“Guillermo… Guillermo where are you?”
Nanor’s distant, sing-songy voice came from down the hallway. Guillermo, who was in the library, stopped dusting the taxidermy bear and hustled out into the foyer to answer the vampire’s call -- which sounded comically urgent.
“What is it, Master?” Guillermo panted as he burst into the hall, nearly colliding with the large form of the undead man.
“Guillermo where have you been, I’ve been calling for you for ages,” Nandor wailed.
“It’s been like thirty seconds since you--”
“Nevermind that,” Nandor flapped his hands as if to brush away their conversation, then promptly moved onto what he had been calling Guillermo for in the first place.
But by then, Guillermo had already started to figure out why; his Master’s usual dark, pristine hair was peppered with some sort of pale, gelatinous substance. Guillermo grimaced up at the sight.
“I’ve got a bit of a problem,” Nandor continued. “You see, I’ve got this… stuff all over my hair,” he gestured, “and it is very icky and I do not like it.”
His words were slightly more rushed than usual, and Guillermo could tell by the look on his face that Nandor definitely did not like it. The vampire was very particular about his hair; he hated to get it messy, which, at the moment, it most certainly was.
“Could you wash it for me please, Guillermo?” Nandor asked -- or rather, he told with a slight question mark.
Of course Guillermo would wash his hair. That’s what familiars were for, after all. Guillermo always washed Nandor’s hair -- it was part of his weekly duties as a familiar. It was certainly one of the more pleasant jobs that Guillermo was tasked with, though he would never admit it to Nandor. Best to keep things purely professional, Guillermo told himself.
Yeah, right : because everything about washing your Master’s thick, soft, beautiful -- ahem -- hair was professional. Just came with the job. No big deal, really.
Guillermo cleared his throat, and at the same time tried to clear his head.
“Yeah, ‘course Master.”
“Great,” Nandor replied chipperly. “I’ll be in in twenty minutes.”
The vampire whisked away with a flourish of cape, and Guillermo was left standing with his mouth slightly agape, like a fish gasping for air.
Nandor’s bathtub, which was stored in a closet near his room so it could be dragged in by Guillermo whenever the vampire wanted a bath, was somewhat of an antique. ‘Somewhat of an antique’ meaning that it was from the mid to late twelve-hundreds. It was from Nandor’s homeland, though Guillermo had no idea exactly how the vampire had gotten it from Al Quolanudar to Staten Island. He also had no idea how the tub, which was made of wood and brass bands, hadn’t rotted away over the past seven-hundred or so years, but honestly in his line of work, an everlasting bathtub was the least strange thing, so he just kind of went with it.
Not only was the tub horrifyingly old (no offense, Nandor), but it was also annoyingly heavy. Guillermo was barely able to move it from storage into Nando’s room without pulling several muscles and passing out from exhaustion. Of course Nandor could have lifted it easily, but setting up the bath was the job of the familiar, not the Master.
Somehow Guillermo managed, but it was still quite the process. The familiar had tried to convince the vampire to keep the tub in his room, however Nandor was, well, relentless with the idea that it be kept outside. Something about it “not fitting with the vibe of the room”.
So Guillermo had to drag it from the closet to Nandor’s room every time the vampire wanted a bath. It was hard work -- work that could easily be avoided if Guillermo had his way -- but in the end it was always worth it: Nandor loved bathtime. Seeing his Master so happy… well, it made the pain of having to drag the tub all the way back into the hallway a little more bearable.
Only a little, though.
Another thing about Nandor’s bathing routine was: there wasn’t any tap in his room. And, of course, when Guillermo suggested that Nandor take a bath in the actual bathroom, where there was a free-flowing source of water, the vampire immediately shot the idea down.
“What, you want me to bathe in the common-area like some commoner?” Nandor had cried with disgust.
So his room it was.
Which meant that, not only did Guillermo have to drag the tub inside, but he also had to carry buckets of scalding hot water through the house to fill the tub. It always felt like an impossible struggle, trying to fill the tub before the water got cold. It was like a relay race, only it wasn’t very fun. Guillermo usually ended up quite wet and very out of breath by the end of it.
