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Tell Me Do You Demons Bleed?

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“But where do they come from?” Nadja asked, kicking at a twig on the path in the park. She was arm-in-arm with Laszlo, walking just ahead of Nandor, who was closely trailed by Guillermo. “There are so many sticks just lying about, but have you ever seen one being made? No!”

“Right you are, darling,” Laszlo agreed, patting his wife on the hand. She continued to complain about the pieces of tree-debris littering the path with Laszlo encouraging her rant, but Guillermo paid them little mind. 

He was watching Nandor closely. 

It hadn’t escaped the familiar’s notice that his master had been quieter, lately, and withdrawn. He did not join in with Nadja and Laszlo’s silly conversations - at least, not when Guillermo was there to witness him doing so. He had said very little to Guillermo in the weeks since he had revealed himself to them as a descendant of Van Helsing. There was no hostility there, when they did speak, nor the rejection and fear that Guillermo had, in his darkest moments, expected to find. But what he had been met with was almost worse: utter indifference. 

It was almost as though Nandor was trying to pretend nothing had changed.

Almost poetically, it was as that thought crossed Guillermo’s mind that a vampire pounced onto the path in front of them. It hissed at the group and the four vampires staggered backwards, shoving Guillermo out in front of them like a guard dog (or a sacrifice). His stakes were already in hand, hidden behind his back, and when the vampire jumped at him it was almost too easy to plunge the pointed ends through the creature’s frozen heart.

He crumbled into dust, blowing away on the breeze, and behind him, one of the vampires clapped.

“Jolly good show, Gizmo,” Laszlo said, brushing past the familiar with a pat to his shoulder. Nadja elbowed him in the ribs, which Guillermo took as an expression of thanks, and Colin Robinson shot him a dual thumbs-up. The three vampires continued onwards, leaving Guillermo behind with Nandor still behind him.

Tucking the stakes back into his pockets, Guillermo turned to find his master staring away from him, into the shadows of the park.

“Master-?”

“Come, Guillermo,” Nandor said, moving past his familiar coldly, without so much as a glance. “We must not fall behind.”

“Of course not, master,” Guillermo replied, hurrying after the vampire. Nandor’s strides were so much longer than his own, and it hadn’t occurred to Guillermo (until he had stopped doing it) that Nandor had been slowing down to walk with him for the last eleven years. 

 

 

“So,” Guillermo said to the camera crew later that night, “I kill vampires now! Openly, I mean.”

In post, the editing team would stitch in a few shots of Guillermo making quick work of a dozen vampire assassins and other adversaries. He had become a swift and efficient killer, no more violent than the situation ever called for. Guillermo couldn’t say that he enjoyed killing vampires (in fact, he still had panic attacks when he thought about all the after-lives he had cut short in recent months) but he also couldn’t deny that he was very, very good at it.

“The others aren’t thrilled about it, I don’t think, but-” his expression grew wistful, and a little shy, “-it’s nice to see them finally appreciate how much I do for them. I don’t think it occurred to any of them how often people tried to kill them, until- they started to notice how many of their assassins I was killing, first.

“I’m still their familiar, of course,” Guillermo continued. “I still do my usual chores: finding virgins, cleaning up messes, getting bloodstains out of antique cotton shirts. It’s just that I… kill vampires now, as well.”

The cameraman asked a question that the mics wouldn’t pick up, but that struck Guillermo pale.

He said, “My relationship with Nandor? Well… we weren’t exactly friends, before, I don’t think. At least, he wouldn’t have said so. But, now? Yeah, it’s strained. It’s been hard. But- there’s not much I can do to fix that, I think. He’ll come around eventually and, if he doesn’t, then,” Guillermo shrugged, “there’s not a lot I can do to change his mind.”

Behind the human, a distinctly Nandor-shaped shadow passed by the door. The cameras were just able to pick it up, the motion too fast for human eyes. It would be visible in post - highlighted, even, by the editor - but for now, the vampire’s presence during Guillermo’s interview would remain a secret.

“Anyway,” Guillermo slapped his thigh and stood, moving out of frame. The camera crew hurried to detach their cameras from their tripods and follow. When they finally caught up to the familiar he was in the kitchen, scooping a handful of cash out of the money dish and grabbing his tote bag off the hook. “If you really want to see how little has changed, you can come with me to the grocery store.”

“We’re actually gonna stick around here, for a bit.” One of the cameramen said. He used his little camera to gesture to the rest of the house. “Ask the others what they think about the new you, while you’re not here to overhear them.”

Guillermo tried not to be offended by the suggestion that the others might have things to say about him that they wouldn't want him to hear. Then again, everyone was entitled to their secrets, and Guillermo had been holding in a big one for what felt like forever. 

If anyone had to be forgiving of the others’ secret opinions, it was him. 

