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torture devices from an old best friend

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Guillermo’s life has been tense, lately. On top of everything that’s been going down with the vampires, the Guide has been hanging out at the mansion a lot, which means that Guillermo constantly needs to worry about her ambushes. He’ll be dusting glassware in the living room or something equally boring and suddenly she’ll appear from behind a bookshelf and ask him if he wants a handy. Which, no, thanks.

If that weren’t enough, she manages to catch him off guard every single time. Surprise! The Guide is inside the taxidermied bear. He still doesn’t know if her casual yet targeted proposals make his ears burn red with embarrassment or annoyance, but he’s sure going from uncomfortable to fed up pretty fucking fast. 

Tonight, it’s no different from any other night. She tries to get him to join her polycule, mostly. She’s really into this polycule thing these days. 

Then, after he’s politely but resolutely refused, she’s silent for a while. She watches him with those huge, meek eyes that remind him - weirdly - of the stoner turtle from Finding Nemo.

“I could turn you, if you wanted me to,” she tells him all of a sudden.

He whips around - with a little too much vehemence, maybe.

“I mean, turn you into a vampire. If you’re into that,” she clarifies, as if her words needed any clarifying. Turn him into a vampire. When his brain finally processes the second half of her sentence, however, he’s almost glad that she kept talking.

“No, thanks, I’m not into that,” he says flatly. Of course it’s a sex thing. Of course.

“Oh, it’s not a sex thing,” she explains, startling him. “I mean, I’d love a will-they-won’t-they kind of situation for the next fifty years or so. You know, like, I’m into you, you keep turning me down, I have amazing sex with lots of other people but secretly think of you, that sort of thing. Or not. To be honest, you just smell really tasty but those two would kill me if I killed you.” She rolls her eyes, as if trying to elicit his sympathy over how fussy Nandor and Nadja are. Which he gets, actually. They’d be really annoying about it if the Guide ate him.

“So… so you’d do it. You’d turn me into a vampire.”

“Yeah, why not.”

“Right now?”

“Sure.”

He’s been waiting to hear those words for… how many years? Twelve, twenty, all his life? And now, a real-life vampire is standing in front of him asking him if he wants to be turned, and all he’s got to do is say yes. 

Everything would be perfect, if not for the fact that every muscle in his body is screaming at him to run and hide.

“Can I think about it?”

She shrugs. “No fuss, loverboy.”

“Please don’t call me that.”

Another shrug.

“I--” he begins, not knowing where this sentence ends. He puts the glass he was cleaning back on the cupboard. "I'm gonna maybe… take five. To regroup."

“Whatever, yeah, I’ll leave you the room to yourself so you can think about what a tasty little snack with cute pointy teeth you would be.” She smiles at him, feline. “Gotta go take care of council business! Since I’m the only one who actually knows how to do it!”

After she’s left, he collapses on the sofa.

He could become a vampire. Tonight. 

He only has to say yes, and she’ll turn him. 

Of course he’ll say yes. He’s been dying to say yes since forever. Of course he wants to.

He’s pretty sure, at least.

He wonders if Nandor will find it offensive that the Guide will be the one to turn him, since Guillermo is technically his employee although in name only at this point.

Maybe if Guillermo told him about the Guide’s offer, Nandor would finally wake up and do it himself.

This is perfect, actually. Guillermo will go up to him and be like, either you take your chance now, or it’s gonna be her. I won’t ask again, he’ll say, and he’ll be all blasè about it, all chill and nonchalant. He may even pretend to examine his fingernails while he’s at it.

“Guillermo.”

“Master!” He shoots up from the sofa, startled.

Okay. Good. Nandor’s there. A bit terrifying, but at least Guillermo doesn’t even have to look for him.

“I happened to overhear your conversation with the Guide.”

Even better.

“If it’s what you want,” Nandor says. “You should take the offer. Such a golden opportunity might not arise again.”

“Right. Okay, well, yeah. I meant to say yes, actually. Didn’t need your blessing, but thanks, I guess.”

“No, of course you didn’t. You are not my familiar anymore. You’re all grown up. Spreading your wings.” He gives Guillermo a funny smile. Guillermo tries to hold the pieces of his heart together. It’s fine. He doesn’t care. He’ll get what he’s always wanted tonight.

