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Implacable Disco

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Nadja can smile and laugh with the best of them. “No, you go ahead, I just went.”

            Guillermo sighs as the other ladies leave the table, opening his backpack for Nadja to dump some of her food in. They’re only on the appetizer course, but luckily the group is taking cues from their human dining companions and his bag isn’t nearly full yet.

            “When they think I am peeing and doing my makeup I go and seduce waiters for blood. That way everyone eats,” Nadja explains in a hush to the nearest camera.

            Guillermo is just flipping his bag shut when he realizes that, yes, she doesn’t show up in mirrors, but Nadja still gets all that makeup on somehow. “Hey, Nadja?”

            “Hmm? Was that a good amount of human food to pretend to eat?” she asks quietly.

            “It was fine. I was just wondering… how do you do your makeup?”

            Nadja snorts. “Don’t be silly, Guillermo. Laszlo does my makeup.”

            “And a mighty fine job of it, too, I might add,” the vampire in question says before returning to whatever he, Nandor, and Colin were talking about.

            Nadja pats his knee and explains, “Decades ago we got an instant camera and just kept trying until he got it how I liked. Actually now he steals your laptop when you aren’t paying attention and watches makeup tutorials on the web. His artistry is not limited to topiary or music. He tailors half our clothes, you know?” She gives the camera an impressed look.

            “I did know that,” Guillermo said. “Since I do the other half.”

            “Oh, yes. You and Laszlo are very good at it. Our clothes almost never wear out. It’s only when the Tide pens fail that we need new ones. Remember there was that year you were like our personal shopper? It was so fun. And these digital things are much better than an instant camera. You do not need to stop and buy refills to have enough pictures to see all the angles of the look.”

            “You know, if you gave me access to your money, I could buy you some cameras or cell phones or whatever else you wanted.”

            Nadja blinks. “We do not do the money anymore. Colin Robinson took over all our finances in 1948.”

            Guillermo takes a minute to let that sink in.

            “Oh fuck. Oh shit. I did an oopsie. Fuck. Hey, girls!”

            As the others return from the bathroom, Guillermo uses a deadly expression to confirm that Nadja did, in fact, commit a grave mistake in letting him know they actually had money. He has to put a little vampire slayer finesse into the look to make it stick, but he thinks she gets the gist. The cameramen are cracking up.

 

            In the end they do the con anyway, because it’s easier than having Colin Robinson explain money on top of all the science he just dumped on Nandor, and Guillermo really doesn’t want any government organizations getting suspicious. Another upside of pulling off the heist is that Nandor offers to let him drop the honorific- because apparently killing 38 vampires wasn’t impressive enough but accidentally having Nadja murder a professional fighter is?- and, even though Guillermo knows it’ll be jarring to start calling him ‘Nandor,’ he is also grateful for the show of respect on Nandor’s part.

            The most important thing that comes out of the whole casino ordeal is that Guillermo knows they have money.

            He presents his case at the next household meeting, which he can speak at now, because he may still not be a vampire, but he’s part of the team. “So I’m charging you 300k for that theater fiasco so you can start to make up for all the years of paying me in seven-hundred-year-old coins.”

            “But we have never paid you,” Nandor says.

            “Yeah, so that may have been a bit of a fib on my part to get us another car, but the point is, as long as you don’t turn me I still have to eat, so my expenses for existing became part of the household budget.” He decides not to specify that this had been after he’d gotten well and truly fed up with their shit (which was regrettably only a few months ago). The group would probably be more willing to agree if they thought they’d been paying him a while anyway.

            Nandor looks even more confused at this, but before he can say anything, Laszlo says, “Hold on just a minute, chap. How much is a ‘k’ again?”

            “A thousand dollars.”

            Nadja gasps. “Highway robbery!”

            “Colin,” Guillermo says, “Would you please adjust for inflation?”

            Colin rattles off a number that means nothing to Guillermo, but makes Nadja’s expression twist in consideration.

            “Excuse me! When did you learn the value of money during Nadja’s childhood?” Nandor asks, jumping on the opportunity to be offended rather than confused.