 

 

The grocery store was one of Guillermo’s favourite places. It sounded sad to say it out loud, so he didn’t, but he couldn’t help but be in a good mood with a shopping basket in hand. For the vampires he bought tide pens and disposable straws (they had seen Breaking Dawn, recently, and were obsessed with the idea of drinking blood from a paper cup) and for himself he grabbed some hummus and chips. He paid for his items and left the store, and was surprised to find that the parking lot was much emptier now than it had been when he’d arrived.

He hadn’t been in the store that long…

The last remaining car in the lot pulled away, and Guillermo felt a shiver roll up his spine. The hairs at the back of his neck stood on end, and he had just enough time to process that something was definitely wrong when a vampire appeared in front of him.

“Guillermo del Toro,” it said.

“Uh, actually, it’s de la-”

“I do not care,” said the vampire, silencing Guillermo with a wave of its hand. Subtly, Guillermo dropped his tote bag from his elbow to his hand. It wasn’t a very effective weapon, but it would do in a pinch. “I have come here to kill you.”

To kill me? Guillermo thought. There had been plenty of assassins sent after the others, but this was the first to have targeted him directly. 

“Look, man.” Guillermo held up his hands. “I’m just a familiar-”

“And my fangs are just part of the costume,” countered the vampire. “We have been watching you, del Toro. And we know what you are.”

There were wooden stakes tucked into the sleeves of Guillermo’s coat. All he had to do was flex his wrists and they would fall into his hands. The parking lot was empty, no one would see him. The vampire seemed to guess what Guillermo was thinking. He hissed, and Guillermo threw his bag at its face. 

The stakes dropped into his hands and Guillermo held them in the shape of a cross in front of his face. The vampire cringed back and Guillermo adjusted his grip, throwing one stake at the vampire like a dart. The vampire caught it and snapped it, tossing the splinters behind his back. He advanced on Guillermo with purpose, fangs bared, and the slayer took a step back.

This was a mistake.

Guillermo collided with the chest of someone behind him and he gasped. Turning slightly, an apology on his lips, a pair of icy arms circled his waist. Sharp talons pierced the skin of his stomach and a weight tugged at him, two legs wrapping around his hips. The second vampire climbed his back and tore at his shirt, revealing the soft flesh of unblemished jugular. Before Guillermo could even yell, sharp teeth pierced his throat, and a scream died on his lips.

He had never known pain like this. Claws raked up the length of his stomach, cutting his shirt to ribbons, and hard lips sucked at his neck. Hooked fangs gouged at his flesh, tearing the wound wider, and Guillermo staggered to his knees. He could hear the blood rushing from his body, feel the second vampire swell with his warmth. She strangled him like a viper, lapping at his blood, and the stake fell from Guillermo’s hand. 

“There is something very wrong with you, little familiar,” said the first vampire, approaching Guillermo slowly. Venom from the fresh bite had flooded his veins, paralysing him completely, and Guillermo was powerless to save himself. Grimy water from the wet tarmac seeped into his trousers, reminding him that he was still alive, though Guillermo supposed he wouldn’t last much longer. “Killing vampires, but serving them as well. Can’t you see how strange that is?” 

Guillermo glared at the vampire as he dropped to his knees, leaning back on his cuban heels and appraising the familiar with his head cocked to the side. The vampire at Guillermo’s back had stopped drinking from him, his body almost drained, and Guillermo hoped that this other bloodsucker would finish him off quickly. He bared his fangs and leaned closer to Guillermo, but a second bite didn’t come.

Almost tenderly, a hand slid into Guillermo’s hair and readjusted his head, pulling it against the first vampire’s shoulder. His arm circled Guillermo’s shoulders and dragged him through the mud, pulling the slayer back against his chest. He was stronger than he looked, much older than any of the other vampires that Guillermo had fought before, and Guillermo cursed himself for underestimating him. He watched with growing horror as the vampire lifted his wrist to his mouth and bit down, piercing his own dead flesh, and a stream of borrowed blood burst from the wound.

No, Guillermo would have said, if he could have said anything at all. Please, no.

“I hate to do this, Guillermo. I really do.” The man continued, hoisting Guillermo closer with less gentility than before. He pressed his nose against the wound in Guillermo’s neck, lapping at the blood that was pooling there without sucking any more out. He moaned against the injury and raked his fingers over Guillermo’s chest. “It’s such a waste of virgin blood.” 

“Fuck… you…”

The vampire growled, and before Guillermo could say anything else, his mouth was flooded with the vampire’s blood. It was cold, and stale, and thick like tar, and it crawled down Guillermo’s throat even as he tried to stop it. Gagging violently, he shook his head. But the blood was pouring down his throat and there was nowhere to run, nothing to be done.

“If you want to kill vampires so badly,” the creature snarled, “then let us see how long you can resist the one you will become.”