Chapter 38

Epilogue

Another five years has passed. I keep expecting to see gray in my hair, but it stays blond. Chronologically I'm one hundred and thirty, but Stefan still treats me like I'm a young girl. I can still remember the first time I laid eyes on him, and I have never stopped loving him. I have the family and loved ones I always longed for when I was human. They're tough and strong, and likely immortal. It seems so strange that it was dying that gave me the life I dreamed of.

We live in a time of peace. I cherish that so highly because I know how dearly it costs. My daughter is whole and healed from her ordeal. She has some terrible scars that I can see, but most people don't notice. As soon as she was recovered she and her mate made up for lost time. They were married as soon as she could walk without a limp. Carlisle officiated at their wedding, and it was the kind of wedding I would have liked to have had myself. They were married on a hillside with the mountains behind them and all our friends, sparkling in the sun as they said their vows.

She wanted to wear my dress, but it was too fragile after all the years in storage. A package arrived with no return address, and it contained a replica of the dress. It took a while to figure out Alice had sent it. She and Aro had married a couple months after Tessa was hurt. Considering the flamboyant nature of both of them, it came as a surprise that they had a simple service with the minimum number of witnesses. They sent out announcements of their marriage and promised a grand celebration as soon as the imminent threat of discovery and war was behind us all.

We have all received our invitations. It took five years to strengthen us and reestablish the Volturi as the makers and enforcers of the law of our kind. There are no more newborn armies, and we are once again in hiding from humans. There are no vampire athletes, singers, dancers, musicians, or public speakers drawing attention to us among humans. We all have to make the sacrifice or we will all pay the price.

We all now have to keep to an animal diet. It's the reason Stefan finally turned our homestead into a working ranch, and we raise cattle. We've had our own slaughter house built on one of the properties we've purchased. It's surprisingly profitable since we don't have to deal with disposing of the blood of the slaughtered animals like most would. I have to laugh when I think about how I was a vegetarian, and later how long I resisted taking even animal life.

The kids don't know that I still feed from him occasionally. They don't understand since they only see the scars. They don't know how sweet and loving a connection it is between us. They don't know why he likes to sleep and dream, but they've never had to give that up. They would probably be shocked to learn that he's fed from me too. To wake up in his arms after dreaming of him is such a wonderful gift.

But I don't have to dream of joy. I'm a grandmother! Tessa and Jasper have had two beautiful babies; a boy and a little girl. Tessa is pregnant again, and she should be delivering any day now. But it's not Jasper's, it's Tristan's.

Tristan and Jane have only been married a year. I actually love the woman she's become, and even Vladmir and Stefan have made peace with her. She still has her ability, though she's not nearly as eager to use it. My son adores her, and though they are happy together, he wants children. Carlisle wouldn't try it, but Nahuel found a way to extract her eggs, to see if they could be fertilized. Against all odds – which is kind of our life story – the eggs were fertilized and Tessa agreed to attempt to carry the embryo's.

I was the one who noticed something amiss when I saw her. She was bigger than the first two times, and I of course deduced that she was having more than one. Nahuel didn't take into account that the embryo's would be part vampire. All three implanted and survived. Carlisle has come to assist with the delivery, and even though she carried Jasper's children with ease, she's showing signs of stress this time.

Just like when I carried her, she's gone into a hypnotic sleep. She's never alone, with Jasper always by her side and Tristan and Jane waiting anxiously. It really amazes me to see Jane's concern over Tessa, and not just because of the babies. She understands the connection between Tristan and his sister, and she knows how much it hurts him to think he's put her at risk.

Until the babies are born, everyone is staying at the main house. But ordinarily my children each have a home of their own on the many acres of our homestead. Alec has come to stay with Jane and Tristan as well, and I'm enjoying getting to know him. He's painfully shy until he warms up and learns to trust you. While everyone is hovering over Tessa, Alec has been helping me and Esme with the children. I really like watching him interact with them. Their innocence seems to draw him out like nothing else can.

I have a full house! Me and Stefan, Vladmir and Sulpicia, Nahuel, Carlisle and Esme, Jane and Tristan, Jasper and Tessa, Alec, and my grandchildren. We've already set up the nursery for the triplets. Maybe I'm being too optimistic, but I just know it will work out.

xxxxxx

We gather in our family room. It's been redecorated a number of times, but the one thing that hasn't changed is that the painting above the mantel will always bear Vladmir's signature. It looks like a small crowd where it was once only the five of us – seven if you counted Summer's parents. I feel like father Abraham with the whole family together.

It's her birthday, and we gather to sing and play music. Everyone joins in with this yearly tradition. It's one of the things Summer loves, and everyone loves her so much they give her this one concession. She needs to see them; to hold the babies and touch our descendants. So many decades have passed, and I love her so much I sometimes don't know where she begins and I leave off.

Before I met her, I was old. In years of course, but more in the way I thought. Each year brought more and more distance from life and truly living. Now I can say without a doubt, that each new year brings us more and more life, and joy, and love. Each year there are babies, and marriages, and milestones, and our family keeps growing and changing and I can trace it all back to her. She is the spark of life, without which this gathering would not have been possible.

I sit next to Vladmir. We're the ancients who have the dignity of sitting on the limited furniture. Summer leans against me, snuggled against my side like always. Sulpicia sits next to Vladmir holding their newest baby on her lap. He looks ridiculous making faces at the tiny girl, but it's clear he's been wrapped around her little fingers.

