"One Moment Out of Time"
copyright © 1999, Dominic A. Wilde, all rights reserved

Disclaimer: This is an amateur effort, and not meant to infringe on the rights of Anne Rice, Knopf, Ballentine, Caravaggio, or anyone else for that matter. The characters belong to Anne, and I'm only playing with them a bit.

Spoilers: Mostly for The Vampire Lestat.

Idea: This was an idea that popped into my head late one night, and refused to go
away. I realize that the time frame is probably all wrong, but we are just going to look the other way ;-) This is set after Armand has been taken by the Children ofDarkness. He meets a mortal that reminds him of Marius.

I  stood in the same place for hours, watching him. Just outside the window. More than once, he dropped his brush and glanced furitively around, until he became convinced at last that the only visitor outside his door was the warm wind.
I liked the fearful way that his eyes darted here and there, the speed with which he propelled the brush across the canvas. Almost as if he had seen some divine vision in his dreams, and if it wasn't made real immediatly, it would cease to exsist. He burned with this inspiration, I could feel it coming off of him in slow, luxurious waves. If I dared to step too close, it would consume me as well.
He reminded me of someone....

"No, no- Enrico, this is not right! You have moved again. I need you to sit perfectly still, caro, or we will never finish." He addressed the small boy that sat, naked, on the divan- his voice all at once both slurred and impatient. Moving over to the boy, he tried in vain to adjust his posture, the tilt of his head, the gentle cascade of blonde curls that fell lightly over both shoulders. But it was no use. The boy was tired from hours of going against his nature and sitting still, and the man was frustrated. He had had too much to drink, and it was becoming glaringly obvious that this boy wasn't what he needed to make his vision a reality. Angerly, he dismissed the boy, throwing a few gold coins in his direction.

"Go home, and do not bother to come back." The boy was immediatly humbled, bowing his head, gathering the gold coins almost as if he were afraid that the man would suddenly have a change of heart. "Yes, Ser Caravaggio." Shamefully, the boy left the small dwelling without daring to look back. He had failed somehow, it was the only thing that he could think of. But I felt no pity for him. I was more intrigued with what lay inside.

The paintings, those glorious visions of a Heaven that I had ceased to believe in. They were calling to me, demanding my full attention. I knew that I had to have a look. I knew that I wanted to understand why this mortal painted such things. Visions of Heaven and angels should not matter to a servant of Satan. And I would never admit to anyone that they did. I had abandoned such philosophies years before, and if I was found to be examining them now...

He had reclined on the divan, and was already fast asleep when I let myself in, as noiseless as the wind outside. It felt strange, unbelieveably strange, to be inside a mortal dwelling once again. It had been so long. With cautious steps, I wandered over to where the canvas stood.

I knew what it was that he was trying to paint, and all at once, I understood his frustration. He had tried to make the young boy over into an otherworldy vision, a dark eyed cupid, but something hadn't made the translation from stark reality to the frail, fragile gauze like fantasy. I reached out cautiously and touched the surface of the painting, trying to let my touch be light enough so as to not disturb the still wet  paint. It was beautiful, undoubtedly- but it simply didn't have the all important ring of truth. It lacked the element necessary to compell and intoxicate the viewer into believing that this small canvas was a portal into another world.
I began to laugh at myself suddenly, for understanding this. It was so trivial, and unimportant- and yet, why did it make my heart ache so? Just the sight of that boy sitting so calmly on the couch, eyes determined and set, trying so hard to please. The sight of the artist, paint smeared on the sleeves of his coat, candle light dancing in his eyes....oh, it was enough to reduce this devil to tears.

I hadn't always been this child of Satan. Once, hadn't I sat for endless hours in front of a kind eyed Master of my own, allowing him to capture my countenance on his canvas? If I tried hard enough, I could remember the smell of the egg tempra, the candles...In my minds eye, I could even see the small frown lines that had begun to crease my Masters forehead, as he leaned down to caress the canvess with a delicate brush stroke of his own.

It was painful, this memory- and I wanted to give it up. Release it into the night, so that it could never trouble me again.

So lost in my own dreams, I didn't hear the mortal get up from his resting place. It was only when I felt his warm hands on my shoulders that I realized I might have overstayed my welcome. He was not suprised by my presence, not in the least. He was jubilant. Overjoyed. Thanking the gods for sending him what he needed to finish the painting. I should have gone, disappeared out the door the instant that he set eyes on me, but I had so many questions...and it was strangely comforting to be in this setting.....

"Why do you paint these things? Angels and devils, heaven and hell?" Mortal hands pulling at my garments, until I could feel the warm night air against my bare skin. "And why shouldn't I? I paint what I see. And right now, I am seeing an
angel, sent to me from heaven." The same mortal hands tangling themselves in my hair, shaking out some of the dust. I stood silent, watching him as his brush once again began to fly furiously across the canvas, his eyes shining with some inner fire that was lost on me. This one was tinged with madness, and I found myself ashamed to admit that I enjoyed watching him. I should have been gone
from this place. This was madness! Not only was I letting him see me, knowing full well that I wasn't human- I was letting him willingly capture my likeness.

I would have killed others of my kind, for the same thing. Without a backwards glance.

 I don't know how long I stood there, watching him as he painted. Only knew that dawn would be coming soon, and I would have to leave. I was already beginning to feel sluggish and tired, and the sky wasn't even tinged with the faintest traces of pink. I ignored his cries of protest as I drew my garments back on, taking him in my arms for one final embrace, and the promise to return the following evening.
He laughed, holding me tighter, as if his mortal arms were enough to hold me here, if he tried hard enough.

