Fifteen years later…
"Mom! Wake up!"
Eryn and Alec were suddenly woken from a comfortable sleep with a little person jumping up and down on the giant Royal Bed.
"Daaad, come on! Wake up!"
Alec groaned. "Astrid, go to bed."
"Nooo!" Princess Astrid sang. "It's my birthday, and I can do whatever I want, today!"
Eryn sighed and closed her eyes tighter, snuggling against her husband. "What time is it?" she mumbled.
"I don't know, and I don't care!" Astrid continued, jumping up and down on the bed.
"Ow!" Eryn yelped. "Careful, our feet!"
"Oops, sorry," Astrid said, finally sitting down.
Alec opened his eyes and looked on the right bottom corner of his vision, looking for the time. "Damn it, Astrid. It's six in the morning."
"But it's my birthday! You promised we would go to Carnival Island!" she whined.
Alec chuckled. "Yes, but not at six in the morning. We're going this evening. After you had your Contacts put on." Astrid was now twelve, the perfect age to get her Contacts.
"'morning," another voice, male, resonated, coming in the room.
"Ah," Alec said sarcastically. "Prince Ayden. Welcome. We were just having a six a.m. family reunion."
"Without me?" Ayden said. "How dare you?" He climbed on the bed and sat next to his little sister. "Happy birthday, princess," he said, placing a kiss on her cheek. Astrid beamed. Ayden was not the one to show physical affection to anyone: only when necessary, and only to his sister, who was sixteen months younger than him.
"Where's Alina?" he asked, looking around.
"Still sleeping, I presume," Eryn said. "How lucky she is." And besides, Alina could not get out of her bed alone, since it was still a toddler's bed with bars and all.
Eryn reached to the touch screen on the wall near the bed and ordered the birthday breakfast in bed, like planned, only a little earlier… Fifteen minutes later, three Androids came into the room and brought trays with so many things to choose from: waffles, scones, croissants, pancakes, beignets, hot chocolate, coffee, tea, and so on. Ayden and Astrid dug in with wild abandon, while Alec and Eryn smiled and watched. Alina was brought in by a Nurse Maid and the whole family was complete, and happy. All three children had blue eyes like their parents, and brown hair, too. The two older, Astrid and Ayden, had waves and curls, but Alina's were as straight as rods. It was impossible to put even the smallest hair pin in her hair, it always slipped.
Alec and Eryn had taken the day off: no meetings, no interviews, nothing. It was just them. They did this five days a year, for each birthday. It was like a little holiday. The next one would be in a couple weeks, for Eryn's birthday. And since she was turning 35, they had decided to plan a party and to invite most of their closest friends.
Two weeks later, the Palace was in an uproar. Servant and Androids were coming and going with decorations, plates, lights, and anything needed to make Eryn's birthday party perfect.
But Eryn was nervous. She had invited most of the Selected. Most of them had replied, but some persisted in never replying, even when she wrote. She knew the Selection had been a bad experience for some of them – Verramine, for example – and she knew she shouldn't be insisting on contacting them, but she still did.
Eryn didn't want to make a whole fuss about the party, but Alec – and especially Astrid – insisted that she wore her best gown and tiara. She was the Empress, after all. So Eryn accepted and decided on a royal blue lace dress with a matching tiara with blue stones.
Guests started arriving at around five o'clock.
"Your Majesty," Thalia said, curtsying to Eryn and Alec.
Eryn rolled her eyes. She still didn't get used to being called that, and especially not by her dearest friend. She quickly walked up to her and hugged Thalia. "I'm so glad you could come, Lia," she said.
"I would not miss this for anything in the world, Eryn," Thalia replied, a grin playing on her lips. "You remember Noah?"
"Yes, of course!" Eryn said. "Welcome, Noah."
"Thank you, Ma'am," he said.
"So, how are the wedding preparations going on?" Eryn asked as she walked Thalia to the side, for a private conversation.
"Excellent," Thalia said. "But you know we're not in a hurry…"
"I know," she said. "But I didn't have the chance to plan my own. It was done so fast and by professional wedding planners. I didn't even have to choose my dress! So pleaselet me enjoy yours." They both burst out laughing, just as the next guest arrived. Alone as ever.
