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DISCLAIMER: The following stories are all non-profit, amateur efforts not intended to infringe on the rights of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, David Geffen, Warner Brothers, Geffen Pictures, Knopf, Randomhouse, the city of New Orleans, the U.S. Consititution, any copyright holders that I might not have thought of or even a certain author who shall remain nameless but who has a set of initials which are, coincidentally enough, just one letter off from spelling "B.S."

Demons in the Dark Part 1, an After spec
by the Brat Queen (Louis) and Lady Black Death (Lestat)

Warning: This spec contains specific spoilers to Mick and Susie's version of Memnoch. It is *highly* recommended that you read it before reading this. This spec also contains language some may find offensive as well as sexual acts.

Immortality Awards:
Winner: Best Louis/Lestat '95-'96


NIGHT ONE

--Lestat--

I bolted awake, screams filling the twilight. My voice or Louis'? I didn't know. Not that it mattered. Screaming, they sounded the same. The next howling wail shattered the air, filled with the hopeless despair of one who had nothing left to lose. Ah, Louis' voice then. My screams echoed only in my heart. The sound poured over my raw nerves like acid. Reaching out to wake Louis I saw that my hand trembled, like an old man. "Wake, beautiful one." I whispered. "Wake and be with me."

Another scream tore from Louis' throat, driving a dagger into my heart - I knew what was coming and hated it with everything in me. I tried to brace against it, but there was no escape. "Lestat! Lestat! Help Me!" And finally "LESTAT!!"

I knew this would be the last before the death sleep released him. My name was always the last. Then Louis flung himself from the bed, crashing into the far wall to land in a trembling heap on the floor.

At once I knelt beside him, but did not touch. I had learned quickly that to touch Louis, as I so longed to do, might provoke another series of screams until the nightmares faded from him completely. Or worse, Louis might react mindlessly to the arms around him. The new dresser against the wall was ample proof of that. Louis had propelled me through the old one some time ago.

"I'm here, Louis. I'm here. You're home. You're safe."

Over and over I whispered the words, Louis gradually calming enough for me to risk extending my hand. I had almost grasped the cool white shoulder when Louis seemed to convulse, doubling into a ball. Then suddenly he was in my arms, great heaving sobs wracking his body. "Make them stop, Lestat. Please, make them stop!" He whimpered like a child, hands clenching into fists against my skin. "I love you, Lestat. Please make them stop!"

I held him, stroking his hair, my own tears mingling with his. Gently rocking back and forth, I whispered first in French, then English, but the message was always the same, choked out over the ever increasing feeling of helpless rage. "I'm here, Louis. I'm here. You're home. You're safe."

Eventually the trembling stopped and Louis lay limp and exhausted in my arms. I hated myself even as I cradled him, for this calm moment was always my favorite part, if "favorite" is the proper term. He could not deny that he needed me, not now. He could not deny that I helped him, that I was doing something to help fight against the nightmare visions, if only for a moment. In some small way, I made a difference.

Finally I attempted to slip my arms under him, to carry him downstairs as I had so many times, but he pushed me away and stood on his own. "I'm... over it now, Lestat." he said. "It's over. I think I need some time." Without another word he shrugged into his discarded clothing from the night before, turned and left the room. Moments later I heard the front door close behind him.

The back of my head thudded dully against the wall as I closed my eyes against a fresh wave of frustration. My arms ached with the need to hold him while my fingers twitched with the need to break something. I knew I could do neither, but entertained myself briefly with the mental image of the dresser strewn about the room in tiny splinters - glass covering the floor.

Eventually I stood and dressed. I hunted quickly, more for the comfort of the warm blood coursing through me than from hunger. I returned home at once, wanting to be there when Louis came back. To my mounting frustration he did not return until just before dawn. For a tense moment I thought he might refuse me when I slid into bed next to him. But finally he turned into me, allowing me to put my arms around him. I drifted to sleep not sure who was trembling, him or me. One of us was.

