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hey little sister (what have you done?)

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Guillermo de la Cruz cares about a lot of things. He cares about his mother, he cares about public transportation. He cares about the fight for unions, the way Nadja taught him how to braid, the record Laszlo gave him, the office supplies Colin brings him, the soft curl that escapes Nandor’s updo when he’s had a harrowing day. He cares about the stupid glitter portrait, he cares about his mini fridge, his crucifix, his coffee mug, he just. Cares. Guillermo de la Cruz cares. It’s what has made him a good familiar, a great bodyguard, an unflinching friend.

So that’s what he does. He cares. He cares when Nandor lets blood flow into Gail’s mouth. He cares when he hits his knees and pulls out that stupid fucking ring. He cares when Gail says yes.

He cares. He cares. He cares.

She kisses him, all arms around him, pulling him close like she wasn’t just kissing some werewolf bitch thirty minutes ago, and Guillermo de la Cruz… cares.

Nandor’s smile is bright and blossoming across his face like a goddamn lightning strike as he turns to Guillermo, who has about half a second to flip his face into something vaguely supportive.

“I’m getting married!” Nandor exclaims, hoisting Gail up by her hips and spinning them around, a scene out of a stupid romance movie. The werewolves howl in appreciation and the vampires just sort of… grimace. Guillermo meets Nadja’s eyes and can see that she… cares… too. Not quite the same, but there’s an apprehension on her face and a heaviness to her frown. Laszlo grabs her hand and pulls her a step back, as if afraid she’ll jump Gail and wring her out to dry.

Guillermo thinks that wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Laszlo’s other hand is pulling Colin back who, to Guillermo’s surprise, is frowning. He’s sure he’s a goddamn buffet right now, what with all the… caring… but Colin is focused solely on backing up with his friends.

“There is so much to plan!” Nandor exclaims, setting Gail down but not removing his hands from her hips. “Guillermo! Will you help me plan our wedding?”

Guillermo forces a smile, thinks it hurts his cheeks a bit too much. “Of course, master,” he says, and when Gail glances back at the werewolf boy from earlier, Guillermo cares a bit too much.

———

Gail takes his room. Because of course she does.

Because he offers.

Because he can’t stand the thought of Nandor offering it instead. The thought of Nandor offering his own coffin, even. The thought of Gail with her nose pressed to his chest, hand over his unbeating heart.

So Guillermo offers his room.

It’s in the passing between entrance and hallway that something frigid touches his hand and he smacks it away, startled. Laszlo is there, close to him, and they stare a moment before he grabs his hand again and tugs him away.

And this is fine. This is normal. This is… something.

Maybe he’s being led to die.

They enter the sitting room where Colin and Nadja are sitting on a couch, shoulder-to-shoulder. Guillermo wonders when everyone got so damn close, but, to be fair, he’s been focused mainly on Nandor for twelve years now.

Laszlo closes the door behind them and turns on a fan. It spins lazily, creaking with disuse, barely doing so much as blowing more dust into the air. “So they don’t hear us,” Laszlo clarifies, then claps his hands. “Well then! What the fuck are we going to do about this shit?”

Colin groans and Nadja throws her hands up. “Yes! What the bitch is this?! Every time she comes around things just go all to piss! I don’t want her here!”

“I knew you disliked Gail,” Colin notes absently, and she scowls.

“I did not! I do now, though.” She crosses her arms angrily. “Fucking bitch.”

Guillermo holds his hands up in defense against the three very perturbed vampires. “Woah, okay, I understand why I don’t want her here, but why don’t you all want her here? When have you cared for anyone but yourselves?”

“Harsh,” Colin drones, an upward tug of his lips saying he isn't hurt at all.

Laszlo shakes his head. “You’re right, but ‘ourselves’ includes Nandor, whether we like it or not. Besides, when she breaks his heart, I don’t want to have to deal with a weepy Ottoman viceroy.”

“There it is.”

“Last time she pulled this shit,” Nadja begins, “Nandor tore all the curtains down in some stupid fit of passion. We almost died, Gizmo.”

“And there it is again.”

Colin drapes his arms across the back of the couch, Nadja tossing a glare his way. “Why do you not want her here?”

Guillermo knows better, is well-skilled at avoiding those feelings. “I’m his bodyguard, and I can’t see him get hurt. In any form.”

“But if he got married, they might could turn you. Keep you as their little vampire kid.”

Guillermo shudders. “I really don’t want—“

“Nandor could be your daddy.”

“Do you want my help or not?!” he snaps, scowling. Colin holds up his hands in mild surrender.

Laszlo pats Guillermo on the shoulder. Again with the touching. “All you have to do is convince her to leave. Shouldn’t be hard; she does it all the fucking time.”

Guillermo can do that. Convince someone to leave. That should be easy. Gail had a kid, right? He could fake a phone call, or an email, say she has to come right at once…

Nadja grins at the concentration schooling his face. “There is our Gizmo, already thinking up evil thoughts. Beautiful!”

He holds up one finger. “What do I get in return?”

“A not weepy master?” Laszlo tries.

“No, no. From you guys. I can deal with a weepy Nandor. And I don’t get killed by sunlight.”

“A night you’ll never forget?” Laszlo winks at him, and he huffs.

“No. I want you guys to help me dig graves.”

They all groan.

“What? Why would we do that?” Nadja asks, red lips curling back in a grimace.

“Because you all have super strength and I don’t.”

Colin raises his hand. “Me included?”

“No. I want you to start bringing me pens that actually work.”

“Once a month,” Laszlo interjects.

“Once a week. Do you know how many bodies I have to bury? It’s a lot, okay?”

Nadja waves her hand absently. “I’ve killed fifty people in a single month before, Gizmo. It’s not too difficult to get rid of them all. I think once a month would be—“

“Hmm, okay, let’s see,” Guillermo begins, sass dripping from his words. “There are three of you that drink blood, and since you insist on feeding every night, that’s, oh, something like a hundred dead bodies. A month. That is over a thousand a year. I am running out of places to hide these things. A little help is not only appreciated, it is necessary.”

They’re all silent, staring at him. Laszlo grabs his shoulders and turns him to face him, studying him. “How many years have you worked for us? Five?”

“Twelve,” Guillermo growls, shrugging him off.

Nadja’s eyes are wide and gleeful. “Are there more humans than there once were? How have they not noticed twelve thousand missing people?”

Guillermo pinches the bridge of his nose. “It’s Staten Island. People just go missing.”

Colin snaps his fingers, like he’s just thought of something. “Oh! The serial killer podcast about the Staten Island Vampire is actually about you!”

“They’re calling me the—? Doesn’t matter. Those are my terms. Help me dispose of the bodies. Just dig the graves, I don’t care.”

Laszlo laughs, and Guillermo really wants to step away. “Old chap I had no idea you were a serial killer! You know, I was once a serial killer myself—“

“I’m not a— look. You want Gail gone?”

“Yes,” they all agreed quickly.

“Then do we have a deal?”

They all exchange a silent look, then nod. “Fine.” Laszlo sticks his hand out.

Guillermo shakes his hand easily, suppressing a shudder at the chilliness. He thinks for a moment that he has no idea how they find so many willing human partners when their skin feels like that.

But then again. Nandor’s skin isn’t any warmer, and here Guillermo is: thinking about touching it.

They all turn when the door opens and the happy couple stumbles in, lips red and spit-slick, smiles turned to the bright face of the other.

“Guillermo!” Nandor announces happily, dopey. “I was thinking Gail could use your room for the night!” As if that wasn’t established. As if Nandor hadn’t even been listening, the prick.

Guillermo takes a deep breath in and out, reminds himself of his new job. She would be gone within the week. He would see to it. “Yes, master.”

“Where will Guillermo stay?” Colin asks, leaning forward on his elbows. It’s unlike him, to pay this close attention, to show the cards he keeps his heart on, and Guillermo casts him a suspicious glance. Colin just winks back at him.

“Oh, I had not thought of that,” Nandor trails off, getting lost again in Gail’s eyes.

“I’ll stay in your room, master,” Guillermo says slowly, idea forming. “In your chair. To keep a closer guard on you as your wedding approaches.”

“Yes! That will be fantastic, Guillermo, thank you.” He kisses Gail again, and Guillermo’s stomach churns. “Oh, actually, could you guard my door right now?”

“Of course, master,” he says, puzzled, and he follows them upstairs.

He figures it out on the way.

Clothes are dropped in hallways, around corners, until Nandor and Gail’s bare asses disappear into the room. Guillermo stands guard, listening to soft and deep noises, and does. not. care.

He doesn’t. He doesn’t care. He thinks about his plan, how to find Gail’s daughter’s name. He doesn’t think about bare ass and cold breath. He does not think about Nandor a few feet away, locking limbs with a woman who only wants to grab everything she can and run. A fucking thief in the night. He doesn’t think about her in his bed tonight, dreaming the same dreams he’s had for over a decade now, with more realistic sounds, more sensational touches.

No.

Guillermo de la Cruz stands guard as his master tries to find happiness in a goddamn orgasm and does. not. care.

———

“So,” Gail pants, raising her arms and stretching. “Where’s your room?”

Guillermo keeps his eyes firmly above her collar. Her very fucking naked collar, bruising on her neck, down her— nope. Eyes up. He turns on his heel and walks, trusting her to follow. She does.

“Nandor says you’re a great bodyguard,” she begins, padding along after him, not even bothering to cover herself. She’s at-ease in her surroundings, something Guillermo has never been able to do.

“I try,” he responds, walking down the stairs. He finds himself hoping she’ll trip and fall, and immediately berates himself for it.

“I guess that means you’ll be my bodyguard, too?”

“If that is what he wants,” he responds dryly, rounding the stairs to open the door to his little room. He’s never been happy about how small it is. At least, not until now, when he can take dark pleasure in knowing it’s nothing good.

But Gail smiles at him and sits down on the bed like it’s fine, like she’s okay with it. Just. Bare ass on his bedsheets. He’ll have to wash those. “Thank you, Guillermo.”

“Yeah. Congrats.”

“Thanks! He sure is… something,” she says, one hand reaching up to touch a bruise on the side of her neck.

Guillermo’s head twitches as a hot pang of jealousy runs through him. “Yeah. Seven hundred years old. Over seven hundred more to go. You’re very lucky, to experience eternity with him.”

She glances at him, eyes wide, and Guillermo thinks this might actually be the easiest chore he’s ever had. “Eternity, huh?”

“Yeah, you know, he’s very old and powerful. And with me around, he’s not dying anytime soon. So you two will be pals for decades and decades and decades. Centuries, even. Longer.” He opens his mini fridge and removes the spare stakes, tucking them into the holster on his vest. “He likes chess a lot, so if you don’t know how to play, you should learn. You’ll be playing it every day.”

Gail has a look that says she very much does not like chess. “Um, yeah. Thank you for the… advice. Goodnight.”

Guillermo smiles pleasantly at her. “Goodnight, Gail.”

“Mistress.”

His jaw tenses and he stares at her, hoping his smile still looks genuine. It feels like he’s blazing. “Goodnight, mistress.” He closes the door harder than he means to and walks back up the stairs. The shadows seem to grow darker as he passes.

He’s grinding his teeth when he opens the door to Nandor’s room, a dark glower trailing across his face.

“Guillermo!” Nandor announces happily, arms outstretched.

Guillermo fucking freezes. He doesn’t know what he was expecting, really, since Gail was naked. Why wouldn’t Nandor be naked too. Why wasn’t he prepared. Why is he still staring.

“My Gail is all taken care of?” Nandor asks, leaning back against his coffin like he isn’t some sort of painting, strokes carefully traced in varying shades of tan.

“Mmhm,” Guillermo manages, face red, forcing himself to look at Nandor’s eyes and not his— he’s not thinking about it. He’s not. There’s that curl escaping Nandor’s updo, and, goddammit, that was meant to be his. There’s something rotting in his heart, like Gail stole everything already. Which, is ridiculous, he never owned that piece of hair.

Except he did, right? He’s the one that washed it, brushed it out. He’s the one that pulled Nandor’s hair up in the first place. He’s the one that always offered a bouncing board when Nandor was worried or excited, talking so fast words spilled over themselves. He’s the one that has seen long fingers card through hair, loosing that one very specific piece.

Oh, god. He can’t do this.

“I was thinking,” Nandor begins, pushing himself off the coffin to start pacing, and, great. All of Guillermo’s bodyguard training has his eyes following Nandor. He can’t look away. “I was thinking that we should get married in a barn.”

Um. Okay. “A… barn?”

“With horses,” Nandor clarifies, eyes sparkling. “Very pretty ones.”

“I… will try to find a barn with horses in Staten Island.”

“It can be further away, that’s fine.” He cards his fingers through his hair, finding the tie and taking it down, and oh. That’s new. Guillermo didn’t know he even knew how to take it down. All the little curled pieces fall around his face, framing it gently. Goddammit. God-fucking-dammit.

