A/N This was written for Ms. Kathy's Haiti relief effort, and with her permission I am posting it now as part of the "Thanks to the Readers" efforts. This is just a little one-half shot I have written in Tanya's POV, whom I felt was vastly misportrayed. A 1000 year old vampire with her sexually independent ways would be strong, sexy, and in control, not the lovesick adolecsent she is seen in in Midnight Sun. So anyway, just a little taste of her as she muses on the trial of living forever.

I never imagined I would survive to be this old. I don't know why time has spared me when so many others have fallen before its relentless passage. It's time that kills my kind, you know. We are so nearly indestructible; it takes something as inexhaustible and infinite as time to do us in.

My name is Tanya and I am one thousand thirty-seven years old.

I have survived the worst that time could throw at me and have emerged scarred but unbowed. It's the endless cycle of unending days and nights that consumes us, like drops of water one by one gathered together into a continuous river that carves canyons into a landscape. Time wears at us, as it does humans, but with them it leaves the marks of its passage on the face and body, plain for all to see. With the undead, it merely eats the soul.

You can tell when a vampire is nearing the end of its life cycle. First comes the bipolar mood swings. From sweet tenderness to bouts of sociopathic cruelty, manic delight to catatonic despair, the normally sedate temperament of a vampire turns into a maelstrom of emotions. But it is the void of emotions that follows afterwards which is most troubling. They become hollow, their eyes devoid of any intelligence or feeling. They stop feeding, stop moving. Gradually, they become as dry and lifeless as fallen leaves, until one day they wander off to find their destruction, usually some kind of immolation since that is the most certain of deaths.

So what gives me immunity when so many of my compatriots have made the decision to walk into the fire? I've pondered this for many years, and I have come to think it's my capacity to love. Passion renews the soul, and I am a follower of Aphrodite. It takes courage to let it capture you, to float along the currents of intense feeling without trying to control, manage or minimize it. I have willingly allowed it to consume me time and time again, and while it has sometimes almost destroyed me, it has just as often uplifted me and left me renewed.

I have loved so many men−women, too for that matter. Details like gender, race and age become unimportant after a while. If time has shown me anything, it's that despite all the divisions we place between ourselves as God's children, we are more alike than we are different. It is the indefinable essence of a person, the piece of God that resides within each of us, that is worthy of something as sanctified as love.

My greatest and my purest love was Nikolai. Born to me while I was still human, he was a small, spindly baby, all reedy arms and legs. But his lungs! The mid-wife laughed as she held him the air, calling him a roaring lion, while my mother and aunts clapped with excitement. He was the first grandson of Khan Yusuf, and he was exalted and treated like the prince he was. His father, Atil, would bring him to our bed of furs, and the three of us would snuggle into them while the winds howled outside. I got into the habit of singing a lullaby to him, and Atil would listen, as wide-eyed and attentive as his son.

So let the winds blow, my child, my one

Let them blow you back to me,

Forever I have loved you and I love you still

And some day when you are old and gray,

and I have gone, remember the love of a mother and son

As a toddler, he wandered among the yurts, chubby-cheeked and laughing, beloved by us all. He had eyes that were the same blue as the sky on a crisp fall day, and his hair was the bleached gold of the fields our ponies grazed on in winter. He brought me gifts of wildflowers he had crushed in his plump hands, laughing as I swung him to the sky to shower him with kisses. My love for him burned in my heart, hot, passionate and unchanging, like the fire that burns in the sun. He was my sun, the center of my universe, and I gloried and delighted in him. I would have died a thousand deaths that he might live.

One night when the men were out on a hunt, a shadow crept into our yurt, and I was taken before I could scream for help. I had been selected to live as the undead by Rurik, a nomad, because of my beauty. He kidnapped me and took me into the hills where I endured three days of hellfire, and then he explained to me what I had become. I raged at Rurik, incensed by what he had done and what he had taken from me. Even the children knew of the strigoi, and I would be recognized for what I was and driven from my homeland. In my newborn rage, I destroyed Rurik and burned him in the remains of his own campfire.

Unable to bear the separation from my son, I snuck into the village that night, only to slay three kinsmen unwillingly, overtaken by the bloodlust. But as I stood over Nikolai's bed, watching his gentle rhythmic breathing as he slept, I tried to harden my heart. I whispered his lullaby, saying farewell in my heart to what I later would come to recognize as the greatest love and sorrow of my life.

I returned to the village in stealth throughout the years, watching from a distance as Nikolai grew to be a strong young man, learning to ride and hunt and wage war on the marauders that threatened the village every few years. One night I watched as he rode back home through the dark forest, unaware of a band of raiders that watched him ride past, like vultures circling a dying antelope. He never knew that it was his mother who silently dispatched the raiders, leaving only their ponies to wander homeward.

