Actions

Work Header

Baby Steps

Work Text:

“Let me tell you something about Nandor.” Laszlo checks over his shoulder before returning his formidable gaze direct to camera. “Nandor is terrified of commitment. You may notice that we don’t have cable television. That isn’t because we’ve, as the Americans say, ‘cut the cord.’ No, we never had the cord to begin with.”

The shot widens to include Nadja in the frame. “In the late 1980s, the companies installed the wires on this street. We are very modern vampires. We enjoy the latest entertainment. Naturally, after a few years, we wanted to add the cable channels.”

“But Nandor—” Laszlo’s hand curls into a fist. “That son of a bitch,” he croaks.

Nadja pats his shoulder consolingly. “I know.” She looks back to camera. “Nandor wouldn’t put up his part of the money.”

“Apparently,” Laszlo snarls, “a six month contract was far too daunting for precious prince Nandor.”

Nadja pitches her voice lower, “Oh, but it’s such a long time. What if we don’t like the cable? What if they stop making programs? I tried to sack Constantinople, but by the time I got there, it wasn’t there.” She blows a raspberry.

“That’s the key, isn’t it?” Laszlo shakes his head. “He misses the Fall of Constantinople by a few months, he shows up they’re calling it something else, and he hasn’t committed to a major campaign since.”

“And we miss Forever Knight, True Blood, all the American Horror Stories, The Wires...”

Laszlo turns to her. “Did The Wires have vampires?”

“I don’t know. I never got to watch because Nandor—”

“Right, right.” He pauses, listening to muffled speech offscreen. He furrows his brow. “Online? You mean, on the computer machine?”

Nadja touches his arm. “They have The Wires in there?”

“All of them?” Laszlo leans back in his seat, eyes wide. “That is remarkable.” He chuckles. “Well, I certainly know what we’re doing once this talk-heading is done.” He pauses. “What were we talking about?”

“Nandor,” Nadja says. “Total commitmentphobe.”

Lazslo nods. “Right. Total commitment phone.”

“That’s what makes this so shocking.”

“I mean, we knew Nandor was fond of little… Guernica? That’s not right.” He reads from his hand. “Gwil… Er… Muh? Oh, oh! Guillermo.” He snaps his fingers. “Guillermo!”

“You see? We’re not even allowed to call him Gizmo anymore. Apparently, it is racist now.”

“Well, darling, I think it was always racist.”

Nadja shrugs. “True. But, er, before we didn’t have someone we thought of as, you know, a person telling us it was racist.”

“Yeah, it was a bit of a tree falling in the woods situation. I mean, we all knew trees were falling, but we didn’t have Nandor yelling, ‘Timber!’ every five minutes.”

Nadja wrinkles her nose. “There have been so many house meetings.”

“He even brought in a diversity consultant. I don’t know how he paid for that.”

“Oh, you didn’t know? Nandor didn’t pay her. She was an energy vampire. Fed off our defensiveness all night.”

“Really?” He slaps his knee. “Good for her. Normally, I’d be furious at the intrusion, but the woman is clearly doing important work.”

“She was very educational,” Nadja says flatly.

“Young people like that are going to change the world.”

Nadja blinks. “Are we done?” She listens. “You don’t have it? We haven’t…? Yeah, we can…” She tucks her hair behind her ears. “So, as we were saying, this new development is shocking. Nandor is very afraid of commitment, so we were all surprised when he announced that he and…” She glances at Laszlo’s hand. “Guillermo would be moving forward in their relationship.”

“Frankly,” Laszlo says, “I didn’t think Nandor had it in him. But apparently, he does.” He leers. “Quite often if his boasts are to be believed.”

“Guillermo is fucking Nandor in the ass,” Nadja explains. “We know because Nandor tells us.”

“Also, the noises are a dead giveaway.”

“This house has thin walls. And floors.”

“If you live with someone long enough, you learn what they sound like while getting fucked in the arse. And, let me tell you, Nandor is getting fucked in the arse. A lot. And very well, apparently.” Laszlo looks off wistfully. “Who knew Guillermo was such a little minx?”