“Mmhm.” Words aren’t really doing their job in Guillermo’s brain.

“And I would like to dress in traditional Al Quolanudarian garb.”

“Mmhm.”

“I don’t remember what it looked like, but you can use the Goggles to figure it out.”

“G—Google.”

“Goggles, yes. And my dear Guillermo—“

He hides the sound his throat makes with a gentle cough, but it’s kind of pointless when Nandor stands before him and holds his shoulders proudly.

“I would like for you to be my best man.”

“I— huh?”

Nandor’s hands move to cup his face and Guillermo short-circuits. “You have stood readily beside me for many years now. I would be honored to have you stand beside me one last time.”

“Last...?”

“After the wedding, we are leaving for a very long honeymoon. You have served me very faithfully. Before we leave, I will be granting you your eternal wish.”

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Guillermo opens his mouth to say something, and nothing comes out.

Nandor chuckles to himself, like Guillermo is something amusing, like the sweetness that drapes itself across his face is his for the taking.

(It is. It always has been.)

“Really?” Guillermo breathes.

“Really. I promise.” He boops Guillermo’s nose, and Guillermo instantly wins the Best Idiot of 2021 award.

Because he hugs Nandor.

It takes barely-cold back against his very-warm hands for him to realize what he has just done. He is. Hoo buddy. He is hugging a very, very, very naked Nandor.

But maybe Nandor is just happy to have what he’s always wanted, maybe he’s still in that post-coital high, whatever. But he hugs Guillermo back.

Guillermo is frozen, unable to move, but Nandor is holding him tight, letting out a weary breath. “I am finally happy, Guillermo,” he whispers in his ear, and Guillermo thinks he’s never going to be able to sleep again. “I have been so sad for so many years that I had almost forgotten what happiness could feel like. It feels like the sun is rising, my friend, and I’m still alive to feel it.”

And it doesn’t feel like a master moment. It feels like a friend moment, a Nandor moment. It feels like something Guillermo should’ve realized twelve years ago. “I didn’t know you were so sad, Nandor,” Guillermo whispers back, and his breath has to be warm against Nandor’s skin, where it puffs out against his collarbone.

“Why would I speak of it? You worry about me so much. Why would I bring you something you could not fix?”

And that’s just a punch in the face, that is. That Nandor has only ever asked for things he knew Guillermo could do. Has managed things himself that Guillermo could do nothing about. Has made sure he felt useful. Has been aware of his limitations and spoke nothing of them. His hands shake against Nandor’s back, and he holds him tighter, nudeness forgotten. “I could have tried,” he whispers.

“And what would you have done?”

There’s nothing Guillermo can say back to that, not out loud. He thinks, though, that he could have lingered a bit longer, made sure Nandor knew he was wanted. Is still wanted. “I don’t know,” he finally says instead, and it feels like a lie. He trails one hand up to the back of his hair, and that is definitely not allowed, and he pulls him closer and tighter, which is also definitely not allowed. “I’m sorry. I never knew.”

“It is in the past now,” Nandor replies easily, makes no motion to move. Like he’s comfortable in Guillermo’s arms, like that’s a thought Guillermo can even afford.

He wants to say it isn’t, that someone else is not a cure. That things might feel better for a while, but this is not it. There is more to do, and it’s a lot more inside and a lot less outside. But the far more selfish part of his brain is too focused on first hugs and tight arms to put up a fuss now, of all times. That part of his brain raises onto his tippy-toes so he can press his face into the cool junction of where shoulder meets neck. It feels like it was made for him.

Nandor purrs— rumbles, sorry, Nandor rumbles and rests his cheek against Guillermo’s shoulder, and Guillermo wonders why the fuck Nandor hasn’t allowed him to hug him until now, if he’s just going to become some silly little house cat about it.

Probably because neither seem intent upon letting go.

“Will you teach me how you do it?” Nandor murmurs almost… sleepily, like he’s going to fall asleep right here against Guillermo’s shoulder with zero regard for Guillermo’s continued mental health.

“Do what, Nandor?” The sound muffles itself in Nandor’s throat.

“The washing with all the different bottles. I should learn.”

“Ah.” Something feels bad about that, like another piece of Nandor is being stolen from him.

“Colin says they make single bottles of soap that you can use for everything.”

“Don’t listen to Colin.”

“Very well.”

“Your hair is… too high-maintenance for that. I’ll teach you what they’re all for.”

“Thank you, my friend,” Nandor whispers. He lingers another moment before sighing softly and pulling away. His hands trail down Guillermo’s arms, lingering at his elbows. “I could use a bath now, I think.”

“Yeah, you smell like sex,” Guillermo says before he can think better of it.

Nandor’s eyes light up. “Oh! Humans can smell it, too? I thought it was just a vampire thing.”

“No, it’s um, it’s a pretty strong smell. Hard to mistake for anything else.”

Nandor makes a thoughtful humming noise, presumably filing the information away. “How long can you smell it for?”

“Until you take a shower, move along.” He ushers Nandor to the bathroom. “Now, look. This is called conditioner…”

———

Guillermo sits in the chair, listening to the silence of the room. He thinks he should probably get some rest. Nothing is getting in here without him knowing, anyway. But he’s still thinking about Nandor and— and Gail.

He wishes it were more of a debate in his mind, whether to save Nandor from heartache or get what he’s been wanting for his entire life. But it isn’t a debate. Nandor offered to turn him, and he immediately, immediately knew he wouldn’t accept. There it was, everything he had ever wanted on a decidedly non-silver platter, and he brushed it away without a second thought.

Teenage Guillermo was kicking him right now.

But there was that smile on Nandor’s face, that gentle assurance, that relaxation in his arms. If he knew it would stay like that, he’d let Nandor go. Whatever makes him happy. But it won’t stay. And it will just be all the worse if Gail disappears after marrying him, because that promise of forever will have been made and broken, instead of merely almost-made.

Guillermo doesn’t think about how he promised Nandor forever, too.

He thinks about steps moving forward. He needs to find some sort of vampire self-help book. Or a vampire therapist. Or… he doesn’t know. Something. He might not can fix him, but he can help. He can try.

He pulls out his phone and does a Facebook search for Gail, not surprised at all to find she has one. Her home page is mostly Minions memes. Figures.

He searches, and searches, and searches, but cannot find her daughter. Or even any mention of one. Which is, odd, for a middle-aged woman’s Facebook account.

He pulls up his Ancestry account instead, hits his own name and “Add Spouse”. He grabs her birthday and hometown from her Facebook and plugs them in until he gets a result.

Birth record for Gail. Okay, good, accepted. He waits for more hints to pop up, but no more come. No records of her as a mother, no marriages, nothing. A single photo in a newspaper of someone also named Gail comes up, but it’s not her. This Gail is some soft, sweet thing, waving at the camera from her black and white home. The headline reads, Local Woman Raises Money For Charity. Guillermo sort of wishes it was her.

He opens up the birth record, finds the parents’ names, and plugs those in, too. He sees Gail’s cousins, her aunts and uncles, her grandparents, finally a marriage license, but. No children.

He’s thinking of how Gail tried to use her daughter as an excuse to leave, and something white-hot boils up inside him. He shoves it down, more stoking it than smothering it, and looks up her ex-husband. He doesn’t have a daughter, either. He also doesn’t have her listed as a friend.

Guillermo twiddles his thumbs over his screen, then hits send message.

Guillermo de la Cruz: Hi, sorry, you don’t know me. A friend of mine is getting married soon to Gail Tururro, and she mentioned your name. I don’t mean to come off as rude, but I’m very worried. Could we maybe talk some time?

It’s ridiculously early at this point, and he doesn’t expect a response any time soon. But there. Maybe this man could give him some information on how to get rid of Gail, for good. It seemed like he had already done that once.

He switches back to Ancestry, screenshots the records, and deletes Gail from his family tree. No need for someone to be doing their own research and stumble across that. Staten Island Vampire runs through his head, and he scowls. Dumb fuckin’ name. And he wasn’t a serial killer, he was just— well. Not a serial killer.

He gives the room a cursory glance, making sure nothing has changed. It hasn’t. He could honestly probably go do some chores, but he promised Nandor he would be “extra guard-y” in the days leading up to the wedding, so he’ll do them sometime tonight.

He sits back to look up barn venues for rent and tries to ignore the bitter ache in his chest.

———

“Guillleeeeerrrmmmooo,” Gail calls throughout the house, and Guillermo groans.

He’s still waiting on Nandor to wake up. Sometimes Nandor likes to sleep in; he’ll wake up with bedhead and blurry eyes and a soft pout on his lips. Guillermo… likes when Nandor sleeps in.

“Guillermo!” she calls again, and his face twitches but he does not move.

“Gui— oh, there you are.” Gail enters the room, wearing — Guillermo shudders — one of his sweaters. Thankfully it falls down enough to cover her… yeah. “I’ve been calling for you.”

“I heard you.” His gaze does not waver from Nandor’s coffin.

“I need help with some things.”

“Unfortunately, I am currently in the process of guarding Nandor. When he awakes, I will gladly help you with your tasks.” Guillermo can hear the teenage corporate training dripping from his own lips.

“I’m in charge of you too, you know,” she says, frowning, and Guillermo has to clench and unclench his jaw.

“I am aware, yes. However, this specific matter is life and death, so it does take precedence.” He breathes deeply. “If you will let me know now what you will need help with, I can start mentally figuring out solutions, if you’d like.”

“I think, first off, I just really need some clothes.”

He glances over at her, sees she’s huddled in on herself, even in the sweater. And yeah, okay, it… is cold in the house. It has to be; the three idiots leave corpses laying around too much to keep it any form of warm. “Of course. You might try Nadja for just some pants or something, and we can go shopping later.”

“Thank you, Guillermo,” Gail says, and there is a genuinely kind smile on her face.

Guillermo does his best to not let his dislike waver any. “I’ll come find you when Nandor wakes up.”

Gail isn’t even out the door when a muffled, “Guillermo,” rings out from the coffin.

He can see her eyes light up, a bright smile trail across her face. Something in his heart clenches as she runs barefoot over to Nandor’s coffin and throws open the lid, jumping inside.

“Well, good evening to you, too,” Nandor says, a touch of surprise in his voice as he wraps his arms around her. His brow furrows and he opens his eyes. “Gail!” he exclaims, ecstatic, and pulls her in for a kiss.

She giggles against his mouth. “Good evening, Nandy.”

“Good evening, my love.” He presses another kiss to her nose softly, then pushes them both up to sitting. “You know, for a moment, I thought you were—“ He catches sight of Guillermo and stops, staring. “How… how long have you been creeping there?”

“All day, master.”

“You are far too quiet. No assassins in the daylight hours?”

“None. Though I did find a couple of options for your wedding venue.”

Nandor smiles broadly. “Oh, wonderful! We will go see them all tonight!”

“Some of them are a bit far—“

“No worries; we will fly.”

“Gail needs some clothes.“

“Ah! Perfect, that will give you and I time to plan more things.” Nandor reaches to some compartment in his coffin and produces a few ancient coins, handing them to Gail. “Please, get yourself something nice.”

She glances down at the coins and shares a look with Guillermo. “Ah, thank you, Nandy.”

And dammit, Guillermo was not going to have little inside jokes and looks with Gail. He shares a look with the camera instead.

“Take Nadja with you, she loves the girl talk,” Nandor tells her as she leaves, and Guillermo thinks that might be the funniest thing he’s ever heard.

“What are we planning, master?” Guillermo asks, already grabbing Nandor’s clothes for the day.

Nandor holds out a hand instead. “I will do this myself, Guillermo. Thank you.” He strips down, and Guillermo definitely does not stare. “We are going to be planning the reception.”

“We don’t even know the location—“

“Obviously the reception will be here, regardless of venue.” He pulls on an undershirt and boxers, looks at the pile of complicated clothes in Guillermo’s arms, and winces. “You know, this will be fine, I think. I will not be going out for a while, anyway.”

Guillermo thinks he must have been cursed, to have God stand before him and be unable to reach out. “Mmhm.” He sets the pile of clothes down, just in case Nandor changes his mind. “Do you want me to put your hair up? Have you brushed it?”

“No, no, it’s okay,” Nandor mumbles, walking around his room, looking for… something. He finally finds some sort of crumbling notepad and a brittle pencil. “Take notes, if you would.”

Guillermo sits back in his velvet chair very seriously, and presses the very short pencil to disintegrating paper. “I’m ready.”

“The finest blood we can find for the reception, of course. I heard that dogs like peanut butter, so that for the werewolves. What would the familiars like?”

It takes Guillermo a moment to realize Nandor is asking him. “Oh. Um, a sundae bar would be great, I think.”

“Make it so.” Nandor blows a piece of hair out of his face, frowning. “We will play some records— oh, do not let Laszlo and Nadja know about this part until it is too late for them to supply their own.”

“Of course.”

“Set up a small internet lounge for Colin in a corner. I know he likes to feed off the so-shall medias.”

