Hey, everybody! I hope you enjoy this final chapter. Nothing belongs to me, of course, and all mistakes are mine.
Isabella stared disinterestedly at the countryside flying past the window of her carriage, taking in none of the rolling green hills or the hauntingly beautiful forests as they passed. Her mind was occupied with thoughts of the past week's events and of the momentous task before her once she arrived at her destination.
The executions had been well-attended public affairs, all raucous crowds and jeering screams as the masses expressed the fury that had still been hot from the previous day's trials. Isabella had not attended. Perhaps, had the sentences been carried out at some future point, she would have been ready to watch in satisfaction as they died painful deaths. But for the moment, she could not find satisfaction in aught about the whole affair. She had simply grieved. In the privacy of her chambers and, when he was not at the executions, in the arms of her husband, she had grieved and she had cried.
She grieved for her oldest and truest friend, her mentor, the only one on earth who knew every facet of her being – now gone. The hole left in his wake gaped open, a spot in her life she was unsure could ever be filled again.
She mourned her childhood friend and his bride, barely starting their lives together, with dreams of what those lives would hold – dreams that would never be realized, lives that would never be lived. She mourned a child, a piece of Leah and Jacob's love, a spring of life waiting to join the world – cruelly torn from that world before ever able to draw breath.
She cried for Victoria and the horrible fate she had endured, the terrible crimes that had been committed against her without even the dignity of vindication. She lamented the loss of the long, happy life that could have been hers – one with a happy home, a loving and devoted husband, perhaps children.
She remembered Breanne, her faithful companion and loyal servant, who had unknowingly taken upon herself the death meant for her lady. She cried that she had barely known the girl and for the friendship that might have blossomed between them had she had more time.
Their faces continuously were before her eyes: Jacob, Breanne, Samuel, Victoria, Leah, Leo, a faceless innocent child, and scores of soldiers who had marched to war never to return.
These were the ones who deserved her thoughts, who had earned her attention now. Not the ones who had brought about their deaths through spite, envy, treason, and hatred. All the emotions and horror that she had been repressing had burst forth in a wave of pain and loss.
But much as she had lost, she also had much to be grateful for. Her life went on, and she had much to do. The day after the executions, she had called for the medic to attend to her, needing the certainty that his diagnosis would bring. Edward had been out with his father and brothers among the soldiers, organizing and managing them as they prepared to disband. After undergoing the examination she had requested with only Angela present, she dismissed him, deep in thought.
"Angela, would you accompany me to my former chambers?" she said calmly.
"My lady?" asked Angela, startled. It seemed an odd destination after receiving such news, especially given the horrors that had occurred recently therein.
"I have need to retrieve some items that were left there upon my departure," Isabella said firmly, and Angela wisely elected to question no further.
Once they had arrived at the rooms in which both Breanne and James had met their ends, Isabella did not hesitate. She immediately strode to the far right corner of her bed chamber and removed the small table resting there. Angela was surprised at the ease with which she moved it before realizing that its design was to appear deceptively heavy. She could not see what Isabella did in the corner as the princess's body was blocking her, but once Isabella straightened, she saw that a rather large velvet pouch rested in her hands.
Without another word, Isabella rejoined Angela, and the two mad their way back to Isabella's chamber. Though the maid struggled to hide it, Isabella noted with some amusement her extreme curiosity.
Once they were once again alone, the princess sifted through the bag until she found another, smaller velvet pouch inside, like those used to store jewelry. She held it reverently and carefully as she set the large bag on a nearby table.
"Angela, I have a request," she said with a slight smile.
"Anything, my lady," Angela replied immediately and perhaps a bit eagerly. "You know that."
"I am afraid I must ask for your absolute secrecy in this matter," The princess continued. She waited for Angela to nod once again before pressing the pouch into her maid's hands and explaining the task she wished Angela to accomplish.
Isabella smiled amusedly as she recalled Angela's unsuccessful attempts at securing an explanation without actually voicing the question. Then, as she contemplated the events of that evening, her grin grew tender and wistful.
"How fare the soldiers?" Isabella asked when her husband returned to their chambers. She had not seen him since they broke their fast in the morning, as he had taken both subsequent meals on the training fields with the men.