"Amor Vittorioso..."

I silenced him with a kiss.....

Ever since waking up, the dream...no, the memory stayed with me. I hadn't thought about it in decades- why was it making it's way into my
subconcious *now*?

All of it, remember all of it. The good as well as the bad. You were so young then...

I knew that I would get no peace, no rest, until I forced myself to go back to a time in my life that I still long to forget. A time when I was surrounded by a darkness that threatened to swallow me whole. I closed my eyes, and let myself drift....

....into his arms, which were opened wide in a gesture of welcome. I could pick up the jumble of thoughts that raced in his mind without even trying. He had been afraid, afraid that I would never return. He still thought me in control of the situation, as if I could actually stay away of my own accord. He had no idea of the memories that our few hours together had stirred, how I wanted to be back here, lost in the world of canvas, paint, and brush. I wanted to forget what I had become. I wanted to be loved. And as I looked into his smiling eyes, I felt the familar
twist of the blade in my heart.

So much the same.......yes, I can let myself believe it, if only for a short time......
Of course, I was going against everything that I had been taught in recent years. We were to terrify mortals, not fall in love with them. Our purpose was to make them doubt the presence of God. Of course, I also knew that Santino looked kindly on me. Where others would have been punished, or perhaps even put to death- he would look the other way for me. All it required was silent pleading on my part. I had become quite adept at playing the role of wounded child, when it suited me.....

So, I let myself fall into the dream.

Micholino- that is what I called him, my pet name for this mortal genius- kept at his painting, his pace relentless in the early morning hours- as I sat idly by, watching him. Utterly fascinated. We would go hours without talking, and then all at once, speech would fill the small, cramped room, until it felt as if our hearts would burst from having so much to say. I was anxious to see what it was that he was painting, but always- my attempts to see over the side of the canvas were rebuffed gently. He would scold me for having no patience, and I would give him the gift of my most brilliant smile. It had been so long since I last smiled....but still, he knew my games. And the smile of a beautiful boy, while quite entrancing, was not enough to make him break his resolve.

He seemed always to know just how much time that I had to spend with him, and always- he would stop his painting before it was time for me to leave him, so that we could spend an hour or two engrossed in conversation. Or an embrace. Ocassionally, when I was feeling particularly comfortable or at ease, I would tell him about my Master- the way that he painted, the way that his eyes looked as he greeted me at sunset. And Micholino once made the mistake of asking a very innocent question, one that I don't doubt that he regretted immediatly.

"Do you miss him, caro?"

For a moment, it seemed that my mind trembled on the brink of collapse, that one sentance ripping open a void that I had deluded myself into thinking was closed, forever. How could I possibly explain that a part of me died that night? Every bit of happiness that I had ever known, torn away from me in the blink of an eye. He was dead, and it would do no good dreaming about what could have been. But he deserved an answer, his eyes locked firmly on mine, one hand absently stroking my back.

I am ashamed to admit that I cried in front of the mortal. Cried like any child would have, when faced with such an overwhelming upsurgance of sorrow. And in his attempt to comfort me, his thoughts quickly turned to lust....the way that all mortals seem to.
I wasn't suprised.

And it was very pleasent, this touching and kissing- feeling as if I were drowning in a sea of heated mortal flesh. But I stopped him finally, and told him that we don't experience lust- not in the same way. He grew very still, and listened as I explained that for us, all pleasure lay in the blood. It was very distracting, trying to explain this to him as I could hear the blood pounding in his veins. I could see it, coloring his face. I didn't even have to ask. Willingly, he offered his throat to me- and I was not about to refuse such a precious gift. Gently, I took him...and when my teeth broke through the surface of his skin, some vague childhood memory of biting into an over ripe peach sprang into my mind.

That night, a new barrier was broken. Each sucessive night, he would offer me his throat. And I would always comply. For the second time in my life, I was happy. And I toyed with the idea of making him one of us....surely, I couldn't stand to see this end. It could be like it had been, with the Master. I resolved that I would ask him, give him the choice. For in my mind, I knew that he could never refuse the chance to live for all eternity.

The next night, he promised me, he would have a gift for me. And I knew that I would have one for him, as well...

He had finished his painting, and was incredibly anxious for me to see it. Of course, I was anxious as well- my curiosity couldn't be controlled much longer. But when he unveiled his masterpiece, something inside me snapped. I didn't see myself on that canvas. What looked back at me was a celestial being, full of wide eyed innocence. There was no hint of the killer, the monster- the being that regularly prowled the night.

It reminded me too much of the Masters paintings. And I realized finally, that I had been trying to replace him with this mortal. My heart felt as though it were being torn open, so strong was my grief. No one could replace him, certainly no mortal. I had been a fool all along.

In my fury, I pinned him to the floor, letting him feel for the first time all of the strength that I had tried to keep hidden. With wide eyes, he asked dully if I was going to kill him, finally.

"I knew it all along, you are the angel of death. Even though you tried to hide it from me, I knew."

I leaned close to him, and whispered into his ear.

"No, I'm not going to kill you. I'm going to leave you. When I walk out that door this evening, you will never see me again- all that you will have left is your painting, and the knowledge that you have been loved by a creature of the night. You will start to forget, in time- but each time that you set eyes on that painting, you will remember. You will remember *me*."

I left him, trembling, on the floor. But what he didn't know was that I was trembling as hard as he was, fighting to control the sobs that were building in the back of my throrat.

"You had no right to paint me like that....no right."
 

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