They sit in silence.

Unprompted, Nadja says, “I am not insecure about my abilities as a lover.”

-

“What most people don’t realize is that the path from familiar to vampire is rarely a straight line.” Colin Robinson addresses the camera, pace painstakingly slow. “A lot of these humans are roped into being familiars with the promise of becoming a vampire. As you know, that usually doesn’t happen. Very few vampires are willing to give up a source of free labor.

“Of course, this wasn’t always the case. In Medieval Europe, familiars almost always became vampires after a few years of service. In those days, life for vampires was much harder. There was a lot more wood construction—rustic, exposed beams, that sort of thing—so accidental stakings alone culled about a quarter of the vampiric population each year. Some scholars put that number as high as a third. So, there were far fewer vampires, which left the community vulnerable. Repopulating the species became a priority. This changed the relationship between familiars and their masters, transforming it into almost an apprenticeship. The familiar would learn the tools of the vampire trade by serving their master and then they would eventually graduate into vampires themselves.

“Obviously, times have changed. Apprenticeship programs have fallen out of favor in a variety of trades, including vampirism. Today’s familiars are essentially a permanent underclass within supernatural society. But they still dream. Granted, they don’t sleep a lot, but when they do, they dream of shooting straight from familiar to vampire. This fantasy ignores a crucial, but rarely used, third option. Starting somewhere in Ancient Greece around the time of Plato, vampires started to take on human lovers. Not as a food source, but as a source of companionship. And sex, obviously. Typically, the human was someone the vampire picked out from a crowd or cruised in the agora. Since romantic love didn’t necessarily entail marriage or commitment at that time, human-vampire liaisons were usually transient. Very few vampires took the leap of turning their human paramours. This trend held for some time.

“When the concept of courtly love developed in Medieval Europe, vampires developed a taste for falling in love and pledging their unbeating hearts for all eternity. Some did this with other vampires. Others did it with humans whom they would eventually turn. Of the vampires who opted for human lovers, about half chose to pair off with their familiars. Following the apprenticeship period I mentioned earlier, those familiars would stop serving their masters and essentially live as a kept human for a few years before being turned.

“Now, if we look back to our discussion of vampire population maintenance, we’ll see that the claiming and subsequent turning of familiars was a response to two realms of European human culture: architecture and literature, namely the—”

Colin Robinson pauses, listening. His eyes glow red for a moment.

“No, no,” he says, “you’re right, this is better than having me film myself. I’ll, um, get to the point.”

He straightens his glasses and levels his gaze at the camera. “Nandor recently claimed Guillermo as his own. I realize to the folks at home this may sound very dramatic. Most things nightwalkers say are designed to be dramatic, but when you look more closely, they’re actually rather mundane. It might sound cool when Nandor growls, ‘Guillermo is mine!’ But really he’s just saying, ‘I like Guillermo better than all the other humans and, if you try to feed from him, I will kill you.’”

He pauses.

“Have I?” Colin Robinson shakes his head. “I know better. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not afraid of Nandor. Abstaining from Guillermo isn’t a fear-based decision; it’s purely about flavor. Humans pair-bonded with nightwalkers are what you might call an acquired taste. Some people really enjoy the contrast between the human and the lingering vampiric ownership. But it’s not something I like. Not even around the holidays.”

-

“It’s hard,” Nandor confides. “There are a lot of stereotypes. Even in 2019, people believe so many wrong-headed things about human-vampire relationships. Even other vampires. They think, ‘Oh, you don’t want me feeding from Guillermo because you are saving him for later.’ No! I would never eat Guillermo. I… like Guillermo. He is my human. If I eat him, he won’t be alive anymore.

“But people get very pushy. They say, ‘Oh, but you must get a taste every now and then!’ First of all, I am not a child. I do not go around licking a lollypop and then throwing it away. If I am going to eat someone, I’m going to fucking eat them. I don’t nibble. This isn’t a cocktail party. Second, I don’t think of Guillermo as food. He’s my human. I realize this is hard for most vampires to understand because humans are food. But it’s very different when they are your human. It is like when a human has a…”

He hesitates. “That is not good. If I say it like that, I will get in trouble. He will not be happy.”