It was Summer who showed our world that humans could survive giving birth to hybrid babies. And in many ways she is the mother of their kind. For a while there was an explosion of births by human women. Then it was discovered that hybrids are perfectly capable of conceiving and carrying babies of other supernatural species. And then our Tessa became the first surrogate to allow a vampire woman a chance to have her own children. She scared me to death carrying those babies, but they are now a part of our family, and she and Jasper have had two more of their own. They are spacing their children further apart now.

Vladmir and Sulpicia actually hired Nahuel's sisters to become surrogates for them. They were raised too much like vampires, and they don't want any part of being mothers themselves. Vladmir and Sulpicia's babies are a peculiar type of vampire. They're not venomous, but they do drink blood. They don't come with the drive to kill. They are happy with animal blood or donated blood, and they don't go into a frenzy in the presence of blood. They can feed without taking a life! I think it's because they've never suffered through the burning death, and they don't need to feed on the life of a kill. It's as if they are natural vampires and we are the unnatural ones. They have three so far, and I am their Uncle Stefan.

I love to watch my children when they sing together. It's still the sound of angels to my ears. They are already grandparents themselves, and they have both sustained strong marriages with their mates. I'm glad that they chose to stay near us, though so many of their children and grandchildren have gone off into the world.

My son Jasper is such a delight, as a father and a grandfather. After Tessa was attacked fighting the newborns, they were both finished with that assignment. He loves to help me with the animals on the ranch, along with his own son. Watching him with Tessa reminds me of the bond I share with Summer. He looks at her with such adoration, it's hard to believe he ever loved another.

My son Tristan always has a hard time making it to these gatherings. He's so much in demand for his talent. Now that our kind are all on a mandatory animal diet, many are having to come to terms with their past as killers. He's opened an office in town and they come to see him here so he doesn't have to be away from his own family.

My daughter Jane has come almost as far as I have in her own transformation. The triplets were the key. Not only did she have to trust my daughter to carry them, but once she became a mother she truly began to heal from her own painful childhood. Tristan is such an involved father. He has had to be since Jane had no concept of what a loving parent looked like. She read everything about raising children, but sometimes she would just call Summer or Tessa for help. Still she is the most protective and devoted mother you could imagine. When their two sons and daughter became mature and started to date, we feared that no one would be good enough for them in her eyes.

Their sons surprised us by seeking out Jacob and Nessie's daughters. Their daughter just flew back from Volterra for this gathering. My precious granddaughter is being courted by Aro's firstborn son!

Jane's twin Alec is still single. But he's come out of his shell, and become a man after all these years. He's still a bit shy, and he sits on the fireplace hearth just watching the chaos of my family all around him with a smile on his face. The way he keeps looking at Vladmir's oldest daughter, who looks to be about fifteen, makes me wonder what the future holds.

I still keep my journals, but they are so much less self-involved. I have to write in order to keep up with our family. Of course my memory is flawless now, whether that comes from my life being fully lived, or from feeding Summer and sleeping and dreaming, I'm not sure. I remember my Tessa fully now, and her circlet was carved out of tortoise shell. She was fairly short, and her eyes were enormous. She had the kind of abundant curves that tempt a young man, and she snorted when she laughed. My Summer is a contrast to her in every way, except for the curves that is.

I also remember Cecilia and Daniel with a clarity that needs no paintings. In fact they've rediscovered the paintings and they hang in our old home in Romania. Daniel didn't paint the mole on his mother's face, and I wonder if her vanity told him not to. I've been to see them again, and I realize Daniel's paintings lied, which is probably why I thought he was such a great artist. In his painting I'm older, with a stern look. He too is older, looking to be seventeen instead of twelve. And his mother was a goddess, complete with a halo effect.

Our old home is now called The Vampire Museum. It doesn't offend me at all, and in a way it puts us back into myth rather than reality. The rooms are all fully decorated and the treasures of centuries past have been put on display. They use all the rooms of the mansion, even though we never did. They've removed some of my books to preserve them since they are the only copies. Still it was funny to see the way they displayed so much of our life, and none of it really mattered. My old suits are displayed on forms so it looks as if I could still be standing in a room. They've actually found the dress I purchased for Summer, and they've dressed a mannequin in it and placed "her" on the loveseat, with two red punctures at the throat It was so funny we took a picture of it for the scrapbook.

My old life is a memory. It's as empty as the suits displayed in the museum. My life is here, in this room. Everyone I love is here. She is here. The roots of our family may run deep in blood. But my family thrives and grows and will continue. No longer do I hear the lament of my soul, for though time could not heal my wounds, love has made me whole.

A/N: I've seen so many discussions of Mary Sue's on the forums since I began posting on this site. No one's ever called me out on creating a Sue or a Stu, but I think if I'm honest, there's a little bit of Sue in Summer, and a little Stue in Stefan. Tessa would likely fit the criteria as well. But I never wanted to let the fear of Sue stop me from creating larger than life characters. I think a plot this sweeping actually demanded characters who could stand up to what was thrown at them, otherwise the story would have ended with a burp in chapter one.

I hope you liked my offering as much as I liked writing it.

Twiharder2: I'm adding this as you approach the end, since I have no other way to send a message. Thanks so much for the reviews; especially the con/crit! I reworked Chapter one for you.