“No,” Nandor says. They keep bringing him humans but he doesn’t eat humans. He keeps telling them this but they don’t understand. He is human himself, so that would be cannibalism.
Nadja shrugs, says, “More for me,” and drags the dazed human with her as she leaves the basement. She’ll probably feast on it, ripping into the flesh, warm blood pouring into her open mouth—
His stomach twists. Disgust. That’s what feeling is. He doesn’t need to feed on blood. He’s a human. He was a vampire for a long time. The desire for blood will fade. It was an addiction.
His so-called friends are really stupid. He left because they had no need for him in the house which made him feel quite lonesome, but now they’re leaving him alone in the basement and he’s getting more of the lonely. He misses the wellness center. He was part of a community. Needed. Jan’s number two. She loved him, and all the children she led into the light of the rightful path. She said so.
He tells his captor-friends this. Says it isn’t too late for blood-suckers, that their souls can be saved (and he supposes energy-suckers, too). They could go back with him. They would like the jam sessions at the center — they used to play music together and sing all the time. He could teach them how to hulu hoop, and show them his new favorite movies Flashdance and The Breakfast Club.
But Nadja and Laszlo can hardly stand to be in his presence (“gives me the heebie jeebies” ), and Colin Robinson avoids him because, in his words, “wouldn’t be able to resist feeding on his pathetic energy.”
Guillermo doesn’t abandon him, though. His loyal, brave Guillermo. Even if Nandor is still mad at him for kidnapping him from his new home.
“Let me out, pretty please?” Nandor is not above begging. Guillermo is a human, too. They are simpatico. Maybe Jan will forgive Guillermo for trying to kill everyone and accept him, too. Guillermo could give human lessons.
“I will if you eat,” Guillermo says, from the other side of the cage. “I’ve got a virgin, just for you. I brought him from an anime convention. He’s over six feet tall. That’s a lot of blood.”
Nandor shakes his head. “I want to eat like a human. Free me and we can go to the Baskin and Robbins together. We can get samples on the baby spoons.”
He tried bites of human foods at the wellness center. He could never keep it down, but if he kept trying he knows he would be able to eat like Jan does. He had supplemented his diet with a swallow a day of what Jan called synthetic blood, just like in the show True Blood. It tasted real. Just like gluten-free pasta tastes just as good — or so Jan said, as she ate from a plate of something called afraid-oh.
( “That’s because it was real blood, you dipshit,” Laszlo said when Nandor told them this.)
“Don’t call me that,” Nandor snaps. “I’m not your master anymore.”
Guillermo’s eyes go glassy, and now he’s fucking crying. Nandor made him cry.
He is a monster.
“Leave me,” and Nandor turns away so he won’t have to see Guillermo’s wet face but he still smells the tears, salty and so so sad.
He slumbers well. He couldn’t rest the first night, tossing and turning in the tiny bed in the cage. In his dazed restlessness, he heard the others discussing his insomnia—
“Why didn’t you take his soil with you when you stole him away from that bitch?”
“I’m sorry, I was busy fighting a cult of vampires with my bare hands.”
“You don’t need to keep reminding us. We get it. You’re a badass motherfucker.”
—and he tuned it out because their voices hurt his head. It went quiet and he thought maybe he finally fell asleep, but he couldn’t close his eyes or turn off his mind and he was fucking miserable and he wanted to rip the head off the person who was causing that awful metallic clanking racket — but it was only Guillermo, undoing the locks of the cage.
Nandor hated that he could smell Guillermo before he saw him.
“You’re going to be able to slumber now, master.” Guillermo knelt down next to the cot, dumping soil out of the small burlap bag and Nandor's eyes closed almost immediately, resting.
He slumbers a lot. There isn’t much to do besides that. And think, but he doesn’t like the thinking. For five nights in a row he tries to think of his native language, but it’s dead to him. He feels even more at loss. So. No more thinking.
The bed smells like Guillermo. Everything in the cage smells like Guillermo, having been imprisoned in it for a month, but the bed especially. There is his usual light, unique scent that Nandor knows as well as his face, but another, overwhelming and heady is mixed up in it. Sex. The sheets reek of Guillermo’s sweet virginity. Nandor figures that Guillermo jerked off a lot, here in this bed. Stupid, horny human.
Nandor slips his hand into his shorts. He’s hard. He has nothing better to do. And it distracts him from the hunger.
