AN: So I didn't know how long it would take to write this chapter, honestly, and I overestimated myself (wow, how often does that happen?)

So here it is, the last chapter. More notes at the end. I hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think!

1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

Sophia slipped downstairs, avoiding the one step that she knew creaked loudly enough that the sound echoed through the house. She didn't imagine, though, that her parents could hear her if she'd come through the house like a herd of elephants.

They were celebrating her birthday their own way…and she pretended, more often than not, that she couldn't hear them.

Maybe it was supposed to bother her, too, that she could hear when they were together…but it didn't bother her much more than it simply gave her something to complain about or heckle them about whenever she was in the mood to do so.

She liked knowing that they were happy together…and choosing to have sex with each other, however loud the noises they produced might be, was just further proof for her that they were happy together…and that there was little risk of either of them going anywhere any time soon. They liked being together too much for that.

She couldn't sleep, though, whether it was the noise or the cake or just the rush from the day, so she made her way as quietly possible through the house and down the hall to Eli's room. She slipped into the room, closing the door behind her, the knob turned so that it wouldn't make more than a light thump when she closed it, and she reached, quickly switching off the little monitor.

Eli was asleep…oblivious to his parents in the next room. They were training him to sleep to anything, maybe.

He'd lost his pacifier, as he often did, but he was too lost in his dreams to care at the moment.

Sophia slipped down to his room a lot at night. She liked watching him sleep in the dim light of his little nightlight…and sometimes she was there to catch him just as he was waking up…needing something small like a diaper change that she could easily provide or simply just to be rocked a little in the wooden rocking chair.

Sophia stood over the crib and reached in, like she often did, rubbing a hand and readjusting his clothes ever so slightly from where they got tangled with his movements, when she touched him, though he must have been startled because he woke quickly, his little face beginning to scrunch up suddenly like he was going to cry.

Sorry for waking him, Sophia scooped him up just as he let out the first piece of a sorrowful wail and she quickly offered him his pacifier that served to soothe the shock almost as quickly as it had registered for him.

She carried him over, settling down in the rocking chair with him and drawing up the foot into the seat that she didn't need to push at the floor and set them in motion, resting him against it.

And it wasn't long until he leaned fully against her, going limp in her arms, returning back to the fairy land that he must inhabit…and was probably king of…when he dreamed.

But Sophia remained, longer than she had to, humming to him and rocking him despite the fact that he was gone too far away from her to hear her any longer.

Even if she told him…when he was older…what he meant to her, Eli would never understand.

And in so many ways, Sophia was grateful that his life would be so perfect…it would be so wonderful…that if she ever sat and explained to him what hers had been like before she'd found her family, he would never be able to wrap his mind around it…because he would only know and only be able to comprehend what it felt like to grow up, surrounded by people who loved him.

And among those people, he could always count her.

She was thankful that he would never hold against her anything from her past. He would never know the labels that she'd brought with her even when she'd come. She would simply be his Sophia and he would be her Eli…and there would never be any different for him because that's all the world that he would ever know.

All he would ever know…and she would do everything in her power to protect him from anything different…was that he was perfect, and he was loved…and maybe that his big sister, when she couldn't sleep, came into his room to watch over him while he slept.

111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

Carol lie, wrapped around Daryl in the darkness of the bedroom…her heart still pounding slightly from the exertions that they'd put into the evening's love making.

She would lie there awake for a little longer, even though Daryl had already drifted off to sleep. She would lie there long enough to hear the static filled hum of the monitor being turned back on, a sound that she pretended she hadn't learned to recognize, and she would lie there long enough to hear the gentle creak of Sophia's footsteps on the floorboards as the girl returned to her bedroom…long enough to make sure that, after his extended and super top secret cuddle session, Eli wasn't feeling hungry enough to need her attentions.

Daryl was already asleep…typically blissfully unaware of how much went on in his home during the night.