Nandor’s brow wrinkles in thought.

“Oh!” He smiles. “Yes, um, it is like when a human has a pet dog. They will sleep in the same room, but the dog will not eat the human because that is its human. But if the human goes into the woods and goes to sleep, the wolf will eat the human.”

Nandor leans forward. “To be clear, I am the dog. In this situation, I am the dog. Are we all on the same page?” He pauses. “Good. Because if any of you tell Guillermo I called him a dog, I will rip your anus out through your ear.”

He sighs contentedly. “Also, even if I thought of him as food, he would be very bad food. The best blood comes from virgins. You know this. I know this. Why would I eat someone who was just fucking me? Clearly, he is not a virgin.

“This is why I am always telling my roommates, ‘Guillermo just fucked me very thoroughly.’ It’s like a friendly little reminder: ‘Hey, don’t eat him. He will taste disgusting.’”

Nandor nods to himself. “I guess you could say I have a very firm ‘Don’t eat Guillermo’ policy. And it applies across the board. To everyone.” He glares at the camera as if addressing the audience at home or perhaps just the film crew. “And I mean everyone.”

He smiles. “Including me. So, you see, that is one stereotype that just isn’t true. But I will admit: the whole clandestinely watching your human sleep thing? That’s pretty accurate.”

He pauses, listening for a moment. “Not as much as I like. It’s hard because we both sleep during the daytime. And I sleep in a coffin and he sleeps in a bed so it’s not like I can just roll over and let his warm breath tickle my face while I admire him observed by no one, not even my own demons.

“He tries to sleep on his back like a vampire, you know, but he always ends up on his side. (That’s why I have to rub the liniment into his shoulder.) But he still looks like a vampire. Everybody does when they are sleeping. Even children. Especially my children.”

Nandor chuckles softly. “That always made their mothers furious. That they looked like me. But I always thought it was nice. To get to be a vampire with someone for a little bit. Just a little bit, not forever, not, you know…” He pokes his index finger downward. Hellward. “For eternity.”

-

"I guess you could say a lot has changed between seasons." Guillermo hesitates. "Is that the format still? Ten episodes and then we break?" He pauses. "Yeah, that's fine. I don't want to hem you guys in."

After a beat, he addresses the camera once more. "I guess you could say a lot has changed in the last few months. To start, um, I'm not a familiar anymore. That's kind of a big one. Um, I'm not a vampire. That's on hold for now. But I'm also not entirely unaffiliated with the supernatural. I always thought that I would leave that calling in a coffin. Either sleeping or exsanguinated. So, this has all been pretty unexpected.

"Not that I'm complaining. This is definitely better than being a familiar."

Guillermo nods along to a muffled question.

“The free time, definitely.” Guillermo cringes, catching himself. “Shit, sorry. Full sentences. I’ll do it again.”

Closing his eyes, he takes a deep breath. “Be natural,” he mumbles to himself. Opening his eyes, he looks into the camera.

"I can't speak for anyone else, but, to me, the main difference between being Nandor's familiar and being his human is the leisure time. Before I was working all the time, taking care of the house, doing Nandor's bidding, walking dogs for Wag! to make rent. Now, I don't do any of that. I really don't have to do anything but be a human. And I was doing that anyway.

“When this all started, I was afraid it would be boring not to work, just to lounge around the house dipping dates in tahini, watching someone else pay all your bills, never worry about money… But it’s actually amazing. I don’t want to discourage anyone from pursuing their dreams, but if you can quit your job and have an immortal sugar daddy, you should do it. Your career can wait; good jobs aren’t coming back anytime soon. I don’t know if they ever will.”

He stares off mournfully before snapping back to himself.

“Um, what else?” He adjusts his glasses. “I don’t call him Master anymore. Um, he still doesn’t pronounce my name right, but I’m sure my attempts at Farsi aren’t any better.”

Cut to: Nandor shouting, “Gyairmo joon!” in the party supply store (“Look, they have a vampire with googly eyes!”), the phone nook in the hallway (“This robot woman wants my Social Security number! Is this one of those things I’m not supposed to do?”), and the history section of the public library (“I’m in this one! Ooh, that Dutchman kind of looks like you.”).

