-:- It's Better to Have Loved and Lost Than Never to Have Loved At All -:-

"THIS IS ECHO 1, transmitting in the vicinity of 47 degrees 57 minutes north, and 124 degrees 23 minutes west. The date, as far as we know it, is March 24th, 2017. If there is anyone out there receiving this transmission, talk to me. That's all I'm asking. Just know that you're not alone out there, and we have the means to help.

"We'll continue to broadcast the following message every day at twelve hundred hours. Learn it, pass on the information because, make no mistake, there is a war coming, and it's one you can't fight on your own. You might think you're outmatched, but you're not. We can fight and we can win. It's a new world, and you must be prepared for what lies ahead. We can teach you how.

"I've told you the story of how it began...as to how it will end? We don't know. But we'll keep fighting alongside the most unlikely of allies until the threat is gone.

"This is Seth Clearwater broadcasting from the settlement now known as—"

"Hey," Leah whispered as her head popped up from the trap door in the floor. I heard her coming up the ladder to the tower, but I figured she was coming to listen like most of us did when Seth was on the radio. We all carried the anticipation that one of these days someone would answer us back. Leah wouldn't have interrupted unless it was important. Her anxiety was mixed with some excitement I couldn't quite place, but she was trying to contain it as best she could.

"You shouldn't be climbing up here, Leah," I whispered so as not to disrupt Seth's broadcast. "Jake will have your hide and don't let Rose catch you, she's liable to lock you in the bunker for the rest of your term."

"Please, between those two and my mother, this is the only sanctuary I have. I'm not even showing and they're acting like I'm ready to give birth." I helped her climb up the rest of the way, pausing to listen to the rapid heartbeat competing with her own. She gave me her sternest look. "Don't you start on me, too," she said. "It was your wife who sent me to find you." She smiled, and her eyes lit up the room. "Blame her."

Seth and I were on duty today to relay the message and get it out there. Knowing Aro and Caius, they wouldn't stop until they had their revenge. With Jane's death, and the demise of the rest of Aro's guard, they would be looking to recruit. Aro wasn't a fool, but we had our own little victory, a spy on our side to track the Volturi's movements. Isaac turned out to be trustworthy after all, and enjoyed his new job as an informant. Aro was determined to find a 'talent' that could match Bella's, but so far he hadn't found one.

We had given up one devil for another and it was only a matter of time until the Volturi built their army up again. When they did, they would come for us and anyone who got in their way would be expendable. The old ways were gone. This was a new world on the horizon, one where vampires roamed freely and humans chose to fight or be fodder.

Word of Maria's destruction had spread amongst her survivors. Those who managed to get away went into hiding, or they joined Aro and Caius in the rebuilding of the guard. It was happening all over again, and we had made it our mission to put a stop to them. It didn't take us long to rebuild what had been destroyed, and that included everyone's spirits as well. There was too much to do for anyone to wallow for long, and with the return of our people from the north, the compound had found its rhythm again. The absence of the ones we lost, especially Charlie and Carlisle, was felt everywhere. They had been the pillar and the backbone of us all, but with every brick laid and nail hammered they were here with us. The way to honor our dead was to protect the very world they died defending.

Sue and Esme had developed an unspeakable bond, and had devoted their time and energy and their love to the rest of us, just as their husbands would have wanted. They became true matriarchs, caring for everyone while masking their grief. And with a grandchild on the way, Sue was getting some of her old spark back.

We all worried about Esme. Edward kept a careful eye on her, listening for any indications of how she once was in her human life. He knew her before she was turned, and knew how easy depression worked its way in and swallowed her up. Even though the light seldom reached her eyes these days, she was not who she used to be. I helped her when I could, but most of the time she didn't want her feelings manufactured. She wanted to keep what was hers and sometimes her grief was all she had. We often caught her clutching the stone that rested between her breasts, and the yearning in her eyes was evident to everyone, but she was not that fragile woman any more. Despite her heartache, she was strong for all of us.

To save me from her emotions, and spare me her sadness, she moved in to the house at the compound with Rosalie and Emmett. It wasn't permanent, it was just easier for me and Edward. Our family wasn't broken; we were healing however we thought was best. Emmett took pride in being a guardian of the compound along with the wolves. He found a sense of purpose again, and when Rosalie resumed her teaching, he'd been dubbed "Uncle Em" by the children. They regularly sought him out for rides and laughter, and anything else a patient uncle was responsible for. Life, for the most part, took on some normalcy.

It was different for Edward and Bella. Alice and I stayed with them at the house, and between the two of us we did what we could to lift Bella's spirits knowing Edward couldn't do it alone. Bella still hadn't forgiven herself for not saving Carlisle. I'm not sure if she ever will. Her sadness is crippling at times, and at other times, it's her anger that triumphs over her emotions.

