Interview with a vampire
 

Interview With a Vampire

@Anne E. Fraser and Jean G Hontz

 

Alex had left for Maine a few weeks ago and now Adele was back to classes. Time to return to the life that the world saw. After their lovely week, Adele was all the more eager to attend the summer programme. Art restoration, and the chance to do something other than read about it,
tickled her fancy. And she knew and loved the small, unimportant but
beautiful old building where they would be working to try to bring back
the beauty of the frescoes and other architectural features. And Alex
would be there....

Adele found herself rushing about, however, trying to get all the last
minute details arranged. A wardrobe for serious work, a wardrobe for
nights with Alex, books she'd need (hopefully not to many of those),
and other necessities.

She'd spent one night at his villa (during the Masque) but at the time
was hardly paying that much attention to the details of the place.

So, she'd get what she knew she needed and order more if the Villa
proved to be in need of something else.

Thus it was, one evening after class, Adele had gone shopping. To her
unmitigated chagrin, Benoit had turned up. At her elbow. In that way
he had.

"Benoit..." Adele sighed at her shadow, who even came into the shops
and hovered over her. He was harder to shake than Alex at his
remoraest. "Just stop for a minute. Please. Let's talk."

"Certainly, if you wish." He still hovered, though.

They were near a convenient sidewalk cafe--this being Paris, trade at
the cafes didn't stop for a mere detail like total darkness. "Here,"
Adele pointed, desperately, "let's go sit down, order a drink, and talk
like normal people. Can you do that?"

He gave her a serious look. "I think I am capable of such action,
yes," he replied gravely. There was the hint of a smile behind his
eyes, though.

In a short time, they were seated across from each other at a table,
the world's most unlikely couple. She saw how he scanned every patron
at the cafe and every passer-by on the street.

Adele ordered two Turkish coffees. She doubted Benoit would drink his
but it looked better if she ordered two.

A young man sitting at another table ducked his head at Adele and
smiled. Adele smiled back, then turned her attention back to Benoit.
He'd seen this and was frowning at the poor young fellow.

"Look," she said. "If you're going to be my bodyguard, then we're
going to have to work something out here. You can't follow me
_everywhere_. You can't stop me from meeting people. You can't come to
classes with me. And you're going to have to relax a bit."

"I have my assignment from my Prince," he said simply. "I have already
failed to protect you when my Prince asked me."

Adele rolled her eyes. "Understand this," she said. "I love Gen like a
mother. But the Prince sets my teeth on edge. You didn't fail her.
You didn't fail me. You were up against powerful magic at le Borget,
and you did your best. You distracted them and let Alex get to me on
time. I probably owe you and Owen my life, and Alex's life. So if I
ever hear you say again that you failed at le
Borget, I'm going to kick you in the shin."

"You already did," he reminded her, not looking terribly worried.
"When you were returned from having been forcibly taken by the demon, I
blamed myself and you kicked me in the shin and told me to stop."

"And well I should have! Not even Julian was able to prevent that. And
he has great magic. And, as I've said a hundred times before, le
Borget was an impossible situation for you to control. For any of you
to control.

" Please, Benoit. You didn't fail me."

He looked uncertain, but nodded. "Very well," he said. "It is bad
enough I must live with one failure, let alone two."

"Which probably wasn't a failure, either, I'll bet," Adele said.

"Oh, but it was. I failed my Prince."

"Oh please. Gen doesn't think you're a failure, she depends on you."

"Not Madame de Monet. I failed Claude."

"You knew Claude?" Adele leaned forward, fascinated, dying to hear
about the sainted late Prince from a different source than his widow.

"Certainly I knew him. He was my turnsire."

She leaned back again. "Doesn't the turning usually involve... uh...
sex? You really don't strike me as the type."

Unexpectedly, he laughed, and she liked him better for it, that he was
secure enough in his masculinity not to take offense. "It is not
strictly necessary," he said with a grin. "Claude was not the type,
either, I assure you. He was recruiting les Gardiens, and chose those
he thought would turn out to be good fighters and good vampires. He had
seen me fight and wanted me as a Gardien. He asked if I wished to be
turned. I had very little to live for at that point, so I said yes."

She surprised and startled him when she reached out and took his hand.
Her eyes were kind and that too was a bit hard. But thankfully she did
not make a fuss over his confession of misery.

"What was he like?" Adele asked instead, as if she sensed his
discomfort. "Or can't you tell me the truth because he was your
turnsire? I suppose you'll say he was an absolute saint."