NIGHT TWO

I bolted awake. "Lestat! Lestat! Help Me!" And finally "LESTAT!!" It was as though we were trapped in a time warp, an endless loop. He called for me, screamed my name, begged me to help him... and once again I was forced to watch him attempt to pick up the pieces alone. Again Louis left almost at once to hunt. I couldn't bring myself to even leave the house. Instead I sat before the fire, willing myself not to think, to simply lose myself watching the flames.

This couldn't continue. He was well aware of his history; he knew that to keep the trauma of the dreams locked away would simply cause them to get worse. But in the last few days he had seemed to regress to a state similar to his return, perhaps even a bit worse. And after three years of fighting them he and I were both totally exhausted. Never in my life had I felt so defeated, not against Akasha, not against the body thief. But Louis' suffering had utterly beaten me.

--Louis--

I walked around aimlessly, endlessly, the memories of my victim that night quickly forgotten only to be replaced by the ever increasing despair that filled me.

What was happening to me?

Every day my nightmares--though I find it an understatement to call them as such--get worse and every night I must suffer through both the memories of the day before and the fear of the day to come.

And what an unnatural thing it is, to fear sleep. Sleep should be that which makes us stronger, gives us solace to face what is to come. But there is no such comfort for me. Nor can I reverse the process, take my waking nights as my time of strength to face my dreams for my nights are filled with the horror of the effects of my dreams which in turn fuels my dreams which in turn fuels my nights until I have turned and turned and turned and completely lost myself as though the very pieces of my soul are torn from my body in this neverending downward spiral.

But best not to think of that. Best not to think of losing myself for then I must face the vision of my past self. The self who appears to me in shining new clothes with a shining new smile and who moves from activity to activity so quickly and with such obsession that I can picture the red dancing shoes on his feet, forcing him on to his inevitable destruction.

Forcing him... forcing *me*.

Ah, but it is not just me now, is it? No. There is also Lestat. My ever vigilant lover who watches for any sign that I am in danger and who has found too much familiarity in the ritual of soothing me after I wake and in trying to fight those demons which he cannot reach but who can find me all the same.

And what am I to do? I cannot face my nightmares alone, yet neither can I allow myself to make these demands upon the man I love and who needs my comfort as much as I need his. This is taxing him far too much for anyone's safety, including his.

But I don't know what to do.

I find that I am standing still. I look up and see that my footsteps have led me home. Home to Lestat once again. And as I stand there I know that there is nowhere else I want to be and that I want nothing else than to go inside and have Lestat hold me and tell me that everything will be alright even though he cannot begin to fully know what it is that troubles me.

A wave of exhaustion overwhelms me and I make my decision. I go inside to him, but put a clamp upon my fears. I must not let them get out of control as they did before or it will be the downfall of us both. So long as I have that control, I can face him.

It is only the thought of losing that control which terrifies me now.

--Lestat--

Who knows how much time had passed? A sudden noise drew my attention, and I looked up to see Louis standing in the doorway. He looked as weary as I felt, and at once I opened my arms to him. He stretched out next to me and for the first time that night I felt myself begin to relax. The world seemed a much better place when Louis was in my arms. I closed my eyes, sighed deeply, and felt myself begin to drift.

I noticed the cold first, the damp chill which went straight to the bone, and I shivered. I was so cold! As though I hadn't fed in days. Blinking rapidly, I tried to bring my surroundings into focus. The room was dark, even to my superior vision. No windows, walls of stone. The dull gleam of metal caught my eye, and I saw a massive table in the center of the room. On it, glinting now and again, rested weaponry of every shape and size; knives, whips, even a flail, reminding me of my mortal days when I went to hunt the wolves. The walls - there were chains on the walls. It suddenly made sense. I stood in a torture chamber.

Turning slowly, I scanned my surroundings. The shadows darkened, lengthened, then one seemed to leap out at me. Someone was chained to the wall, hanging lifelessly, the weight of the painfully thin body supported by thick cuffs at the wrists. I couldn't quite see... Moving with maximum stealth I approached the skeletal figure, his blood soaked hair hanging around his face like a matted shield. Angry red welts crisscrossed his body in a pattern I felt I should know...