Guillermo writes it all down, kind of touched.

“We shall convert the entryway into a dance floor for the night, as well. We will need lots of creepy paper.”

Guillermo writes down crepe paper with a flourish.

“And— fuck-ing hell,” Nandor curses, looking around his room for something.

“What is it, master?”

“I need one of those— ugh.” Nandor drops down to peer under a dresser and makes a triumphant noise. “I knew one of those virgins would have left one here.” He holds up a scrunchie. “It is how they mark their territory.”

“I don’t think it’s—“ Guillermo cuts himself off, watches as Nandor tries and fails to put his hair up. “Just— come here.”

“No! I am going to do it!”

Guillermo rolls his eyes and walks over to him, smacking his hands away with uncharacteristic boldness.

“Hey!”

He combs his fingers through his hair, loosening the few tangles there, before pulling his hair up into a bun. “There. Fixed.” He steps back and is startled by just how… human Nandor looks.

“Now I don’t know how to do it!” Nandor complains. “How will I ever learn to take care of myself if you keep doing it for me?”

“You could ask for help.”

Nandor huffs at that, annoyed, and sits cross-legged on the floor. “I don’t ask for help.”

“Yeah. I’ve noticed.” It comes out a bit tenser than Guillermo intended.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Don’t worry about it. What’s next in planning?”

Nandor purses his lips but lets it go. “We need to pick out a first dance song. Something that perfectly encapsulates our relationship.”

Guillermo sighs and sits back in his chair, and it feels strange to be taller than Nandor. “What song did you have in mind?”

“I don’t know. I was hoping you’d have ideas.”

“I definitely don’t know.”

“You listen to the musics all the time!” Nandor scowls. “Come now, if it were you, what would you choose?”

“If it were me and Gail? That would literally never—“

“You and me,” Nandor says, rolling his eyes, like it should have been obvious. “What would you pick then?”

And it’s not like Guillermo has a playlist dedicated to this or anything. He tries to think it over, so it’s not so blatant that he immediately knows the answer. He pulls up Spotify and chooses the song. “I mean. This one, probably.”

Not two notes have passed before Nandor’s eyes light up. “Oh! I know this song!”

Guillermo almost laughs. “Yeah. I know.”

“It’s from Twilight!”

“Your favorite movie.”

“The soundtrack goes very hard,” Nandor says seriously, and Guillermo laughs at the expression.

“Yeah, it does.”

He closes his eyes and listens for a moment, smiling softly. “Yes, this is perfect. Do you know how to dance, Guillermo?”

“I did some ballroom dancing back in high school for drama club, but not really.”

Nandor is standing up quickly, holding a hand out. “Then let me teach you.”

Guillermo takes in his bare feet and barely-dressed-ness and put-up hair and thinks, for his own sanity, he should refuse. “Okay,” he breathes.

Nandor pulls Guillermo to him effortlessly, one arm going around him, the other clasping his hand and leading it out. “Follow my lead.”

Guillermo doesn’t have to worry about his own feet for long, because Nandor isn’t touching the ground anymore and, by extension, neither is he. Nandor is leading them in an airborne waltz, and it is all Guillermo can do to hold on for his life.

Have I found you,

Flightless bird?

“You are a fantastic dancer, Guillermo,” Nandor rumbles, pleased.

Guillermo is watching the ceiling approach with distant apprehension. “Maybe we’re going a bit too far—“

“I don’t think Gail would mind—“

Nandor’s head bumps against the ceiling first, shortly followed by Guillermo’s.

“Ah,” Nandor says, glaring at the ceiling. “I see.”

Guillermo is still held close to Nandor, pressed hard against him, one hand still firmly in his. “Are we… just going to stay up here?”

“Mmm,” Nandor hums like it means something, then leans back as if he’s floating in a pool. Guillermo yelps and tries to find his balance by straddling him, hands pressing against the ceiling.

“Nandor!”

“Guillermo.”

“Are you trying to kill me?!”

“Not at the moment, no.” He pushes off the nearest wall and sends them floating lazily through the air, altitude decreasing just enough that Guillermo can sit up straight. “Do you have a coffin?”

“I— what? No, I don’t have a—“

“You will need one to sleep in, for after the reception. You should get on that.”

“I— oh. Oh, yeah, I guess… I guess I should.” He tries to keep his face schooled, not let Nandor know that that’s… not happening. He focuses on Nandor beneath him instead, then realizes very quickly how horrible an idea that is. “Any recommendations?”

“Just make it something you like. Don’t try to be cool about it. It’s a very important decision. We can go coffin shopping after viewing the venues.”

“You really don’t have to do that—“

“Of course I do. You gave me twelve years of your life, Guillermo. I can at least make sure your eternity starts off well.”

Guillermo closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He’s waited for what feels like eons, and now it just feels… cruel. “Right.”

He feels Nandor’s thumb on his chin, pushing it up. “Chin up now, Guillermo. I’m not going away forever. Gail and I will come back from our honeymoon in a few years, and then you and I will have our time. I know a few years seems like an eternity right now, but it won’t seem that way soon. It will pass in the blink of an eye.”

When Guillermo opens his eyes, things look a little blurrier. “Yeah. Sure, Nandor. That sounds nice.”

Nandor frowns thoughtfully at him, pushing off the other wall with a raised hand. “Perhaps I am being cruel. Yes. Let’s just go ahead and do it now.” Nandor is sitting up before Guillermo can make any sort of comment on that, bending his knees so his thighs become a seat. “Relax.”

Nandor’s teeth are touching his throat before Guillermo forces out, “No!”

Nandor pulls back, startled. “No?”

“N-not yet. I still— I still have to do so much planning for you and—“ And Guillermo is thinking of how cruel it would be, truly, to accept this, knowing what he is doing, is about to do, how he’s going to break Nandor’s heart on purpose to hopefully weave it all back together, “and some of it will require me to be out in the daylight.”

“Like what?”

“Like booking the venue. You don’t generally book venues at midnight.”

“Ah.” Nandor huffs thoughtfully, slowly laying back down in the air. “Good thinking, my faithful Guillermo. You truly are the best familiar I’ve ever had.”

He tries not to wince at that, tries not to think of what he just turned down. “I doubt that,” he says instead, tucking a piece of hair back into Nandor’s bun.

Nandor looks up at him with such trust and admiration that Guillermo thinks, were he to die right then, were he to fall off Nandor’s hips and crack his head against the floor, he could simply show that face at Heaven’s gate and be allowed in. That Nandor’s eyes could erase the blood from his hands.

“Daisies,” Nandor says softly, jolting him out of his thoughts.

“What?”

“For the flowers. I’ve always liked daisies.”

“I’ll find you daisies,” Guillermo promises, not knowing if they’re in season or even in this area. But Nandor asked for daisies, and goddammit, he was going to have them.

———

“There,” Guillermo points, and Nandor slowly begins their descent. He’s dressed in his normal clothes, which is good, both for any strangers they might see and Guillermo’s sanity.

Gail is flying beside them, in some very basic clothes that Guillermo wasn’t (read: has no room to be) commenting on.

Guillermo can pinpoint the exact moment that Nandor sees the horses, because the slow, easy descent quickly becomes some sort of horror movie, with the ground rising so quickly Guillermo knows for certain he is about to die.

But he doesn’t. Nandor pulls up at the last moment, letting Guillermo’s feet touch the damp grass. His grip tightens momentarily before he lets Guillermo go, like he doesn’t actually want to.

“Oh!” Gail says, looking out somewhere in the darkness Guillermo can’t see. “This is so quaint!”

Nandor says something that sounds a lot like haas and is running off somewhere into the night, Guillermo running after him.

“Master! Wait!” He almost runs directly into him, and he hears an almost offended whinny.

“Guillermo!” Nandor says excitedly, hands on the muzzle of a horse. “I remembered the word for horse!”

“I— great, master.”

Nandor neighs at the horse, and Guillermo thinks maybe someone stabbed him with heroine when he wasn’t paying attention, because there is no way this ancient, dark creature just neighed.

But Nandor does it again, ending in some sort of buzzing with his lips, and the horse nuzzles him gently. “This is it,” Nandor announces. “This is the place.”

“Master, this is only the first—“

“Susan says we have her blessing.”

Guillermo looks at the dark mare. “Susan,” he deadpans, and she stretches her neck, trying to touch him.

“She wants to say hi,” Nandor informs him gently, putting a hand on his back and pulling him forward. “She likes you.”

“I haven’t done anything.” Guillermo puts a hand against her neck, petting gently. Susan seems content.

“Do not sell yourself short, Guillermo. She can sense you have a good heart.”

Guillermo bites back a crazed laugh at that. Sure. Good heart. Susan neighs at him gently.

Nandor makes a sound like he’s choking, and then is very seriously whinnying at Susan, eyebrows drawn tight. Susan is snorting and stamping a hoof, and Guillermo takes a big step back.

“Is… Is Susan okay?” he asks, side-eyeing the horse.

“Yes, just a brief misunderstanding.” Susan huffs at Nandor, and Nandor huffs back.

“Please don’t get involved in a hissy fit with a horse, master.”

“She started it!”

“And I will finish it.” Guillermo watches as they both turn to face away from each other. “Cool. That’s… better, I guess.”

Susan neighs petulantly, and Nandor rounds on her. “I never said he was—“

“Nandor!”

Nandor growls at the horse but stops yelling at it, and Guillermo has to massage his own temples.

“So are you still getting married here or will it end in a horse war?”

“I don’t know,” Nandor says sassily, words directed at Susan. “Can we?”

Susan neighs, then tries to bite him for good measure.

“Spitfire,” he scolds her, then pats her head lovingly. “Yes, she says it is still okay.”

“Okay, good. I’m very glad your wedding is horse-approved and that we are back exactly where we started.” Guillermo shakes his head in frustration. “What day are we wanting to set aside?”

“As early as possible. Tomorrow, even, would be alright.”

Guillermo can’t breathe for a moment, and Susan stretches out to nudge him. “I uh— okay, I seriously doubt that tomorrow will be available in such short notice so how about like… next week?”

“Next week is too far away. As early as possible.”

“Sure. Right.” Guillermo looks towards the barn, and feels the heavy weight of losing Nandor crushing him where he stands. “I’ll. I’ll call and ask in the morning.”

He takes a step back towards the barn, where Gail is walking around making plans, and then, for lack of a better word, he swoons directly into Nandor’s arms.

“Susan!” Nandor scolds, and the horse makes a noise that sounds suspiciously like a laugh as she moves back from where she had tripped Guillermo. “You could have hurt him!”

“I’m fine, master,” Guillermo mumbles, a little caught up in strong arms.

“Let me see.” Nandor holds Guillermo by the cheeks and leans his head back and to the sides, inspecting every angle. Guillermo is sure Nandor doesn’t know what he’s looking for, but he’s trying, anyway. Chilled fingertips press into his face, and Guillermo can feel their relative cold grow as his face becomes very, very warm. “You’re not having hallucinations or anything, right?”

“I— no, master. I just tripped.”

“Good, good. Wouldn’t want you to have brain scramblies.” He gives Guillermo’s cheek a gentle pat, then smooths his thumb over skin. “Be more careful.”

“Tell Susan to be more careful,” he murmurs, heart hammering.

“You are right!” Nandor turns to the horse again, hands on his hips. “Be more careful, Susan.”

She neighs something that Nandor laughs at, and he pats her once more.

“Yes well, I must go and confirm with Gail that this is the place. Thank you again, Guillermo. I could not do this without you.”

Guillermo wants to say You can’t do this with me, either. He wants to say I’m ruining the smile on your face. He wants to say I’m betraying you.

But he simply offers up a pained smile and stays on Nandor’s heels for the rest of the night.

———

It is much later, and Nandor and Laszlo are trying to fit a very white coffin in through the door while Guillermo and Nadja watch, both leaning against Audrey Hepburn’s topiary.

“Gail has horrid taste,” Nadja grumbles.

“Yep.” Guillermo hands her a juice carton filled with blood and she takes it, sipping in discontent. He pokes a straw into his own, bloodless one.

“And I am including her taste in men in that statement.”

Guillermo watches Nandor insist that turning the coffin upright would make it easier to fit through the door. “…yeah.”

“How is the ‘getting rid of her’ going? Any updates? I would like her gone very quickly, please.”

“Well, my original plan was to send a fake message from her daughter telling her to come home right away.”

“Oh Gizmo, you sneaky snake!”

“Yeah well…” He took an angry sip of juice. “She lied about that. She doesn’t have a daughter.”

“Oh.” Nadja sounds disgusted, and when Guillermo glances over, she has her lips cocked in a sneer. “So she has simply had this charade to escape Nandor this entire time.”

“Looks like it. I messaged her ex-husband to see if I can get any details on her.”

“Good work, Gizmo.” She takes another sip and winces as Laszlo holds the coffin up like it’s his dick. “I do not understand the lying. If you do not wish to see someone, just tell them. It’s cruel in a not-fun way.”

