First off, I am sorry for disappearing for so long. Obviously I'm not dead. Long story short, shit happened. If you'd like the long version of the story, I'll explain in more detail at the end of the chapter.
Secondly, I want to thank all of you who stuck with this story even though I dropped off the face of the earth for so long. I also want to thank those who saw that this story hadn't updated in almost two years but gave it a chance anyways. Thanks to all of you who reviewed either here or over on AO3; I think there were even a few of you who messaged me on DA. I didn't get a chance to reply or even read a lot of your reviews, due to aforementioned shit, and I'm sorry for that because I love that you all take the time to leave me a comment or even just a note of encouragement, it means a lot to me and I'll try to do better about reading them.
I can't promise to you guys that I won't go quite again, shit's still not great, but it's better and I finally had the time/will to continue this story and I thought you guys deserved this chapter and the rest of this story for your patience. I don't have the rest of it written up yet, but I still have the outlines for the last few chapters so, should life allow, I'll be able to write those up soonish. I do want you to know that even if I do disappear again, I'm still in love with this story and I want to finish it and I will try my best to do so.
So without further ado, here is Chapter 25. Thank you again for your patience. You guys are the best readers I could have possibly asked for.
I woke up alone. I wasn't sure where España had gone, but seeing as it was later in the day and almost time for dinner, he had probably woken up a few hours ago and was currently terrorizing the neighbors or setting up a patrol through the tomato fields. Hell, it wouldn't surprise me if he was burning the toaster at the stake or something as equally absurd. Well, without España it was too cold to stay in bed, plus I was starting to get hungry which meant the others were probably hungry too so I might as well go get dinner started or something.
I stretched out my arms as I shuffled down the stairs. I must not have gotten enough sleep, that or I had been sleeping too much in the last few days, because my eyelids still felt heavy and my feet were dragging on the cold hardwood floor. I suppose it shouldn't have been surprising that I was so exhausted seeing as my main concern has been putting those tomato-bastards back together which I really couldn't do myself. It was draining dealing with the three by myself. Why couldn't they just go back to normal?
As I stumbled into the kitchen my nose alerted me to the wonderful smell of Antonio's cooking long before I even laid eyes on the Spaniard in front of the stove. I don't think he noticed me because he was humming the song he'd been dancing to just yesterday, as he stirred whatever was on the front burners. I hesitated under the arch, worrying my bottom lip as I watched Antonio sway in time with his humming, the strings of the tomato red apron I'd bought him just last year, swinging gently with his movements.
I'm not sure what compelled me to do it, but I soon found my arms wrapped around Antonio's waist and my face nuzzled into his back, eyes tightly shut as I held on to him. He had flinched when my arms first came around him, but was quick to recover and relax back into me, humming that song again.
"I'm sorry," I whispered as I tangled my fingers in his shirt in what was probably a feeble attempt to prevent him from turning around or moving away. I was not going to let him see how red my face no doubt was, because that would only start him pinching my cheeks and cooing at me about my cuteness as he forgot my apology. I was only going to say this once, dammit!
"Did you say something, mi tomate?"
Okay, I was only going to say this twice. "I said…" I drew in a deep breath and tightened my hold marginally. "I'm sorry, Antonio."
His entire body seemed to lock up before he carefully put down whatever he was holding and turned down the burners. He stood motionless and rigid in my arms for a few moments; fearing that I'd messed up again I started to slip away. It was only when I had released him that he seemed to be stirred back into motion, turned around to face me, grabbed my wrists and pulled my arms back around him. He wrapped his own arms about my hips and led me away from the stove until we were leaning against a counter where we would be safe from the burners. He took hold of my chin and titled my head back until I was forced to look at him. His eyes were bright and his mouth turned up in a brilliant smile. He placed a kiss on my forehead
"I'll forgive you, Lovi, but only if you will forgive me." What the hell was he talking about? "I know I upset you earlier and while I'm not really sure how, I know it was my fault that you cried."
"Who the fuck told you that? I did no such thing, bastard!"
"Uh – no one told me, Lovi." He grinned nervously. "I just knew. I always know when mi tomate is upset."
"Uh-huh. I'm going to ignore that obvious lie for now." He continued to grin, pressing our foreheads together. "I forgive you, I guess – I didn't cry though!"
"Of course not, Lovi." He held me tight, burying his face in the crook of my neck. "Whatever you say."