            Colin shrugs. “I learned it for all of you so if you actually asked me money questions I’d be able to answer them. You never did, but I drained three librarians and ten professors learning how to do the conversions, so it was worth it, anyway.”

            “So, wait…” Nandor is back to looking confused. “How much money in Al Quolanudar would this, ah- eleven years and killing many vampires be?” Huh. At least he seems open to the idea of backpay, Guillermo notes with a twist of- is that pride? Jesus. He’s trying to get them to pay him, not suck him back in.

            Colin rattles off a number longer than Nadja’s.

            Nandor’s eyes bug out. “That is now three hundred thousand human currency units?”

            “Inflation is, like, really bad,” Colin confirms.

            Nandor mutters something about how that explaining why Tide pens are so expensive and collapses on a sofa.

            “Not to be rude, but there is one other vampire-”

            “One thousand, two-hundred and fifty pounds, give or take. You actually kept up with money values for much longer so I didn’t need to do as much research for you.”

            Laszlo cocks his head. “Huh. You raise a fair point. And that seems a decent amount. Given what I know about U.S. dollars.”

            “It’s ten years’ worth of a shitty fucking salary for all the stuff I’ve done for you, but I’m never paying expenses a day again if you want me to keep living here, so-”

            “You cannot leave, Guillermo! Who will protect us in the day?” Nandor says more quickly (and forcefully) than Guillermo would have expected.

            And that’s not pride he feels, that’s- “Well, exactly. And I don’t want you guys to die. But I do want to be treated fairly, and part of that is paying me for the job I do. Which in human terms is super fucked-up even if to you it’s like… very normal by now.” And, by extension, for Guillermo. Can’t exactly turn back from all that murder.

            Nadja sighs. “Well, to be honest, Guillermo, I think a chicken would be a decent price for the disposal of a body in my native time, so, you know what- Colin, do you think this three-hundred whatever is fair?”

            “Yeah. And it’s not like we can’t afford it. I know this place seems creaky, but if you knew how much it cost to redo the roof a few years back all of this would make a lot more sense.”

            “How much did the roof cost?” Nandor asks, looking for all the world like he knows another blow is coming but can’t really prepare himself for it. Poor guy. He only found out about space a few days ago.

            Colin gives him a number, then says, “But you were always rich, right? I mean, you were royalty. You weren’t the one balancing the books.”

            Nandor does his ‘fair enough’ expression. “This is true. And conquering does earn a fair bit.”

            “So does robbing our victims, which I have also been doing for years.” Guillermo doesn’t really feel any type of way about it at this point. “Are we in agreement? Is this a fair price for the vanquishing?”

            “I’d say so. House meeting over?” Laszlo asks hopefully.

            “Sounds good to me,” Colin says with a shrug. He makes it to the doorway before he asks, “Oh, Guillermo. We need to talk salary. And, like, pay dates and stuff. ‘Cause I may not have been in HR, but boy do I know there are a lotta ways to do that accounting. I mean, you’ve got your monthly pay, bimonthly, or there’s biweekly, which gets around the odd numbers in a month but ends up being a pain in the ass for other reasons-”

            “Colin Robinson,” Guillermo says.

            “Hm?”

            “How about I decide and get back to you tomorrow?” He really was not in the mood to be drained tonight.

            The documentary crew have looks of dawning realization on their faces. Hopefully there won’t be as many fainting shots or broken lenses from now on.

            “Sure thing, bud.”

 

            Guillermo had tried to have this discussion with Nandor, seriously, and given up every time. Not anymore. This time he was going to get it through Nandor’s head. “I don’t mind when it comes to the other stuff, but every time you turning me comes up you get super dismissive and that’s not okay.”

            Nandor sighs. “Yes. I am trying to be... better... more respectful of you, but... this is hard for me. I do not turn many people.”

            “You turned Benjy.”

            “Well, yes. But I did not know him anymore. And after all the nagging it seemed like the easiest way to get rid of him.”

            Guillermo sails right past the ‘did not know him anymore’ and onto the less serious half of the sentence. So much for putting his foot down. “What about my nagging?”