“Yeah. Actually, I wonder if her husband has responded.” He takes out his phone which he had been ignoring in favor of, well, Nandor holding him in the air. “Oh, shit, he did.”

Nadja leans close to him, eyes wide. “Oh, what does it say?”

“He said ‘tell your friend to run as far as he can. I’ve got loads I can tell you about her’.”

“Well, set up a meeting, serial killer!”

“I’m not going to kill him!” Guillermo shoots back, annoyed.

“You can torture information out of him!”

“Not doing that either. I’m just going to get coffee with him.”

“You are very boring, Guillermo,” Nadja scoffs, resting her elbow on his shoulder and taking another sip of her blood box.

Guillermo looks at his shoulder, then at her. “Why are you all doing this?”

“We don’t like her!”

“No, I mean, this.” He motions to her elbow. “You called me by my real name.”

“Am I not allowed to?”

“And Laszlo held my hand. And Colin made sure I still had somewhere to sleep. And Nandor— I don’t even know what’s going on with Nandor.”

Nadja looks uncomfortable, which is a very strange look on her pretty face. “You are part of ‘ourselves’, now.”

“Are you trying to say I’m family?”

“No,” she scowls, looking away and biting angrily on her little straw. “Maybe. What does it matter? Just be glad it’s happening at all.”

Guillermo can’t stop the little grin that spreads across his face. “I am. Thank you.”

She hisses at him with no real heat to it.

There’s a loud crashing noise, and they both look to see Nandor stuck beneath the white coffin.

“Should we help them?” Guillermo asks.

“How will they learn,” Nadja deadpans, and they both lean back against the topiary in content.

———

Guillermo lays in his bed, eyes squeezed closed. Now that he’s got half a moment to himself, the only thing running through his head is straddling Nandor’s lap, Nandor’s lips pressed to his throat, ‘Relax.’

Fuck.

He scrubs his hands over his face, trying to get a feeling that isn’t horny to miraculously pop up. He has things to do, things to focus on.

Things like steadily approaching footsteps.

He sighs and grabs a stake. He knows it’s Nandor by the gait, but he also knows small displays of strength do a lot for the vampire’s confidence in him. He stands up and stretches, popping his back, then presses himself beside the door, out of view.

“Guiller—“ Nandor begins, opening his door (without knocking, as always). Guillermo spins around, and a stake is against his throat before he can finish the name.

“Oh,” Guillermo says in a very good imitation of surprise. “It’s just you.”

Nandor glances down to the stake, then up to Guillermo. “It’s just me,” he confirms.

Guillermo gives it half a second before he removes the stake, tucking it back into its holster. “What brings you to my room?”

Nandor tugs at his own collar nervously, as if he can still feel the weapon there. “I know it is your break right now, and I am going to respect that.”

“Oh, are you?”

“Yes.” Nandor sits on his bed gingerly. “When you are done, I need help.”

Guillermo leans back against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. “With?”

Nandor fidgets. Actually fidgets. “Okay so, Gail wants to try shower sex and I said I was too tired from all the carrying stuff today.”

Guillermo stares at him blankly.

“But I… don’t know how to shower.” Nandor grimaces at himself. “You and I have always just only done baths, and I don’t want to make the fool of myself.”

Well, yes, they had always just done baths, because Guillermo always wanted to help. “So you want me to tell you how to shower?”

“Yes! If you would, please.”

“Um, yeah, sure.” Guillermo shrugs and motions to the rest of the house. “Go wait in the bathroom. I’ll be up in a few minutes.” It’s out of his mouth before he can realize it’s an order, but Nandor doesn’t seem to notice, if the giant smile on his face is anything to go by.

“Wonderful! Yes, I will go wait in— which bathroom?”

“Green one. Upstairs. It has good water pressure.”

“O-Akay!” Nandor happily flees the small space.

Guillermo waits until he is gone before he sighs heavily, running a hand over his face. Jesus Christ, just what he needs. More naked Nandor.

He takes a second to figure out when his life had gone on such a spiral that ‘naked Nandor’ was now a downside to something, and sighs. He can only hope this steadily-increasing trend of touching continues after Gail is gone.

He briefly considers just taking a few minutes to jack off while he’s alone, but he knows Nandor would be able to smell it, and he doesn’t really feel like explaining to him why he needed to jack off before helping him shower.

He could do it when Nandor was asleep. Like always.

He eats a granola bar and forces himself not to rush. It would do Nandor good to wait on something. It’s about ten minutes before he’s closing the door behind him to the bathroom and turning to see Nandor sitting patiently in the little chair beside the tub.

“Ah! You’re ready?” Nandor asks, eyes wide.

“Yep. First off, you’re going to have to get undressed. It’s super weird to get into the shower clothed.”

Nandor nods like he was, actually, fully intending to get in clothed. “Of course.” He stands up and pulls at his cloak, which goes, well, nowhere. He gives it a few more tugs before looking at Guillermo with a ridiculous pout on his lips. “Help.”

Guillermo snorts and shakes his head, unclasping the cloak and letting it fall to the floor. “Nandor, what do you even do when you’re trying to sleep with someone? You can’t even take your own clothes off.”

“Usually they do it for me. And theirs are far less complicated,” he retorts, holding his arms out and letting Guillermo undo the buttons at the wrists.

“Really? No one’s ever just… given up?”

“I can undo my own pants, which is really all that matters.”

“And deprive your partners of your chest?” Ah. Guillermo realizes in a very all-at-once way that he has not slept in over twenty-four hours.

“In a perfect scenario? No. But if they are getting frustrated with my clothing, then it is a necessary sacrifice.” He smirks. “Not you, though. You are very skilled at removing my clothes.”

“After twelve years, I should be.”

“I should bring my partners to you first and make you teach them how to do it.”

“I’ll make a pamphlet.” He continues until Nandor is down to his last layer, then steps back. “Now you. Figure it out.”

Nandor whines, looking down at himself. “I don’t know!”

“Just try. I bet you can do it.”

Nandor huffs in frustration and pulls the undershirt up over his head, revealing squishy tummy and broad chest. “There.”

“And your shorts.”

“Ugh.” Nandor pushes them over his hips with his boxers, until he is standing, finally, naked. “There. Are you happy now?”

“I’m very proud of you,” Guillermo says teasingly, and Nandor looks immediately pleased with himself.

“But of course, it wasn’t difficult at all.” He looks at Guillermo expectantly.

“Now you just get in the shower.”

Nandor looks at the shower head for a moment before nodding and — poof — becoming a vapor. 

He’s halfway to the little holes before Guillermo yells, “Stop!”

He reconstitutes himself, landing straddling the side of the bathtub, scowling. “You told me to get in!”

“As in stand in the tub! Not explore the plumbing!”

Nandor grumbles something about clarity of instructions as he swings his legs over and stands in the tub. “Fine. Here I am. ‘In’ the shower.” He makes little air quotes, and Guillermo suppresses the urge to roll his eyes.

“Good. Now pull the curtain shut so no water gets out.”

Nandor holds the curtain, then furrows his brow. “Then how will you help me?”

“I’ll give you instructions from out here?”

He thinks a moment, then shakes his head. “No, that won’t do.” With the same ease one might grab an awry balloon, he picks Guillermo up and puts him in the shower, too.

Guillermo makes a very choked sound, immediately trying to get back out. “I really don’t think I should—“

“It is fine. I have seen the bodies of many warriors.”

“I’m not getting naked!”

“But you just told me it is weird to get in the shower fully clothed!”

“I didn’t get in here! You put me in here!”

“Ah. You are correct.” With no further preamble, Nandor turns the water on.

Guillermo sputters as he’s hit full in the face with super fucking cold water. “NANDOR!” he yells, and it is the most disrespectful he’s ever been.

Nandor, at least, looks a little sorry, from what he can see through the water drops on his glasses. “Was the water not next? Showers are cold.”

“No they are not!” Guillermo reaches blindly past him, grabbing the handles and turning the water warmer, then hot. “Jesus,” he sighs, a little pleased when Nandor hisses.

“Ow, okay, I am sorry.” He huffs. “But you are already wet so, stay. Please.”

Guillermo backs up to the edge of the tub and leans against the wall, so that the water isn’t hitting his face anymore, and wipes his glasses off with his fingers. Ugh. “Fine.” He fishes his phone out before his clothes get too soaked and tosses it onto the counter outside the curtain.

When he turns back around, Nandor is standing under the spray, head tilted back, eyes closed, purring. It’s almost cute. “Why was I never informed that humans had harnessed the rain?” he murmurs, sighing deeply.

“You just liked baths so much.”

“Yes well, I did not know what I was missing.” He tilts his head to the side, letting the water run down his neck. “Like very hot summer rain. I miss summer.”

“It’s only a few months away—“

“I mean the true summer, sun in the sky, birds chirping, people running around.” He blinks his eyes open and looks at Guillermo, unguarded. “I did not ask for this.”

“Master?”

Nandor waves a hand idly, as if the title would go away. “I am not like you. This… desire for this curse. I never had it.”

Nandor had never spoken of being turned, had barely spoken of his time as a child. “What… happened?”

Nandor grabs the bottle he learned yesterday was shampoo and lathers it up in his hands. “I had just conquered a city. Very brutal, very bloody. They fought valiantly. The most noble city I had ever taken.” He runs his soapy hands through his hair, the water immediately rinsing it all off, but Guillermo could correct him later. “I was walking through my spoils, alone, when a feeble old man approached me. Or at least, I thought he was a man.”

“He was a vampire,” Guillermo says, realizing with a coldness in his chest where this was going.

“Yes. He asked if I was the one they called Nandor the Relentless, and I said yes, proudly. He said my nature was known far and wide.” Nandor frowns and looks away, like the words are dying on his tongue.

“And he… promised you power?” Guillermo tries.

“No,” Nandor whispers. “He did not. He told me that my bloodlust would never be sated, that food would wither on my lips, that the sun would hide its face from me. He told me everyone I would ever love would leave me, that I would watch them die. Because that is what I had done to him.” Nandor stares at the bubbles on his hands.

“Nandor—“

“He held me down, in an alleyway of a city I had conquered, and stole my humanity.” Nandor finally looks back to Guillermo, with something deep and strained and sad in his soul. “And every word he had said was true.”

Guillermo finds he can’t think of any words to say, any words that are worth anything right now.

“That is why I tell you it is a curse. Nadja and Laszlo, they wanted this. They thrive in it. They have each other, and the bloodlust is merely a… plus. They do not care for anything outside of that and acquisition of sex and power.” Nandor sighs, and he seems as old as he is. “You and I, Guillermo, we… love too easily.”

“We?” Guillermo breathes.

“We.” Nandor agrees softly. He puts conditioner in his hands and runs it sloppily through his hair. “But you have asked for the curse. You have given your consent. Perhaps your experience with eternity will be better than mine.”

“Will you be there beside me?” It’s out of his mouth before he can stop it.

Nandor looks at him in surprise, and then softness. “Yes. I would follow you into the sun, my brave warrior.”

That sentence settles between them like a house cat, claws reaching out and barely pricking them both, until they are standing there, bleeding before the other.

Nandor gives Guillermo a shy smile, and Guillermo has to be dreaming. He has to be. Nandor is not shy. “Will you hand me the washing poof?” Nandor asks, motioning to the loofa behind him.

Guillermo shakes his head. “No, actually, you did your hair all wrong. Come here, it’s a bit different in a shower.”

Nandor cranes his head down for Guillermo, who re-shampoos it silently. It feels heavy with them, but not between them. Like Nandor finally allowed him to bear some of the weight.

From this angle, all Guillermo can do is stare into Nandor’s eyes. Nandor, who is looking back at him silently, curiously.

“You have to keep your head out of the water or else it’ll just rinse it off too quick,” he explains, massaging Nandor’s scalp.

“Okay,” Nandor responds easily. He makes no effort to say anything else, instead just studying Guillermo.

Guillermo places his hands gently against Nandor’s cheeks and tilts his head back into the water, letting it run through his hair a moment before massaging it out again. Nandor sighs deeply.

“Why are you so tall,” Guillermo teases lightly, ready for a responding why are you so short?

Instead, Nandor kneels before him.

Guillermo’s hands are still in the air where Nandor’s head had been a moment ago, and he is looking down upon dark eyes staring out from under darker lashes. He is fully clothed, and yet Nandor is making him feel exposed.

“Master?” Guillermo asks, trying to keep any sort of anything out of his voice.

“So you may reach better,” Nandor says easily, though his eyes do not leave their hooded captivation.

Guillermo swallows harshly and goes back to ridding Nandor’s hair of shampoo. Nandor leans his head back, eyes never wavering.

Guillermo can hear his own breathing, can feel every drop of water as it hits his hands. His fingers catch in a tangle and it pulls, and Nandor grunts softly, eyebrows drawn together and head leaning back farther, throat exposed. His lips are parted. His eyes are trying to pry Guillermo apart.