Still, despite all the trouble the whole situation was, it always ended up being kind of nice, and against all his better judgement, Guillermo usually found himself looking forward to bathtime.
True to his word, Guillermo heard a knock outside Nandor’s door exactly twenty minutes later, just when he was pouring the last bucket of water into the old wooden tub.
“Guillermo? Are you ready in there,” the vampire called.
“Yes Master, all ready,” the familiar called back, straightening up and brushing off the front of his sweater.
Nandor entered, closing the door firmly behind him. The vampire walked into the room in an almost lazy manner, trailing a hand along his coffin as he nonchalantly made his way towards the bath. It was like he was looking around the room for the first time, wanting to take all of it in before they started.
Guillermo, on the other hand, stood frozen and stared at his Master, eyes wide, a tiny smile plastered on his face.
Turning towards Guillermo, Nandor stared back, though the vampire’s face was covered in an expectant expression. Finally, when Guillermo didn’t get the hint he was apparently trying to give, Nandor spoke up.
“Well -- don’t just stand there, Guillermo.” Nandor waved his hand in a circle, gesturing for the familiar to turn around.
“Oh, right, sorry Master,” Guillermo stammered, still smiling.
“Trying to watch me undress, fucking guy,” Nandor mumbled.
Guillermo stood with his hands clasped tightly in front of him, looking around the room -- or at least, the side of the room where Nandor wasn’t currently getting naked in -- and tried to squish the feeling of awkwardness that was threatening to overwhelm him.
Luckily, Nandor didn’t seem to catch on and, once he was undressed, climbed noisily into the bathtub.
“Okay Guillermo, I have gotten into the tub,” Nandor very helpfully disclosed.
“Y-Yes, I heard you, Master--”
“I am in, you can turn around now.”
Guillermo tried to stifle a laugh by coughing into his elbow as he slowly spun around. He always wondered why Nandor had him look away when he undressed: the bathtub was only filled with water, no bubbles or anything -- and water is usually pretty transparent, so...
Guillermo hadn’t realized he was staring.
“Do not look at my penis, Guillermo, it is very rude. That is for my eyes and my eyes only.”
“I was- I wasn’t looking at… your… I wasn’t,” Guillermo stammered, turning an impressive shade of red.
“Oh,” Nandor replied. “Well, if you were thinking about it, don’t do it.”
“Right, yes, of course.” Guillermo realized he had started to sweat, and hastily wiped a hand across his forehead. Was it getting hot in here? It must be hot in here…
“Well,” Nandor muttered impatiently. “Are you going to wash my hair, or are you just going to stand there and breathe all funny? Huh?”
“Oh Right, of course Master,” Guillermo said, chuckling breathily, and then immediately sucking that breath back in and holding it there. He pulled a cushioned stool out from against the wall.
He also grabbed the small wooden chest where Nandor kept all his toiletries. Cracking it open, Guillermo reached around a fine, intricately carved golden brush for the bottle of L’Oreal shampoo. It was actually kids’ shampoo, but Nandor refused any other kind. He liked the way it made his hair smell like pears.
Guillermo scooted closer, and Nandor leaned backwards, dunking his head under the water. Guillermo watched as the dark, inky locks swayed with Nandor’s movements. After a few seconds, the vampire emerged, wiping the water out of his eyes.
“It is time,” Nandor said dramatically. “‘Poo me, Guillermo.”
“I- alright, I wish you wouldn’t say it like that, but…”
Guillermo squeezed a large glob of shampoo onto his palm. Nandor had a lot of hair, and it was thick, too, so Guillermo always had to use a shit ton of soap to get it clean -- especially when it has some sort of intergalactic goo in it.
Rubbing his hands together to get the shampoo sudsing, Guillermo reached towards Nandor. The vampire was sitting up slightly, his back against the edge of the tub and his head leaning back so Guillermo could reach.
After only a split second of hesitation, Guillermo plunged his hands into the tangle of hair at the base of Nandor’s neck. He worked from the bottom up, sudsing up the ends of the vampire's hair, carefully scrubbing all the slime away.
A couple minutes later, and a couple inches upward, Guillermo’s fingers brushed the vampire’s scalp. Guillermo took a deep breath and tried to calm his heart; Nandor could always hear when his heart was racing, and the vampire would never shut up about it if he noticed.