There are times when Bella has the same vacant look veteran soldiers have, ones who are lost in the battles of their mind. What she's seen, what she's done—we have that in common, but I've had centuries to come to terms with what I did. She suffered two great losses, and the only life she'd ever known was gone. She was going to have to adapt again, but the family was here this time, and there wasn't one of us who wouldn't lay down their life for her. What she did that day, she's never been able to recreate, and maybe it's a blessing. Maybe it was Carlisle's hand that day on the field, none of us really knew. Her only saving grace seemed to be Edward. Even I can't manipulate her the way one touch from him can.

They keep to themselves a lot, going off on their own for extended periods. Although they never say where they go, I am sure they spend most of their time at the cabin in Montana. Each time they return, their souls seem a little more at peace.

It was a simple wedding ceremony between the two of them. They didn't want a large celebration and for once, Alice complied with their wishes. Alice loved Charlie, but she loved his daughter more. She respected her mourning so, instead, she threw her efforts into Leah and her impending nuptials.

"Alice sent you to find me?" I asked. She wouldn't send Leah unless there was a reason for it. And with Alice...there was always a reason. "Where is she?"

"She was with her bees, making honey, but I imagine by now she's right where she needs to be and you're supposed to be there with her."

"You're starting to sound like Billy. I'm an empath not a mind reader."

"It's time," Leah said, and at the mention of those two words, Seth's head perked up from the microphone. We both smiled knowing what Leah had meant. "Go," she said, "I'll keep him company." Leah nodded her head toward her brother who was grinning like a fool. If he could man the radio twenty-four hours a day, he would have. He was persistent and eager, and the man—for that's what he was now—was also on a mission. Charlie's death had hit him hard, harder than anyone else, and he had vowed not to rest until the Volturi were ashes.

With the death of Charlie and the help of Sam, the people of the community began to respect Seth and his enthusiasm. It was no surprise when he had taken on the duty of finding settlements like ours. Together with Tanya, Eleazar and Carmen, they sought out humans who could benefit from our help. Famine and plague were still rife in some of the districts. And while our walls were colored in bright greens and blues, and crimson reds, outside of here, the world was still painted grey. Seth was intent on teaching those who wished to learn how to make some necessary changes. Working with the boys and their knowledge of alternative energy, it turned out Seth was destined for more than what was behind these walls. And if his travels had the potential to find him a wife, his mother was happy to let him leave the sanctuary of the compound.

Both Charlie and Carlisle had left their legacies in capable hands. Along with Jacob, Seth and Edward had become the inherent leaders of the settlement.

Edward was reluctant to take the leadership role Carlisle had held for so long, but before he even realized it was happening we were looking to him for guidance. It was a natural progression, having already done it in Chicago, and he was a natural leader. On the outside, Edward still looked like a teenager, but inside he held the strength of Emmett, the tenacity of Rosalie, Alice's insight, and my sensibility. He carried the compassion and wisdom of both Esme and Carlisle. It had taken the death of a great man to show Edward he was more than capable of being the man Carlisle had always wanted him to be.

I looked out the window of the tower to the gates, but there was nothing to see. Whatever or whoever had come were already hidden from view. I didn't have the patience for the ladder and jumped to the ground instead. Alice wasn't far; I could hear her on the other side of the bunker. I didn't run, walking instead while contemplating what this day meant for our future. It's been difficult without Carlisle's compassionate guidance and friendship. I miss his quietude. I know what he would expect of me, and I'm grateful to him for my life. He made me a better man, made me respect myself and all I can do is carry his legacy with me.

As I turned the corner, I was met by Alice and what was left of the rest of my family. We were battle scarred and weary, but no longer defeated. There was light and hope in their eyes and in their hearts. Violence was still very much a part of our lives. This is how it was now. It was our war and we wouldn't rest until the world was right again and we could once again live a life of peace. My family would no longer live in the shadows watching history go by. We would be a part of it.

This was our home, and it would be for many years to come.

"Are we ready?" Alice asked.

"This is it," Bella said.

"The first of many," Edward said, kissing her. I felt Bella's sadness if only for a moment. It quickly turned to joy, but deep down it was still there. I think it always would be. I helped her to smile and lightened the weight. There was enough of it go around, I could do that for her, at least.

"Look at those fools hoping for women." Emmett nodded toward the catwalk near the gate where Newton, Tyler and Eric were pointing and waving.

"Are there any children?" Rosalie asked.

"Let's go find out and welcome them home," Esme said. She stood tall with her shoulders straight, and she reminded me of Carlisle. She was carrying him with her today.

The seven of us walked to the front gate, hand in hand. We could have run, been there in seconds, and I'm not sure why we walked, maybe it was our own affinity for a freedom we had almost lost. It felt right, whatever it was I passed it along to everyone.