“Okay!” Guillermo says, panic edging his voice. He scrubs the shampoo out viciously, squirting conditioner directly onto his scalp.

“Ow— hey!” Nandor scowls, trying to escape raking fingernails. “What are you trying to do?!”

“What are you trying to do?” Guillermo snaps back.

Nandor doesn’t say anything, just drops his eyes. “What’s next?”

Guillermo lets out his breath, lets the tension go. “The poof.”

“I like the poof,” Nandor says, sounding a bit like a child who knows they’re in trouble.

“Good. Stand up.”

Nandor does as he’s told, carefully avoiding looking at Guillermo.

“I’m not mad,” Guillermo mumbles, putting body wash onto the poof. Nandor looks at him warily.

“Promise?”

“Pinky promise.” Guillermo holds out his pinky like he taught Nandor, and Nandor links his own through it.

“Good.” He holds his arms out and grins. “Poof me!”

Guillermo almost laughs at how quickly Nandor’s moods can change and tosses the poof at him. “Poof yourself. This is a learning experience.”

Nandor scoffs but catches the loofa, scrubbing himself in small circles. “I am a very fast learner, no?”

“I mean. It’s been twelve years and you’re just now figuring out showers.”

“Someone never taught me!”

“Definitely wasn’t high on my list of priorities.” Guillermo watches as he scrubs pretty much everywhere but his chest and stomach.

“Done,” Nandor exclaims proudly, rinsing the soap out of the poof.

“No you’re not, you missed like, your entire torso.”

“Did not!”

“Did too! Look, just let me get it. I’ll show you.”

“Very well.”

Guillermo reaches for the poof, but Nandor holds it up and away, out of his reach. “Nandor.”

“Guillermo.”

“Give me the poof.”

Nandor leans back against the shower tile, hands over his head, smirking. “Why do you need it?”

“To wash you!”

“Use your hands.”

Guillermo stares at Nandor, face flushed. “Wh-what?”

Nandor’s eyes seem to bounce over his face a moment, then his lips crack into a nervous grin. “I am practicing. For Gail. The shower sex.” He lowers his hand slowly, places the loofa in Guillermo’s frozen hand.

Guillermo is still staring at Nandor’s face, trying to parse apart anything hidden there. “Nandor—“

The shower curtain flings open, and they both jump in shock. Guillermo’s hand goes to one of the soaked stakes on his chest.

“There you are!” Gail exclaims happily. “I was wondering what happened to you.” She notices Guillermo, fully clothed, holding a bath poof and a stake. “Ah, hello?”

“Gail!” Nandor says happily. “Would you like to join us?”

“Sure!”

Guillermo holds his hands up, shakes his head. “I’m out. You’re clean, Nandor, just rinse your conditioner out before you leave.” He drops the loofa in the bottom of the tub, kind of relishing the idea of the fucking warlord having to bend over to get it. Kind of sad he won’t be there for it.

Focus, Guillermo.

He steps out of the tub, ignoring the protestations of Nandor, and grabs his phone from the counter. He stands outside the bathroom, dripping water, and checks his notifications.

Robert, Gail’s ex-husband, asked if today at noon was a good time to meet.

Guillermo de la Cruz: perfect

———

Guillermo waits patiently at a coffee shop, already having placed his order. Nandor would be fine for a few hours. Not like any vampires would be out at noon, anyway. And if he latched Nandor’s coffin and not Gail’s well… chalk it up to an accident.

“Guillermo,” the barista calls out, pronouncing the L’s like hurricane tortilla. He bites back a response and gets up to grab his coffee, but a man is already taking it.

“Hey, that’s—“ he starts, but the guy sees him and smiles wide, waving.

“Guillermo de la Cruz, right? Robert Collingsworth. We talked on messenger.” He holds out the coffee. “Wait, this is yours, right?”

Guillermo lets out a small laugh, taking the drink. “Yeah, it’s mine. Thanks.”

“I’m gonna go place my order. Where would you like to sit?”

“Over there by the window.”

“Sounds good.”

Guillermo goes back to his seat, looking out the window and waiting. He’s put off calling the venue all morning, but he can’t put it off for much longer. Hopefully this meeting will tell him everything he needs to get Gail gone.

“Okay, I’m here,” Robert says, sliding into the chair across from Guillermo. “So. Your friend’s marrying Gail, huh?”

“Trying to.” He takes a sip of his still-way-too-hot coffee. “I just… got this feeling it was a bad idea, you know?”

“Oh, believe me, I know. I was married to her for five years.”

“Can I ask what happened?”

“Well, sure. Isn’t that why we’re here?” He taps his thumbs absently on the table. “We got married really young. I’m surprised she mentioned me at all. It started off good, but… we started drifting apart, I guess. She started leaving once a month. I thought maybe it was me. See, around that time I started questioning my sexuality and—“ He pauses and winces. “Sorry. You probably don’t wanna hear that.”

“I’m so sorry the vibes you are picking up from me are straight. I’ll try to work on that.”

Robert laughs, a genuine, soft thing. “Okay, okay. I started thinking I was into men. I brought it up to her one night, and—“ He sighs. “And she says she gets it, it’s fine, it doesn’t change anything. She says— and this is the part where I got a little suspicious — she says if I find myself interested in a guy, I should go for it. Which, awesome, except we had talked and talked for so long about not having an open relationship. Not that there’s anything— anything wrong with that, just… we had agreed. She very vehemently denied ever wanting to see anyone else. And— oh, that’s me. Hold on.” Robert gets up to go grab his drink, and Guillermo has a very sinking suspicion that he knows exactly where this story is going.

Robert comes back with an apologetic smile. “Okay. So. Where was I?”

“Open relationship.”

“Sure, okay. So I asked her if she was sure, and she was. You have to understand this was— this was extremely out of character for her. So she was sleeping, and I was thinking to myself, what could make her want me to see other people?” He looks at Guillermo expectantly, and Guillermo sighs.

“If she was seeing other people.”

“Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I felt bad, y’know, for suspecting her, but I couldn’t shake the feeling. So I… followed her one night. Which, I know, super stalker-y of me. But she goes to this old-looking house, and it’s like midnight, so it’s already sketchy. But this huge man comes out with— with long hair and like, maybe Egyptian clothing? Something like that?”

Ah. Fuck.

“And he just… kisses her.” Robert pauses. “Actually that’s a bit… generous, it was more like he was—“

“Trying to vacuum her soul out through her mouth, yeah, I get it.”

“Exactly. They stumble inside and there is just, no other explanation. I saw it with my own eyes, she was cheating on me. Had been, for who knows how long. With this— this fucking guy!”

“Woah okay now, settle down, it’s alright, it’s in the past.” Guillermo averts his eyes, takes a sip of his coffee. “So you got divorced.”

“Yeah, I went to get the paperwork the very next day. She signed it without a second thought. Said I was holding her back.” He thumbs at the paper around his coffee cup, frowning. “She said she didn’t even love him. That getting married was a mistake, and she wanted to take her own path in life.”

“Oh… ouch.”

“No, that’s— that’s fair. I get it.” Robert shrugs half-heartedly. “It was a mistake. We were young and dumb and thought that getting married would fix a lot of our problems. I don’t blame her for that, not anymore. But… I don’t know. Maybe your friend is some super special guy who changed her mind. I think it’s more likely she’s doing the same thing all over again, and she’s gonna break his heart like she did mine.” He takes a sip of his drink. “Maybe he needs it. I dunno. I needed my heart broken.”

Guillermo winces. “I think his heart has been broken too many times at this point. She is absolutely a last-ditch effort at happiness.” It sounds harsh even to his own ears, but it’s the truth. “They’ve only been dating for like, two weeks.”

“Two— Jesus Christ, man! Yeah, that’s a horrible idea.” He grimaces. “What are you gonna do?”

“I don’t—“ He had hoped for something substantial, something he could use as blackmail to make Gail leave. He hadn’t expected to find the man she had chosen Nandor over. “I don’t know.”

“Tell your friend our story. It might not change his mind, but he should go in prepared.”

“Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to sway him any.” He watches a bird peck at the ground outside. “This is going to sound like a weird question, but did you and Gail ever have a kid?”

“Oh, yeah, between my homosexual tendencies and her never wanting to be tied down, having a kid was high on our list of priorities,” Robert snarks lightly, shaking his head. “No way. She never even wanted kids. Probably a good thing we never did.”

“Figured.” Guillermo takes a long swig of coffee, thinking. “She keeps using a kid as an excuse to leave Nan— my friend.”

“Sounds like Gail.” Robert stares at Guillermo, really studies him, then throws back his coffee like it’s a shot. “Listen, Guillermo, Gail isn’t a bad person, alright? I wish I could say she was, after everything, but she’s not. She’s a bad wife. She isn’t made for it. She’s too independent. She’s good at going after what she wants, and anything that ties her down just gets uprooted in the process. It’s admirable, but from a distance.”

“You’re not making this any easier for me,” Guillermo half-laughs, rubbing a hand under his glasses. “I wish you had just told me she was an awful human being who eats kittens or something so I wouldn’t feel bad.”

Robert smiles at him, and it’s understanding and soft. “I know. I’m sorry. Like I said, I needed my heart broken. It allowed me to take a step back and figure out who I was as an individual, helped me not rely on someone else. I’ve got an amazing partner now. What we have is healthy, and I might not have even known what that was if not for the experience I had with her.”

Guillermo’s grip on his paper cup tightens. “So you’re saying I need to let my friend figure it out for himself.”

“I can’t say that.” Robert shrugs. “I can say it’s gonna hurt like hell, and it’s gonna hurt you just as bad, because you saw it coming, and you couldn’t stop it.”

“What do I do?” he laments, putting his head in his hands. Everything feels heavy, like every decision is life-or-death.

“Honestly? I think, if he’s not going to listen to you, then he’ll just have to stand the test of time. And it looks to me like you’ll be there to catch him when he falls.” Robert gives his arm a gentle pat. “Hope he sees what he has in you. For the record.”

Guillermo could laugh at that. “I’m that transparent, huh?”

“More like translucent, I think.” Robert gives him a big grin. “When the time comes, just tell him how you feel. Not right now, probably, but. Y’know. To each his own.”

“Just crash the wedding and confess my undying love, sure,” Guillermo jokes, grinning back.

“If you need a very risqué date to this thing, hit me up. I’ll tell Paul what’s going on. He’ll think it’s hilarious.”

He laughs, and it feels a bit freeing. “I might actually take you up on that. You could bring Paul, too. Cause a whole scene.”

When Robert laughs, it is deep and rich, and Guillermo has a feeling like he’s looking into an alternate timeline that passed along the way, like the scent of someone’s hair as he walks by them on the sidewalk. A barely-there notion, an echo of something that might have been.

“I’ve gotta go plan a wedding, I guess,” Guillermo excuses himself, standing up. “Thank you for meeting me.”

“Sure. And just let me know if you want us to attend. We will drop everything to be there, I promise.”

“Of course.” Guillermo holds his hand out, and Robert shakes it, warm and firm. The warmth is almost a surprise; he’s gotten so used to touching undead skin that warm is almost fire.

He leaves reluctantly and pulls out his phone, calling the venue.

They ask when he would like to reserve the barn, and he asks what the earliest they have available is. Says it has to be at night.

They say tonight. They could have it ready by eight.

He looks back into the coffee shop, at the figure of Robert still happily drinking his coffee, now video chatting what he can only assume to be Paul. He’s smiling wide. He’s laughing.

Guillermo says tonight sounds fine, and it’s settled.

He hangs up with a weight to his arms that feels unshakeable. Nandor is getting married tonight. Nandor is going to leave with a woman who doesn’t love him, and he’s going to return with a broken heart that Guillermo will have to fix. Guillermo is going to hold him as he cries, and have to deal with the fact that Nandor, with all his new touches, with all his new teasings, will never have this ache in his soul for Guillermo. That he might want him in passing, but forever is a word best used for friends.

So that’s what Guillermo will be. A friend.

He takes a shuddering breath and starts walking home. There’s a lot to do. And no one else is going to do it.

———

He starts by cleaning and decorating the entryway, turning it into the dance floor Nandor was hoping for. It doesn’t take much; their house is beautiful in its own right. The entire place is clean and decorated by five. He’s got a few more hours until Nandor wakes up, so he pulls up a google search for traditional Al Quolanudarian wedding garb. He finds two very sketchy sources, but he recognizes most of the pieces and knows he can pull them from Nandor’s wardrobe. Good.

He feels numb as he’s ordering the catering, like his hands are moving without him, like his soul has just resigned itself to its fate. No vampiric help digging graves, but one less vampire to hunt for. He drives a tack into the wall so hard the head of it disappears.

There’s no sense in finding a real officiator, because Nandor doesn’t have any official documents, anyway. He thinks Derek would do it if he asked, so he sends a quick text and a link to a very to-the-point, non-religious order of ceremonies. As well as a brief reminder that Derek still owes him for saving his life (doesn’t bother to mention he’s the reason it was ever in danger).