"Hey, aren't you going to forgive me too?" I grumbled, pulling softly but insistently on his hair so he would look at me. I may have poked his cheek a bit as well.
"I already did, Lovi," He chuckled before picking me up and, faster than I thought possible for the lazy bastard, setting me down on the counter. He smiled up at me as he pressed himself tightly against me, his cheek resting on my sternum, once more making me wonder what his fascination with being held like this was.
"Te amo, Lovi."
I winced at the words but still let my fingers card through his hair before, sighing, I gave him a reply. "Ti amo…bastardo."
His eyes closed and he began humming once more. After a few minutes of just sitting there being cuddled by the tomato-bastard, I was beginning to feel awkward
"Are you going to let me down any time soon, Tonio?" He shook his head and held me tighter, pulling me to the edge of the counter so that he was, for the most part, the only thing keeping me from falling off. "You do realize that whatever you were cooking is probably burning, right?"
He whined at me wordlessly for a bit, but slowly moved away and went back to the stove, letting me back down onto the floor. "Lovi, could you go see if there are any tomatoes left in the garden? Harvest season is over, but those plants always seem to produce longer than they should." He asked after a few moments, moving around the stove, turning burners back up, stirring one of the pans and sprinkling spices into another.
"Why didn't you get them before you started cooking, bastard?" I grumbled, but moved to do so anyways. It's not like I'm unused to Antonio being unorganized, but forgetting about tomatoes was just ridiculous.
"Lovi~" I didn't even have to look at him to know he was pouting, I could just tell from the whiney tone to his voice. Despite knowing what I would see when I turned around, I looked. As predicted the pout was super pathetic, and kind of sad since he was staring at me with those big green eyes and – damn him!
"I'm going already, tomato bastard, just stop looking at me like that…and don't say my name like that, it's annoying."
"Gracias, mi tomate!" He chirruped before returning to the pans on the stove. I rolled my eyes but moved towards the door the back porch anyways.
"Stupid, pretty bastard," I murmured to myself as I scooped up one of the baskets from the porch and moved out into the practically empty tomato fields. There were a few bright spots of red scattered about but the field was mostly picked clean. Antonio was right about the garden lasting too long, I knew for a fact that my plants back home had stopped yielding fruit a few weeks ago. It's probably because he talked to the damned things or something equally stupid and adorable. Shit, I was so gone on this bastard.
As I moved through the rows I didn't see España anywhere, but that didn't mean the Conquistador wasn't somewhere nearby, lurking about in the shadows just waiting for unsuspecting trespassers. Maybe he was around front, who knows, not my day to watch him. I still wasn't sure where Spain was, but knowing him, he would turn up sooner or later to grope me.
I breathed in, letting my stress slip away for a few minutes as I got down in the dirt and started picking the last of the tomatoes from the vines. Gardening had always been the one thing to calm me down or clear my mind growing up and I was glad that stayed true centuries later. I wanted to lose myself for a few minutes and maybe sweep through the last few rows before returning inside, back to Antonio and his confusing face.
I heard footsteps behind me and figured it was Antonio wondering why I was taking so long. "I'm almost done, Antonio, just trying to pick the best for whatever it is you're cooking." I finally picked the last one, set it carefully with the others in the basket and stood up straight to stretch out my arms. "What are you cooking by the way?"
Instead of an answer I heard a vine snap.
Antonio would never step on a vine, he was always so careful not to cause any harm to his beloved tomatoes. Hell, even as a kid I knew not to mess with his tomato plants. I was also pretty sure that Spain and España were likewise cautious around the fields.
Whoever was behind me was not one of my Spaniards. I dropped the basket and wheeled around, careful not to break any vines myself as I took a few steps back. The white mask sent my heart beating into overdrive. Shit! What was he doing here? How had he gotten past España? More importantly, why wasn't España here right now with his halberd.
"Turkey! W-wh-what are you doing here?" I asked, trying to keep my voice from shaking as I moved a few more steps back and over into another row; a futile attempt to put space between us since he simply moved over as well, snapping more vines on his way. I flinched at the noise; as much as the bastard still scared me, he was starting to piss me off. "Stop moving, asshole, and answer my question. What the fuck are you doing here?" I crossed my arms over my chest and tried to glare up at him.