Jacob and the wolves joined us, as did Ben and Angela and few of the other humans. Vampire, wolf, human, the new way of the world was here.

We stood at the gates, waiting patiently while they opened. On the other side, there were a handful of people, seventeen by my count. They were exhausted, with worn out faces, and their expressions were blank, not sure what to expect. I felt their fear mixed with trepidation, and I sent them a wave of calming emotions. They'd been travelling for a long time, some no longer wore shoes on their feet, and their clothes were worn right through. But they were alive, and now they were safe. There was a whole world of possibilities for them inside these gates, and they had no idea what was in store for them.

At the front of the group, towering over the humans, stood Garrett and Kate holding hands and smiling.

"We found 'em, Tex," Garrett said, tipping his head my way.

Beside him were two very familiar faces. Around the neck of the young one, hung a brass compass we all recognized.

Alice could no longer contain herself and broke free from my arms. Rushing up to them, she hugged them both, surprising them with her enthusiasm.

"You've kept us waiting," she said.

"Abigail, Christopher," I said, extending my hand, "welcome to Hope."







I started writing this story in 2008, over 12 years ago. It's a 300K word fic. Yes, it needs editing, yes, a lot of things could be cut, but it was the first thing I'd ever written. So, if you feel the need to comment about what you didn't like or what didn't work for you, please don't click that review button. I'm not looking for criticism, constructive or not. You've read something that took me 3 years to write for free. This was an amazing chapter of my life but it's over. I've moved on and you can, too.

Thank you, SM, for letting me borrow your characters. I've given them back now, because they were always yours to begin with.

-:- o.o -:- -:- o.o -:--:- o.o -:- -:- o.o -:--:- o.o -:- -:- o.o -:--:- o.o -:- -:- o.o -:-

This is where I ramble on about things most of you probably don't wish to read about, but nonetheless it has to be done.

Today marks the 3 year anniversary of the first post to this story. 3 LONG years as a lot of you know and who have been with me from the start. I want to extend a heartfelt congratulations to anyone who has ever had the opportunity to click that complete button. I've always known it would be a big deal, but now that the time has come, I didn't realize how incredible the feeling would be. I'm not sure if the wait was worth it, but finishing it was epic for me even if the story wasn't.

I want to thank RaCullen for being the first person to give me any kind of validation; first person to leave me a comment. Thank you.

Many might have forgotten about the "compound name," but I still remember! I thank RogueNLogan, bmango, lovy2711, CorrinaT, lettiemae, sophie921, Momof2inWI, who all thought the word "hope" should be in the compound name, and Songster, Lilas46, remylebeauishot, and NightCullen who thought "Hope" was good enough. I thought so too.

Also, I need to thank blueyes9256 who was the first reviewer to get me choked up. There have been countless others, but we always seem to remember our first.

There are a few people who signed on to this story through TFGB that first year and they never thought this story would go on as long as it has, or I'm sure they would have rethought their purchase. (It all went to a good cause, but I still think of you all and how it never should have played out this way.) Jennifer, Thao, Sam, Amanda, Debbie/Amy, Heather, mjpiper, Ladavia, thank you for donating to the Fandom Gives Back on this story's behalf.

Another shout out to my fellow AU writers michellephants & EZRocksangel. We all started navigating this AU world together at the same time. Thank you for the drive and motivation back in the day.

And then there are the BSKers. How much fun did we have back in the day on the forums? All kinds of shenanigans were happening when things in this fandom were united and supportive. You made this story what it is, and I am forever grateful for all of your support. (I started to list all of us but I was afraid I'd miss one of you because there are so many of us!)

I need to thank brooke lockart who is kinda a big deal on twitter. Her big mouth spread lots of love for this story all over the cyberworld. She helped maked it what it is. And MrsK, who continued to read this story even though she's terrified of the impending apocalypse & I never let her forget it.

I think I'll be forever indebted to Batgirl8968(Belle Black) and venis_envy (The original BSK'ers). If any of you are lucky enough to know them and have them on your side, watching your back, then you know how incredibly lucky you are. I have my own special thanks for them, but everyone should know how much they mean to me. Thank you for putting up with my ridiculous demands and telling me when I'm wrong. Cheesy moment, I know, but I never would have finished without you.

vjgm, my partner in crime...where would I be without you? Jail probably.

I KNOW I will have forgotten people I need to thank, I apologize. I thank you for sticking this out with me. Thank you for reading, and I thank you for all of your amazing comments. I'm not sure you'll ever have any idea what they've meant to me. I truly do have the best and most loyal readers in this fandom.

We're here because we all share a connection, and I 'hope' we are kind to each other as we navigate this fandom reading and writing all of these amazing stories. I wish you nothing but the best of luck in all that you do.

And with that…I bid you farewell…for now.