The barn isn’t decorated, but he’ll have Nadja ask the Guide to do that. With a heavy exhale, he leans back, done. Guillermo de la Cruz, expert wedding planner. He hopes Gail has a dress. Taking her shopping might actually break him.

He imagines having to smile at her as she tries on outfit after outfit, trying to deduce if Nandor would like a long train or a short one, which one would make Nandor look at her the way he wishes he would look at him.

He thinks, very seriously, about taking Robert up on his offer.

But the sun is finally set outside, and he has things to attend to. He trudges up the stairs to Nandor’s room. He knows how many steps it is. He knows which stairs creak, which floorboards groan out a protest at being stepped on. He knows which way to turn the doorknob so it doesn’t stick, to check the curtain before opening it to reveal the night sky.

A white coffin is beside Nandor’s dark one, and Guillermo cannot muster enough pieces of his heart for it to shatter yet again.

He unlatches Nandor’s coffin and opens the lid slowly. Nandor isn’t yet awake, is just laying there, arms across his chest, sleeping. He’s the picture of peace, and Guillermo reaches in and brushes a loose hair back. He loves the loose pieces of hair, a little flaw in the perfect warrior. Nandor’s very own wabi-sabi.

Nandor huffs out a breath and opens his eyes blearily. “Hello,” he murmurs, half-asleep.

“Good evening, Nandor,” Guillermo whispers back. He traces his hand along Nandor’s hairline, resting his thumb against his cheek. “It is your wedding night.”

Nandor smiles gently, turning his head to nuzzle subconsciously at Guillermo’s hand. He merely hums in response.

“I’ll let you wake up.” Guillermo steps back and gives Nandor a minute. He considers opening Gail’s coffin, but hers is not latched, and he is under no obligation to cut this moment short.

Nandor finally sits up, yawning and stretching out his arms. “Was I still dreaming, or did you inform me I am being wed tonight?”

“Not a dream. The wedding is tonight at midnight. The barn will be ready for you by eight.”

Nandor smiles wide at him. “You are a miracle worker, Guillermo.” He holds his hand out and Guillermo takes it, helping him out of the coffin. His hand is cold, but a good cold. Like the flip side of a pillow on a hot night. “Is everything ready?”

“Of course, Nandor.”

“Not everything,” Nandor corrects him, facing him. “You have forgotten something.”

“I… have?”

“Yes.” Nandor reaches out and holds his face gently, cheeks against palms. “You refused last night for me to purchase you a coffin.”

“I did.”

“I bought you one, anyway.” Nandor grins wide at him. “If you do not like it, I am sorry. I did try.”

“Wh—“

“It is hiding currently in the basement, but I will bring it up to this room when Gail and I pack our own.”

“I’m taking your room?”

“Of course. That room you have now is far too small.” Nandor’s thumb brushes Guillermo’s cheek lightly. “We both embark on journeys tonight, my friend. May our paths cross soon.”

Guillermo closes his eyes and savors the sensation. Cool thumb against his cheek, fingers in his hair. A lot of what he’s always wanted, a lot of what he can never have. “Thank you, master.”

“No more master, my sweet. I release you from your duties as a familiar, and as a bodyguard. From this moment on, we are equals.”

Guillermo can’t help it: he grabs Nandor’s shirt and pulls him closer desperately. “One final bath?” he asks in a small voice. “One final act of service?”

Nandor nods. “As you wish, my friend.”

It is Guillermo who releases first, and Nandor watches as he goes to the white coffin and raps on the lid. “Gail,” he calls out. “It is your wedding night. Nadja will help you prepare.”

There’s a sleepy groan from inside, confirmation, and Guillermo turns to Nandor.

“You won’t see her again until the ceremony. It’s custom.”

“I know.” Nandor walks over and raises the coffin lid, leaning inside. “Gail,” he whispers, “I will see you tonight, at our wedding.”

They kiss, softly, and Nandor lowers the lid again.

Guillermo holds his hand out, and Nandor takes it and lets himself be led away.

———

The bath is warm.

It is beyond warm; it is hot, hot enough that cold skin becomes a pale imitation of living flesh, and then a realistic echo. Nandor’s hair clings to his neck and back, and Guillermo brushes it through reverently.

“You truly planned everything so quickly,” Nandor murmurs, eyes closed in appreciation.

“You told me what you wanted, and I made it happen. Like I always do.” Nandor’s hair is silken thread, finer than gold. “You’ll be okay without me?”

When Nandor sighs, it is with the weight of a thousand sleepless nights. “I don’t know. I’ve grown to rather rely on you.” He frowns. “I think I could. I don’t really want to, though.”

Guillermo conditions his hair again, using the brush to get every strand. “You’re very clever, Nandor. You can figure it out.”

“It feels too lonely to think about.”

“You’ll have Gail.”

“I suppose.” He tilts his head back to look at Guillermo pleadingly. “Perhaps you could come with us?”

“On your… honeymoon?”

“Yes. I would be most pleased to have you.”

Guillermo laughs, like it’s the funniest thing he’s heard in his now multiple-days-without-sleep. Nandor stares at him, wide-eyed. “Do you even love her?” Guillermo finally manages through his giggles.

Nandor gives him a strange look. “What a modern thing to ask. You do not marry someone because you love them. You marry someone because you can see yourself loving them.”

“No, Nandor, you don’t.” There’s still a smile on his lips, his words still come out light. “You don’t have to. You can just be friends with someone like that.”

“We just come from different cultures, I think.” Nandor reaches back and finds Guillermo’s free hand, clasping it in his own. “I am happy, Guillermo.”

“For how long?”

Nandor doesn’t respond to that, averts his eyes. There is a tense silence between them, until Nandor breaks it with, “I don’t know.” The grip on his hand tightens. “Come with me. Help me learn how to keep it.”

“Oh, Nandor,” Guillermo breathes, “you will find it, and it will be yours to keep. But only when you stop looking for it in other people.” He leans down and presses his lips to Nandor’s forehead.

Nandor looks utterly stricken.

“Go with her. Learn what there is to learn. When you are ready to come back, I will be here. I will always be here.” Guillermo takes a vase and fills it with water, then rinses Nandor’s hair out with it. “There. All clean.”

Nandor is staring at him, like he can’t comprehend what he’s saying, like he’s draped out with all his wounds to see: a pietà.

Guillermo leans his elbows against the tub silently. “Will you be okay?” he asks again.

Nandor nods once, stilted, more like he’s trying to spare Guillermo than he truly thinks so.

“Good. Get out so I can dry you.”

He nods again, wordlessly, and gets out of the tub, water running in rivers down his body. He watches as Guillermo dries him off, on the precipice of words but none springing readily to his tongue.

It isn’t until Guillermo is opening the door and motioning for him to leave that he finally asks, small, “Will you help me learn to be happy again?”

Guillermo’s face is soft, has it always been so soft? Has there always been this affection hiding behind his eyes? “Of course, mi amor.”

Nandor closes his eyes and nods, again, like it’s all he can remember how to do anymore. He follows Guillermo out into his room, where his wedding clothes have been laid out.

Guillermo dresses him with care, layer after layer being applied as if they are the penultimate piece. Still Nandor cannot look away from him, every flicker of candlelight opening a new facet of this man before him. He’s blossoming, and he won’t even stop moving long enough for Nandor to memorize his petals.

“There,” Guillermo states, finished, and steps back to admire his handiwork. A long golden tunic falls to Nandor’s knees, his calves are covered by dark red tights. Intricate designs web their way across every piece of clothing, crawling up to his neck, where a dark red embroidered sash swings down. His hair drapes like a waterfall, pooling against his shoulders to run instead down his back. A heavy, ornate sword rests between his shoulder blades. “You look fit to marry.”

Nandor does not even look down at himself; cannot, actually, not with the way Guillermo is looking at him like he’s the last glimpse of sun he’ll ever see.

“You have to go to the barn, now. The Guide will meet you there, as soon as I get Nadja to send her. We’ll take good care of Gail.”

“You’re not coming?” Nandor asks, and his voice is barely-there, like he can’t disrupt the moment with such a thing as sound.

“I will follow you soon. The catering should be here any moment, and I have to be here to sign for it and show them where to put the food.” Guillermo gives him a look he’s come to know means you beautiful idiot. “Be careful.”

Nandor can’t even nod this time; can only watch as Guillermo opens the window for him. He’s a bat before he can form the thought in his head, flying away.

Guillermo watches him leave, because he’s in the habit of doing that. Of tracing Nandor with his eyes until he isn’t visible anymore. He leans against the windowsill and takes a moment to breathe, come with me echoing in his head. Nandor knows not what he asks. It would mean something very different to the both of them.

He feels more than hears Nandor’s steps in the hallway behind him, and something thrilling runs through his spine. He allows himself half a moment to think that Nandor has come back to steal him away, that the kiss he had planted on his forehead had grown into something, even just a seedling, anything. Enough to call the entire thing off. Anything besides a forgotten token, a missing piece.

Nandor approaches him unsteadily, hesitating, and Guillermo gives him time. He’d give him all the time in the world.

His hand is on his shoulder, a soft sigh is let out. Guillermo turns to face him, and all he can process is not Nandor before his instincts take over.

There’s a stake in his fist, fist pressed solidly to chest, chest slowly sliding down onto the floor, floor holding now-limp hands.

Gail is in his arms.

Gail is dead in his arms.

His brain shuts down and then kickstarts itself double-time, oh god, he just murdered Gail. He murdered Gail because he was so busy thinking about goddamned Nandor that he heard a similar gait and thought—

Oh fuck. Oh, oh Jesus fuck. Nandor’s fiancé is staring blankly up at the ceiling. She’s in a white dress, red blooming across it. He has the fleeting thought that she would better match Nandor now.

“Oh fuck,” he gasps, and it is panicked. He shakes her desperately, hoping the werewolf DNA maybe made her impervious to stakes. But wood through the heart will kill pretty much anything.

He’s slowly getting covered with her blood, and oh god, he is a serial killer, he is. He murdered his best friend’s fiancé. He murdered Gail.

“Oh, shit,” Nadja’s voice rings out, eyebrows raised. “When we said get rid of her, we didn’t exactly mean this.” She shrugs. “Good work, though. Cut it close.”

“I killed her,” Guillermo gasps, and it feels like he can’t get enough air. The room feels hazy and buzzing. “I fucking killed her.”

“You sure did, lamb chop,” Nadja agrees, stepping over to look down at where Guillermo is holding her in some parody of a dip. “Blegh.”

“Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Nandor is waiting for her. He’s on his way to the barn. Oh god.”

Nadja hisses in pain. “Alright, enough with the cursing! What is the big deal? Laszlo kills Gregor all the time. It happens.”

“I killed his fiancé!” Guillermo starts pacing, Gail’s body flopping uselessly onto the wood. “Oh go—fuck, what do I do? What do I say?”

Nadja stares at the body and purses her lips. “We’re going to tell him she ran away.”

Guillermo rounds on her. “What?!”

“She left. She stood him up at the altar. What can you do?” Nadja toes at Gail’s corpse. “Laszlo!”

Laszlo peeks his head in. “Yes, my love? Oh, good fuck, what is that?”

“This is Gail’s corpse, and we will need to bury her.” Nadja is calm, determined, like she’s ordering soup from a restaurant. “You and Colin go find some shovels.”

“Right away. Good work, Guillermo! You and I have much in common yet!”

Nadja turns back to him, frowns at the way he’s still pacing in circles. “Is there anything else that needs done? Anything that would make Nandor suspicious?”

“The— the Guide is supposed to meet him at the barn,” Guillermo stammers, hands shaking.

“I’ll let her know. Anything else?”

He shakes his head hard, hard enough that it hurts. “No.”

“Good. We will bury the corpse. Consider that our payment for the week. You go cover everything up.” Nadja has left the room before Guillermo can respond, and it is just him and the corpse.

Gail’s eyes just stare up at the ceiling, unblinking, not even a half-suggestion of surprise on her face. She died not knowing it was about to happen.

Guillermo runs to the bathroom that still smells like Nandor’s soap and throws up into the toilet. His throat burns and he can’t breathe. He murdered Gail.

It keeps running through his mind: I murdered Gail. There’s no way around it. He rinses his mouth out and shoves the heels of his hands into his eyes, until colorful shapes wind their way across his brain. It still doesn’t erase the memory.

He can hear the vampires come back into the room, chatting amicably, like this is nothing. Colin suggests they get rid of Gail’s coffin, to make it seem more like a planned run away. They agree.

He can hear the same struggles as the last time they moved it, only Nadja is helping so it happens quickly. He can hear them retreating down the stairs, out the front door. He runs to the basement.

There is his coffin, the one Nandor bought him, in all its glory. It’s black, with shining dark metal adorning the top. He opens it and it’s blood red inside, plush and satin. It’s perfect. It’s perfect, and he cries.

