Yet Leif had chosen that pain willingly. He’d left my mother, my unborn brother, and me knowing how much pain it would cause him, and he did it to protect us. He had been willing to sacrifice himself for our happiness.
In the time I had known Leif, he’d been nothing but kind. He’d risked his own life more than once to help me and my friends. And until I found out that he’d abandoned me when I was an infant, I had really liked him.
“You’re not gonna leave now, are you?” I asked.
“No, of course not,” he shook his head. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Then we’d better tell Milo,” I said.
Even though Milo was still healing and needed his rest, I woke him up for this. The swelling and discoloration of his skin had gone, but he moved slowly. I didn’t tell him why he had to get up, but I managed to drag him downstairs. Bobby kept telling me I was being mean, so I elbowed him in the stomach, and he shut up.
I sat on the couch next to Milo, with my arm around him. I’m not sure if he needed it, but I knew I did. Leif pulled a chair in front of us and sat down, preparing to explain the whole thing. Ezra stayed in the room to oversee things, and that did make me feel better.
Jack tried so sit next to me on the couch, but I wouldn’t have it.
“No,” I told him. “You don’t get to do that.”
“Do what?” Jack asked.
“Try to be all… supportive.” I glared at him. “You broke up with me, remember?”
“What?” Milo asked, looking at me.
“Never mind,” I said, and Jack moved to a chair on the side of the room, muttering something about how he could be supportive of Milo. “Leif has something more important to tell you, Milo.”
Leif told Milo the whole story, and it went about the same way it had gone with me. Stunned at first, then disbelief, then angry when he remembered that Leif had left us. Milo took it better than I did, though. He had less anger about the whole thing, but that tended to be the case with everything.
“Wow,” Bobby sat on the floor by Milo’s feet and looked in awe. “You’re so Luke Skywalker right now.”
“Leif is not Darth Vader,” Milo said, then he cocked his head. “Do I call you Leif? Or do I call you Dad?”
“Call me whatever you like,” Leif shrugged. “I’m just happy to be a part of your life.”
“I still don’t understand.” Milo’s face scrunched up in concentration, reminding me of the way he looked when he’d still been human. “How… Well, just how?”
“Are you asking how I fathered you?” Leif asked carefully. “I did it the same anyone fathers a child.” He looked uncomfortable and shifted in the chair. “I’m sure you understand the mechanics of reproduction.”
“Yeah, I understand human reproduction,” Milo said. “But I didn’t think vampires could reproduce, not like actual offspring, fruit of their loins.” He looked over at me. “Did you know they could do that?”
“No. Why would I know that?” I shrugged.
“I have seen it before.” Ezra stepped forward from the side of the room. I think he’d been giving us space to talk over things, but his presence reassured me. “Only twice, but it’s common enough that there’s a term for it. Dhampyr.”
“A what now?” I asked.
“The offspring of a vampire father and a human mother,” Ezra explained, and Leif turned to watch him. “It does explain a lot of the peculiarities that we’ve encountered with you. Your strong connection and attraction to vampires, and in turn, their affinity for you. Your ability to transform into a vampire with relative ease, and now, you’re superior strength and control.”
“Wait, wait,” Bobby interrupted, snapping his fingers. “I’ve heard that before. That’s like what Blade is, right? Wesley Snipes was a vampire hunter, but he was like super strong and badass from being a half-breed.” He glanced back at Milo. “You weren’t like that when you were human, were you?”
“No, I got my ass kicked all the time,” Milo grimaced at the memory of his human self.
“So how come they weren’t all like Blade?” Bobby asked, turning back to Ezra.
“Because it’s a movie, Bobby,” I said dryly. “Movies aren’t the same as real life.”
“It varies, from dhampyr to dhampyr,” Ezra said. “From what I’ve heard, some are stronger than others, but the only constant is that they’re drawn to vampires. Most end up as vampires.”
“We’re drawn to vampires?” I asked, and something about that made my stomach queasy.
“Yes, you are,” Ezra nodded.
I didn’t want to look over at Jack, but I could feel him staring at me. I still had my arm around Milo, and I held onto him tighter, this time for my own support.
My father was a vampire. I’d been born with part of that virus inside me, mutating my blood, so I was drawn to vampires. I’d been made to seek them out, and they sought after me, too.
What if that’s all my connection with Jack had ever been? Or Peter? Some byproduct of a virus I’d gotten before I was born. Maybe I’d never really been bonded to either of them, to anyone.
Mae had told me something once, and I hadn’t thought much of it at the time, but now it played over and over in my head. It’d been when one night when I was still mortal, and Mae had taken me out to cheer me up.
“I’m trying to understand your ancestry, because you and Milo are both so unique. I’m wondering if we’ve been looking at this all wrong. Maybe you weren’t meant for Peter. Maybe you were just meant to be a vampire,” Mae said, looking faraway. “We’re just a means to an end for you.”
“Alice?” Leif asked, leaning forward. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah,” I said numbly, and my mouth didn’t want to work. Nothing did.
“Are you sure?” Milo asked. “All the color drained from your face.”
“No, I’m fine. I just… I had a really long night.” I tried to force a smile, but I knew it fell completely flat. I stood up, relieved that my legs didn’t give out under me. “I need to… I need to get some sleep.”
“Do you need help?” Ezra asked, his brow furrowed with concern.
“Nope.” I shook my head. “No. I’m absolutely…” I trailed off. I didn’t know what I was.