The poor devil made the slightest movement, raising his head slowly, painfully, and I froze. For just the briefest of moments our eyes met and I gazed into the emeralds I knew so well...

It was common for me to wake to the sound of screams. It took me a few moments to realize that these screams were, at last, my own.

As if from a great distance I heard Louis' voice, calling me over and over. It was his voice that drew me from the horror of the vision, his voice that I clung to like a lifeline. "Louis?" I finally whispered, my voice raw.

"Lestat, what happened? Can you tell me?"

I looked around in surprise. When I had drifted off we had been sprawled on the sofa. How had I gotten on the floor? Against the wall? "I had a dream."

He smiled gently. "So I gathered. Do you remember what it was about?"

I looked into his eyes, identical to those in my vision. "No." I lied, the pain ripping into me. "I can't remember. I want to go to bed now."

I stood on legs that still shook, slightly, and headed upstairs. I stripped of my sweat soaked clothing and climbed into bed. At once Louis curled around me, holding me tightly until the dawn filled the sky. My thoughts were troubled, and for the first time I dreaded sleep not for the scene we would have upon waking, but for what might await me during the daylight hours.

Perhaps this was madness at long last. Perhaps I had finally fought beyond the level of my endurance. I was still shivering when sleep claimed us both.

NIGHT THREE

I awoke disoriented. Something wasn't quite right. I looked over to where Louis slept, his breath coming in quick gasps. "no." he moaned quietly. "please... not like this..."

A new dream? A new nightmare? I knew he suffered from variations, but all along one of three central themes - the wall, the temple, and the sun. This was new. "no..." he moaned again, and I reached out to caress his hair from his face. "Juliano... don't! Please! We didn't..." He gasped and bolted awake, staring wildly around the room, searching for someone. Juliano perhaps?

"He's not here, mon cher." I said quietly. "Juliano is dead. It's just me, now."

He shook his head, still searching, until he finally understood where he was. "Lestat." He blinked rapidly, then smiled. "At least we're not on the floor this time!"

"That was new." I commented. "Was it a new dream?"

He looked away. "No, I've had it before."

"Which one was it?"

Clearly he didn't want to discuss it. "I was chained to the wall..."

It was as though cold water had poured over me from the heavens. Until that moment I had forgotten my own nightmare. I abandoned my questions at once and fought for calm. Louis needed me, and I had little enough strength for him anymore.

"Come on." I said, ignoring his small sigh of relief. "I need to hunt."

After feeding I felt much better. I returned home moments before Louis walked in. He spirits seemed improved as well, and I thought that perhaps the worst was behind us.

"So, what shall we do tonight?" I asked brightly. "Movie? Dancing?"

"Snuggle."

The warmth of his smile melted into me. "Well, if you insist." I drew him into my arms and kissed him, keeping it light, teasing him. Then we headed back to lounge before the fire, cuddling. I felt ridiculously safe and happier than I had in days. Nestled against him, I listened to the quite thrumming of his heart. The light of the fire bathed us with warmth and peace, and I found myself wondering, as I finally drifted off, how a nightmare could possibly find us in such a serene setting.

Louis' heartbeat suddenly increased, not so much in rhythm, but in volume as the fire danced before my eyes. I blinked rapidly, trying to clear my fogged vision. The beat grew ever louder, shaking the stone walls themselves with the power of the drums. The amphitheater seemed to have been carved from the bowels of the earth, bonfires and torches the only source of light. The air was thick with the stench of sweating, unwashed mortals, sickening sweet incense floating in clouds above us.

In the heart of the amphitheater lay an altar, shaped as a pyramid, with rows upon rows of steps leading to the flat top. Mortals swarmed the steps, and the theatre itself, but the altar itself was curiously devoid of activity.

As though responding to an unseen signal, the throng grew silent, clearing a path up the stairs to the altar. Figures appeared through one of the arched doorways, moving slowly through the crowd and finally up the stairs. A chant began, soft at first, but then increasing in intensity until it drowned out even the drums. "MEMNOCH! MEMNOCH! MEMNOCH!"