"Quinn," Eryn said, coming over to her friend. She and Quinn had mended their friendship over the years, and Quinn now worked for the Emperor as an advisor in her field of expertise, Technology Intelligence Agent. "How are you?" she said briefly hugging her.
"Great," Quinn said, a little too forcefully. "Happy birthday."
"Thank you. Thalia is already here, if you want to see her, too."
Quinn nodded and walked over to Thalia.
"Eryn!" Katia squealed as she entered the Entrance Hall, Grayson by her side holding their daughter's hand, Venus.
"Katia!" Eryn said and practically tackled her into a hug. Alec and Grayson chuckled at the sight, clearly there was no etiquette or protocol, but who cares, right? This was a private party, no use pretending anything. "Oh my God, I'm so happy to see you!"
"Me too!" Katia said. "Vee, say hi to Aunt Eryn."
Venus tried a curtsy – failing miserably – and Eryn laughed and took the girl in her arms.
"Venus, thank you for your very pretty curtsy," she said. "Astrid and Ayden are waiting for you in the ball room," she added, and Vee ran to see her friends.
Katia and Grayson headed to the ballroom with the others, while other guests arrived, none other and the English delegation: King Alistair with his wife Queen Avonlea and their two sons, Charles and Sebastien, along with Prince Leith and Duchess Petra with their own daughters, Eliana and Noemi. Both Eryn and Alec were super happy to see them, since they could only see each other a few days a year. Petra and Leith were in the middle of paperwork for adopting a third child, she couldn't have any more children, due to health issues.
Once their first guests were in the ballroom and Alec and Eryn were alone for a few minutes, while waiting for the next ones, Alec wrapped his arms around his beautiful wife's frame and placed a kiss on her nose. "Happy birthday, honey," he whispered. Obviously, they were as in love as on their wedding day. Even more so, to be honest.
"Ah-ha!" Austin said, stepping inside the huge hall. "You never seem to be able to keep your hands off your wife, Alec," he said, and Alec rolled his eyes and hugged his brother.
"Good to see you, too, Austin."
"Aunt Eryn!" little seven years old Rosa said, running to Eryn, who caught her mid-run and twirled her into the air.
"Well, hello there, Rosa," she said, placing a kiss on the girl's cheek. "It's great you came, because Astrid is waiting for you upstairs." She put her niece down and looked at her eleven-year-old nephew. "Wow, Oliver. You've grown so much since last time!"
Oliver rolled his eyes and followed his sister to find their cousins.
"Sorry, about that," Cheska said. "He's in a full teenage phase, at the moment."
"Don't worry about it," she said, taking her sister-in-law in her arms. "I'm glad you could come, especially in your condition." She placed a hand on Cheska's growing belly and smiled. Royalty, even ones that became royal through marriage, had to have their own babies: they were not allowed to use the Artificial Wombs.
Austin and Cheska headed to the Ballroom just as Eryn's brother, Ezra, came in with Korina. She was no longer an Android, but she did not recover her own body, either. And she wasn't a clone of herself, either. It was brand new bio-technology, a flesh and bone body recreated from her old self, but healthy and resembling it, using her genetic code – without the illness – to grow a new body of her own, from fetus to adult – clones were created identical to the age their stem cells had been taken – in an Artificial Womb and growing rapidly. It took two years to get from the fetus to her age, now, 34. Her consciousness had been downloaded in it while her body was growing, and she had been walking in this new body only for a couple years. She had her two children, Connor and Carra, through the Artificial Womb, while she was still an Android, taking her ovum she and Ezra had frozen from her old body, soon after their wedding.
Ezra made a huge deal – on purpose, of course – about bowing to his sister and kissing her hand properly, following etiquette to the letter, which annoyed Eryn immensely, and made Alec and Korina laugh. Eryn's parents arrived soon after, happy to see their daughter, and their grandchildren. It almost seemed like Christmas!