Back to Guillermo, who narrows his eyes. “I’m pretty sure Laszlo thinks my full name is Guillermo Dear.”

Cut to: Laszlo looking over his shoulder before revising the Sharpie on his hand to read, “Guillermo June.”

Back to Guillermo. “We go on dates now. That’s new. I’ve probably been to every Middle Eastern restaurant on Staten Island. He really likes to watch me eat for some reason. Which isn’t really new. I’ve dated guys who were into that before and that always felt kind of… off. But I think Nandor might get something different out of it.”

Cut to: the interior of a small restaurant. Nandor rests his chin on his fists, watching Guillermo eat.

Nandor smiles dreamily. “How is the rice?”

Guillermo swallows. “Good.”

“Why?”

Guillermo smiles quizzically. “What do you mean?”

Why is it good?”

Guillermo wipes his mouth with a napkin. His eyes flick to the camera before returning to Nandor. “Um, it’s well-seasoned. And the meat and the fruit go really well with it. There’s a nice mix of savory and sweet and a little sour.”

“Uh-huh. And what about the texture?”

“It’s great. I really liked the crispy bit.”

Nandor nods. “Would you say it is better than what my family’s cook made when I was a child?”

Guillermo’s eyebrows rise over the rim of his glasses. “...No?”

“Ha!” Nandor slams his fists on the table. “I knew it!” He points at the owner standing behind the till and shouts in classical Persian, “Humble yourself, peasant!”

Cut to: a talking head with the restaurant owner. “That man speaks Farsi like a poet, but the things he says…” She tsks.

Back to Guillermo. “I was a little worried that eating out and having all that comfort food would affect my health. Especially since I’m not doing any of the heavy-lifting around the house. But my doctor said I was in better shape than the last time I saw her. Probably because I’m less stressed and actually sleeping now.”

He leans forward confidentially. “And also topping is way more strenuous than it looks.”

He settles back into his chair. “I’m relieved about that. Even though I have to go back next year and do all the blood tests and everything again. That’s a bit more complicated now.”

Cut to: Guillermo staring at his computer. At the buzzing of a fly, he looks up. “So, did they eat my blood? Or use it for any vile witchcraft?”

Pan to Nandor, looking chastened. “No,” he admits. “They just fed it to a computer.”

Guillermo returns to his screen. “I’ll make sure to look out for any robot vampires.”

“Don’t joke!” Nandor hisses. “The robo-vampire revolution is coming, and it will make the fall of the Ghaznavid Empire look like a fucking tea party.” Whipping his cape, he storms out of the room.

Back to Guillermo. “There’s also less concrete stuff that’s changed. People, especially my parents, say I seem a lot more confident now, which… That’s something I’ve always struggled with. A part of that is probably society. Growing up queer and chubby and Mexican, I never felt like anyone wanted me to, I don’t know, feel proud of myself for who I was. And when I got older, instead of putting the work in to develop self-confidence, I put all my energy into becoming a vampire.” He winces. “I’m a hot mess of a human.”

He listens.

“Do I still want to be a vampire?” he repeats. “I don’t know.” He rolls his eyes and corrects himself. “I don’t know if I still want to be a vampire. I don’t know if I need to, if that makes sense. I don’t want to dive too deep into psychoanalyzing myself, but I think the main reason I wanted to become a vampire in the first place was to feel attractive and powerful. And, to a lesser extent, I had a lot of feelings about Antonio Banderas I wasn’t ready to deal with then. But the main part was feeling attractive and powerful.

“And I do feel attractive now. Largely because of my relationship with Nandor. It’s not—I don’t want—I know there are probably kids, you know, teenagers and middle schoolers watching this.”

Guillermo’s focus shifts, seeming to find a specific audience member beyond the lens. “Even though you really shouldn’t. But I know you probably are, because that’s what I did when I was your age. There weren’t a lot of PG-13 things with gay people in them back then. I watched a lot of stuff that could have used a lot of explaining from adults in my life. But I never got it, because they never knew I was watching it. Until now. Sorry, mom and dad.”