He just smirked at my efforts, lips curling over his teeth. "I came to see you of course, I'd heard you were living with Spain now and I wanted to see if the rumors were true. I must admit I am surprised; after all, Antonio seemed like the shell of the man he once was when we talked at the World Meeting. He's getting weak. Tell me, Romano, why would you want to be around him anymore? He doesn't act like he can or is even willing to protect you so why do you still hang off him like he's your guardian. I would treat you better, Romano."
"Fuck off! You never wanted me, you only wanted to hurt Antonio."
Turkey didn't try to deny it, he simply shrugged.
"You don't know what you're talking about. Antonio is not weak. There is nothing wrong with him and even if there was, I don't need him to protect me, I can defend myself."
"Is that so? Then why does he always fight your battles? Why do you always run to him at the first sign of trouble?"
"I'm warning you, Turkey, just get out of here. You've seen me, you confirmed that I'm living with Antonio, and we had this terrible chat. You've done what you came here to do. Now leave."
"Oh, but I didn't just come here to see you, Romano. I came here to take you with me."
I probably shouldn't have laughed.
"You can't be serious, Turkey. I'm not a colony anymore. You idiots can't just fight over me and think I'm going to go willingly with the 'victor'. I'm my own nation now and if I decide I want to stay here with Antonio, then that's exactly what I'm going to do. More importantly, what I do and who I stay with is absolutely none of your business. Now get out of here."
His grin slowly slid off his face, a sneer replacing it. "The matter was never up for debate, Italy." He growled striding forwards once more, breaking more vines on his way. He grasped my arm, his grip strong and painful, and attempted to haul me out after him.
"Let go of me, you fucker!" I swung at him with my free arm, but he just caught my wrist and squeezed until something cracked. I bit my lip and tried not to scream; I was not going to let this bastard have the satisfaction of seeing me cry. His sneer froze for a second at the sound, concern (or at least something close to concern) marring the disdainful look, but only for a second and then he was back to dragging me through the field and away from the house.
"I am sorry, Romano, but as you said, this isn't about you, so just come with me and I won't have to hurt you again."
"Go fuck yourself."
I cradled my arm to my chest, trying to ignore the pain for now. As a nation, the break would heal soon and then I was going to take another swing at that asshole's stupid mask.
"That was rude, Italy. Spain may have tolerated that language, but I will not."
"Let me reiterate," I said as I felt the bones starting to snap back into place. "Go. Fuck. Yourself." As he turned back on me, whether to backhand me or scold me I don't know or care, I took another swing at him, my fist landing solidly against his jaw. Unfortunately the punch wasn't strong enough to break said jaw, but it did send him reeling back just enough that I could break free of his grasp and sprint to the house.
I knew Turkey would recover quickly from the punch so I ran as fast as I could, bypassing the stairs entirely and just leaping onto the porch. I shoved my way through the door only to collide with Antonio's chest.
"Ah! Lovi, I was wondering why you hadn't come back yet. Where are the tomatoes? Did you forget them? Also, why are were you running, is something wrong?" I tried to shush him, but he just kept rambling out questions all while trying to hug me. "Is something wrong, mi tomate?"
I was going to push past him so I could use him as a shield, but then I would be doing exactly what Turkey predicted. I was not going to prove that bastard right, so I turned back around to face out the door. I took a firm position in front of Antonio and balled up my fists as I watch Turkey stumble up to the steps, rubbing his jaw and giving me the darkest glare I'd ever seen from the other nation. Granted, it was not an España worthy glare, but it still made promises of pain. Even so, I couldn't bring myself to be afraid. Okay, that was a lie, I was a little afraid, but he had come here with the express purpose of hurting Antonio and I wasn't going to fucking let that happen.
"I thought I told you to get the fuck out of here, Turkey," I seethed, remaining firmly between him and Antonio, even as the tomato bastard tried to pull me behind him once he had spotted Turkey.
"Sadiq, what are you doing here?" Antonio asked, sounding more shocked than angry. I refused to be moved even though Antonio kept trying to shield me.
"I came here for, Romano."
I knew that despite being a rather non-violent person Antonio would be angered by that, but I was not prepared to be bodily moved, picked up and set behind him.
"It sounds like Lovino does not want to go with you, Sadiq. He may not be my colony, but you will not take him from me too."
Shit, now was not the time for Antonio to be bringing up his jealousy-issue-thing. Sure Turkey may not quite get what the tomato bastard was talking about, but he wasn't a complete moron and he caught that last word.