Trying to keep himself as steady as possible, Guillermo began to massage Nandor’s scalp, rubbing circles in the thick hair that was plastered against it. He gradually worked his way along the back of his head, the rhythm of it lulling Guillermo into a sort of trance. Soon he forgot any idea of awkwardness, and his mind was able to relax. It was almost therapeutic, and Guillermo found himself really enjoying it.
It seemed that Nandor was enjoying it, too. Guillermo hadn’t even gotten halfway up his head when the vampire let out a content sigh and slid further into the tub, letting the base of his neck rest against the edge. Guillermo noticed that Nandor’s eyes were closed, and there were crinkles at the corners of his lids.
Oh my god , the familiar thought. Is he -- he’s smiling. He really likes this… No, no he doesn’t. I mean, it doesn’t mean anything, or anything. Does it?
“Guillermo?” Nando spoke up, and though his voice was hushed, the suddenness of it made the other man jump.
“Are you having a big thought up there?”
The question seemed genuine enough, and there was a gentleness to Nandor’s voice that made Guillermo’s breathing hitch.
“N-No, Master… not really,” Guillermo lied.
“Mhm,” Nandor hummed, disinterested.
Guillermo thought that was the end of it, but a few seconds later, Nandor was talking again.
“You know, I’m having somewhat of a big thought myself...” the vampire shifted slightly before continuing. “When you deserted me all those weeks ago, I thought to myself: ‘what happens if I get that colorful dust in my hair again?’--”
“Glitter,” Guillermo offered, his voice hardly more than a croaking whisper. He had stopped rubbing the vampire’s scalp, but his hands were still resting gently against his head.
“Yes, thank you -- glitter . I thought ‘what if I get glitter in my hair again? What will I do without Guillermo to wash it out for me?’ I considered that I could ask Nadja, but then I realized that it is very possible she would try and strangle me.”
Nandor smiled and Guillermo let out a shaky laugh.
They fell silent for a while, then. Guillermo gazed at the back of his Master’s head, running his fingers though the vampire’s hair in slow, even strokes. He took a strand between his fingers and twirled it.
He swore he saw Nandor shiver.
But… that’s not possible -- vampire’s don’t shiver .
Guillermo let the hair fall from his fingers as he closed his eyes, shaking his head. He was losing it, really.
“Guillermo don’t stop,” came Nandor’s voice, his tone strangely serious. “It feels good, when you do that.”
Guillermo swore that his heart stopped. Feeling like he was being turned to stone, he reached out an only slightly trembling hand and carefully took another strand of Nandor’s hair -- this time, one closer to the crown of his head. Running his fingers along it, he gently twirled the lock before letting go of it to sweep his hand down the back of the vampire’s scalp. Nandor’s head lulled back as the vampire let himself rest completely against the familiar’s hand.
Guillermo nearly died.
“Guillermo, your heart is being loud again. ‘S kind of ruining the mood,” Nandor hummed lazily.
“Sorry Master,” Guillermo breathed, eyebrows furrowing together.
“Do you have that nervous look on your face again ?” Nandor asked.
Guillermo let out a frantic chuckle.
“I don’t know what you mean--”
“You know,” Nandor interrupted, still sounding as if he was talking in his sleep. “Where your eyebrows get all close together and you get that wrinkle on your forehead.”
Nandor’s words didn’t help, and Guillermo was sure he had died and was now in some sort of purgatory.
“Uh… no, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Guillermo said hurriedly, the words stumbling together.
“Oh, well. Whatever,” Nandor replied. “I just want you to know, Guillermo, that I’m not enjoying this, really. It’s just a formality, you know, so nothing to be worried about...”
“Yeah,” Guillermo rasped. “Right, yeah. Of course. Well, I’m not enjoying it either, so…”
“There we go, then,” said Nandor, and Guillermo thought he almost detected a defensive lilt to his tone.
“Th- Yep, there we go…”
They did descend into silence, then, with Guillermo still massaging Nandor’s scalp, and the vampire nearly dozing.