Guillermo waves his hand, dismissing that digression, and gazes fondly into camera. “I don’t want you, any of you, to think that getting into a relationship will fix how you feel about yourself. I’ve had boyfriends before and some of them were actually nice. But none of what they said or did really made a lasting impact. We’d break up and I’d think, ‘There goes the only person who could ever think I’m hot, because he’s a chubby chaser with a feti—’”

Guillermo’s lips form an ‘o.’ “Okay, that is getting a little too… Don’t talk to hypothetical American children about… that.”

He gulps. “Um, it’s like how when your aunts come to visit and they pinch your cheeks and tell you how cute you are. And you brush it off, like, ‘Whatever, weirdo. You have to say that.’ But they don’t. They really don’t. If all aunties had to think we were cute, I wouldn’t have a cousin nicknamed, ‘the ugly one.’”

Guillermo pushes up his glasses. “The women in my family are pretty formidable—especially on my mom’s side.” He adds quietly, “That’s the—” He mimes staking himself in the heart. “—side.” He coughs. “But even they were no match for what society or maybe the media had been telling me my whole life. Someone can tell you you’re cute, you’re beautiful, you’re sexy a million times, but compliments don’t stick unless you’re ready to believe them. Changing how you feel about yourself is a lot of work. And, at the end of the day, the only person who can do that work is you.”

A muffled voice, barely audible, asks, “How does this relate back to Nandor?”

“Oh, um.” Guillermo scratches the back of his neck. “I, uh… Do I… Can I stop talking to the kids at home?”

The voice responds louder, “Yeah, we’d actually prefer if you’d stop doing that. Um, speaking to a particular audience makes the footage less usable. It’s hard to marry soundbites when the tone is so specific.”

“Right.” Guillermo nods. “Soundbites. Um, do you want me to go back and do that without the…? No, okay. I’ll just keep going.” Guillermo clears his throat and stares at the camera with blunt sincerity. “Being with Nandor has made me feel more attractive because Nandor has a thing for mirrors.”

Cut to: Nandor standing in his bedroom. Mirrors cover the walls and ceiling, angled purposefully at the coffin and bed in the middle of the room. He smiles toothily. “This is where the magic happens.”

Back to Guillermo. “You can only spend so many hours watching yourself naked, engaged in fairly vigorous activity without developing a healthy appreciation of your body. I get why they have mirrors in gyms now.” His smile fades. “I realize now that I’ve said that that the mirrors are probably there to help prevent injuries. In the gym, I mean. But that’s also relevant to the whole Nandor thing, because, boy, there is a lot I could do to that guy at close range. I could kill him if I’m not careful. It’s a bit of a rush honestly.”

He catches himself. “Not that—I’m not—It’s not like a thing with me, okay? It’s a thing, but it’s not. I mean, it’s a controlled thing. In controlled circumstances. Not, um…”

Guillermo removes his glasses and scrubs a hand over his face. “I don’t want to kill my boyfriend. Which makes it worse because it would be so easy.” Glasses in hand, he stares miserably at the camera. “I think I might be better at slaying vampires than Professor Van Helsing was. It took him an entire novel to stake Dracula. I could wipe out the entire vampiric population of the Eastern seaboard in half that time. Not that I would. I wouldn’t. I think that’s technically genocide? But I could do it. Easily. In this room alone, there are about two hundred ways to kill a vampire. Believe me, I made a list.”

Guillermo replaces his glasses and pulls his phone out of his pocket. He swipes, taps, and holds up the screen for the camera. A Google Sheets file is barely visible behind the glare. “I started this after I got together with Nandor. I was having a lot of anxiety about accidentally staking him or something. Which isn’t too unreasonable a fear given my history. So, I went around the house and made a list of everything that could potentially slay a vampire. Windows, wooden furniture, anything that could cleave a head from its shoulders. That kind of thing. Just writing it down, knowing what I need to avoid, has helped so much. And whenever I start to feel anxious or a new worry pops up, I just pull out my phone and add something to the list. It’s gotten fairly comprehensive. I have multiple sheets and sorting tables and—”

He stops abruptly.

