|The Doctor Is In: Van Helsing and Dracula
Author: Guede Mazaka
The cookies weren’t bad, as store-bought ones went. They still had that artificial-flour aftertaste and the icing could have sent a ten-year-old into diabetic shock, but they made a reasonably decent snack. At the very least, they didn’t have little mouse ears like the bagel Greenly had tried to pass off as Paul’s lunch, saying that those were just seasonal decoration. Yeah, right. And the ax that had nearly chopped off Paul’s toes when he’d opened the door was just Greenly’s way of saying he wanted a raise that he could take to the bank. Ungrateful bastard—there were a lot of men that’d pay more than Greenly’s entire wages for a month for a blowjob from Paul.
“Excuse me? Doctor Smecker?” The one on the left hesitantly gestured with his chin. Or his hat gestured him. It was a hard call to make. “Are we…going to start any time soon?”
“Hang on a sec. I need to check the moon phase,” Paul mumbled, biting off the head of a cheery vampire cookie. The client on the right looked offended. Paul smiled, wiped his fingers over his mouth, and pulled out his new hand-carved teak pen. Now the one on the right looked as if he were mentally running through his torture catalogue for the longest and most painful procedure.
The man on the left didn’t bat an eye at Paul’s reply. He didn’t hesitate about being helpful, either. “It’s a day away from waxing gibbous.”
Paul noted it down on his notepad as know-it-all, pushy and resigned himself to starting the appointment. “Okay. So I don’t need to get out the dog-muzzle yet.”
“Oh, good. You’re already prepared. I hate having to explain things to people,” said the one on the left. His hat nodded in agreement.
It was a good thing Paul still had the phone number of that exorcist with the purring demon appendage from two weeks ago. Greenly flat-out refused to deal with anything supernatural, and Paul’s own therapist, Father Rory, was already forcing him to do community service with kids as the “session fee,” so God knew what he’d charge for extra duties. Not to mention Paul didn’t want to explain to the Catholic Church why he was requesting an exorcism of a fucking hat--Constantine hadn’t looked like the kind of guy who’d bat an eye at that sort of thing. “Right,” Paul drawled. “So you’re Dr. Van Helsing?”
The other man’s eyes briefly flashed yellow. Then he sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “No, that’s Abraham. I’m Gabriel Van Helsing, and no, we’re not related.”
“If you’d simply use your real surname again, you wouldn’t continue to get those questions,” his companion said in a long-suffering tone.
Gabriel gave him a sideways look. “The only thing I have to go on as proof that that was my last name is your word.”
“And you doubt that still?” The injured expression the vampire came up with was pretty good. He could’ve used lessons on updating his wardrobe, but he wasn’t bad at the jutting lower lip.
Paul tapped on the desk with his stake-pen. Well, he sort of made stabbing motions. It was always fun to see immortal creatures get as twitchy as the poor, lowly mortals. “And you are Vladislaus Valerious, also known as Prince Vlad Dracul, also known as Count Dracula. What happened there, by the way? Get to the pretty boy before the Sultan could?”
Vlad—he didn’t offer a preferred name, so Paul arbitrarily picked one—didn’t seem to know whether he wanted to be stiffly offended or lazily amused. He ended up flashing some fang at Paul, who was unimpressed: he’d seen much worse dentistry among the institution-paranoid immigrants.
“One must change with the times, I’m afraid. Prince is no longer very popular. Count goes less noticed,” Vlad finally said. From the sound of it, he’d stayed up the night before practicing extra-hard at turning his ‘esses’ into ‘ezzes.’
It hurt to listen to, but Paul managed to keep the wince off of his face. He supposed it was a little bit better than dealing with witness after witness trying to duplicate Connor and Murphy’s lilt. “I see—”
“Since when were you concerned with not being noticed? You preyed on the countryside from the biggest castle left in the country,” Gabriel suddenly interrupted. He moved restlessly in his chair, though for all Paul knew, the man could’ve been attending to a whole party beneath that oversize coat of his. “You kept a secondary court in Budapest. On the anniversary of your death, you always sent the Vatican a dead priest.”
“Oh, yes, that. Those. Well, one does try to keep up appearances as best as one can.” Not that Vlad sounded like he was very apologetic, or even that those chores had been all that difficult for him. He smugly patted down his clothes and leaned over the chair arm to invade Gabriel’s private space. “At least I remembered such things. You took my finger and my ring, but you couldn’t even be bothered to leave flowers on my grave.”
Grudge-keeping, over-attachment to the past, scribbled Paul. “And how long ago was the, ah, break-up?”
“Break-up? What are you talking about?” Gabriel asked, belatedly tearing himself away from Vlad. He seemed pretty relieved, and he should have been considering in what direction his glare had been going.
Charge extra for peace-keeping, Paul added.
“Four or five hundred years.” When Vlad saw how Paul was looking at him, he smiled nastily and shrugged in fake deprecation. “It would be too pathetic if I kept close count, wouldn’t it?”
“It’s a little more pathetic if you actually think nobody’s noticed. That’s a pretty long time, obviously. Don’t you think it’s about time you sought closure?” That hat of Gabriel’s was really beginning to get on Paul’s nerves. So much so, in fact, that he almost missed the mutant bats that suddenly splatted against the windows.
Gabriel jumped and twisted around, hand yanking some big shiny Plot Device half-out of his coat. Once he’d realized it was nothing, he stuck the gun back under with a slightly disappointed face.
Vlad badly hid his disgruntled look and stuck his hand back beneath his cloak. Through the door came the muffled bitching of Greenly complaining about cleaning costs and how bulletproof glass was meant to stop bullets, not the fucking zoo.