He would wake when she left his arms, just enough to let her go, sit up sleepily and verify for himself that she was only going to check on Eli, and then he would drop back down into sleep until she returned, when he would wake again, long enough to search her out in the bed so that he could sleep, tangled up with her, until the next time that she left the tight space.

And Carol couldn't help but marvel, tonight especially, at how much her life had changed…at how different the way that Daryl held her tonight was from the way that he'd avoided her in the bed…a different bed…one year ago.

And she couldn't help but be grateful for the way that things were now…for the way that it felt to feel secure in a man's arms…to find his hands something she wanted to be touched with instead of something she shied away from.

She couldn't help but appreciate, maybe more than some might have, what it was like to be told…when she woke up tired, her eyes swollen, her hair a mess…sure that she looked like something from the Black Lagoon…that she was pretty, that her eyes were pretty…that he loved her sleepy smile over pancakes and bacon and "can you feed the baby" and "has anyone seen my shoe" and "I'm going to be late for work again".

Her life, to many, was dull and boring. The passing of hours wasn't marked by any great excitement. It wasn't marked, most days, by anything that would have been worth reporting to anyone. But it was marked by baby laughs…by boyfriend woes…by discussions about car companies and calendars and paint jobs…and apparently now it would be marked by the bleating of her own herd of knee high goats.

And it was the greatest life that she could imagine…a life far greater, perhaps, than she had ever dreamed she might have…and certainly far greater than the one that she'd once accepted would be her quiet existence where she sought nothing more than peace and being left alone…because being left alone was far preferable to the company she'd once kept.

She knew, now, what it was like to have a life that, although not as quiet as it once had been, was full of love…and it was the best life possible.

11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

When Daryl got out of the bed, he heard the sound of the shower running from the bathroom, the door cracked open. He slipped down the hall to relieve himself so that he wouldn't interrupt Carol's early morning routine and sleepily ran his hands through his hair on his way back down the hall.

The lack of noise from upstairs told him that they were up before Sophia, and he slipped into the nursery to confirm that Eli wasn't up yet from the last time that he'd woken and requested the fine dining experience of Carol feeding him in the wooden rocker while she tried to steal sleep around his snack…a place that Daryl often found her and, taking the baby from her gently and putting him back in his crib…he would lead her back to the bedroom to sleep in the bed.

As Daryl stepped back into the bedroom, he heard the sound of the shower being turned off, the squeak of the metal knobs as they turned into position, and he heard Carol rustling about in there. He stepped to the door, pushing it open slightly and she barked out in shock for the moment at having been lost in her thoughts and not expecting him there.

The momentary shock out of the way, she smiled at him and he couldn't help but offer her a sleepy smile back.

"You scared me!" Carol said, drying off.

He leaned against the bathroom counter and watched her, and to tease him, she did something of a dance as she finished soaking up the beads of water on her skin and then dramatically scrubbed at her hair, soaking the water up out of it as well.

When she tossed the towel to the side, in the little basket she piled up with things to wash on a regular basis, Daryl reached out and caught her by the arm, pulling her toward him. She pretended at first to struggle against him, like she wasn't going to come readily into his arms, but the struggle was half hearted and lasted only a second before she sunk against him, offering her lips toward him in a dramatic pucker.

He chuckled and leaned to bring his lips to hers and then he moved to deepen the kiss.

"Sophia and Eli?" She asked when she broke away from him.

"Both still sleepin'…" he said. "Too damn early for anyone but you ta be up, woman."

He tightened his grip around her as she tried to pull away and she kissed his chest in response before leaning her head against him, her fingers tickling at his back.

"You know…we are up early," Carol said. She pulled away and looked at him, pursing her lips and dramatically batting her eyes at him. "I just took a shower…but we could always…go back to bed for a little while…"

Daryl smiled at her and chuckled at her attempts to seem coy.

"When ya ever knowed me ta say hell no ta somethin' that damn good?" Daryl responded with a chuckle.

