It turned out that there were only a couple dozen vampire clans in the states. Most of them had only five or six vampire members. The rest of each ‘clan’ consisted of the vampires’ circles of donors, some ghouls like John, and honorary members – the extended friends and family of the donors, other supernaturals who’d fought with the vampires against the fae, and the vampires’ mortal descendants.
Apparently Hans had understated the matter when he’d said not everyone survived the process of becoming a vampire. A lot of the mortals didn’t even know they were in a clan – unless they happened to end up with debilitating injuries or a chronic life threatening disease. Most of those who found out didn’t survive the transition.
The Salvatore clan was a smaller one. Not including myself – because I didn’t – it only consisted of four vampires. Mr. Salvatore was the oldest one, and he had successfully turned John’s three “step-moms.” The oldest two of Mr. Salvatore’s surviving consorts still lived overseas. Mr. Salvatore had moved to America about a century ago while following a branch of his family that had emigrated. He’d successfully turned the youngest “step-mom” a couple of decades later – but none of his other consorts had survived to date. There were also eight ghouls in the Salvatore clan, but John was the only one stateside. Ghouls, he explained, couldn’t cross large bodies of water – so the ocean effectively separated him from his older step-siblings. John was the youngest of the Salvatore ghouls, and had been born a United States citizen.
By that stage in the conversation I was so wrapped up in how my personal vendetta with the fae could go wrong – what if they pulled a classic super villain and setup a trap where I had to choose to save either Hans or Emma? I’d get so freaked out by the pressure it would be easy for them to rip out chunks of my soul. Then they would disappear into faerie land while I went on a blood-thirst induced berserk, and Hans and Emma would both wind up dead because I’d kill one of them myself while the other was run over by a train or whatever! – that I almost missed what John had said. Almost.
“Wait,” I interrupted him. It was almost a relief to start paying attention to the conversation again. “So, when you said you were Mr. Salvatore’s son what you meant was that you were his great-great-whatever grandson?” If this was really just a case of adoption, the resemblance between John and Mr. Salvatore was freaky.
John shook his head. “No. I meant I am his son.” When I just stared, uncomprehending, John elucidated: “His direct descendent by one generation.”
I blinked at John and did the math again. “No, that doesn’t make sense. How old are you?”
“Eighty four,” John answered.
I furrowed my brow. “Then you can’t be his son. He’s been a vampire for centuries, right? He would’ve been dead when you were born, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t have sperm banks back when he was alive.” I frowned. “Is this, like, actually some kind of adoption thing?”
John laughed. “Nope,” he said. “Dad would have been undead when I was born – not dead. As mom explained it when Dad came out of the coffin to me, I was conceived shortly after she gave him blood for the first time.”
I gawked. Shortly after he’d fed would have put Mr. Salvatore more on the ‘alive’ side of the spectrum, but I’d figured that was just psychologically speaking. I’d been doing my best to ignore the squick factor of being a corpse and fooling around with Emma and Hans… but now the corollary to John’s existence took over my thoughts and demanded I freak out about it instead. Could I get pregnant still? Suddenly this morning with Hans had become a very close call. If I hadn’t panicked and insisted he have a condom…
John must have read some of the shock in my expression. “That’s where the majority of ghouls come from,” he explained. “We’re born with the vampire curse, but because it wasn’t from a true sharing of blood it manifests differently. We are born and live as mortals, and when we eventually die there is a chance that death will overlook us. I was fortunate: dad killed me when I was twenty five, but I didn’t actually die.”
“That’s horrible!” I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Mr. Salvatore had killed his own son?
John shrugged. “It could have been worse,” he said. “I might’ve just been dead or, if dad hadn’t killed me, I might not have experienced my first death until I was frail and senile.”
I didn’t know how to respond to that. “I can get pregnant?” I squeaked instead.
John chuckled. “I guess no one told you about that, either? Yes – but it isn’t likely. Mostly because if you were inclined to try, you would need a lot more donors. I’m afraid that if you didn’t keep your blood thirst completely sated for the entire term you would miscarry. Most vampiresses who do so successfully are much better established than you.”
“Oh no,” I protested. “No. I am not inclined. I’ve never planned on having children.” Part of it was just because I never planned on having a significant other to have children with, but most of it was knowing I would make a horrible mother. I could barely take care of myself! I mean: If some precocious two year old of mine couldn’t sleep because of a monster in her closet, we’d both end up awake all night hunkered behind a barricade of pillows and clutching makeshift weapons.
And that would have been my reaction before I knew monsters were real!
I caught a nervous titter before it could escape and reveal that I was unhinged. John seemed to pick up on something anyway because he shifted in his seat.
“Is everything alright, Abigail?” He asked with what seemed to be genuine concern.
“Hm?” I answered. “Oh. Yes. I just think I need to sit down.”