They were dancing now, moving with wild abandon, and above them all Juliano gave his hideous benediction, beckoning for a small clump of people to come forward. I was still too far away to see for sure, but I thought I could make out a tiny figure struggling between them. That of a child...

Furious motion erupted at the base of the altar, torches and worshippers alike tossed aside like ragdolls as a desperate figure attempted to gain access to the altar. At once I moved, trying to propel myself through the crowd, but to my horror I seemed mired in quicksand. What should have been a journey of seconds became nearly impossible. I could only watch as Louis was captured and the little girl thrown into the flames. Louis' voice slashed into me. "Claudia!" he screamed as the mortals swarmed around him, holding him. I saw them strip Louis' garments away, exposing his pale skin to the fascinated gaze of the faithful. Juliano drew his own knife, carving a wound deep into Louis' inner arm. He was already bleeding from a scalp wound, but this sent a small river of blood down the altar steps. But the worst was yet to come. Inertia trapped me where I stood, my vocal cords clenched tightly by a brutal, invisible fist. I watched helplessly as Louis was carried to the altar and surrounded by over a dozen of the fiends, all of them with knives drawn. I choked out a moan, deep in my throat, pulling at my leaden limbs to the limits of my strength as the knives arched down... and suddenly I forgot to breathe... Impossible! I heard Louis' voice in my mind. :Lestat!: he cried out as the knives plunged into him. :Lestat! If I ever needed you, Lestat, if I ever loved you, please hear me!:

I saw the priests swarm over Louis, drinking from the open wounds, and screamed... "NOOOOOOO!"

I was awake. Some part of me knew it. And yet I felt myself trapped in the temple. If I tried I could still smell the incense clinging to my skin. I heard Louis calling me, saying my name, and immediately I responded. "I'm here! Louis, I'm here... for the love of God... I'm here!"

"I know you're here, mon cher." Louis whispered comfortingly. "Of course you're here! You're in my arms, safe again." I could hear the sad smile in his voice as he held me tightly. "Who would have ever thought nightmares were contagious?"

I said nothing. All I could do was turn into his embrace, clutch him to me as though my life depended on it. Mon Dieu... I hadn't known. The little girl... he never told me. The knives, the rape afterwards, yes. But Louis had deliberately omitted the death of the child, sparing me that particular horror, bearing it alone.

I suddenly stilled, and Louis looked at me, the question plain in his expression. But I simply shook my head and stood, feeling a need to move. I didn't go far, choosing to pace before the fire. Had there actually been a little girl? Or had I, in fact, internalized so much of Louis' story that I had begun having nightmares myself, incorporating my unending guilt over Claudia with my fresh guilt over Louis? Were these hellish visions his, or my own? I had to know.

--Louis--

I watched as Lestat moved back and forth as though he were caged like the very lion he appeared to be. I remained on the couch, caught in a nauseating sense of deja vu, knowing that this was the same scene that has been played out between us for months upon months, only now it was Lestat who was upset and I who had to find the words to help him through it.

"Was it very bad?" I asked.

"Yes," he said, tersely. There was a slight movement in his hands and I knew that he was fighting the urge to break something.

"As bad as mine?" I asked, hoping to distract him from this.

"You had a nightmare as well?" he stopped his pacing long enough to look at me.

I hadn't been referring to that when I spoke, but I could not lie to him.

"Yes," I said.

Another flicker of movement in his hands. "Which one?" he asked. "The sunlight?"

"No," I said. "It was the Temple. The Sabbat."

"Ah," he said, thoughtfully. "Where Juliano proved that he was insane once and for all."

There was a strange note of certainty in his voice when he said this, but I do not know why or how.

"How do you mean?" I asked him.

He shook his head dismissively, then continued pacing. "You know how I mean," he said. "When he attacked you like that, with no provocation at all."

I closed my eyes and the memories of that moment played before me in a sickening slow motion. "He had provocation," I said softly, mouthing the words more than actually speaking them.

Lestat looked at me sharply. "What do you mean? What provocation did you give him?"