"Would you like me to lie to you, Adele?" Benoit challenged. "Would it
please you to hear that he was an evil, cruel man, a terrible Prince,
that he beat his wife and treated his fledglings like dirt? Of course
he was not a saint. But he was a good, honest man, a good Prince. And
he loved Genevieve."

Adele thought back to her visit to Claude's study and the look of them
together in the portrait of the Council. Yes, he did love her. She
felt it as well as saw it in that painting. Still, "A sad sort of
love, though, tying her down as Prince after him. I used to be able to
be angry with him for that, but now... She chose it. So tell me about
him, please."

"Claude didn't ask to be murdered, Adele," Benoit said softly. "That
is how I failed him. I was supposed to go with him that night, to
investigate the rumours of the return of Etienne Corbeau. But he could
be bloody-minded stubborn, could Claude--there, you see, he was no
saint. That streak of wilful independence is carried on in his widow
and the whole bloodline--and by some other people I could mention
sitting at this table."

"And I love you all the better for it," Adele commented quietly as she
sipped her coffee.

Benoit would have coloured if he could have. He'd meant her!

"Go on please," Adele asked.

Benoit shrugged. "Not that much to tell. Claude did not want to place
me in danger; Corbeau was a madman, a killer. So Claude gave me the
slip that night. And he did not come home."

Adele gave that some thought as she let her eyes wander through the
crowd. How many other vampires were out there that she just didn't
notice? She'd have to learn to be more observant. Pay more attention
to her surroundings. She'd learned a lot over the last few weeks. Most
of it she wished she'd never learned.

"Then you could not have failed him, Benoit. He did not want to take
you along. That was his right, non? As Prince you would have had to
stay behind if he'd ordered you to do so, n'est-ce pas? Thus, it was
his choice, not yours. And his mistake, not yours."

Benoit opened his mouth but Adele was quicker. "I want you to really
consider it, not just jump in there and assume the blame. Goddess
knows there's far too much blame in the world without us needing to
manufacture more of it."

Then she added with a sigh, "I'm rather good at manufacturing it
myself. So I understand the motivation. But that doesn't make it right
or even useful to do so. It's self-defeating, Benoit. And if you wish
to be effective, you must put such self-indulgence aside and look at
things realistically and clearly."

He pushed aside his untouched coffee. "Yes, all right," he said. "But
if we are looking at things realistically, then you should try it,
too."

"What do you mean?"

"Look at the Prince realistically. You seem, along with Julian, to
have the oddest idea that she was thrust unwillingly into the position
and maintains it only out of memory of her love for Claude."

"Do we?"

"Madame knew what she was doing when she married Claude, Adele. He
concealed nothing, told her no lies. She went in with her eyes open,
knowing that she would be Prince if Claude died, knowing what it meant,
accepting the responsibility and the burdens. She is no unwilling
martyr to the Law."

Adele frowned and thought it through. 'Yes. Certainly when one
marries someone with a title and a position, one knows and one
understands the requirements that go along with that, but still, I
doubt Gen was thinking entirely rationally. She was in love, yes?"

Benoit nodded.

"But I will do my best no longer to assume she is stuck in the position
entirely unwillingly. Now if only you can help me get her to more
fully accept Jean as an equal partner, just as Claude accepted her as
one."

Before Benoit could answer two young women rushed up to envelope Adele
in hugs, and words. Benoit had made a move to intervene but had backed
off barely in time. Ai, this girl...

"So," said the one Adele had called Yvonne, "the handsome tall fellow
from Maine is barely out of Paris and you turn up with a new
boyfriend?" She was eyeing Benoit with undisguised interest.

Adele's lips twitched. "Maine is a long way away."

The other young lady squealed and mouthed, "Oooooo!"

Adele, calm but fighting back a grin at the dismayed look on Benoit's
face, said, "Benoit, this is Yvonne and Madeleine. Ladies, Benoit."

He stood up and took their hands, bowing slightly, aware of his
appearance.

These ladies were going to wonder about Adele's taste in men.

"Benoit is quite different from the outrageously handsome man from New
England, Adele." Yvonne teased. "Not that I would throw this one back,"
she added, winking at Benoit.

"Oh, you know how it is," Adele replied with an airy wave. "Variety is
the spice of life. And what Alex doesn't know won't hurt him," Adele
couldn't help adding with a giggle at the look on Benoit's face.

"And what do you do for a living, Benoit?" Madeleine asked breathily.

Apparently neither of them found Benoit's grown-up street urchin looks
objectionable. He risked a smile. They both smiled back. Dieu.

"Oh, I am a famous international jewel thief," he replied.