"Who else tried to take him from you, Spain? With how weak you've gotten, I'm surprised they didn't succeed." As Turkey continued to throw insults at Antonio and said bastard refused to let me defend him or even step around him, I noticed the other two finally entering the backyard; Spain from one side of the house, España from the other. Spain seemed content to watch for now, though should things head south I was sure he would intervene. España on the other hand looked furious and had already retrieved his halberd. I sent a minute shake of my head at him, hoping he would understand and hold off for now.
Antonio did not seem to mind any of the insults Turkey threw at him, he seemed to be ignoring them for the most part; simply making sure he did not take any steps towards me.
"You're too weak to protect Italy. I'm surprised he's even still around you since you're no longer able to protect him. What use are you to him? If I don't take him, someone else will, or he'll come to his senses and leave you. It's bound to happen sooner or later, Spain."
Antonio froze at that, his muscles tensing up and his hands clenching into such a tight fist that I could hear his knuckles pop.
"Don't worry, Antonio, I probably won't keep him for too long. After all, I'm not actually sure who would want to have that loud-mouthed, useless brat around."
I could swear that Antonio stopped breathing, his whole body going ridged. I could see Spain starting to advance on the unsuspecting nation and España who had actually been adhering to my warning was just shy of storming onto the porch behind Turkey.
Months ago those words would have brought up memories of Austria and they would have hurt more than anything else Turkey could say or do to me. I would have believed those words then, but with all of the reassurance and affection I had received from Spain and España and even Antonio, I could only roll my eyes at the insult. He was obviously just trying to rile Antonio up and to my surprise he succeeded.
Something about the way Antonio wound back his fist and then sent it flying, faster than I thought possible, into the other nation's face gave me chills. The short whistle of approval that came from Spain made the action all the sweeter, even if it wasn't as satisfying to hear as the sound of Sadiq's nose crunching beneath Antonio's fist.
The force of the punch sent Sadiq back down the stairs and onto his ass in the dirt. I think the pain must have deafened him because he had yet to notice Spain or España even though the former was laughing his ass off. I myself had to bite my lip to keep the sudden burst of laughter the stunned look on Sadiq's face caused.
Antonio still looked pissed even after that beautiful right hook. He stepped off the porch advancing on Turkey.
"You will not say such horrible things about my Lovinito." He said as he grabbed the front of Turkey's shirt and hauled him to his feet. "He is not useless. He is sweet and kind and infinitely patient with me, even when I was at my worst." Antonio was right in Turkey's face now, looking like he was only moments away from shifting the grip of his hands to strangle the other nation. "He took care of me at the risk of his own health when I was sick and weak and then asked for nothing in return. His only flaw is that he cannot see how wonderful of a person he is." I could feel my face heating up at the praise and had to push down the urge to deny what he was saying. "If you ever threaten him or insult him again, I will not kill you, but I will make you wish that I had."
Spain came forward now, seizing the back of Turkey's neck and squeezing when it looked like the other nation was getting back his bearings enough to take a swing at Antonio. "I couldn't have said it better myself. Although, make no mistakes, Sadiq, he won't kill you, but I will once he's done with you."
"Assuming I don't get to you first," España growled, bypassing his counterparts with only a quick glower at Turkey, before joining me on the porch. He inspected my previously broken wrist, fingers brushing carefully over the already fading bruise. "I could be persuaded to kill him now if you would prefer that, mi amorcito." He murmured to me as he bent to kiss my wrist.
"I'd rather you didn't," I said, snatching my wrist back before he could do any more embarrassingly cutesy, coupley shit. "The whole point of keeping you and Spain a secret from the rest of the world was to stop you from starting a war over something as stupid as Turkey trying to intimidate me. Besides, even if you killed him, he would just come back since his country isn't fading."
"He hurt you though."
"Yeah, and it's already healed. He's a colossal asshole but he's not a complete moron; he couldn't have actually taken me away or hurt me permanently without starting a war between our nations and I don't think that's something his people actually want. He just wanted to hurt Antonio, to hurt all of you."
España didn't look pleased, but at least he looked less murderous. I couldn't say the same for Antonio who was helping Spain forcibly escort Turkey away from the house. España and I followed their path to the front of the house, the Conquistador holding my hand, his thumb brushing over my wrist as if he still needed proof that the injury had healed.