He leaned up off the counter and she let him go, already grinning at him. He reached around, grabbing the bottle of mouth wash and rinsing his mouth quickly…deciding to at least give her a little minty freshness to go with the crisp taste of the toothpaste he'd found still lingering on her tongue, and then he quickly pushed her back into the bedroom and toward the bed…knowing their time might be limited before it was time to get up and get going on the things that the day would expect from them.

1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

Carol had been standing in front of the long mirror on the back of the closet door for at least twenty minutes while she figured out what She was in the mood to wear…interrupted at least twice by Eli who called out to her from the bed where he watched her like she was his favorite television show…before she even realized that the lightweight piece of material…something she'd found in a box leftover from a sewing project that she'd never completely…had drifted down to the floor.

She leaned over, picking the piece of cloth up off the floor and stopped before she slid it into place over the corners of the glass.

The woman who stared back at her wasn't as old as she remembered her being. She wasn't as young as she'd once been…but she was younger than her memory told her she was.

And Carol realized, too, that the woman who stared back at her…this woman that she hadn't seen so clearly in more years than she dared to count…wasn't as hideous as she remembered her being.

She had aged, but her age looked right on her…and her body had changed…but it was the body of a woman who had given life to a precious baby boy…the body of a woman whose husband declared that they had an extra room, and that if she wanted, it might give life to another perfect child. Her body was the body of a woman who didn't sleep through the night very often, but not because nightmares kept her up…she didn't sleep through the night because her husband kept her up…worshipping that very same body in his simple way…and her son kept her up, requesting the nourishment that the body provided him.

And her hair was greying…but she didn't feel, suddenly, the need to be ashamed of it. Because her daughter thought it was beautiful…and her husband thought it was sexy…and she thought it belonged to someone who had earned it…just like she'd earned the lines around her eyes…lines that had once been caused by the stress and strain of hating those very same lines and the eyes that they surrounded…lines that were now enhanced more by smiles and laughter that made her face and ribs ache more than anything else.

Eli called out from the bed again, sucking Carol out of her momentary trance, and she tossed the piece of cloth toward the basket in the closet that had clothes flowing out of it and was surrounded by socks that hadn't quite made it there, so that when she did the laundry…hopefully today or tomorrow…she could wash it and find a place for it…a place where it was better suited.

Because mirrors weren't designed to be covered.

Mirrors were designed to reflect back to you the truth of who you were…they were designed to give you the opportunity to see yourself as others saw you, a view that you never got from within your own mind because your eyes were not designed to see yourself in such a manner.

And sometimes mirrors got broken…and they reflected back to you, not who you were, but a distorted image of who you were. And, from time to time, the distortion that they reflected back to you, their very broken nature, had little to do with cracks that crawled along the surface…scars in the glass…and had everything to do with the fact that the you that you thought you were…the you that other people saw and wanted you to see…was distorted and your eyes lost the ability to see beyond their distortions and to understand that you weren't what they described you to be.

You were so much more than their perceptions of you.

But when they weren't broken…and when you saw yourself through your very own eyes…and when the perceptions of others that influenced you were perceptions that saw you just as you were…without distortion…then you could welcome the opportunity to see the imperfect perfection that made you beautiful, and unique, and loved.

And the mirrors, in their home, weren't broken.

111111111111111111111111111111111111111

AN: I want to thank you all for supporting me through the writing of this work. I hope that you have enjoyed it. I know that I've enjoyed sharing it with you. To go through and to thank everyone who has offered kindness and encouragement along the way would be to write something the length of another chapter in itself.

So, I'll simply say that I love and appreciate all of you for your kind words and your support. You're all very special to me and I thank you for reading this very lengthy tomb. I also thank all of you who took the time to review as you read, driving me forward to finish a story that I started on a whim…not even sure that it would go anywhere…and ultimately pushing me into producing all of this.

I hope you have enjoyed the work.

I may visit this little family again in the future, we'll have to see what happens, but for the time being, I'm leaving them here in their little world.

Thank you for taking this journey with me, you've all meant so much!

If you're interested, I invite you to join me in one (or more) of my other little worlds to see what's happening there.

Until next time! I hope you enjoyed! Let me know what you think!