The two ladies looked unsure what to say. Adele smiled serenely.
"Yes, poor boy had to make a deal. He's now working for the Art
Antiquities police. Trains them on how to track down his former
colleagues."

"Oh, how interesting," Madeleine gushed as she sank into a seat beside
Benoit. "And how delightfully wicked!" She batted her eyelashes at
Benoit.

"Down girl," Adele said with a giggle. "Find your own fellow."

"Hmmm. I'm after the fellow from Maine, since I think this one will be
far more than you can handle Adele," Yvonne said with a rich laugh.

"Do you mind sharing Adele with that elegant fellow from Maine?" Yvonne
asked Benoit.

"If she chooses to amuse herself with that mere boy, who am I to
object?" Benoit asked, sounding as if the whole topic bored him. "I
know that sooner or later she will tire of shallow prettiness and come
back to me."

There was a look in Adele's eyes that promised her bodyguard he was
probably going to pay for that remark later.

They sat chatting and laughing, teasing each other, for nearly an hour
until Yvonne and Madeleine remembered they were supposed to be
elsewhere. Blowing kisses, they fled in a flurry of giggles.

"Charming," Benoit said, watching Yvonne's butt wiggle away into the
Paris crowds.

"Yes, she is," Adele said with a frown, eyeing Benoit speculatively.

"What?" Benoit asked.

"We are going to do yet more shopping. Now."

"Shopping?" Benoit looked a bit terrified at the prospect.

"Yes. You need a better wardrobe."

"Me?" he gasped out.

"If you are going to follow me around everywhere I go, then you are
going to look damn good doing it. And *I* need to shop for Venice. No
arguments; let's go."

He opened his mouth, saw her stamp her foot, and closed his mouth
again. He followed her meekly, letting her buy him fashionable
clothes. His one attempt to object to her spending money on him was
met with another stamped foot. On _his_ foot.

"If you want to pay me back," Adele sniffed, holding a sports jacket up
against him to judge how he'd look in it, "then talk."

"About?" he asked, somewhat wildly, taken completely off-balance by
this attention, not having expected to find Adele a friend.

"Oh, about life, vamps and everything. About the Gardiens. About what
the whole 'in the blood' thing means. You know, when Alex began
hanging about me so closely I thought it was just him. I don't think
it is. I think it's some part of the whole 'in the blood' thing. I
mean, here's Gen, set you to hang about so closely after me. And you
seem to think this is normal. And lord knows Jean hangs about Gen.
So, I'm thinking it is some sort of heritable trait."

Benoit, relieved to see she was tending toward buy clothes much like
what he was wearing rather than dressing him up like some snooty
society fellow, felt more inclined to talk, to chat, even, with this
young woman who at times had him so off balance he didn't know which
way was up.

"When you become a vampire," Benoit said, doing his best to think about
what she had asked and phrase it so she would understand, "you lose
your family. You are no longer precisely the person you were before
turning. Of course, you are no longer human, but it is not just that.
Much of your own blood must be drained, and replaced with that of your
turnsire--or dam. So you take on some different traits, because of the
blood. No," he shook his head at her, seeing her open her mouth,
"don't bother to tell me that's not possible. I am aware that a blood
transfusion from human to human conveys nothing but blood. Vampire
blood is different. It's very... invasive. It changes more than just
your dentition and sleeping habits. There are some traits that are,
yes, inherited."

"So hovering is a trait of those with Claude's blood?" Adele asked.

A grin. "So it would seem. If it bothers you, however, I can easily
fade back so that you never see me."

"And waste all this shopping?" Adele said. "Not on your life. I'd
rather have you where I can see you. But not all the Gardiens are of
the blood. Some aren't even vampires."

"No.  Claude and  Madame saw the need
to expand the Gardiens, to include all those who are... different.
Shifters and witches and the Nameless. And to recruit willing vampires
of all bloodlines, so that there is a broader representation."

"She has a name, you know. Genevieve."

"Of course I know that. But I have the greatest respect for her."

"It might help things if the Gardiens treated her like a human being
for a change," Adele snorted. "Have you _ever_ argued with her, or
answered her back?"

Benoit looked at her as if she'd asked if he'd ever murdered a baby.
"Certainly not," he said.

"Try it sometime. At least ask a question. Better yet, make a
suggestion," Adele replied, unfazed by his offence. "Do you like being
a Gardien?"

"Yes. I am a fighter; it is a fit calling. And an honour."

"The Gardiens... do they approve of Jean?"