Kira arrived with her husband, a famous Two, a singer, followed by Xandra, who arrived alone. She didn't seem to want to settle down, even at 34, with no serious boyfriend nor a family on the horizon. Her mother was always in Switzerland, having her face and breasts lifted, so Xandra never really saw her mother, anymore. Yana also arrived shortly after with her husband and their daughter, Sarah. Yana married a Five a few years after the Selection, and thus went from being a Seven, to a Three – during and after the Selection – to a Five. And she was perfectly happy.
Chris and Callisto arrived late, as usual, with their three children – Samuel, David, and Sophie, more or less the same ages as the Royal children. They were living not too far from the Palace, and Chris still worked with Alec, having taken his father's place as the Advisor Nano-Weapon Specialist. Eryn and Callisto had become close friends over the years, too.
Addison arrived with her husband, Dr. James Mueller and their two children, Emma and Atticus.
"Addie!" Eryn said, taking her friend in her arms. "Oh, my God! You look so beautiful! How much longer?" she asked, looking down at Addie's round belly.
"Two more months," she replied. "I'm so happy to see you, too!"
Alec shook hands with James, and the kids ran to see the other children, after curtsies and bows, of course.
Just then, Danielle arrived with her husband Jeremy, also a robot scientist, like her. Danielle, too, was pregnant, with their first child.
"Danielle," Eryn said, hugging her friend briefly. They hadn't spoken face to face in years, only sending each other Christmas and birthday cards over the years. "I'm so excited to see you again," she said. "And congratulations," she added, "You must be really happy to be expecting a happy event."
Danielle blushed. "We are," she said. "We've waited so long, and now it's finally possible."
Eryn smiled and took her friend's hands in hers. "Well, I'm really happy you can enjoy motherhood, too. You'll see, it's amazing."
Both women laughed and Danielle, her husband, and Addie and James headed to the Ball room, where the others were already waiting.
Lastly, Catiena arrived with her little sister, Ambrosia, whom she has been raising ever since her step-mother was put into jail. Catiena, still single and unmarried, now worked as a Weapon's Designer and Time Hacking Monitor in the Military. She was happy with her life. Eryn was also super excited to see Catiena again. The last time she had seen her was at their wedding, and it had already been fourteen years.
Once all the guests had arrived for the privatebirthday party, they simply sat on the sofas and couches that had been brought to the Ball room. A live quartet played some background music. The adults talked and caught up on the years they hadn't seen each other, and the children all played in one of the Game rooms, under the supervision of three maids. Then the children were called for dinner, dinner was served, and they danced and talked and offered Eryn presents during the rest of the evening.
A few minutes before midnight, Alec invited Eryn and the others to join him on the roof. From there, they had the front seats to the fireworks Alec had specifically ordered for the Empress' birthday. Everyone gathered around the city to watch and thousands of messages arrived on the Feeds, wishing their beloved Empress a happy birthday. The Angeles 'Dome had been taken down a few years earlier, the first of a series, thanks to Thalia's Project which resonated in Alec's heart and had her come back to supervise the first dismantling of the 'Domes. Others would follow in the next decade. But for now, only three had been taken down.
Alec held Eryn close to him, and she rested her head on his shoulder. There could not have been a better match.
This time, it's a real "THE END"...
I thank you so much for all your reviews and support and the amazing characters you gave me and let me bring to life! And for reading and following this story for the past 6 months! daaaamn... we've started this adventure in April, just when I started my exams... hahaha
I can't tell you when I'll write a Selection SYOC yet, but I love this fandom and this Community so much, that I'll definitely do one again... some day... ;) so be patient! My next project will be NANOWRIMO, starting in a few weeks, in November... I don't know yet if I'm re-writing Book 1 of my trilogy, or if I'm continuing Book 2 (that I started last Nano)... I still have to decide... But you know, I really like coming back to fanfiction and to you guys, because writing alone with no feedback and support is hard... so yeah. The next few months will be harder! But I really want this trilogy to be written, so I'll work extra hard on it! Anyway, I'm ranting... sorry.
Thanks again for everything, and for your time on this story, making the characters, posting on Pinterest, answering my silly questions, and reading. I'm gonna cry... Okay. I'll stop here... GOOD BYE AND SEE YOU IN A FEW MONTHS MAYBE FOR A NEW FANFIC! (follow me to get notified... hehehe)