            “You really do not nag so much, Guillermo. It is only really the occasional sarcastic comment at this point.”

            “Because you refuse to talk about it. But I’m putting my foot down. We’re gonna talk about it,” Guillermo says, trying not to feel self-conscious about the camera ping-ponging between them.

            Finally Nandor responds, sounding a bit strangled, “But what about your humanity?”

            Guillermo looks between Nandor and the camera guys to make sure he didn’t just imagine that. Then he says, “What?”

            “You are giving up the beauty inherent to a fleeting life for an eternity of slaughter. An eternity of death on this cold, lonely rock.”

            Not this again. “Nandor. I dealt with all this back when I first became your familiar. And I did the whole desolate rock floating through space thing in high school.”

            Nandor blinks. “But Guillermo. You will be giving up food. Sunlight. All the pleasures of a human life well-lived.”

            “I’m not trying to be rude here, I’m really not, M- Nandor, but I dealt with all of this years ago. I’ve been complicit in your murder of, like… thousands of innocent people.” Not to mention the tens of not-so-innocent vampires he’d killed himself. Might be closing in on fifty or sixty by now.

            “But you do try to find us hardened criminals when we aren’t in the mood for virgins,” says Nandor, like that’s somehow supposed to be a strong enough argument to make the decade of Guillermo’s complicity okay.

            “When you aren’t in the mood for virgins,” Guillermo repeats. He knows Nandor gets it. Nandor acts stupid, but when he can be bothered to rub a couple brain cells together he can be pretty sharp.

            Nandor huffs a very dramatic sigh. “You know, you could have told me this, Guillermo.”

            “What do you mean, I could have told you? When? Why? It’s not like it would have made a difference!” Guillermo stops himself before he can cross a line.

            “Because- because- I was going through a crisis, Guillermo!”

            “That happens, like, twice a month.”

            “Guillermo!”

            Guillermo throws his hands up in a ‘what do you expect me to do’ gesture. “I’m just being honest!” He knows he’s been playing it a bit fast and loose since the bodyguard ‘promotion,’ but, at this point, Guillermo suspects the rest of the household is beginning to understand how much they need him. Or at least he hopes they are. They did ask after the whole prisoner incident. And he thinks they understood he’d been doing all the chores. You know. When he told them that. There was some recognition there. He hopes.

            Nandor just stares at him.

            “I have things to do,” Guillermo says, and walks off. The conversation is by no means over, but he knows Nandor might benefit from some time to think. He also knows the camera guys are zooming in on Nandor’s bewildered expression. Wishes he could turn around, march right up to Nandor, and shake him, for all the good that’d do. Eleven years.

 

            Nandor keeps being more considerate of Guillermo than ever, unless you counted his first week as a familiar, which didn’t really count anyway because Nandor had been a total dick back then regardless of how detailed his instructions were. Now he tries to act all aloof, but he slips up often enough for Guillermo to know he cares.

            He also looks thoughtful every time they’re in the same room for too long. Guillermo decides to give him a week and pepper in the occasional comment to let Nandor know he isn’t off the hook, and Nandor, for his part, responds with solemn nods that suggest he’s finally taking this seriously.

            The camera crew asks if they can set up a camera in the foyer for time lapse footage in case Guillermo gets to do any more slaying. Everyone agrees, even though Guillermo privately thinks something is going on behind the scenes that’s stopping the loved ones of the dead from coming after him- apart from the bullshit promotion. They haven’t had a break-in since before the theater incident (evidently they’d backed off in the week Guillermo was gone), but Guillermo’s met enough vampires to know that something as silly as bureaucracy isn’t enough to stop them. If anyone out there still wants him dead, he, and by extension his housemates, are still in danger. It’s only a matter of time before something goes wrong. Even if it does just turn out to be something as petty as Laszlo’s latest feud.

            They take the time lapse camera down after the Sire fiasco.