 

·

 

He doesn’t know if it’s a coincidence that Nandor walks by his room as he’s waiting for the Guide to come and turn him. Nandor certainly tries to pass it off as a coincidence, feigning surprise when he spots Guillermo sitting on his own bed. He stops outside the door - body angled weirdly, as if fighting against itself to remain in place.

“You’re wearing your fancy outfit.”

“Yes, well. Special occasion.”

There’s contempt, Guillermo thinks, in the way Nandor sizes him up and down, but Guillermo knows him too well to feel intimidated by that stare. He also knows him too well not to recognize that there’s something crawling, restless, underneath the frost of his eyes. 

“They are going to get dirty with blood,” Nandor says, his voice surprisingly soft.

“It’s not that hard to get it out. I’m used to it.”

“Okay.” Nandor nods. It looks like he’s struggling to get his words out. Guillermo really doesn’t get him, sometimes.

“Would you like to maybe… stay, while…”

“I am not looking forward to watching you die,” Nandor bites out, and there’s that frost back, more genuine than it was before.

“Fine. I’ll see you later, then. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish getting ready.” 

He punctuates his dismissal by unbuttoning the collar of his shirt and yanking it open, revealing his collarbone. A shadow clouds Nandor’s face. Good, Guillermo thinks. Look what you’re missing out on.

“You know, the guide told me I look delicious,” he taunts, and that’s what it takes for Nandor to finally leave. Run away, more like. Fucking guy, he mutters as he goes.

Fucking guy indeed. Trust him to add a bitter edge to the most important night of Guillermo’s life. His last, as a matter of fact. And for what? Nothing. Nothing’s stopping him from grabbing Guillermo by the shoulders and plunging his own teeth into his neck before the Guide arrives.

When the Guide actually does show up, no more than a minute later, Guillermo’s hopes go up in smoke. He tries not to put it that way, because really, he’s about to get what he’s always wanted, but disappointment is already seeping through his heart. He can’t let it. He won’t let it. He’ll bite his own hand and suck out the poison himself if he needs to. The Guide sits by his side on the edge of the bed. She tries to make casual conversation, but he barely registers it, her voice muted by his inner mantra - this is what you want, this is what you want.  

The jasmine fragrance she’s wearing doesn’t quite cover the stench of blood that trails faintly after her. Guillermo’s vampires never smell so stale, he makes sure of that, but he wonders if he’ll carry around this smell for the rest of time, too, if she turns him.

“So, do you need a moment to recite your prayers? Just kidding.” Her voice pierces through his veil and suddenly he’s off the dark streets of Staten Island and back in his bedroom, with his shirt half-unbuttoned and the Guide sitting beside him.

“No, I’m ready,” he stutters.

“Good! Turn left a bit - yeah, like that - and maybe tilt your--yup, that’s perfect. Shouldn’t hurt too much, but just in case, give me a knock when you feel dead.”

“Um, alright.”

So, it’s happening. It’s really happening. And it’s great, that it’s happening, because it’s definitely what he wants. Sure, he always thought that the night of his turning would become a story he and Nandor would reminisce about for centuries, the way Nadja and Laszlo do. But it’s fine. It doesn’t matter. Even if the hand grazing his neck isn’t Nandor’s, it’s fine. Even if that jasmine fragrance doesn’t belong to him. It’s fine, right? It’s fine. 

“I’m sorry!” he shrieks, jumping from the bed and trying to put as much space between himself and the guide in the cramped room. “I can’t do it!”

She looks a bit annoyed, which is honestly understandable.

“Are you sure? Do you actually want to say some prayers, just in case? And then we’ll get back to my lunch?”

“Nope. Yes. I’m sure.”

“Ugh, fine. I’ll go eat someone at a gay nightclub.”

He doesn’t even question it - just lets her go. Only when she’s left does he finally breathe. He hastily covers himself up, suddenly feeling naked and vulnerable with just a couple of buttons open, and locks himself in the bathroom to splash cool water on his face until his heart calms down.

His heart. Stupid, beating, tell-tale heart. 