When we finally got to the front of the house, Antonio was shoving Turkey into his car and Spain was standing off to the side, acting as a barrier should Turkey try to make a break for it. They were ignoring Turkey's demands for an explanation and I'm sure if I could've actually convinced that douche canoe to keep España and Spain a secret I would have given him some threats of my own before letting him go, but I knew that nothing I said would stop him from calling anyone that would listen as soon as he was back in his own country.
So, as he pulled out of the driveway I flipped him off, already making plans to call Greece and warn him that Turkey had shown up at Antonio's house, thrown around some absolutely wild accusations, and tried to start a war with both Spain and myself, all before driving off with a crazed sort of look in his eyes. Clearly the nation was insane and nothing he said could be taken at face value. Especially not rumors of there being three Spains. Greece would wake up at the first mention of Turkey making an ass of himself and then spread the news of Sadiq's mental decline like wildfire; it would reach every corner of the globe long before Turkey could make any of his owns calls. That bastard would be lucky if anyone even answered his calls once Greece was done.
I went inside to do just that while the tomato-bustards continued to linger outside to make sure Turkey had actually left, not that I honestly think he'd stay after being faced with not one furious Antonio, but three. It took a few tries for Herakles to actually answer his phone, no doubt I'd interrupted one of his many naps, but once I mentioned Turkey's name he was fully alert and more than happy to tell everyone else about Sadiq's latest act of dickery.
I said my goodbyes so Herakles could start making calls, not at all feeling guilty for ruining another nation's reputation, and hung up. After all, everything would go back to normal in a few weeks. It wasn't like Turkey was an ass to everyone and sooner or later people would forget, but for now, I was just satisfied to know that no one would believe him about the tomato-bastards and I wouldn't have to prepare for every nation to show up at once demanding answers. Now all I had to do was hope that the few nations that already knew Antonio's secret would keep their damned mouths shut when Turkey called.
Antonio finally came inside, the other two trailing behind him and though they looked like they wanted to say something to me, they split off towards the living room. Antonio remained in the room, moving to embrace me as soon as the others left.
"Are you alright, Lovi?" He said, nuzzling into my hair, hands rubbing soothing circles into my back.
"Of course I am, b…Antonio." I let my own arms encircle him. "Turkey didn't really hurt me and even without you there I could have handled him…Thank you for punching him though. That was," I took a deep breath, it was still a struggle to compliment him, but I was going to fucking do it. "That was impressive, Antonio."
"I didn't really think about it." When do you ever. "He insulted you and I was just so angry." His arms tightened around me. "I couldn't let him say those terrible lies."
"You didn't have to stand up for me either," I blushed, remembering the things Antonio had said in my defense. "I knew he was just being an asshole."
"Still, he shouldn't have said those things. You are not useless or a brat."
"He also called me a loud-mouth in case you forgot." He flushed but didn't make any move to deny it. For some reason I couldn't find it in myself to be angry about that. It was true after all.
"Well, I-I mean, you are kind of loud, Lovi – Not that that's a bad thing! You're just very opinionated and I –" I'm sure he would have continued to blather excuses if I hadn't have laughed. He fell silent, his eyes wide at the sound.
"It's fine, Tonio." I nudged him back a bit. "I know I'm loud. What he said didn't bother me and you don't have to apologize for the things he said." He eyes softened and before I knew it he was leaning down and placing a kiss on my forehead.
"Still, you should be told how wonderful you are, Lovi." He drew me back into a hug.
"I hope that one day I can convince you of that. I love you, Lovi."
I blushed up to my ears, forgetting for once that he didn't mean it that way. I grabbed onto his shirt and pulled him in close, pressing my face into his shoulder. "I love you too, bastard." I said, my voice probably too muffled by his shirt to be understood but it felt good to say (Though I would deny it if anyone were to ask). Instead of pulling away after such an admission, even though he probably hadn't heard it, I stood in his embrace and let myself be cuddled and cooed over. I'd be embarrassed if anyone else were around to see, but for now I had the luxury of pretending that it was just Antonio and I.
Antonio and I and a burning smell.
"Antonio…did you turn the stove off before you came outside?"
"The stove? What – Mierda!"
"To be honest, without us, I didn't think he had it in him." Spain admitted as he sank into one of the couches. España moved to sit in one of the armchairs, keeping an ear turned towards the hallway where Antonio and Romano were conversing.
"Neither did I, but I am happy to know that even with his pacifist nature, Antonio is willing to fight for our Romano." Spain snorted. "What?"
