by torch, 1996; revised in January 1997

This story is a work of amateur fiction and in no way intended to infringe on anyone's copyright. This contains spoilers for Interview with the vampire, The vampire Lestat, Queen of the damned and Tale of the body thief. It is part of a story arc consisting of three long and three short stories, meant to be read in the following order: Reflections: Not at first sight, A monument more lasting than bronze, Pandora's box, The lilies and the roses, The last gift, and Epithalamion: The wide world dreaming. Do not archive this story without permission.

The epilogue was written a long time after the story itself had been finished, and is to be regarded more as a playful postscript than any attempt at a 'serious' ending. It contains a great deal of sensual blood-sharing between two vampires of the same gender, and not much else... oh, a couple of rude words.

Pandora's box: epilogue

"She was right. The sand really does get everywhere." Louis sat on the edge of the bed and studied his foot. "I've got sand between the toes."

"Like Cristopher Robin," came Lestat's muffled voice from the bathroom.

"What?" Louis looked up.

Lestat appeared in the doorway, his blond hair still wet from the shower, a towel wrapped casually around his hips. "Ah, I've finally found a literary reference you don't recognize. Too bad it had to be from a children's book." He came closer and Louis tilted his head back to look up at him, suddenly feeling a little shy in the presence of so much bare flesh. Lestat's hair was dripping onto his shoulders and chest, the small, clear drops sliding enticingly along his skin. "Come into the shower and I'll wash it all away for you."

Louis looked down. "Well..."

"Please!" Lestat landed next to him on the bed, making the springs creak, and wrapped an arm around his waist. "This is not the right time to be shy, you know. Or—" Lestat's eyes widened and Louis saw a sudden fear come alive in them. "You don't — you haven't — changed your mind, have you?"

The casual tone hid abject terror, and Louis responded to it immediately, wrapping his arms around Lestat, making soothing little noises in his ear. "No, beloved. I haven't."

Lestat took a deep breath and recovered his breezy manner. "Well, then. Get out of those rags and get in the shower with me."

Louis grinned. "And whose fault is it that I'm wearing rags?"

The smile he got in return took his breath away. "You weren't complaining too much at the time, if I remember rightly. In fact," Lestat went on, "I distinctly remember someone who looked a lot like you saying things like Oh, more and Please don't stop and—"

"That's quite enough," Louis interrupted him.

"No," Lestat shook his head, "I don't remember you saying that at all."

Louis had to laugh. "No. I didn't say that." And thinking back to that, their first time of sharing the pleasure and the blood, he did not wish he'd said it, either. It had been rushed, their need for each other driving them to want everything at once. But there would be time enough to savor the experience in a leisurely way, later on. He planted a small kiss at the corner of Lestat's mouth. "And you're welcome to shred my clothes too if you feel like it. After all," he teased, "it will give you an opportunity to shop for me."

"Mm. I liked that velvet and leather outfit a lot," Lestat said dreamily. "You have the most gorgeous legs."

"Thank you. Now if you get in the shower, I'll be right with you, okay?"

"No." Lestat shook his head, his eyes dancing mischievously. "I want to watch when you take your clothes off."

"Yes, but—" Louis suddenly remembered something.

"But what?"

"I'd rather have some privacy for a moment."

"Privacy?" Lestat pounced on Louis, dragging him down to lie wrapped in Lestat's arms. "Beautiful one, I was sharing your soul before. Now you're nervous about taking your pants off?"

"Well, it's different," Louis said stubbornly.

"Of course it's different," Lestat agreed. "But you got to watch when I took off my clothes — and you did, too. I saw the way you were sneaking looks under your eyelashes all the time." He began to rip away the remains of Louis' shirt. "So if you're feeling shy, you'll just have to get over it."

"Lestat, I—"

The kiss that cut off his words, also cut off his ability to think over the next thirty seconds or so. By the end of that time Louis discovered that the remains of his shirt had been thrown on the floor, and Lestat's towel had decided to leave quietly as well.

"Now, that's a lot better," Lestat purred. "Do you like it when I kiss you here? And here? And oh, how about here?"

Louis gasped. Then he pushed Lestat away. "You don't have to try to overwhelm me," he said.

"What?" Lestat blinked innocently at him. "Didn't you like it?"

Louis refused to be distracted. "I haven't changed my mind. And I do love you. I won't suddenly vanish. You don't have to try to smother me with pleasure. If you're feeling worried or anything, I'd rather you talked about it."

There was a brief silence, and in it Louis suddenly heard the sound of waves. The window was open. Lestat lay back, supporting himself on one elbow, accepting the distance Louis had placed between their bodies.

"I've already told you I'm scared," he finally said. "I don't think saying it again will make any difference. Of course I'm trying to distract you. And myself. But really, Louis," a wicked grin slowly spread across his face, "it's taken us two hundred years to get this far. You can't be surprised that I want to try it more than once."

"No," Louis acknowledged with an answering smile. "I just don't want us to get in the habit of doing this instead of talking."

"We've only done it once and already it's a habit?" Lestat reached out and trailed his fingers along the inside of Louis' bare arm. "Louis, I'll talk. I'll talk so much and for so long that you'll wish you'd never asked me to. I know we have much to settle between us and much that needs to be straightened out. But right now, can't we have a little honeymoon?" His fingertips tripped lightly across Louis' shoulder, and then his sharp nails grazed Louis' throat, right next to where rapidly healing marks testified to their earlier passion.

Louis turned his head abruptly and caught those fingers between his lips, trailing his tongue along two fingertips, then piercing one very carefully with a fang, drawing only a tiny bead of blood. He slowly sucked it away and felt Lestat's other hand grip his shoulder, clutch at him draw him closer.