He kicks off his shorts and briefs (a new experience — he never wore underwear as a vampire and they weren’t a thing the first time he was human), lies sprawled as he strokes himself. He thinks of nothing in particular. He does not think of Guillermo doing this. He does not.
He presses his face into the pillow, inhales. Arousal pools low in his belly, aches in his balls. His fangs throb to sink into something, he thinks of how soft Guillermo looks at the pulse point at his neck—
Thankfully, he has a moment of clarity and releases onto the floor. The familiar scent in the sheets is the only comfort he has.
Every night a new human is brought to him, and every night he refuses it. Them.
“I’m not hungry.” Nandor wraps his arms around his middle. Yes, it does feel like a hundred squirrels are gnawing at his insides. It hurts. But this is a test. He can do it. He is relentless.
Jan had told him he had participated in a lot of comfort eating, which is actually quite a human characteristic, but not when it was blood that he gorged on. As a vampire, anytime he was feeling upset he would drain a human to feel better. But it never lasted, he would be hungry again and again and again.
At the wellness center, when they thirsted for blood, Jan made them keep moving. Don’t let your hunger control you! This is all the energy you need! Manifest it! That’s why they were always doing the jazzercise. Burn off the hunger.
So, when he has that same uncontrollable urge to sink his teeth into flesh, he exercises in the tiny area of his cell. Step step clap, jazz hands! He knows all the best 1980s hits. He sings them loud, take on me, take me oooooon—
The basement door bangs open, Laszlo sticks his head in, yells, “Shut the fuck up!” and slams the door shut.
It’s like they want him to die.
“How long have I been imprisoned?”
“Ah. Longer than we kept you locked in here.”
Guillermo is close, only separated by bars and silver chains. Nandor thinks of asking him to come roll around in the bed with his delicious human scent. Ask him to ejaculate all over the sheets.
“You haven’t asked the others to turn you,” Nandor says. “They would. Maybe. I cannot, as I am no longer a vampire.”
An unreadable expression passes over Guillermo’s face. “I only want it to be you.”
Despite himself, Nandor laughs. “Whyever so?”
Guillermo doesn’t answer, but Nandor hears his heartbeat speed up into double time.
Nandor never fed from Guillermo. Not once in eleven years. It’s not that Nandor didn’t want to — because he very much wanted to sample him, even more than the Baskin and Robbins — but he liked Guillermo too much for that. He didn’t want to risk going too far because then he’d have no Guillermo, and if he could restrain himself he didn’t want to make things awkward because it’s never the same after a vampire feeds from their familiar. He likes other aspects about Guillermo more than a quick meal, such as his smile or how he gets a bit sassy and talks back.
Despite what he’s said, he has considered turning Guillermo, but for selfish reasons. He wanted to keep Guillermo forever. An eternity.
But then — what reason would Guillermo have to stay? His sense of obligation would run out, eventually.
Nandor meant what he said. Vampirism is a curse. What good is everlasting life when you spend it alone?
“I’ve had enough of this shit,” Nadja says, and she bites into the neck of a victim, tosses them into Nandor’s cage — not too unlike throwing meat into a pit of lions.
The smell hits him all at once. Tangy, fresh, inviting, and his stomach grumbles something awful and he opens his mouth, his fangs bared—
—he stumbles backward, far as he can go until he hits something solid and fuck , the silver. He cries out, clutching his fire hot skin, slumps to the floor and he’s dizzy and feels sick to his stomach and his chest clenches—
“Get it out of there!”
“He’ll eat eventually. He won’t be able to resist.”
“Can’t you see he’s freaking out? He can’t breathe!”
“He doesn’t need to breathe!”
No, he doesn’t, he doesn’t need to breathe because he is a—
He slams his head against the metal bar and it doesn’t hurt so he presses his face against the chain and it is a sharp pain but it isn’t enough, he grabs the chain in his hands and it sizzles his palms and he falls to his knees—
Nandor does as commanded. Like he is the ex-familiar and Guillermo is his master. He has been alive for seven and a half centuries, whereas Guillermo has only existed for a fraction of a blip in this non-turtle supported universe.