"You called him our Romano." Spain said, a smirk pulling at his lips.
"What happened to you not wanting to share him with me?"
"A lot of things have changed, Spain. Romano has changed. Antonio has changed. We all have. I love Romano and more than anything, I want him to be happy. If that means sharing his affections with my doppelgangers then so be it. If that means accepting you all so we can become one person again, then it will take some work, but I'm willing to try. For him."
"As much as I'd like it to be so, not everything we do can be for Roma. We have to want this for ourselves as well."
"I know, and that's why it will be difficult, but I no longer believe it's impossible."
"Until today I would have thought Antonio breaking Sadiq's nose and threatening him with bodily harm was impossible. If that was possible, then I think anything might be." Spain shared a grin with the Conquistador.
"We still need to help Antonio get over his hold ups, but I don't think I would mind being a part of someone who was that willing to stand up for the one he loves."
"Neither would I. I'm not sure how we're going to help – Do you smell that?"
"Mierda!" Antonio darted out of the hallway, scrambled through the living room and into the kitchen, Romano hot on his heels.
"I can't believe you forgot to turn off the fucking stove! You could have burned the house down!" Spain and España exchanged a look before following the other two into the kitchen.
España couldn't help but roll his eyes as Antonio tried to deal with the mess that was supposed to be dinner, Romano kept yelling insults even as he helped to put out the fire, and Spain just sat down at the table and laughed. It looked like he was going to have to interfere before Antonio started crying and Romano launched himself at Spain for being "absolutely no help whatsoever! Get off that goddamn chair and help us, asshole, or I'm going to lock you all out of my room tonight!"
That seemed to motivate his counterpart since Spain bolted to his feet, rolled up his sleeve and got to work. España couldn't stop the chuckled that escaped him at the scene, but quickly swallowed it as Romano's wrath turned on him.
Eventually they put out the fire, cleaned off the stovetop, took what remained of their dinner outside before it could stink up the rest of the house, retrieved the tomatoes, cooked another meal, and sat down together to have dinner.
As they ate, España watched the small smiles that Romano tried to hide whenever Antonio talked, the way his eyes lit up whenever Spain flirted with him (even if he did hide it behind indignant blustering), or even the way his face seemed to soften whenever España's eyes met his and wondered if this is what it would be like when he became one person again. Would they still have meals together? Would all those lovely expressions blend together whenever Romano looked at him, at the real Antonio?
España was determined to find out.
A/N: Thanks again for your patience guys. I'm going to try my best to give you a summary of what my life has been like the last two years. I don't remember if I mentioned it or not, but before the hiatus, my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. His conditioned deteriorated quickly and he died that summer (2013). At the same time my family found out that my mom had breast cancer. Everything turned out fine, she didn't end up needing chemo, but it wasn't the only cancer scare.
Sometime after I posted Chapter 24, we found out that my sister had thyroid cancer, it was removed before it could spread, but she's still going to have to have checkups every few years so there's still a possibility it will return. She seemed to handle it better than the rest of the family did.
During my Spring Semester (2014) I myself was having some serious health issues, they're still present, but they're not as bad. I went to a few doctors, had a lot of tests run, spent a ridiculous amount of money, was told for a while there that I had colon cancer, then that I had Crohn's Disease. Eventually, I was told that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me and I was making everything up. I didn't handle that well.
I have been dealing with mild depression since I was in high school, but it was never bad enough that I needed to be on medication. The news that there was nothing wrong, that my doctors didn't believe me and that my own family thought I was making things up, kind of made it all worse. I became apathetic towards everything, towards school (I graduated because quitting would've taken too much effort, but I gave up on grad school), towards work, even towards my friends and family.
I used to write all the time, not just because I was writing for you guys or for school, but because it helped make me feel something. After everything that happened though, I couldn't even write for myself anymore. I certainly couldn't bring myself to care about this story and though I felt guilty that I wasn't working on it, I also didn't have the will to even try. Seeing all of your reviews, while helpful, made me feel guilty, so after a while, I just stopped reading them. I'm sorry to all you guys who took the time to write to me, I'll try to read them eventually, but I'm still trying to sort myself out. I don't mean to discourage you guys from leaving reviews, I genuinely appreciate them and on the good days, they help.
Things are better, I'm writing again and it's helping me more than anything else has. I love you guys for sticking with me and for being such awesome readers; I'll try to reward you for your patience.