Releasing Lestat's fingers, Louis smiled sweetly. "I suppose so," he said.

Almost before the words had left his mouth, Lestat had drawn him into a fierce kiss; Louis had another tantalizing taste of that precious blood as Lestat deliberately slashed his tongue on Louis' fangs. The taste made him dizzy. Once he had decided to take it, to accept it, to brave the changes and give himself up to that power, he had shivered to think that it had taken him and Lestat so long to share themselves with each other. If they'd known how intoxicating it would be, how close it would bring them...

But there had never been a moment so exactly right before. Now he yielded fearlessly to the pleasure and knotted one hand into Lestat's damp hair, kissing him back, returning the favor, letting his own blood blend with Lestat's. They wrapped themselves around each other, legs entangled, hands roaming freely, wanting to caress every single sensitive spot. Vampire skin against vampire skin, a unique and breathtaking sensation. Lestat was ripping Louis' pants away, tearing them to shreds as he had done with the shirt before, revealing everything underneath.

Louis froze.

"What," Lestat asked him in a neutral voice, "is this?"

"That? This? It's just a, um. A cock ring."

"A cock ring. Of course. Silly of me to ask." Lestat threw himself on top of Louis, pressing Louis down into the mattress, his fangs bared, his eyes snapping blue with anger. "What kind of games have you been playing with Pandora?!"

"It isn't like that," Louis began reasonably.

"Isn't like that!" Lestat cut him off. "Oh no, you're just majorly into the leather scene all of a sudden and it's nothing to do with Pandy dragging you to strange clubs or anything!"

"Of course it's got something to do with that. She took me to this shop and, well, I bought one. Don't you like it?"

"That," Lestat said after a barely perceptible pause, "is not the point."

"Oh. Well, in that case I'll take it off."

"Louis, damn it! Were you having an affair with Pandora?"

"Haven't we already been through this? I told you I hadn't. I thought you believed me."

"That was before I knew she'd turned you kinky," Lestat grumbled.

"I bought this, Lestat, not Pandora. Look, I'll just take it off and we can stop arguing about it and go take that shower and mmmff—"

Louis was cut off by a kiss, again, and felt all at once that that exciting tension was back again. Lestat's arms went around him and rolled them sideways; when they were facing each other, Lestat slowly broke the kiss and said, "Leave it on."

"Not in the shower, Lestat, I don't think the water would be good for—"

"We're not going to take a shower." Lestat's nails were drawing scratchy lines along Louis' spine, not quite breaking the skin.

"No?" Louis lifted an eyebrow.

"No," Lestat said firmly.

Louis traced the outline of Lestat's lip with the tip of his tongue. "But what about the sand between my toes?"

"I'm not really interested in what's between your toes right now." Lestat drew Louis closer, pressing them to each other, one of his legs coming up to wrap around Louis' waist. "Or even in what's around your — ow!"

"That didn't really hurt, did it?" Louis purred, licking the long scratch on Lestat's chest.

"Oh. No."

"Thought so." Louis drew another sharp nail down and made a new cut, a little deeper. More blood welled up. Lestat moaned. Louis lapped at the blood, slowly, teasingly, wanting to draw this out. He felt Lestat tremble, that glorious, powerful body quivering and yielding in his arms.

"Please!" Lestat gasped as Louis made a third narrow scratch.

"Please, what?"

"I want you." Slowly, so slowly, Lestat pulled Louis' head up, away from the cuts, from the blood. "I want you so."

Louis tilted his head back, deliberately exposing his throat, offering himself wordlessly. He felt lips against his skin, a flickering tongue, then harder pressure as Lestat nipped and sucked at his flesh, still not breaking the skin. A fang scraped him, lightly, so very lightly.

"Do it, then," he hissed.

A cry broke from him as the arms that held him tightened and there it was, that unique pain, teeth cutting him, opening him up and he was falling into that dark spiral of pleasure again, images and stray words and sounds and feelings breaking over him in waves. All he could catch was the memory of a beautiful, mortal young man, with black hair and green, green eyes.

Something against his lips, a body hard as marble and the scent of blood and he had to have it, he was out of control, sinking his fangs into Lestat and there it was. It was everything. He could lose himself in this. Taking it all in, giving it all away, perhaps they would blend into each other, become each other, trade souls in this crazy joining.

There was nothing he wanted more, at that moment. And when Lestat finally broke free, pulled him away, Louis made a small sound of protest, before settling down into the comfort of Lestat's embrace.

"I love you." Lestat was speaking into Louis' hair, the words barely audible, his voice light and unconcerned.

Louis wasn't fooled.

"I know," he said, kissing the vanishing scratches on Lestat's chest.

He knew what was coming even as Lestat drew breath to speak. "You know? That's all you have to say?"

"Oh, not all," he laughed softly. "I love you too. I adore you. You are the center of my universe, the light of my life, the—"

"You're making fun of me." Lestat was stiff.

"No." Louis uncurled a little, and caught Lestat's mouth in a light kiss. "I mean it, even though I sound as if I don't."

Lestat looked down, his lips trembling. Then he looked up again. "I do mean it. I love you. I do." He stroked Louis' cheek with one finger, slowly, tenderly, and that simple gesture brought tears to Louis' eyes. "And I promise you I'll learn to say it so you can hear my heart in it."

"You'll have lots of opportunities to practice," Louis whispered. "I won't let you go."

They lay together in silence for a while, trading gentle kisses. Finally Lestat said, "There's an awful lot of sand in the bed."

"Better take care, then," Louis said. "It gets absolutely everywhere." And then they laughed.

* * *

The lilies and the roses

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