“You are,” John pointed out.
Oh. Well then. Maybe I needed to throw up? The only way I could imagine myself having kids was if I was kidnapped and sold to a cult as breeding stock for their ongoing child sacrifice program. But even then: I didn’t have the hips for it, so they’d probably just end up feeding me to the tentacular abomination living in their cellar from their last failed attempt at summoning a greater forgotten elder god.
But Hans was a big, manly man. He’d probably want a whole litter of kids someday. And he was such a good guy I already knew he would make an excellent father if he had the chance.
Did werewolves like, literally have litters?!
Emma saved me from the mental image of myself in a hospital gown laying on a table while a horrified doctor pulled puppy after puppy out from under a sheet draped across my legs.
“Abby?” She called from the stairs. Then she turned the corner and spotted us on the couch. “Oh, good. You’re both here,” Emma said when she saw us. “Hans asked me to check and see how many people he had to make breakfast for before I took my shower,” she added by way of explanation.
I bolted to my feet. “Emma, did you know Mr. Salvatore could have gotten you pregnant?” I blurted out. Yay, projection.
She took a half step back and blinked at me. “No, he couldn’t,” she said.
I laughed shakily. “Yeah, that’s what I would’ve thought, too,” I said, A distant part of my brain realized I was freaking out and tried to get me shut up. Another realized that Emma was a whole lot more experienced with sex and relationships than I was, and could probably cope with the information in a way that I could learn from. That part vetoed the first part’s efforts. “Apparently, the analogy of a vampire being more ‘alive’ after feeding is more literal than we realized.”
“Oh.” Emma said. Then: “Oh! Really? Wow.” She blinked a couple times while processing that and finally shook her head. “But he still couldn’t have. I’m on the pill.”
“Oh.” I said. “Well, I’m not!” I yelped as freaking out got the best of me.
Emma jumped when I shouted. Then her eyes went wide and she looked up, through the ceiling; toward the kitchen where Hans presumably was.
“Oh,” Emma said.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me this?” I wailed.
At the other end of the couch, John abruptly stood up. “If you’ll pardon me,” he said, “maybe we can continue this conversation after breakfast? I’ve just realized there’s something I need to attend to.”
I turned and stared at him uncomprehendingly. “Okay?” I said without a shred of certainty.
John gave Emma and I a stiff bow each. Then he hastily made his exit. I wilted back onto the couch. Emma hurriedly sat beside me.
“Are you okay?” Emma asked. “Do we need to go to a pharmacy?” She hesitated. “I mean… you said last night that I was your first. So it’s not like you need a pregnancy test or plan B or something, right? And Hans got all those condoms…”
I looked up at her and blinked my way through my fuzzy thoughts. “Yeah,” I agreed. “You’re my first. I haven’t… not with Hans or anyone else. I just didn’t realize this was even an issue anymore.” I forced myself to breathe out slowly. “It feels like every time I even start to get a handle on things something else comes up.”
Emma covered my hands with hers. “I’m sure it’ll get better,” she said. “It’s only been one day, right? And you’ve got, you know, eternity.” She smiled. “Plenty of time to pick up on all the details.”
I laughed weakly. I appreciated the effort Emma was putting into calming me down. It was even working, sort of. I was still really anxious; still nerve-wracked. But I did feel a little better. It wasn’t like how Megan could just make all my worries go away, but it was still nice.
“Thanks,” I told Emma. “And I’m sorry I’m so spastic and inexperienced and…”
Emma shut me up with a kiss. “No apologies necessary,” she said. Then she scooted over until her hip was against mine. She slipped an arm around my back and pulled me over until I leaned into her. I laid my head on her shoulder.
“I don’t know why you asked me to be your girlfriend,” Emma admitted, “but I’m really glad you did.”
I shifted just enough to loop my arms around her waist. “I don’t know why you agreed to be,” I confessed back. “But I’m really glad you did, too.”
Emma smiled and hugged me a little closer. We sat quietly. I don’t know what she listened to, but the quiet drum of her heartbeat filled my ears and her scent arrested my attention.
Despite myself I closed my eyes and let the sensations override my anxiety. My focus shifted from my worries to Emma’s warmth. Her steady breathing. The softness and solidity of her body as I lay against her.
My enhanced hearing picked up a lot more than that, of course, but as I’d noticed before it seemed to instinctively filter out anything that wasn’t important. Emma eclipsed my attention.
And then John’s voice cut through all of it. He was upstairs, in the kitchen; addressing Hans. He sounded deadly serious.
“Oh, by the way,” John said. “Since dad is temporarily dead, I guess it falls on me to bring this up. It’s nothing personal and all, since we’re friends, but: what exactly are your intentions toward my little sister? Because if you’re just playing around with her, I’m going to break all four of your legs and throw you in the river on the next full moon.”