But Guillermo is his support now, the only thing he knows in this expanding but collapsing universe. Guillermo sits on the floor — the damp, disgusting floor — outside the cage. He isn’t afraid of Nandor, unlike the others (they’ve disappeared, along with the victim). He’s angry, his pulse is thundering through his body, he smells different when he’s angry, Guillermo is angry with him—
“Please don’t make me do it.” Nandor’s voice doesn’t sound like his own. Rough, weak. He touches his face and his fingers come back wet. He’s been crying — for how long? “Help me, Guillermo.”
“I’m not going to feed,” he says. “I won’t.”
Guillermo sighs. “You have to, master… Nandor, look at me.”
He does. The weight of Guillermo’s gaze is heavy. It almost hurts.
He is very pretty, his Guillermo, and smells so lovely. Nandor is fucking starving and he thinks something terrible and very not-human and he wants to start crying all over again. He forces himself to think of anything else—
“My hair,” Nandor repeats. He runs his hands through his shorter locks. “She made me cut it.”
He admits that he cried when it was chopped off. He kept with the different fashions through time, but he always kept his long hair. It was a representation of his power in Al Qolnidar; if another man had his hair longer than his, Nandor would scalp him.
(Also, his hair was very pretty.)
He sniffles. “I know you liked brushing it.” Pause. “I liked when you brushed it.”
Guillermo lets out a fractured noise. “Oh, it’s okay, master. There’s still plenty and I, uh. It looks good.”
“Very good,” Guillermo says. “Very…”
Guillermo flushes. He smells like the bedsheets.
Nandor wants to…
He puts his hand through the bars, avoiding the silver chain. It’s been so long since he’s been touched. Even longer since he’s been touched with any sort of kindness. Guillermo was always kind, his touch feather-light when tucking Nandor’s hair behind his ear. Holding his hand as he steps out of his coffin even though he doesn’t need his help. Wiping his face with a handkerchief after a meal, saying, you missed a spot.
Guillermo puts his hand into his. Strong, like when he led him out of the wellness center. Warm.
“I’m a vampire,” Nandor says.
“Yes.” Guillermo runs his thumb over Nandor’s knuckles. “I’m so sorry.”
And do you still want to be turned? Nandor thinks of asking, but he fears what the answer will be.
He fiddles with a loose thread on the sleeve of Guillermo’s sweater.
“I’ve always liked these,” Nandor says. “So comfy. So human.”
“Vampires can wear sweaters, too,” Guillermo replies and there’s that smile.
Nandor goes to return it but quickly forces his mouth back into a frown, hiding his teeth.
“Let me — hold on,” and Guillermo’s hand slips out of his and it feels like Nandor’s tether is gone, like if the Earth were knocked off its axis, but Guillermo lifts his sweater up and over his head and shoves it through the cage.
“You can have it.” Guillermo adjusts his glasses where they went askew when taking off his sweater. “I mean. If you want it.”
“I want it,” Nandor says, quickly, clutching it to his chest like it might be taken away if he doesn’t claim it fast enough. He pulls it on over his shirt. It fits well, a little baggy but wide enough for his broad shoulders.
It’s still warm from Guillermo’s body. It smells like him. It feels like getting a hug from Guillermo.
(Nandor should have hugged him more. He can’t remember the last time he did—?)
Voices float around him like clouds.
“Can we force him? He’s weak like little baby. He can’t fight back.”
“For the record, I could kick his ass now or at full strength.”
“I still think we should consider subliminal messaging.”
If they really cared, they would just let him die. Toss him in the front yard and let the sun swallow him up into a blaze.
They attempt to force him. They come into his cell, where he lies in bed, where he hasn’t moved in days. His jaw is wrenched open and he’s told to drink and a glass is put to his lips and he smells death.
He bites down on the hand holding his mouth open.
Laszlo should have known better.
He’s hungry. Hungrier than when he had to eat his horse, Johan. If he were a human he would have died of starvation by now. But he’s already dead. Dead dead dead.
“Please,” Nandor says. “If you have any affection for me like you said you do, you’d take me back there.”
He just wants to forget again.
Guillermo frowns. “I didn’t want to tell you, but I think you should know,” he says. “They’re gone. When I went back to get your soil… Nandor, the roof was covered in ashes.”
“And there was camera footage, she led them up there at sunrise in a mass suicide.”