 

            It ends up being more than a week before Guillermo brings up the turning thing, but he figures they’ve all been through a lot. They’re having a house meeting about- actually, Guillermo doesn’t know at this point. It’s devolved into an argument over whether or not to give doll Nadja a vote since her running away was such a damned ordeal. That was probably the point of the meeting in the first place, he thinks. He’s been more focused on polishing his crucifixes than the bickering tonight.

            When the producer decides they have more than enough argument B-roll, he asks, “Is that all the important business for the night?”

            “We have not decided the issue yet!” Nadja says, outraged.

            Laszlo cuts in to pacify her. “Well, yes, my love, but it’s been an hour. Should we perhaps count her vote as a tiebreaker and raise the issue at the next meeting?”

            “I suppose I could accept this consolation prize,” Doll Nadja agrees, “for now. And in exchange for more sword lessons.”

            Nandor shakes his head. “We can fight all you want, my small friend. I do not think there’s anything left for me to teach you.”

            “Wonderful,” Laszlo says, rubbing his hands together, “If that’s all-”

            “I have to talk to Nandor, actually,” Guillermo says, and that gets everybody’s eyes bugging out. Huh. He must sound serious. Guillermo has definitely used his newfound bare minimum of respect in the past few months, but outside crisis situations he hasn’t been very vocal. “Nandor. Can I speak with you in the library?”

            Nandor nods, expression grave, and rises to follow Guillermo out of the room.

            “What’s that about?” Guillermo catches Nadja asking. He can see the crew’s split up so two of them can follow him and Nandor and the others can stay in the fancy room to speculate. It occurs to him that he could ask them not to be in the library, but he knows the presence of others, even humans- hell, especially humans, when it comes to him- has a way of guilting Nandor into actually getting to the point, and, steely resolve or no, Guillermo doesn’t know if he can get through this conversation without the support.

            When they reach the room and the sound recordist has shut the door behind them all, Guillermo sits. Nandor takes the seat adjacent to him. “Guillermo.”

            “Nandor. I’m guessing you know what we’re here to talk about?”

            “My turning you into a vampire.”

            “Yes.” Guillermo waits.

            Nandor stays silent.

            Guillermo says, “Can you give me a straight answer on this?”

            Nandor sucks in a breath. “I think- yes. I think, if you promise not to flee the second your transformation is complete-”

            “What?”

            “Come on, Guillermo. You cannot expect us to think you would wait all this time to become a vampire only to stay here with our sad, sorry asses.”

            Guillermo wants to storm out. Stand up and ask if he’s being punked. Go across the room and shake Nandor like he’d thought about doing a week ago. Something, anything to break this tense buzzing, this pained quiet that’s loaded with more emotion and anticipation and disbelief than any he’s ever felt in his life. “Are you joking?”

            “No, Guillermo. I am not joking. I am serious. I know if I turn you you will leave-”

            “You’re stupider than I thought,” Guillermo blurts, and instantly regrets it; both he and Nandor flinch. “No, I’m sorry, I- I'm having a hard time believing you could be around me for this long, see what you saw me do at the theater, for you, for all of you, and-”

            “Exactly! You have been here so long and worked so hard! Why would you do that, if not for your final reward?”

            “I did it because I love your stupid asses, okay? I did it because I decided that this really fucked-up family I made with you guys was worth facing off against a hundred vampires! Because I couldn’t sit back and watch you die, even after all the shit you’ve put me through over the years. And I know that’s messed up. I know it’s bad. I know I shouldn’t still be here. But I-” I can’t say no to you, Guillermo could say. He’d never been able to say no to Nandor. For as poorly as Nandor had treated him all those years, Guillermo's devotion ran deep. Like everything else in his life, he'd come too far to back out now.

            “... You love us?”

            “Yes! I could have watched Laszlo get staked ten times, but instead I stopped it. Every. Time. And the same goes for the rest of you.”

            Nandor’s face twists through too many emotions to count before settling on displeased. “You know, Guillermo, you didn’t have to say it like th-”

            “Oh my god, Nandor, enough.”

            He keeps his mouth shut, even at the religious sting.