The doorbell rings and he goes to answer it. He can’t feel his legs, let alone his hands. Yet somehow he tells the caterers where to put the food, thanks them for their time, tips the delivery drivers. He lays out napkins and serving ware. He practices saying, “She left.” He practices not sobbing when Nandor does.

“Best man,” Nadja calls out, shoving his shoulder to get his attention. “You should go.”

“Okay,” he whispers, and he’s reaching for his keys.

“No, nope,” Laszlo interjects, snatching them away. “You are not driving in this condition. Honestly, man! It’s like you haven’t killed twelve thousand people before.”

“None of them were Nandor’s fiancé!” he yells back, startled at his own tone. His voice is thick and angry and wet.

“All the better for you!” Laszlo counters, pocketing the keys. “She was going to break his heart!”

“Yeah! And now I broke it instead!”

“You can help him put it back together!” Laszlo scowls, then sighs. “Love is a tricky bitch, I know. It makes us do crazy things.”

“It was an accident,” Guillermo hears himself saying, not even denying the rest.

He is. He’s so fucking in love, and he just ruined it. To hear Nandor call him friend after what he has done, not knowing… it shakes him to his core.

Laszlo sighs deeply, then takes Guillermo’s hand. It feels warm, because they are both cold. “Come now, let’s get you out of those bloody clothes.”

He lets himself be led, vaguely registering that the caterers constitute witnesses now. Or they probably think it’s some sort of goth party. He can’t kill them, too.

They’re in Laszlo and Nadja’s room, and Guillermo is rarely in here. It’s decorated with so many dead things that Guillermo, for once, feels like he belongs.

Laszlo is deft in pulling off the sash and sliding the vest over his arms, and then he’s unbuttoning the stained shirt. In other circumstances, Guillermo would slap his hands away and do it himself. He can’t feel his hands.

Laszlo keeps glancing up at him, something almost… concerned in his eyes. They really were equals now. He wishes he could appreciate it more.

“You’ll have to learn,” Laszlo finally says gently, grabbing a towel from god-knows-where to mop up the blood congealing on his chest. “You will have eternity one day, you know, and others will come to break Nandor’s heart. He is much like Nadja; they love easily.”

Nandor’s own words echo in his head and he realizes with startling clarity that they all love too easily; that their cruelty can be chalked up to love for something, someone.

“I love Nadja to death, and I do mean that literally. I died for her, Guillermo, like I’m sure you are wanting to do for Nandor. Her pain causes me pain, too. I sometimes feel like I hurt more than she does.” The towel is rough against his chest, his stomach. “I would do anything to keep her from ever hurting again. Sometimes that means I have to diffuse situations before they happen.”

Guillermo nods slowly.

“The first time is hard. It becomes easier after that. You learn to appreciate the smile, and you learn that their happiness is sometimes worth more than a little discomfort on your part.” Laszlo throws the towel aside and scrounges through his drawers for a shirt. “Don’t put anyone on a pedestal, Guillermo. But learn how you can both balance on it together.”

“I don’t—“ His voice is raspy and he swallows hard. “I don’t think I can stand with him, after what I’ve— what I’ve done.”

“What did you do, Guillermo? Spare him a decade of heartache?” Laszlo takes Guillermo’s hands and raises them over his head so he can slip on the shirt, more of a peasant blouse than anything. “Believe me, when you’re a vampire, time works differently. This is barely a blip in the grand scheme of eternity.”

“I can’t lie to him.”

“Then just never mention it.”

Guillermo isn’t sure he’s capable of that, but Laszlo is smoothing wrinkles out of his shirt and laying the sash with all the stakes back over him, and maybe he can try. Everyone else seems to want him to.

“Are you ready?” Laszlo asks, and there is patience in his voice. He will wait, if Guillermo asks him to.

But every second that passes is just closer to the inevitable, to the downfall of Nandor, the spiral, the sadness. So he just nods.

They leave through the window without a sound.

———

There are no cars at the barn, but the lights are on inside and they can hear it bustling with noise. The vampires flew; the werewolves ran. Not a single human is even on the grounds, the familiars all waiting elsewhere. Except, of course, Guillermo.

They stand outside the circle of light stemming from some giant bulb on the barn, waiting. Laszlo’s hand is on his lower back, steadying him. They’ll walk in when Guillermo is ready. It’s almost time for the ceremony to begin, and he’s not ready at all, but that doesn’t really matter, does it?

He takes a deep breath and starts walking to the giant doors, Laszlo right beside him. And it’s nice having Laszlo there, a gentle presence that feels protective, like Guillermo’s emotions are on a precipice and Laszlo is the one providing the occasional gentle poke to keep them from falling.

He can do this.

He pulls back his shoulders, lifts his chin, and flings open the doors.

All eyes turn to them, almost expectantly, but when they see no Gail, they return to their murmuring. He’s halfway up the aisle before he turns his eyes to Nandor.

He’s smiling.

It’s genuine, it isn’t for anything other than happiness that Guillermo is there. It’s pleased. It’s gentle. It’s nothing very new. It’s a smile he’s seen a thousand times before.

Laszlo senses it before Guillermo does. Maybe it’s a falter in his steps, maybe it’s a shuddering inhale, maybe it’s a change in scent. Laszlo tries to grab his elbow, but Guillermo is striding forward resolutely, outpacing him.

He’s thinking of having to stand beside Nandor as time drags on and on, of how long Nandor would make everyone wait for her, hopeful. He’s thinking of having to pull him aside, having to staple the curtains shut and black out the windows to keep him from doing something drastic. 

He’s thinking Nandor deserves closure.

He doesn’t even hear Laszlo’s hissed out, “Guillermo!” He doesn’t feel the attempts to pull him back. His eyes are locked on Nandor, on the smile slowly giving way to confusion. There’s something in his eyes, but he doesn’t know what it is, because it’s getting too blurry to see Nandor at all. He can see the outline of him, and maybe this would be the last visage to ever grace him. Maybe that wouldn't be that bad.

He hopes Nandor at least kills him with his teeth.

“I killed her,” is out of his mouth before Laszlo can clamp a hand over it, and he’s falling to his knees at Nandor’s feet.

The room is hushed.

“What?” Nandor asks, and it’s barely above a whisper, as if his lungs don’t want to afford the oxygen to ask. As if his lungs need oxygen.

“I killed Gail,” Guillermo says again, and it’s thick and desperate and factual, and there are tears running down his cheeks. “I killed her.” He thinks it sounds incomplete, he thinks he should make it clearer that he is handing over his life to Nandor, that he is laying it as his feet for him to crush with his heel. “I killed her, master,” he repeats, and it is rushed and ghastly and his shoulders are shaking. His breath is stunted and heavy, coming out in gasps he’s trying to choke down. He can’t see Nandor’s face through his tears. He thinks he doesn’t deserve to, anyway.

He hears Laszlo break the silence, a whispered, “Fuck.” Then the silence becomes a murmur, a trickle, an echo, a roar. He can’t make out words. He probably doesn’t want to.

He feels a strong hand grab his shoulder and he is being dragged away. He can’t get his feet under him, he can’t see where they’re going. He knows it gets darker, darker, then finally there is no roar in his ears. It is quiet. He’s shoved mercilessly to the ground.

A dragging noise of a chair, a soft metal click of a lock. An exhale. A shaky inhale. Guillermo does not dare look up.

“Why?” Nandor asks, and there is nothing in his voice that Guillermo can name, nothing to give any sort of hint what’s going through his head. He can’t even think of an answer before it’s bright again, and he blinks at the fluorescent lights shining on the dirt-ridden floor. “Look at me,” Nandor commands, snarls.

Guillermo obeys.

Nandor is standing there, face a smear of emotions he couldn’t pick apart on his best day, let alone right now. Nandor pinches the bridge of his nose angrily. “Fuck-ing why, Guillermo?!”

Guillermo feels like his heart isn’t beating anymore, has just resigned itself to death. “It— it was an accident.”

“Sure,” Nandor says sarcastically, cruelly. “An accident.”

“I didn’t mean to— it just happened and I—“ Guillermo’s hands open and close, like he can grasp a worthy reason, a believable explanation. “She was going to leave you,” he says instead.

“Of COURSE she was going to leave me!” Nandor screams, and it is so unlike him that Guillermo falls back to the dirt ground. “But I’d be better by then! I’d be happy! I’d be worthy of you! We had eternity, you and I!”

Guillermo can’t breathe, can only stare wide-eyed and devastated at Nandor, who is glaring at him with… something hiding behind the anger. Something familiar. Something he’s seen before and never bothered tallying.

Nandor’s eyes bounce across his face before he growls in frustration, pacing away. He holds up his hands like he’s surrendering, like Nandor ever surrenders. “But I am not supposed to know, or say anything, or ever mention it. I forgot,” he snarks, fangs bared.

“What are you—“

Nandor rounds on him, and he is a predator, ready to attack, ready to lunge for the jugular. “You! With your puppy eyes and your acts of service and your impenetrable defense! Do not pretend now, now, that you do not love me.”

Whatever air is left is punched out of Guillermo, and he kneels there, bare unto him. “Of course I love you,” Guillermo whispers, because it is all he can do. “How long have you…?”

“Guillermo,” Nandor growls, only it comes out as a sigh, one hand running through his own hair. The single strand falls loose. “Years. I don’t know.”

“Why did you never say anything?”

“Even now, here you are, brave,” Nandor murmurs, then shakes his head. “What, as your employer? As someone with a great deal of power over you? As someone who could not bear to place his own weight upon your shoulders? No. This was not my choice to make.” Nandor touches his own forehead reverently, like he can still feel the kiss there. “I would not drag you down with me.”

Guillermo feels numb all over, like opening his mouth is more of a thought than an action. “I love you,” he asserts, surprised that his voice does not waver, “but I did not kill Gail out of jealousy.”

“Pardon me if I do not believe you,” Nandor states dryly.

Guillermo scoots closer on his knees, suddenly deciding Nandor has to know, before he kills him, he has to know the truth. “It was an accident,” he says again. “I didn’t mean to kill her, but I was trying to get rid of her. The killing just… it happened.”

“Oh, you love me, and you kill my fiancé by accident.”

“Yes.” Guillermo looks at the desperate expression in Nandor’s eyes. Yes. It is desperate. He wants Guillermo to give him some reason to spare him, wants Guillermo to save himself. “I wanted her gone. I admit that. But not because I was jealous, Nandor, because I— because I love you.”

“That is the same thing! You cannot—“

“It isn’t.” Guillermo reaches out, touches pleadingly at pant leg, at thigh. “If I were jealous, I’d kill her because I wanted you. But I love you, and I wanted her gone so you wouldn’t get hurt.”

Nandor isn’t backing away, so Guillermo scoots closer, kneels at his feet once more.

“I don’t care who it’s with, Nandor. I just want you to be happy. If it would make you happy to kill me, then kill me. I know I deserve it. Just.” He bows his head, and it feels like worship. “Just do it quickly.”

He feels Nandor’s fingers fist in his hair, yank his head up, neck exposed. Nandor reaches back with his free hand and grabs the sword against his back, pulling it from its sheath slowly, and holds it up high, ready to strike. Guillermo looks at the fire in his eyes and cannot help it.

“You’re the sunrise,” he whispers.

Nandor stares at him, stares at him for a long time, sword raised. It doesn’t shake, doesn’t falter. The hand in his hair remains tight. He cannot see the thoughts swirling behind dark eyes, but a single tear falls.

“Nandor—“ Guillermo begins, worried, but the fist pulls his hair back fiercely, neck at a horribly awkward angle. The sword arcs down to rest against his throat, pushing his chin up.

Nandor breathes once, then once more, shakier. “I should kill you,” he growls. He’s staring at Guillermo with stony eyes now, and suddenly Guillermo can see why people were afraid of him, why they threw themselves at his feet, why they died for him. The sword presses tighter against his throat, drawing a sliver of blood, but going no further. Guillermo holds Nandor’s thighs and pulls himself closer. Blood beads readily against the blade, and Nandor lets out a strangled laugh. “Jeebus, Guillermo, must you always be so horny for everything I do?”

He pulls the sword away and drops it beside them with a resonating clatter.

Nandor sinks to his knees, using his grip in Guillermo’s hair to pull their foreheads together. “Strange little man,” he admonishes lightly. “What am I to do with you?”

Guillermo closes his eyes, relishing the closeness, his brain still buzzing from the threat of imminent death. “I thought you were going to kill me,” he says, and it’s not relief, it’s a suggestion.

Nandor tsks, averting his eyes. “I could never hurt you, Guillermo.”

Guillermo tilts his head back, lips brushing Nandor’s nose as he bares his bloodied throat. “I’m inviting you to.”

Nandor shakes his head, some sad sort of smile on his face. “I will never understand your desire for this. For me.”

“Those are two different desires. I hated you when I first met you.”

“Yet the call to vampiredom was so strong it kept you here, even though you hated me.”