“No.” Nandor covers his ears, no no no—
—but it doesn’t hurt that bad because it’s just another loss in a lifetime of loss. Guillermo is upset, saying, I don’t know what I would have done if I lost you, but doesn’t he know that Nandor is the one who is going to lose him? He’s going to die one day and Nandor will still remain, alone.
He hates Guillermo for making him care.
Nandor hisses at him.
Guillermo flinches, and for a brief second Nandor thinks he’s afraid but no, it’s worse than that — his feelings are hurt. Nandor probably could have ripped out his heart and caused less pain.
“Fuck you,” Guillermo shouts, and the rage of the slayer comes out and if Nandor were a human he would probably would have wet himself — but then Guillermo turns away, obviously stifling cries.
Nandor doesn’t have enough fight in him to ask him to stay. He curls up in bed, wraps the sheets around him, buries his nose into the pillow.
Nobody visits the next day, which, yes he deserves that. He tries calling out through the ether and either he is too weak, or everyone is ignoring him.
The day after that, Colin Robinson sits next to his cell and drones on about cryptocurrency, which Nandor thinks is a bit harsh of a punishment, but he supposes he deserves it for snarling at Guillermo like an unhinged maniac.
But Guillermo returns the following evening. He stands outside the door, lingering before coming inside the basement. Nandor hears the rapid pitter-patter of Guillermo’s heartbeat, and he hears how it slows to its normal pace before he undoes the locks.
“I am sorry,” Nandor says, apologizing. “I am very stupid.”
“It’s okay,” Guillermo says. “I know you’re hangry.”
Yes, so Guillermo shouldn’t do things like bring blood into the room. The temptation is too much.
“Brought you a snack.” Guillermo holds aloft a clear plastic cup, half-filled with crimson red.
Nandor steps closer. Sniffs. Moans, his mouth pooling with saliva. The scent is like a slap in the face, intoxicating and so, so sweet—
He bites down on a growl.
“That is your blood.”
Guillermo scoffs. “No, it’s totally not…”
“Don’t lie to me! I know what you smell like.” He has lived with Nandor for eleven years. He was the best smelling thing in the house. Nandor is not fooled. He knows.
“Well,” Guillermo says. “You can have it, anyway.”
He sticks the cup through the bars. An offering.
Guillermo really doesn’t know this game he’s playing.
Nandor grabs Guillermo by the wrist and yanks him closer, hard, so he’s pressed against the cage. Guillermo gasps — he’s surprised, Nandor hasn’t managed that in a while — and the cup drops from his grasp and the blood spills all over the floor. Guillermo tries to squirm out of his hold but he can’t move. Nandor has him trapped, with some kind of insane bloodlust strength awakened from his starvation.
Guillermo is very, very quiet as Nandor pushes up his sleeve. There’s a bandage on his inner arm, with a fresh puncture underneath. He couldn’t have done it more than five minutes ago. He did this. For him.
“Oh, Guillermo. ” Nandor puts his nose there, inhales. Guillermo lets out a shuddering breath. He’s stopped trying to struggle. It makes it easy to lean in, carefully avoiding the silver chain hung on the cage, to where Guillermo’s face and neck are pressed against the bars.
“What,” Guillermo starts but his voice falters and has to try again. “What are you going to do to me, master?”
“What would you like for me to do?” Nandor keeps his hold on Guillermo’s arm, holding him still as he explores him like newly conquered territory. Nuzzling his nose along the line of his throat, mouthing against his jawline, taking in his scent. Virginal with a hint of something more — Nandor needs to know. Hungers for it.
With his free hand, he tugs at Guillermo’s collar, revealing more skin. He waits for Guillermo to stop him, give him a reason not to, but he doesn’t. So. He licks Guillermo’s neck, laves at where one of the tastiest veins are (the jugular bleeds beautifully). Guillermo is warm under his tongue, so alive, and Nandor is so, so hungry. He wants to bite and pillage and take .
Nandor grazes his fangs at his neck. It would be so easy to sink them in, taste—
Guillermo moans, low and guttural, followed by a flood of that strong erotic human scent. Guillermo is enjoying this.
“You can,” Guillermo says between panted breaths, “if you want.”
“Would that make you happy?” Nandor asks, mumbled against his neck. “Have me feed from you? Use you?”
“If it’ll get you to eat—”
Nandor pushes him away.
“You tricked me!” He stomps his foot. “Using your seduction! Offering your horny virgin blood!”