“I’ve considered it many times,” Vlad said. He artfully tossed a few stray locks out of his face so that he nodded towards Gabriel without seeming like he’d done it just because pointing with the hands wasn’t as contemptuous. “But it’s a little difficult when he refuses to acknowledge that there was a relationship in the first place.”
“We’ve been over this,” Gabriel muttered, uncomfortably shifting in his seat.
“No. No, actually, we have not, dear Gabriel.” The bite in Vlad’s voice was silkily bitter. “We haven’t because you ‘don’t remember,’ of course. Which would make going over it difficult even if you weren’t always trying to kill me just as I bring up the subject.”
The follow-up to that was too easy for even Paul to resist, leery as he was of playing to others’ lines. “That would seem to say something about your feelings, Gabriel. Repression? Cookie?”
He snagged a werewolf one, then offered the bowl to Gabriel, who stared at it for a while as if he wasn’t sure whether it was something he needed to kill. Eventually his attack-mode backed off long enough to let him accept a tombstone-shaped one. He nibbled desultorily at it while his hat slouched in sympathy. “It’s not intentional. I can’t remember. Believe me, this bothers me more than it does anyone else.”
“Yeah, I can imagine. You’ve just got to sit there and let the Vatican tell you who you are and what you do.” Paul stuck the bowl at Vlad, but Vlad was too busy waiting for Gabriel’s reaction. He did react when Paul waved a bag of blood-candies at him, absently snagging a handful and popping them into his mouth. “So why do you believe them over Vlad here?”
“I don’t. But they’re…they don’t kill people.” The last few words came out so low that they could hardly be made out. Clearly Gabriel was having issues with his employers.
In a perfect world, that would’ve been a cue for Paul to show some empathy, but the world was flawed and he was a clever bastard who’d just had an interesting date with a guy that knew something about reprogramming human memories and so forth. He sat back, surreptitiously checked his watch, and let Vlad snark for him.
“Oh, really? No, I suppose they leave that up to you nowadays. Tell me, Gabriel—until we crossed paths again, did you even make an attempt to independently corroborate the stories they were feeding you? Did you? You would have, once upon a time.” The veneer of manners had dropped to reveal one bitter, frustrated man behind the fangs. Vlad probably had not only kept tabs on the years, months, days and seconds, but also on each and every anniversary and birthday that Gabriel had forgotten.
“And how do I know that you’re any better than they—they…I feel odd.” Gabriel’s burst of potentially revealing emotion petered out into a long, confused stare at Paul.
Paul steepled his fingers around the water-gun filled with holy water he’d just pulled out of his desk. “Gabriel, often repressed memories can be recovered by making contact with the unconscious, where nothing is forgotten. The unconscious mind, as you probably already know, is also known as the primitive or animal mind.”
The hat toppled off as Gabriel twisted and spasmed his way off of the chair. A quick squirt of holy water and it’d fizzled into a pile of wet ashes.
“I knew they were controlling him,” Vlad smugly said, poking at aforementioned ashes with his foot. He didn’t seem unduly concerned with the groaning, writhing man at his feet, but then he finished processing what Paul had said. He went pale.
“Don’t move. I know holy water doesn’t do much to you, but believe me, I know what will,” Paul quickly told Vlad. He ignored the death-glare from that corner and the low growling from the floor as he calmly swung his legs fully onto his couch. “And don’t worry. It only takes a couple chemical modifications to make a vampire smell like something a werewolf would want to fuck to death instead of maul to death. Such as the stuff in the candies you just ate. Now, try not to let him get hit on the head so many times this round, all right? The bill’s in the mail.”
Paul pushed the button to drop his couch into the floor just as Vlad leaped. When he leaned back, he had a great view of Vlad being tackled mid-air by a gigantic brown blur.
* * *
Greenly squinted at the monitor, then winced in sympathy. He’d been doing that so often that he looked as if he’d picked up a nervous tic. “Jesus. And…damn, he likes that?”
“That’s the undead for you. Pain-sluts, all of them.” Paul fiddled with the video-feeds till he had one camera framing the bite-marks Gabriel was leaving all over Vlad’s back. He freeze-framed, saved a screen capture and then let it run while he flipped open his laptop.
After a moment, Greenly looked over to see what Paul was doing. “Shit. You think he’s the guy that caught them in Jersey?”
“Nah, just the one that got Connor. At least, I’m hoping Il Duce just had a bad run-in with a Doberman more pissy than he is.” He and Greenly shared a rare of look of complete agreement: an Il Duce with a literal bite wasn’t something anyone wanted to see, shaggy as the bastard already was. Connor, however, would make for a pretty cute puppy, and he’d definitely be easier to sneak into FBI offices in that shape. On the other hand, he’d piss all over just for the hell of it. “And…we have a match. Okay, track them down and schedule them for an appointment. I’ll call up the author and let her know we had an unauthorized crossover.”
“Fine.” Greenly started to busy himself with the phone, but like usual, he couldn’t resist asking the dumb questions. He jerked his thumb at the monitors. “So we had to go through all that just to see the guy’s teeth?”
Paul rolled his eyes. “Of course not. Count Dracula had to go through all that. But he looks pretty happy, so I don’t think he’ll be complaining. Oh, look—I think he’s about to spring five hundred years of pent-up grievances on post-coital Gabriel. Immortals love nothing better than whining endlessly about each other.”
For a while Greenly just looked at Paul. He finally shook his head and reached for the phone again. “Man, you have such a weird sense of humor. I hope no one’s stupid enough to make you immortal.”
“Don’t be a dick, Greenly,” Paul said in a pleasant tone. He was still holding the bowl of cookies, and come to think of it, he had a couple other experimental formulas left in it. “Have a cookie.”