“Oh.” His hand covers his mouth. He stares wide-eyed at the phone and jams it back into his pocket.

“Oh my god. I made a vampire hunting guide. And I put it in the Cloud.” He moans pathetically. “Oh my god. I’m…” He hugs his arms around his chest, beginning to rock. “I’m a killing machine. I’m-I’m unstoppable. I can’t even—I can’t stop myself. Even when I try, I just keep…” He hyperventilates.

“I wanted to be powerful. My whole life, I wanted to have some stupid supernatural power over others. Little did I know…” He laughs maniacally. “I am the thing monsters are afraid of. Which would be fine if I didn’t really like some of the monsters.”

Still rocking, he sinks his fingers into his hair and pulls. “I belong to their world. I’ve lived in it for a decade. How can I leave? How can I stay? I should stay and-and finish it, right? Everything Van Helsing started? I have an obligation to my species, but so did Will Smith in the original ending of I am Legend.” He freezes. “Oh god, I’m legend.”

He makes a low keening noise punctuated only by prayers of “no, oh, no, god no.”

A knock at the door. From the other side, Nandor calls, “Guillermo, are you okay? I heard crazed laughter.”

Guillermo kicks his keening up several octaves.

“I’m going to come in.” The shot widens, revealing Nandor poking his head in the door. “Don’t stab me.”

Guillermo wails.

Nandor winces. “Okay, don’t do that noise either.” He steps cautiously toward Guillermo. “What’s wrong? Are the camera people nagging you about full sentences again?” He hisses preemptively, flashing a bit of teeth straight to camera.

“No,” Guillermo whimpers.

Nandor rests a hand on his head. “Then why the noises and weird breathing?”

Guillermo gazes up at him, face screwed up in agony. “Because I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

“Oh, that.” He pats Guillermo’s head. “Maybe Death, the Destroyer of Worlds would like some tea. And maybe finish that collage we started last week. Hmm? What does Death think about that?”

Guillermo sniffles. “Okay.”

Ushering Guillermo from the room, Nandor pauses and turns to camera. “It can be a rough transition,” he explains sotto voce, “realizing you’re a creature placed on this earth to steal the lives of others. Having a nice hot drink helps.”

-

The camera ducks into the tiny room beneath the stairs. It pans shakily over the new shelving, craft supplies, half-finished projects, and low furniture crowding the space. The shot tilts down—way down—to show Nandor and Guillermo crammed behind a coffee table piled high with a century of newspapers and magazines.

Guillermo’s eyes flick up, acknowledging the intrusion.

“How did we get together?” Nandor repeats. He caps his glue stick and looks up. “That’s a very funny story.”

Guillermo crosses his arms over his chest. “Really?”

“Not at the time,” Nandor hedges. “But afterwards, in hindsight, there is an element of humor.”

“I threatened to kill you.”

“Dark humor,” Nandor clarifies. “Gallows humor.”

Guillermo shakes his head. “Just so we’re clear, I threatened his life before we got together. We weren’t a couple at the time. I think that’s an important distinction to make. It wasn’t a domestic violence-type threat. It was more like—”

“A labor dispute,” Nandor offers.

“Yeah, I guess you could say I had a bad day at work. I’d just spent hours deep-cleaning the house. I usually do a serious deep-clean of the common areas once a year in the spring.”

“Spring cleaning,” Nandor adds.

“Uh-huh. And I did back in April.”

“The house looked amazing.”

Guillermo nods. “Until someone—”

“Lazslo,” Nandor clarifies.

“—raided a nursing home after evening meds.”

“Blood thinners.” Nandor shivers in disgust.

“Wall-to-wall,” Guillermo explains.

Nandor wrinkles his nose. “Sticky.”

“I had to rent a steam cleaner.”

“Like from those long commercials.”

“And as soon as I finished—”

“Jenna,” Nandor grumbles. “The little whelp.”

“She doesn’t know how to hold her drug blood yet.” Guillermo shrugs, holding up his hands in a “what are you gonna do?” gesture.