Fucking Nandor. It would have been so much easier a decade ago, when Guillermo was ready to bend his neck to anyone with a pair of pointy teeth. But he’s grown very greedy in the past eleven years. He wants it, yes, but it’s Nandor’s fangs he wants sinking into his collarbone, Nandor’s hands holding him as he slowly collapses. It’s got to be him. He can’t have come this far only for it not to be Nandor.

 

·

 

Nandor seeks him out the following night. He wedges himself into Guillermo’s room, big and tall and everything Guillermo ever wanted to be, yet so ungraceful in the way he’s tucking himself to fit in the narrow space.

Guillermo quickly pauses his music. He didn’t expect to see him so soon: in fact, he’d already braced himself for a couple of days of uncomfortable avoidance. Instead, Nandor’s in his room with a constipated look on his face.

“So, what is it? Super strength? Seductive charm?” Met with Guillermo’s stare, he clarifies: “Your special vampire power.”
“Right. Yeah. No. I’m not a vampire. She didn’t turn me.” He gives Nandor a strained smile to show his teeth.

“Vampires can be volatile,” Nandor says, all somber and wise. “You never know when they will rescind their offers. I’m sorry you lost your chance.”

“The offer still stands, actually. I’m the one who didn’t take it.”

Nandor’s shock is evident. “But it’s all you’ve ever--”

“Wanted, yeah, yeah.”

“So why didn’t you…?”

“Because she’s not you,” Guillermo replies flatly. There it is. Out in the open.

“But you’re not my familiar anymore. You are not bound to me by any sort of pact, you know this. You should feel free to explore your opportunities. And I already told you that you should take the chance!”

There’s a sort of desperation in his tone which unnerves Guillermo. “Are you telling me this because you’ve definitely lost every intention to turn me? What, you’re trying to push me into other people’s arms to feel less guilty about all the years I’ve spent with you?”

“No! I don’t know! I don’t know if I can burden you with this! This loneliness that I feel because I am a vampire, it doesn’t just go away because I want it to! Why would I want you to be just as lost as I am? Look at Nadja and Laszlo - their life has no more meaning than mine does, but at the end of the day they are able to say, I mean something to you, and you mean something to me, and that is all that matters! Can you truly be adrift in this cold, dark universe if your anchor is the person that you are holding hands with? But me and you - you have no idea how difficult it is, to go through this endless existence with no one by your--why are you laughing?”

Feeling something rise within him, Guillermo gets up from his bed and puts himself right in front of him, chest to chest, almost ready for combat, but in the end the only thing that comes out of this is another humourless laugh. “Because you’re saying this! To me! Who’s been by your side for the last eleven years!”

“Yes, because you want me to turn you into a vampire! Which is why I don’t understand why you turned down the offer that was presented to you. I do not get you, sometimes, Guillermo. Everyone always left, whether I turned them or not, and you did too, but then you came back and now you’re clinging onto this house like you’re one of those people who climb up to the tippy top of mountains until they don’t have any space left to put their feed anymore so they have to clutch at the rocks with all four limbs.”

Guillermo, who had previously been stunned into silence, manages to say that’s not how rock climbing works.

“Well, that is what you look like! Just take what you want and leave, why does it have to be me who turns you?”

“Because I--ugh, forget it. Yes, it’s true, I agreed to work for you because I wanted you to turn me. But there’s more to it than that. Otherwise, you said it yourself, why would I still be here? It’s just--you’re special. That’s why it’s gotta be you."

“Of course I am special! I’m a treat! But--” He cuts himself off when Guillermo grabs him by the collar and yanks him down to press their lips together, barely hitting the mark, terrified. 

He lets Nandor go after a brief kiss, eyes still squeezed shut.

Afterwards, they stare at each other in equally stunned silence.

“So,” Guillermo says after a moment. “There. There you have it. Make fun of me or whatever, I don’t care. But don’t pretend it’s an easy thing.”

Even if Nandor still believed it, he wouldn’t be able to ignore Guillermo’s trembling hands, or the way that stupid tell-tale heart of his is about to burst out of his chest. It keeps on beating and aching as Nandor keeps on saying nothing. If Guillermo weren’t out of himself with leftover tension, he may be able to notice how lost he looks.