I pressed my hand to my forehead. "Lestat, please," I said. "I... I'd rather not discuss this."

"No," he said. He stood before me. "I think we should discuss it, Louis. Maybe this is why your dreams have become as bad as they have, because we've been trying to avoid them. And that is too much like what we have done before for me to be happy with it."

There was a look of both fear and concern in his grey eyes. I sighed, knowing what "before" he was referring to and the thought of it frightened me as much as it did him. But I was slightly more frightened of Lestat's reaction should he find out the full content of this particular dream. I struggled to find a way out of this.

"What happened, Louis?" he asked.

I settled on a half-truth. "He attacked me because I attacked one of his priests," I said, hoping that it would be the end of it, but knowing that it wasn't.

He paced a bit more, then leaned against the mantle of the fireplace and stared into the fire.

"Was that all?" he asked. Once again there was that note of certainty in his voice, as though he already knew the answer and my giving confirmation of it was only part of a dance that we were both caught up in and helpless to stop.

"Lestat--"

"Was that all?" he said it more firmly this time, enunciating each word with a particular force that only Lestat could give.

"No," I said, dread filling me as I saw the outcome of my words.

"What?"

I swallowed hard, knowing that I could not hold this back from him any longer.

"He... burned a child," I said. "A little girl. I tried to get to her in time." I closed my eyes painfully. "I couldn't."

There was an excruciating silence before I heard Lestat take in a hissing lungful of air.

"God DAMN!" he yelled, his words deafening. Anger filled his every movement and his eyes turned murderously cold as he looked for something to take his emotions out on.

"Don't you dare!" I said, getting up from the couch.

"What? Dare what?" he demanded, clenching his hands into shaking fists.

"Don't you dare do whatever it is you are about to do," I said. "Don't you dare make this about Claudia or about your guilt for making her or about anything else that has to do with you! It has *nothing* to do with you! It has nothing to do with anything! It is a terrible, horrible thing that happened to *me* and the only thing I want is for it to have never happened but it did and there is nothing that either of us can do about it!"

"Louis--"

"I don't want to talk about this anymore," I said. "I'm going to bed."

I turned on my heel and left the room. Lestat made no attempt to stop me. I'm not sure if I was happy about that or not.

In any case, I was alone in our bedroom for quite some time. I readied myself for sleep, then lay down under the covers, hating the fact that this was yet another night that the day would come without Lestat and I being intimate together. I wiped away tears of frustration, knowing that even if Lestat appeared to me right then and there, there wasn't enough time for us to be together. The sun was about to rise.

I heard the sound of his footsteps, then the sound of the door closing and being secured. The bed moved under his weight as he removed his boots, then slid under the covers with me.

"I'm sorry," he said, kissing me on the shoulder.

For what? I wanted to ask him, but his voice had sounded so contrite that I didn't have it in me to hurt him that way. When I did not reply, he moved away from me so that I would not have to feel him lying against me.

It was only then that I remembered.

"Lestat?" I asked, not turning to look at him but still with concern.

"What?"

"Your nightmare. I never--what was it about?"

There was a long moment of silence.

"I dreamt," he said softly, "that someone was hurting you."

"Oh God," I whispered. "Oh God, Lestat, I didn't know. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

The sun was rising now and I could feel my limbs turning to lead but I forced myself to turn around blindly, searching for him. It was with relief that I felt his arms around me as he pulled me close.

"I'm sorry," I said again, or tried to.

"I know," he replied, the words sliding into my thoughts as the last ray of sun hit the earth and I lost hold of myself entirely. DAY THREE

--Lestat--

Had it not been for my vampiric nature I would never have found rest that day. I fought the death sleep which might lock me into another nightmare - another shared vision of hell. Even though I had been with Louis (with few exceptions) every night since his return, I had no idea just what strength had been required for him to go on. The very thought of facing another dream filled me with a dread which nearly defied comprehension.

With Louis wrapped securely in my arms once more, I succumbed to the rising sun, trying my best to brace myself for what might lie ahead. But nothing could have prepared me for what awaited.

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