            “Not to mention you were the one who called you guys sorry asses, like, less than five minutes ago.” Which, come to think of it, Guillermo had never, ever, ever heard him do. Okay, maybe once or twice Nandor had done it, being very obviously inclusive of everyone else also being at fault for the issue in question, but this time, he’d almost sounded as if- well- “For as often as we fight, it’s true. We’re a family. You know that.”

            “I- I do know it.” Nandor looks down at his lap, where he’s twisting his hands together. “Before you got here we hardly saw Colin Robinson. And Nadja certainly could not use a computer.”

            Guillermo feels a sweep of pride and a pang of guilt. Because, yeah, what Nandor was saying was true, but ten seconds of critical thinking were enough to deduce Guillermo hadn’t exactly been as helpful as he could have been, at least where getting the household up to date was concerned. He sighs. “Thank you, but I- I don’t know about any of that. You guys seemed pretty close before I-”

            Just because I fuck Laszlo sometimes does not mean we are close.” Nandor rolls his eyes. “If Laszlo were close to everyone he fucked, we would need a much bigger house.”

            Guillermo laughs, tension finally broken. “You’ve got a point there.” The air feels lighter somehow, even though it also feels like Guillermo putting that thought into the air- the thought of loving them, especially Nandor- has the atmosphere more charged than it was before they started talking. “Anyway, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna stick around even after you turn me. I can’t make any promises for the future- I have places I want to see, things I want to experience, even if you’re all content to stay settled here- but I’m not going to- I'll still be your family. I’ll still come back.”

            Nandor’s voice is so quiet Guillermo almost can’t hear him. “And you won’t leave without telling us first? In person?”

            “Unless there’s an emergency. It would help if you had more than one flip phone between the three of you.”

            “Yeesh, okay. What, do you want us to have our own computers now?”

            “It wouldn’t be a bad idea. You and Nadja are on the council, and not all vampires are as disgusted by technology as you.”

            “The computer gave us a curse, Guillermo! The ethernet is dangerous.”

            “That wasn’t a real curse, it was a chain email. Which I’d be more than happy to explain sometime when we aren’t all emotionally exhausted.”

            Nandor glances at the door. “Nadja and Laszlo are not emotionally exhausted. I bet they are laughing and trying to convince the crew to bring them this footage when we are done speaking. Hell, if Colin Robinson were not running errands, he would be having a feast.”

            “I know he isn’t trying to feed all the time, but we gotta stop arguing so much. I think it messes with his work-life balance or something.”

            Nandor snorts, then stands. “Okay.” He holds his arms out.

            “Are you asking for a hug?”

            “If I can hug Colin Robinson, I can hug you, Guillermo.”

            Although this rings a bell, Guillermo doesn’t know exactly why. He decides it doesn’t matter and steps up to hug Nandor.

            God, he missed that smell. Not really something you get as much of when you’re bodyguarding instead of familiaring.

            Nandor sighs and tilts his head. “You always smell so delicious.”

            “Nandor,” Guillermo says, and starts to lean away.

            “Come on, Guillermo. Just a little snack.”

            “Absolutely not.” Guillermo infuses his voice with as much authority and as little concern as possible.

            Nandor pulls away. “You’re no fun, Guillermo.”

            Guillermo tries not to make his sigh of relief too loud.

            “I was not going to do it.”

            “Oh, yes you were.”

            “Fine, so what? I was not going to kill you.”

            “Are you ready to make me a vampire right now?”

            Nandor looks panicked. “No.”

            “Then I’m not letting those fangs anywhere near me.”

            “You know, they are still pretty near you, right now. This is not a hug anymore, but it could maybe be considered a friendly-”

            “Okay.” Guillermo takes a step back. “My blood is still off-limits until you actually do it.”

            “Which I will.”

            “Right. About that...”

            “Guillermo.” Nandor takes his face in his hands, startling him. “I will turn you.”

            Guillermo is suddenly breathless. “Yeah, okay.”

            Nandor pats his cheek, then drops his hands. They’re still standing closer than usual, even with Guillermo’s attempt at distance. “I just think we both need some time. You have been spending so many years thinking it would be eventually, you should have a chance to enjoy things knowing they are your last human experiences.”