Nandor would rather deconstruct than admit to anyone -- especially Guillermo -- but these moments were some of the happiest in his long, long… long life. He’d always loved having his hair washed -- some of his favorite wives used to do it for him, but they’d never done it nearly as well as Guillermo. Nandor had told Guillermo that once, but the familiar had gone all fidgety about it so Nandor didn’t bring it up again. However, it wasn’t just the gesture that made it feel so special. It felt special because it was Guillermo doing it.
As much as he loathed to admit it, he’d gotten quite attached to the little guy. When the familiar had left for his ‘better offer’, Nandor had felt… hopelessly alone. And not just because there wasn’t someone to wash the colorful dust out of his hair, though that was a pretty big one, but because there had been a Guillermo shaped hole in his heart. He had tried to fill it with Benji, but his old familiar just didn’t feel as familiar as Guillermo did.
Then he’d tried to convince himself he didn’t need Guillermo. Nandor was a vampire after all, and Guillermo was just a silly little human. But that hadn’t done any good. When Nandor had to tuck himself into his coffin, he could only think of how Guillermo wasn’t there. And when he lay awake all day, his thoughts were only of the little familiar. Where was he? What was he doing? Was he happy, being away from Nandor, or was he as miserable as the vampire felt?
And that’s when Nandor realized that maybe he had been a little hard on Guillermo for the past few days. Or weeks. Or, okay, maybe for the past few years . The realization made Nandor feel guilty, which was really quite annoying. He was Nandor the Relentless, why should he spend his guilt on a silly human?
But he did feel guilty, and he quickly realized that he would have done almost anything to get Guillermo to come home. In the end, it had been a lot easier than he’d expected. And he was glad, because with Guillermo back in his life, everything was right again.
Leaning back against the soft, gentle hands of the familiar, Nandor felt a small nagging interrupt his bliss. What was this feeling he was feeling? It was… uncomfortably warm, like when he got too close to the sunlight. It made his insides feel all wobbly.
But then Guillermo’s hand brushed the hair just behind his ear, and Nandor’s mind went blank with the sheer euphoria of it.
It didn’t matter how he was feeling -- all that mattered was that Guillermo was back.
After all of the strange goo had been washed out of Nandor’s hair, Guillermo rinsed it clean. Nandor disappeared under the water one final time, then dramatically rose up out of the tub and straight into the towel that Guillermo was holding for him.
“Thank you, Guillermo,” Nandor said, streams of water dripping from his body.
“And do you have the…”
Guillermo handed him a hair towel, which happened to be bright pink.
“Ah, thank you very much,” Nandor primly replied.
Because it was so thick, Nandor’s hair took forever to dry. Out on one of his frequent errands, Guillermo spotted the hair towels and immediately bought one. Nandor had been skeptical at first, but quickly grew ecstatic at the idea of a towel just for your head. The vampire had made Guillermo wash his hair that very night just so he could use the wrap.
Throwing his hair over his head, Nandor wrapped his locks in the pick fabric. Then, right side up again, he twisted the towel at the base of his neck before folding it up and slipping it through the elastic loop at the top.
“Perfect,” he gave Guillermo a toothy grin, which Guillermo returned, though not as enthusiastically, nor as fangy.
Holding up a hand, Guillermo helped his Master out of the tub, earning him a grateful look from the vampire.
Then, all of the sudden, Nandor seemed to grow shy, looking down at his feet and absentmindedly kicking his heel along the floor. Guillermo watched all this in silence, wanting to give Nandor time to do whatever it is he was thinking about doing.
Looking up, but not directly at Guillermo, Nandor finally spoke.
“Thank you for washing my hair, Guillermo. I know you always do it, but… thank you for doing it this time, too.”
Then, growing even more awkward, yet somehow even more genuine, he added,
“I am glad you decided to come home. It’s good to have you here.”
Guillermo, at a loss for words, gazed up at his Master -- his friend .
“Wow… uh, thank you Master, that means a lot.”
Nandor waved it away, but a smile sprung up on his face, and his eyes twinkled.
“Eh, do not mention it. Really, do not.” Nandor’s face returned to its usual serious look, and Guillermo put on as much of a serious face as he could and nodded solemnly.
“Good,” Nandor continued. “Now, help me into my clothes, will you?”