I listened from outside the village as his first son was born and how he rejoiced with the men. Later, he listened with wonder as his young wife, Desya, sang a lullaby to their infant, a lullaby that he recognized from some dim memory.

So let the winds blow, my child, my one

Let them blow you back to me,

Forever I have loved you and I love you still

And some day when you are old and gray,

and I have gone, remember the love of a mother and son

I sat in the pines on the outskirts of the village, hugging myself, listening to Desya's thin, whispering voice and remembering the warmth and weight of an infant in my arms, something I would never know again. I bowed my head, nearly choking on tears I could not shed, remembering the warmth of the family around the fire, old and young together, their voices mixing together into a splendid symphony of what it meant to be human.

Later, when the tents were quiet, I crept into the yurt to stand, watching the infant sleep and delighting in the milky, sweet aroma. I left a small bag of gold coins among his covers, and it was years later that I learned that anonymous gift was thought to have been left by fairies! It branded him as lucky, a designation that was indeed fulfilled and followed him throughout his life.

It was mere chance that I had returned to the area decades later. At night, I followed Nikolai's aroma into his yurt, disturbed by a sickly note in his usual scent. By the dim moonlight, I saw the wounds he had sustained in battle, giving off foul-smelling pus and darkening to a fatal condition. He was older now, his skin creased and his beard shot with grey. His blond hair had thinned, and his body thickened with the weight of age. In his sleep, he moaned in pain, as stealthily I threw back the covers to inspect his injuries. The poison had already reached his heart, however, and there was nothing to be done. I started to turn away, when his hand shot out and grabbed my wrist with surprising strength.

"Who are you? What do you do here?" he cried, hoarse and weak.

I was so surprised that words abandoned me. "I've just come to…" I couldn't finish.

He pulled himself up to lean on one elbow, his hand still clamped on my wrist. His hand was nearly scalding; fever burned in him. "Who are you? Some part of me knows you."

The urge to be known, to be recognized overwhelmed me. "I am your mother, Nikolai, these many years gone," I whispered.

"Step into the moonlight," he commanded weakly, releasing me, exhausted by this small effort. I stood by the door and let the moonlight fall on my face. "Is it you?" he asked in awe. "But you are a young woman. How can that be?" He fell back against the pillows, grimacing in pain."Ahhh..." He took a couple of shallow breaths. "The pain is worsening," he said hoarsely.

"It will not be too long, now," I said truthfully. Even though his eyes were clouded with age, I couldn't help but see in them the child I had known. I had known so much death, but no matter where I had wandered, knowing he was in the world, in this small, barren corner of the steppes, had kept me grounded. It had given me an anchor, a connection with humans. To see him now, in pain and dying, was almost more than I could bear. When he was gone, there would be no one left in the world that knew me, that had seen the human love and tenderness I had been capable of.

"I reluctantly agree," he said, chuckling before it transitioned into coughing. I waited as he fought for breath. "Father was sure you were dead," he said. He shook his head. "I never believed that."

"I've watched you," I whispered. "You've made me proud."

"I've felt your gaze," he said, weakly. "I've−"Coughing broke up his words. He was wracked with it, and when he finished, he laid back against the pillows, gasping shallowly. Losing strength quickly, he held up a hand.

I strode across the room, and knelt beside him, taking his hot, fevered hand into my own cool one. I felt my face grimace with the pain I was holding back. Sorrow I could not express gathered in my chest, tearing at me like knives. I had been here when he was brought into this world, and now I was here as he left it. It was wrong; it was the wrong order of things. Parents should die before their children, to be spared this pain.

He tried once more to speak, but only managed a gurgle.

"Sh-h-h," I whispered. I laid my cool hand on his forehead, and his eyes closed with relief at the coolness against his heated brow.

His breathing grew even more ragged. In my mind, he became the child I had left behind so many years ago, and I crooned his lullaby.

So let the winds blow, my child, my one

Let them blow you back to me,

Forever I have loved you and I love you still

And some day when you are old and gray,

and you must go on, remember the love of a mother and son

He was still when I left him. I walked out of the yurt, into the moonlight, and began to run across the steppes. I was no longer bound to humans, but as time would pass, I would start to search again and again among them for recognition of the woman I had once been. Not just a harbinger of death, but a being of tenderness and love, the eternal feminine that Nikolai showed me.

In the intervening years I have known the elegance of a spiritual love, the splendid animalism of physical love, and the camaraderie of fraternal love. Each as different as the person with whom I shared it, and each marked on my soul in a different way.

Love brings pain, but for creatures as hard and as eternal as vampires, the heights of love and the despair when it is gone keep us tied to our human heritage They remind us that we are more than feeding machines, that there is a spirit and a soul within us. With that knowledge, the cycle of days and nights becomes the wheel we spin into eternity.

A/N Heartfelt thanks to hellacullen, my beta, and even more so, my friend