Again that slightly surprised look. "Why shouldn't we? Jean and I
have been friends since Mad...since Genevieve turned him. He is
another such as I; a fighter, although a rather higher class of one
than I. Jean is a Gardien, after all; she recruited him herself."

"We need to help them out, Benoit. We need to make Gen see Jean is
more than a Gardien or her fledgling, that he is her equal and can
share the burden of being Prince."

"And how do we do that?" he asked, manfully picking up the multiple
packages she handed him.

Adele's forehead was scrunched in concentration. "Maybe the best way
would be for you Gardiens to go to Jean rather than to Gen when you
have questions regarding security, or assignments. She _did_ say that
he was in charge of those things. If she saw you accepted his
leadership she might be moved to letting go of at least that worry.
She's way too much worry, Benoit. She's been very
unhappy. She needs to not have so much pressure on her all the time.
She needs to...to....shop now and again, you know?"


Benoit regarded her solemnly. "Yes," he said. "She has been very
unhappy. She loved Claude so..." he sighed. "I have never seen any
woman so shattered as she was that night. But that was a long time
ago, and she has healed. She loves Jean, I know this; but they argue a
great deal. I will suggest what you said to the Gardiens, it will help.
And after all, we have already seen him take the lead in security
matters; he hired Owen to be their bodyguard and major domo."

Adele, who knew the truth of Owen's hiring, had to cough. "Sorry, frog
in my throat," she said, fighting a grin. "Yes, I'm so glad he did
that," she added sincerely. "It's a real relief to know they have a
reliable protector in the daytime; I'm sure you'll agree."

He nodded. "Owen is a true Gardien," he said. "All of us feel happier
knowing he is at the chateau during the daytimes and that he protects
the Prince and her consort." They reached the house at the Quai and
Benoit juggled his packages.

"Thank you for this," he said. "It was not necessary." He still
looked a bit surprised; Adele suspected that there had not been a great
deal of kindness in Benoit's life.

She smiled into his eyes. "Of course it was necessary. We are family
here, much as the Gardiens are family. We may have roles but we are
all of one mind. And we all respect one another. And, if I must have
a babysitter, I'm very glad indeed you're mine."

He kissed her hand and said, "But I will not be ... babysitting you in
Venice," he said, looking a little sorry for that. "Mada...
Genevieve," he corrected himself hastily before she could step on his
shin again, "has said that Alexander is sufficient protection and that
she trusts Prince Carmine not to Let anything happen to either of you."
His expression changed to doubtful, as if he didn't share his Prince's
high opinion of her Italian counterpart. "And of course, Giorgio and
Lucia shall be there." He seemed happier about that, and Adele started
to worry. Two more remoras? "It shall be a very long summer, with no
assignment," he concluded mournfully.

"Where will you spend the summer?" Adele asked as they made their way
back to the Quai.

"Here. I am Parisian. I will visit the Loire to say hello to my
friends and colleagues but here I will stay. And Mr Vaurien...Julian,"
he hurriedly corrected himself, "has created for me a suite," the word
came out with a bit of difficulty for him, "in the cellar. Mabel
insists on cleaning it. I believe She moved me the other day when she
changed the sheets," he added with a frown.

Adele almost choked. "Well, we could put locks on the door. They might
keep her out if you are concerned about your own security."

"Non," he said sadly. "Mabel is one of those women who will do
whatever she likes. And, truly, I do not believe she will harm me."

"Ah good. So, you'll be spending the summer in Paris. Where do you go
of an evening, Benoit, when you aren't out shopping with me?"

"There is a little bistro. Owned by a friend. Many vampires and
Nameless go there to gossip and enjoy the evening."

"Oh? Only vampires and Nameless or do some of us lesser types manage
an invite into this deeply holy sanctuary?"

Benoit snorted. "It is a rather run-down place in a cellar. Yes, there
are a few mortals who find their way there. Mostly locals. There is
often some very fine music made there."

"Ah, and where is this place? I might want to show up there some night
to check up on you."

"I would be delighted to escort you there some non-school night," the
last added, Adele suspected, to forestall her from insisting on going
there right now.

"Name? Address?"

"The Battery. You get to it through Les Trois Maillets."

She giggled.

"An American vampire with a sense of humour runs it. He tells others
it is about New York City."

When they got back to the Quai, Benoit, loaded down with Adele's
purchases, escaped to his 'suite.'

Adele headed for her room, dialling her cell phone as she climbed the
stairs. "Yvonne, comment allez vous? Ah, oui. Benoit. Ah, oui. After
dark look for him at the Battery. Oui. The small club near Les Trois
Maillets. You are very welcome indeed."