It’s him who gives up and runs, in the end. "Forget it," he repeats, gesturing with his hand in a mockery of hypnosis.

Nandor is left alone in the room as he slowly raises his fingers to his own lips. 

 

·

 

Nandor does avoid him after that, which is so predictable that it’s almost comforting. 

Truth be told, Guillermo needs some time to reflect, too. 

He always thought that his love for Nandor was evident, but he never realized that Nandor would believe it to be conditional. And how can Guillermo blame him? Most times, he only demonstrates his love by doing his job really well.

On the other hand, of course, there isn’t much room for proving that his love is genuine outside of his job description. Small gestures are out of the question - he’s held and pet and soothed Nandor more times than he can count; grand gestures didn’t use to be part of his tasks, but he slaughtered a bunch of vampires to save Nandor and the others once and it instantly became his job. So it’s a no on life-or-death stuff, too.

He considers asking Nadja, Laszlo, or even Colin Robinson for advice, but ultimately decides against it. As much as they try to pretend that he’s part of the family - and he’s pretty sure that it’s just a tactic to prevent him from opening the blinds during the day and killing them all - they don’t exactly have his best interests at heart. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a family. They are. They like him, in their own silly way. But out of four vampires, there’s only one who truly cares for him, and it’s the one Guillermo currently isn’t speaking to.

He doesn’t see Nandor for a few days. More accurately, he feels him moving at the corners of his vision, like a dark shadow hunting the manor. And while he may not want to speak to the other vampires about it, they’re the ones who seek him out to ask him if Nandor has vampire depression again. It takes him a while to convince them that he doesn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact, but he doesn’t say that.

The stalemate is broken one early morning, when the sun has yet to come up and the vampires are getting ready to sleep. 

“Guillermo,” Nandor calls. “Would you come into my room and brush my hair before I slumber? It has gotten all knotty, lately.”

It’s a good enough peace offer. Guillermo doesn’t think there’s anything he can do about the situation except take note of Nandor’s feelings toward their strange relationship and carry on like he always has, when given permission.

When he comes into the room, Nandor is already sitting on a chair next to his coffin, turned away from the door, perfectly still. So, the situation isn’t exactly resolved yet. But Guillermo can work with this.

He begins to untangle Nandor’s hair methodically, falling into an easy rhythm he’s learnt over the years. Like Sleeping Beauty threading her needle, his fingers never stop moving.

Until he’s stung.

“You know, it is hard to be around someone who puts so much feeling into everything they do,” Nandor says out of the blue, breaking the comfortable silence that only routine can bring. “You start enjoying what they are doing a little too much, until you remember that they are only doing it because it is their job. And you know it is not their fault, but you feel very tricked into feeling emotions you were not prepared to feel.”

“Are you talking about this? Hair brushing?” Guillermo inquires softly.

“Yes. And dressing. And helping me to bed. And following me around.”

He smooths Nandor’s silky hair between his fingers and smiles to himself, unseen. “You give me too much credit,” he says.

“How so.”

“You think I’d care so much for just anybody?”

“You are very kind to just anybody, yes.”

“I’m polite, there’s a difference.” When he takes his time brushing Nandor’s hair, or helping him get dressed, it’s for his own selfish pleasure. But he won’t tell Nandor that, not just yet, when he still doesn’t know where they stand.

“Guillermo.”

“Yes, master?”

“I cannot promise that I will turn you.”

“I know. I know. And I understand that, now.” There’s so much he still doesn’t know about Nandor. Everyone always left, whether I turned them or not, that’s what he said. How many times has he been stung? How many old wounds did Guillermo inadvertently open, how many times did he behave just like all the others?

Nandor’s locks slip between his fingers as he gets up and steps away from the chair to face Guillermo, who moves instinctively to meet him halfway. Nandor’s brows are furrowed, almost in concentration, and there’s something melancholic about the soft curve of his mouth, the slouch of his shoulders. 

“Guillermo.”

“Nandor.”

“I will kiss you now.”
He doesn’t move, though, and Guillermo realizes he’s waiting for an answer.

His tell-tale heart dances. Of course. Of course.