“What?” Guillermo’s face colors pink, flushed. “Well, the boner is not…totally unexpected but Nandor, please, I’m worried about you.”
“Why? You’ve only stayed all these years in the hopes that I turn you and I refuse so you have no use for me—”
“Because I love you, you fucking moron!” Guillermo shouts. A single sob overcomes him. “I have for a long time.”
Nandor doesn’t know what to say. Love ?!
“You talk about not having anyone to spend your life with, but I am right here!” Guillermo wipes his face, but new tears replace the ones he removed. “And yeah, at first I wanted you to turn me into a vampire because it’s the cool fantasy I had, but now I want you to turn me because I want to spend forever with you. Why else would I have stayed? I thought you’d eventually figure it out, but you’re too fucking wrapped up in yourself.”
He expects Nandor to speak. Nandor tries, tries to say anything — but it gets caught up somewhere in his throat.
Guillermo kicks the cage. It rattles.
“Never mind,” he says, and he turns on his heel and rushes away.
His scent remains.
Nandor’s gaze shifts to the blood spilled on the floor. Hunger twists in his stomach, claws at his throat. What a waste…
He can’t help himself.
He drops to the floor on his hands and knees, licks the puddle of blood. Like a kitty cat lapping up milk.
With the first taste he feels alive again. Feels his strength return — he didn’t realize how weak he’d become — and his head feels less like when the fog settles low before dawn. He tries to go slow, savor it, but he’s been hungry for so long — he devours, swallowing it down. It’s a bit dusty from the floor and it’s cooled to room temperature and has started to clot, but it’s all Guillermo. Delicious, strong, perfect.
He licks the floor clean. Finishes every drop.
He’s still hungry.
He collapses on the bed.
Guillermo surrounds him. His smell in the sheets, his taste thick on his tongue.
Nandor ruts against the mattress, fucking into it. He closes his eyes, imagines that it’s Guillermo under him. Fucking that sweet virginity right out of him. Nandor should before someone else gets a taste of him and bleeds him dry. He wants to put his fangs at Guillermo’s neck, drink his pulse, feel him shudder and gasp underneath him—
Nandor bites into the pillow, ripping it open like he’d tear into another — he would never ever eat Guillermo this way but he wants him, wants his sexy smells and his warm soft skin against his, wants to feel his heartbeat race under his tongue, and Guillermo is so gentle, he’d touch Nandor with love—
There’s nobody there to know if he cries out Guillermo’s name as he comes.
“Fucking guy,” Nandor says to an empty room.
Guillermo looks at the floor. When his eyes meet Nandor’s, Nandor knows Guillermo knows what he did. He’s sure he is a mess — his hair frazzled and tangled (with nobody to brush it…) and blood smeared on his face from eating off the floor.
“You taste as good as you smell,” Nandor says, matter-of-factly.
That flusters Guillermo. He laughs, nervous. Blushes beautifully.
Nandor’s heart that has been still for over seven hundred years has an echo of a flutter.
“Did you mean it?” he asks. “You love me?”
“Yes,” Guillermo says, “and it’s okay if you don’t, I just needed to tell—”
“I love you, too,” Nandor blurts out, he hadn’t planned on it— “I think. I’ve forgotten what love feels like but I feel… something for you and I don’t know what to do about it and it scares me, Guillermo, I don’t like being scared and I—”
Nandor quiets. Did he say the wrong thing? Too much? He’s not a human, is he not capable of understanding love? It’s said vampires don’t have souls, and can you love without a soul?
Guillermo undoes the lock on the cage, and it takes a moment because his hands are trembling — but he throws the door open and then Nandor is enveloped in warmth.
Guillermo is hugging him.
Nandor wraps his arms around Guillermo, holds him tight, like he’s afraid he’ll lose him. Guillermo runs his hands up Nandor’s back, tangles in his hair, curling it around his fingers. Nandor feels Guillermo’s heart strong against his own chest. A steady thump, thump, thump . They fit perfectly together.
Guillermo pulls away first. His eyes are very bright. He asks, “If I let you out, will you behave?”
“You aren’t just saying that so you can eat me?”
“I don’t want to eat you,” Nandor says, then, “maybe just a nibble. Little love bite.”
Nandor presses his face into Guillermo’s neck; Guillermo inclines his head up, an invitation.
Nandor kisses him instead. It tastes better than blood ever could.