of milk and biscuits from his Mistress, could not believe its luck at the smell of red meat and, yapping madly, it jumped from its Mistress' lap to the table to catch it. In its unbound enthusiasm, it landed in a plate of soup, splashing green slime all over Louis' sister's dress.

The poor girl stood up and started screaming hysterically, pulling her hair by fistfuls, rather undone by the strong emotions of the evening.

Louis' mother jumped from her chair and, forgetting all pretense of dignity, started berating Lestat loudly: “How dare you! Such a shameful waste of food! When our poor Queen, God bless Her Brave Soul, is being starved to death by those greedy peasants who stole all Her cakes! Shame, Shame on you! I abjure you my son!”

The high pitched screaming from the sister and mother was starting to create sonorous interferences, and Lestat could feel that a mind-blowing headache was on its way. Now, Lestat did not care much for headaches (which, by the way, he called migraines, for it sounded more manly): they made him feel as though he had been thinking too deeply, and this mere idea sent him into cold sweats and whimpering panic attacks... Time had come for action and, if Lestat could be said to be anything at all, it was a man of action!

Leaping over the table like a graceful predator, he drained Louis' sister dead in a couple of big gulps, and wiped his bloodsweat-stained forehead with his sleeve, relieved by the shushing of one tedious source of noise.

Most unfortunately, the other source had doubled in intensity as Louis' mother started wailing in panic. Is it really too much for a man to expect just a little bit of peace and quiet to digest his meal, Lestat thought wearily, before jumping again, albeit a little less gracefully for he was now full as a tick with blood, and draining Louis' mother as well. He burped loudly again, for old woman's blood was a little bit heavier to digest than maiden's blood.

Interestingly enough, it seemed that two murders had been enough the shatter the veneer of civilization painstakingly applied on the savage wilderness of this little corner of Louisiana, for the whole company was now screaming hysterically and running around inefficiently like headless chickens, bumping into each other in their eagerness to reach the door. Swearing to himself, for, it was now inevitable, he would eat too much and end up bloated and fat for his eagerly awaited honeymoon, Lestat leaped to and fro to drain the screaming aristocrats dry one by one.

When he was done, he sat on the table to survey the mount of bloodless corpses, burping a few times and fanning himself with a pretty silk fan abandoned by a slaughtered Southern Belle. He got rid of Paul's bloody scalp and threw it to his best friend the poodle, for him to have a bit of fun with, freed his golden mane from his tight bun and shook it to restore its wave and fullness. But his respite was short lived, for he could now hear ferocious drumming and chanting from outside: his little carnage had not passed unnoticed by the slaves, and they were now threatening to burn the whole damn house down! With his Beloved inside!

That would not do! Not only was the young man very pretty, but he had an unpaid debt to Lestat, and nobody cheated The Vampire Lestat! Not even being burnt alive by a raving mob of murderous voodoo priests constituted an acceptable excuse. After all, the deal was still on: The Ball was definitely over and done with, for all the guests and hosts alike were dead, and Louis had never had to set a foot in it. That was what Lestat considered a job well done!

Beaming with pride, he ran to Louis' room and swept him up in his arms “Hurry, my Darling, my Love, my Own! I'm afraid I will have to forgo proper courtship and ravish you right now, for your house is in flames and an angry mob is out to get you! But worry not, my Precious, for you are now an orphan, so we do not need your mother to consent to our union any more! Besides, I think the Bible says murderers and matricides may dispense with such conventions anyway!” Lestat was dizzy with happiness: he had his Beloved in his arms, and everything was sorting itself out so conveniently!

Louis clutched at Lestat's neck and raised an eyebrow, for the bunch of information that had just been imparted to him was a little much to process. However, he was a well read man with a cold, logical mind, so he instantly knew how to grasp the heart of the problem: “Is the Ball over, my hard-working Demon?” he asked in a stern, business-like manner.

“Yes, Jewel of My Heart, most definitely!” Lestat answered proudly “though I believed a cellist might have escaped.”

“Never mind, my Love!” Louis reassured him, kissing his cheek soothingly “nobody would ever dance to the sound of a lone cello, except maybe at a mass funeral!”

It was one of these very rare occasions when Lestat had enough wits to keep his big mouth shut, or maybe it was just the intoxicating proximity of his Beloved's parted lips. The important thing is that he did not utter a single awkward comment regarding mass funerals, but instead leaned to lick tantalizingly at the curve of Louis' soft lips, claiming his tongue forcefully as soon as he responded.

Breathless and giddy-headed, they parted to stare in awe down the depth of each other's gleaming eyes. “I believe we now have a score to settle...” Lestat purred threateningly. “Indeed we do! Good accounting makes good friends!” Louis agreed eagerly.

Lestat tightened his grip on his Beloved's slender frame and leaped gracefully out of the window, darting at preternatural speed past the slaves, too busy setting the plantation ablaze to notice them.

Lestat ran to the lush cover of the swamp and deposited Louis tenderly underneath a canopy of Queen's Wreath gone wild. Kissing his betrothed deliriously, Lestat divested him of his unnecessary clothing and started attending to the very serious business of subjecting him to the very last of his basest whims. As part of the perfect bourgeois pretender education, Louis had been fed from the most tender age with frightful scare stories describing in bloody details what kind of ravenous radical madmen artists and intellectuals all were, with no respect whatsoever for work ethic and family values . And it was well known that, among this bloodthirsty scum, actors were by far the worst, not hesitating to take their bosses hostage while on strike, eventually hanging them from lampposts, and regularly bringing traffic in the whole of Paris to a standstill with roadblocks in order to get a pay rise. That's why, fearing for his life and the already congested muddy streets of New Orleans, Louis dutifully submitted to Lestat's lascivious treatment, even proposing a few creative suggestions of his own for good measure.

As they lay sated in post-coital daze, Lestat held Louis tenderly in his arms and whispered in his ear: “Do you want to become like me, and be my companion, consort and lover for all eternity, Beautiful One?”

“Well, with my whole family dead, and my house burnt down, and me being a wanted murderer, and probably a dozen voodoo curses on my head, it's not as though I had that many options.” Louis replied very sensibly.

So, after one last kiss on his soft, warm mortal lips, Lestat drained him dry and, holding him to his heart, offered him his wrist to drink from. Louis drank eagerly, and the reluctant gentleman turned into another wild creature of the night.

The pair turned their backs on the blazing plantation, and on all doomed remnants of civilization, and disappeared through the lush swampland into the unexplored depths of the Savage Garden. And together they roamed the Devil's Road happily ever after, leaving a trail of bloodless corpses and unsolved murders in their wake ...

FIN !