            That does sound nice, even if, in his more impatient moments, Guillermo would have been willing to do pretty much anything if it meant Nandor would just get on with it already.

            “And today is not a good day for me. I have had no time to prepare.”

            “Prepare?”

            “I do not want to be a bad vampire-maker to you, Guillermo. I have not turned anyone in decades.”

            “You just turned Benjy.”

            “Benjy does not count. I released him into the wild. And he knew what he was doing, anyway.”

            “I was your familiar longer than him. I probably know more than-”

            “Guillermo.” The tone is unlike any Guillermo’s ever heard from him. It is low and warning, two things that are familiar, but hesitant, and promising, like he’s trying to say ‘not in front of the cameras.’

            Guillermo thinks he gets it. “Yeah, okay.”

            Nandor hums in satisfaction and turns to the camera crew. “Alright. That is enough emotional Nandor for one day. We should go get some footage of me doing some hunting, so the audience does not think I am losing my edge, yes?”

            “Actually, we wanted to get a couple talking heads with you.”

            “No,” Nandor says brightly.

            “Yeah, I’ll do one,” Guillermo says.

            “Great,” the cameraman replies.

            Nandor turns to leave the room. “I will go tell Laszlo and Nadja the good news. Guillermo, I will leave you to tell Colin Robinson when he gets home.”

            As soon as Nandor is far enough away that he might not hear, Guillermo says, “Still such an asshole.”

            The sound recordist nods.

            “What did you want me to talk about? Other than, you know, that?”

            The cameraman shrugs. “I don’t know. Maybe that stuff Nandor keeps saying about your humanity?”

            That was two thousand times easier than the love thing. Guillermo would take it. “So, here’s the thing,” Guillermo says, running a hand through his hair even though he knows that might mess it up. “I’ve already killed, or helped kill, loads of people. Or vampires. Hundreds. And part of the reason I was able to keep doing that was because I knew when I finally did become a vampire, I would end up killing more. I’d like to think I’m not going to, but let’s be honest. You’ve been around here long enough to know that even the best intentions aren’t enough to stop someone from killing a victim.”

            Distantly, Laszlo shouts, “I let them live all the time, Gizmo!”

            Guillermo looks into the camera. “That’s because he wants to be able to go back for more.”

            Laszlo bursts into the room, “Just because I have taste and compassion-”

            “You’re the most compassionate vampire in the house, Laszlo, no one’s disputing that,” Guillermo interrupts.

            “Oh.” Laszlo looks taken aback. “Well, I- thank you.”

            “You think Nadja would’ve given half a damn about a local high school volleyball team?”

            “Well, she does like to support other women, so I like to think she’d have done something. Possibly.” Laszlo takes in the crew and Guillermo’s expressions and sighs. “Alright, fine. She basically only cares about the creatures who live in this house, ghost dolly included. Carry on.” Laszlo departs with a flourish.

            “So, yeah, like I was saying, even the current vampire who gives half a damn isn’t totally in it for moral reasons, and I’m not going to pretend i- when I get turned it’ll be any better.” Guillermo thinks he was quick enough to catch the slip, quick enough not to make it obvious, but the cameraman, at least, seems to have noticed. Guillermo sighs. “We’re all, like, morally speaking, really bad. But no one’s ever going to have caused as much destruction as Nandor no matter how long any of us live, so as long as he can make peace with- well, I guess I just figure if not giving a shit about anyone else is good enough for him, and for the rest of them, and I still want to be here, that makes it good enough for me. Like, by default, if nothing else.” He sighs again. “Guess I can’t be expected to be on any kinda moral high ground ever again, huh?”

            “You were going to save Jeremy,” the sound recordist offers.

            “I don’t know if that would have worked. Nadja was kind of already calling in the cavalry by then.” Guillermo shakes his head a little. “Anyway, I’ve come too far to back out now.”

            When it’s clear he has nothing more to say, the cameraman says, “Thanks, G,” and heads out of the library with the sound recordist close behind.

            He really really hopes they’re being paid well for this.