“Actually, no.” Guillermo can still feel blood sliding slowly down his throat, and he reminds himself that blood can’t be slutty. “I had decided to quit. I was looking for normal, paying jobs when— do you remember when you got the flu from drinking from a sick man?”

Nandor grimaces, a resounding yes.

“I took care of you. And you were this big vampire warlord, reduced to a sniveling mess. You thanked me for everything I did. You were so delirious from the fever that every spoonful of blood, every temperature check, you thanked me. And, I don’t know. I didn’t hate you as much then, because I… understood a bit more.” He risks tucking that infernal strand of hair back behind Nandor’s ear. “You’re grateful, always. But you’re not allowed to show it.”

“So you stayed for love, then.”

“Eventually. Tolerance grew to like, like grew to love.” Guillermo shakes his head, presses his lips to Nandor’s forehead again. For half a moment, he thinks Nandor sobs. “I want to spend forever with you. That is why I am still here.”

“It is a curse, Guillermo,” he pleads quietly.

“Not if it’s this. Not if it’s you.”

Nandor takes an alarmingly loud breath he doesn’t need, and releases Guillermo’s hair in favor of holding his face in his hands. This close, Guillermo can see the tears building in his eyes. He wonders if they burn. “I am broken, Guillermo,” Nandor shakes out. “I have lived too long. I do not know happiness, and I cannot ask you to find it for me. I thought I could find it myself, and that— that I could—“ He runs his thumb across Guillermo’s cheek reverently, feverishly, “that I could do that. If I was happy. If touching you didn’t bring the burden crashing onto your fragile head.”

“I cannot carry it for you,” Guillermo whispers, hands lifting to hold Nandor’s own. “But I can help you carry it. If it’s too much for one person, let it be carried by two. It will lose some of its weight in the transfer.”

“I cannot ask that of you.”

“You do not have to.” Guillermo slides one hand behind his head and pulls him in, lips pressed to lips, nose pressed to wet cheek. He can feel where Nandor shakes, and puts his hands against him to steady him. He will always steady him.

Nandor kisses him reverently, like every touch is holy in a way that doesn’t burn, like every taste and sound and movement must be memorized, must be filed away for later retrieval. It is Guillermo who pulls away first, lungs burning, and Nandor opens his eyes to stare at him in apostolic wonder.

“What do we do now?” Guillermo whispers.

Nandor winces, as if he’s forgotten why they are there at all. “Well, you admitted to killing a vampire in front of a crowd of vampires. I’m expected to kill you.”

Guillermo looks over his shoulder to the shut door, the chair propped under the handle. “I can find another way out.”

“They will smell you and track you down.”

“I have fought leagues before.”

“I cannot risk losing you.” Nandor’s hands trace his face, down his chest. “You will forgive me, my love, for what I must do.”

“Of course,” Guillermo replies easily, closing his eyes. He knew death would come for him someday. He had hoped it would be in the shape of a vampire slayer, but. The shape of Nandor is just as well.

There is a softness against his lips, a kiss, too gentle to be anything but goodbye. There it is again, against his cheek, his jaw, his throat, and Guillermo processes it just before it happens, that Nandor is killing him.

Deeply, lovingly, softly, killing him.

Fangs press into his throat and it hurts for a few moments, as they slide deep into muscle and artery, and then Nandor’s lips are against his neck, his hand in his hair. He barely feels the fangs slide out, definitely feels cool tongue against his throat. Nandor holds him still, drinks deep, until Guillermo can feel his head going dizzy with a million different things at once.

Nandor pulls back and makes to bite at his own wrist, but Guillermo puts a hand against it, stopping him. Nandor looks up in confusion.

“Sorry,” Guillermo begins, words thick. “I’ve just— I’ve had this planned for years and uh, I’m gonna— gonna drink from, from your neck.”

Nandor raises his eyebrows in an expression Guillermo can’t think about too much right now, and slides one manicured nail across the side of his own throat, drawing blood like a razor blade. “Again with the horny,” Nandor chastises jokingly, leaning his head to the side.

“Yeah well… shut up.” Guillermo leans in and presses a gentle kiss to Nandor’s collarbone, then his throat, before dragging his tongue across the dripping wound.

It is water in the desert.

He lets out a startled noise that morphs into deep groan, pressing his mouth harder to Nandor’s throat. Nandor, who holds Guillermo to him, whose breathing is no better than his own. Guillermo wants to push him down against the ground, lathe him in kisses, show him how much he is wanted. He’s pressing chest to chest, hands traveling down Nandor’s back, pulling him closer, when he is hit with the deepest agony he has ever known.

He yanks himself back, gasps in a deep breath as another wave hits and he doubles over, held up only by Nandor’s strong arms.

“There is a moment of time,” Nandor is telling him urgently, cutting through the static in his head, “between life and life again, when you are dead. Truly and entirely. Listen to me now: I need you to cling to that moment and be still.”

Guillermo looks up at him with wide eyes, gritting his teeth against what feels like his intestines trying to crawl up to strangle his heart.

“Can you withstand this torture?” Nandor asks him seriously, wiping the blood from Guillermo’s mouth.

“Anything you ask of me,” Guillermo manages.

Nandor looks briefly to the heavens, and Guillermo thinks he smells burning flesh for half a moment before he’s being lifted up in strong arms like he is nothing more than a blade of grass. “Go limp. Do not move, do not breathe. Your lungs will tell you that you must. They are lying to you.”

Things feel like they’re slipping away, like the pain winding its way through his body is all that exists. He thinks he hears Nandor tell him to stay where he is for as long as he can, but then it is just darkness and agony.

He cannot feel his limbs, or even Nandor’s arms anymore. He cannot feel anything. The pain even begins to slip from his fingers, until he is floating, alone, in a void.

There is no sound. There is nothing. He’s not even sure he exists, but he can’t form thoughts anyway. It’s like inklings of instinct, nothing solid, nothing real. He’s vaguely aware that there is something distinctly more void to his left, and something distinctly less void to his right. They’re there. They’re not real, either.

He’s not sure which to reach for, but something tells him he shouldn’t reach at all. Staying suspended is hard; he keeps drifting towards one or the other. He’s drifting closer to more void than he is less. It might be a nice change of pace, to be where there is more void. He can feel something waiting for him where there is less void, and he’s not sure what it is, but he knows he needs it. But he’s been here for eons, he’s sure of it. How bad could he need something for eons?

He thinks he could get a closer look, if he tried.

He doesn’t try, but he floats along that way, anyway. This close to less void, he can hear things, like they’re echoing in his brain. He can hear a female voice, shrill and angry. She’s so angry. He can hear a male voice, trying to calm her, and quickly giving up to anger as well. There’s another one, dead-toned, monotonous.

He can sense a fourth being out there, in the less void. It doesn’t say anything. It takes all anger directed at it, and does not respond.

Something touches his shoulder.

He spins sharply towards the more void and sees a woman. He thinks he knows her. She’s older, with lines framing her face. She’s in a white dress.

They stare at each other for a moment, then she rolls her eyes at him and raises a middle finger. She says something that doesn’t quite make it through the void. It’s slightly angry, more resigned.

And then she pushes him out.

Guillermo de la Cruz gasps in a breath he doesn’t need, splutters and chokes and rolls onto his side. Everything is too bright, and there seem to be a million voices at once. There are hands touching him, and they’re warm against his skin, and he can hear tears rolling down a face. He’s never heard that before.

He’s vaguely aware of his name being called, and he forces his eyes open to see Nandor holding his face tightly, his own face nothing short of joyous. His lips are moving, and Guillermo cannot figure out what he’s saying.

He lays a gentle hand to Nandor’s hair a moment before sitting up, rubbing at his face harshly. He feels weak, like if he tries right this instant, he can pop himself right back into the void.

He can pick out Nadja’s voice but cannot parse what she’s saying, and then a glass is held against his lips for a fraction of a second before it is knocked away. There’s arguing, shouting, and none of it Nandor. Something crashes, there’s thick liquid being poured, and then a new glass is pressed to his lips and tilted, and he drinks eagerly.

The room falls silent.

The cotton that covered the sounds slowly dissipates, until the cup has been refilled and drunk again.

“Easy now,” he hears Nandor say, and he finally can focus on their faces.

Nadja and Laszlo are staring at him, wide-eyed, and Colin looks like he’s overjoyed at the entire exchange.

“You turned him,” Nadja finally says, stumped.

Nandor heaves out a shuddering laugh, and Guillermo can still see the tear tracks weaving down his face. “I thought you were gone, little thing,” he whispers. “When I told you to stay there, I did not mean forever.”

Guillermo blinks in confusion, looks to Laszlo and Nadja, then Colin, who seems to be the only one capable of coherent words.

“We thought he killed you,” Colin states simply. “You were dead for like, two days.”

Guillermo remembers the void, remembers waiting. “Oh,” is all he can say.

Nadja finally lets out a loud cheer and runs to Guillermo, hugging him tightly, and that seems very new. She’s warm. “Nandor would not tell us what had happened! I was very worried your stupid actions had gotten you killed for good.” She presses a peck to his cheek, then seems to get a hold of herself, stepping back. “Anyway. Very glad you are not dead.”

Laszlo points at him. “Yes, you are very stupid. Good to have you back.” He shakes his head. “Never in my many years have I seen someone wait at death’s door for so long. For fuck’s sake, Guillermo, no need to scare us all like that. We were about to bury you.”

Colin points to Nandor. “He wasn’t letting us.”

Guillermo looks back to Nandor, and he can actually see the past two days on his face. He can see the dark circles under his eyes, the gauntness to his cheeks, the red rim of his eyes. He can see every tear stain in agonizing detail.

He raises a hand to wipe the fresher ones away. “Are you okay?” Guillermo asks, and it’s such an absolutely ridiculous thing for someone who has been dead for two days to ask that Nandor can’t help but laugh, even as new tears trail down his face, even as he pulls Guillermo in for a deep, desperate kiss. Barely two seconds pass before Nandor grunts and pulls back, a smile still wide on his face.

“Careful there, my love,” he whispers, and there is a cut on his lower lip, blood beading slowly from it. “Your mouth is a weapon now.”

Guillermo reaches up in shock, feels inside his own mouth. There are two fangs where his canines once were, thin and deathly sharp. He accidentally cuts his own finger.

Nandor takes his hand and pulls it away, looking at him adoringly. “It takes a while to get used to. You’re going to cut yourself a lot in the next few days. Luckily,” he holds up Guillermo’s hand, where the nick is already knitting itself back together, “you heal quickly, too.”

“I’m a vampire,” Guillermo states, like he can’t believe it.

“Staten Island Vampire,” Colin remarks, and Guillermo can’t help but snicker at that.

“We’ll go hunting tonight, you and I,” Nandor promises. “Whenever you are ready.”

“Okay,” Guillermo breathes.

“And I will help you find your super special power,” Nadja suggests, eyes already shining with possibility. “I’ve never trained a slayer vampire before; who knows what awaits you?”

“I can train you in hypnosis,” Laszlo offers, grinning darkly. “You’ll be a master like me in no time.”

“Hey, hey!” Nandor scolds. “I sired him, I shall be the one to help him with his vampire-ness.”

“Yes but he is our Guillermo,” Nadja tosses back, motioning to everyone in the circle. “We all get to help him.”

Nandor pouts grumpily at that, crossing his arms, and Guillermo cannot help but to pull him closer. He’s so much lighter now, so much warmer. He could melt against his skin.

“I’ll always be yours,” Guillermo promises, coaxing Nandor’s arms open so he can pull him flush, wrap him up tight. “But they’re my family, too.”

The other vampires make disgusted noises, like they aren’t secretly flattered, like Guillermo can’t literally sense the happiness in them.

Nandor relaxes into his arms, resting his cheek on top of Guillermo’s head. “Oh my love, how I have missed you,” he whispers.

“It’s been two days.”

“It has been a long two days.” Nandor presses his lips to Guillermo’s forehead gently, a parallel, a promise.

“Then let’s not waste any more time.” Guillermo stands on strong feet, takes Nandor’s hand in his own. “You said you wanted to hunt. Let’s hunt.”

Nandor’s smile is even more glorious now, like it shines with every sunrise he’s going to miss. “I was thinking we could hunt at the library.”

“The library?”

“Yes. I heard they have books that can… help me.” Here Nandor stands before him, open and vulnerable and fearing nothing. A warrior.

“Okay,” Guillermo agrees. “But no eating the librarians.”

Nandor grumbles at that but agrees, just so he can hold Guillermo’s hand as they walk into the night, and he thinks, with Guillermo at his side, there is nothing he cannot face. Even himself.

“I love you,” Nandor says suddenly, at the end of their sidewalk, like not one more step can pass without that being known.

Guillermo looks at him in the dark that does not touch his face, and smiles.

“Yeah. I know.” The kiss is soft, reverent. “I love you, too.”

Flying is easy, landing is easier, and love is the easiest thing of all.