“Vomit.” Nandor sweeps his cape in a half-circle. “Everywhere.”

“Mostly on me,” Guillermo adds.

“So, you can understand why he was a little frustrated.”

“Yeah, especially when someone...”

Mugging for the camera, Nandor points to himself.

Guillermo continues, “Started nagging me about the tarnish on his hairbrushes.”

“First of all, fair,” Nandor starts. “Secondly, ‘nagging’ is a very gendered word. I’m not calling you down—”

“Out,” Guillermo corrects.

“—but that energy vampire said we should be aware of that sort of thing.”

Guillermo blinks slowly. “Okay. Someone started bugging me—”

Nandor nods his approval.

“—about the tarnish on his hairbrushes. Nandor insisted that I polish all three dozen of them immediately even though I’d just spent the last thirteen hours cleaning up after vampires who weren’t even my master. So, yeah, I was pissed. I might have said some things that I didn’t… not mean.”

Nandor leans forward, pressing his hands flat on the table. “He picked up a chair and ripped off one of the legs. He stalked toward me, eyes wild in a righteous fury, waving the improvised stake in front of him. He backed me into a corner and shouted with a voice that echoed through the ages, ‘I am a direct descendent of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing. I was born to destroy men like you. I have killed two vampires already without trying. If I am not treated with the respect I deserve, I will lay waste to every nightwalker I cross—beginning with you.’ So I said, ‘Take me right here, my most worthy adversary.’”

“He’s paraphrasing,” Guillermo says. “I think his exact words were, ‘Fuck me, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’”

“And he did.” Nandor relaxes into his cushion and takes Guillermo’s hand. “We’ve been together ever since.”

Guillermo squeezes his hand. “I’m glad I didn’t kill you when I had the chance.”

“You still do,” Nandor purrs.

Guillermo’s eyes sweep the room, settling on a pile of popsicle sticks. “You have no idea.” He shivers, shaking himself from a trance. The corners of his mouth twitch a nervous smile. Guillermo brings Nandor’s hand to his lips. He murmurs into a kiss, “I won’t though.”

“And I won’t kill you.” Nandor boops Guillermo’s nose.

A monotone drawl from out of frame: “Wow.”

The camera whirls to Colin Robinson, leaning against the doorframe.

“That’s a pretty big commitment,” he continues. “Nandor, I’m surprised. Usually you take your time to consider major decisions like this. I have to say, from where I’m standing, your level of thoughtfulness tends to pay off. You know, I believe it was Mae West who said, ‘He who hesitates is a damned fool.’ But in your case, your hesitance to make a decision with anything approaching timeliness has actually put you ahead of the curve. I mean, think of the cable television debacle. For decades, we were the only house on the block without cable. But now the whole country’s following your example. I’d hate to see you rush into this level of commitment without taking the time to—”

A pair of scissors embeds in the doorframe mere inches from Colin’s head. The camera follows his gaping expression across the room.

Guillermo lowers his arm. He smiles—at the camera and then at Colin. “Oops,” he says flatly.

Colin looks from Guillermo to the scissors and back again. He backs away slowly, colliding with the wall before fleeing in a sprint.

Returning to his work, Guillermo asks, “Can you pass the glue?”

Nandor obliges in awed silence.

-

Colin Robinson sits on his bed, knees hugged to his chest. “The-the good news is those probably weren’t silver—most craft scissors nowadays are stainless steel or-or titanium alloy or even chrome-over-bronze—so even if Guillermo hadn’t missed, I would’ve been fine. Very badly injured, but not fatally wounded.”

He swallows, blinking rapidly. “Uh, the bad news is that I can’t safely feed off of Nandor anymore. Which is a bit of a let down. Over the years, Nandor’s been a Mother’s Day brunch buffet of neuroses. It’ll be hard to stop dipping my bucket into that bottomless well, but I’ll be fine. Yep, just fine.”

He collapses onto his side. “I could use a change anyway.” Lying in the fetal position, he pulls scratchy, hospital-issue blankets over his shoulders. “Change is good.”