He sighed exhaustedly as he began to disrobe. "As well as can be expected, I suppose," he answered. "Many are still unable to return home due to their injuries, and those that can are eager to do so. But the customary rotation of those on duty to guard the prisoners is insufficient now . . . "
He continued to speak of the new arrangements being made, and Isabella listened with an attentive ear, if not fully engaging in the conversation. Once he had finished his tale and sat himself down in his favored armchair, he looked at her keenly.
"And what of you?" he asked. "How did you fare today?"
"Better than yesterday, my lord," Isabella answered with a small smile. "Though I am grateful I could devote a day for purging my emotions, idleness is not my lot, and so today I saw the medic."
Edward instantly sat up straighter, signs of his weariness disappearing as he did. "And?" he asked. Almost unconsciously, he rose from his chair to join her on the couch.
"Congratulations, my lord," she said with growing smile. "Your babe shall greet you seven months hence."
Edward stared at her for a moment before giving out a joyous laugh, lifting the both of them to their feet, and spinning her around in his embrace.
Despite all she had lost, she now had a child to protect, to nurture in her womb. Already, visions of a toddler with her husband's coppery locks and green eyes running about with another child, this one with Rosalie's hair and Emmett's grin, plagued her. Indeed, with the public announcement of both pregnancies two days later, such thoughts ran through the minds of many.
And as she grieved, healed, and began again, so did Englasia, for time was an unrelenting mistress who continued on with no thought to those she guided. Angela and Sir Benjamin, unwilling to wait any longer after the sobering events to which they had borne witness, had asked the king's permission to marry, which was immediately granted due to the regard with which the royal family held Benjamin and with which Isabella held Angela. They were now planning a small wedding, and Isabella was eagerly anticipating such a ray of joy to eclipse recent sorrows. She vaguely reflected that she would soon be without two handmaidens unless she began selecting replacements soon.
Both those who fell and those still living who had distinguish themselves in battle were honored in a series of military ceremonies three days after the trials, before the army disbanded. Sir Peter was recognized for his courage and swiftness of thought and action when dealing with Aro, and he was given the honor of being James's replacement as Edward's groomsman. Even so, the crown prince had a groomsman post yet open, for Sir Benjamin had been promoted to Prince Jasper's position (since Jasper's military titles were now but ceremonial).
The youngest prince had been forced to fight off a grimace through the ceremony honoring his sacrifice, still unaccepting of his new role in the kingdom. His wife stood beside him, looking like a lost and scared child. Her husband had ever doted on her and showered her with affection – never had he adopted aught but a tender and indulgent disposition in his dealings with her. She was unused to this new man who was ever angry and who lashed out when she offered her assistance in the simple tasks with which he now struggled. She had spent many an hour crying over these changes since her husband's return, and he had spent many a guilt-ridden night asking for her forgiveness as he dove deeper into self-loathing. Among the things that Isabella planned to do upon her return to the castle was a frank and pointed discussion with Lady Alice about the permanently altered state of her marriage, and she intended to ensure that Edward did the same with Jasper.
Though there was no specific ceremony or accolade to honor him, Edward had gone to the family of the man named Brady and expressed his gratitude personally. His widow had sat with an infant in her arms and a toddler clutching at her skirts as the crown prince told her of her husband's last act of bravery. Tears streamed slowly down her otherwise stoic face as he spoke, but a sob of gratitude escaped her when he assured her that he would, from his personal fortune, supply for their needs as long as he lived in recompense for Brady's sacrifice. Edward had thought that the situation could not have been more concrete to him after seeing Brady's body, but seeing those the man had left behind in order the save the prince's life had been staggering. Isabella had held him that night as he grieved anew for the man.
Isabella was brought from her thoughts suddenly as she noticed the landmarks they were passing, and a blinding smile lit her face as she realized how near to their destination they were. Minutes later, the carriage rolled to a stop, and her door opened almost immediately. She grabbed the hand extended to her and descended the steps before being hesitantly drawn into the arms of its owner.
"Hello, Papa," she said affectionately.
He gruffly cleared his throat before answering fondly, "Hello, daughter. I trust your journey was pleasant?"
"It was as wonderful, thank you," she said happily as she turned to embrace her much more enthusiastic mother.
"Oh, it is wonderful to see you, dear," her mother trilled in delight. "How are you? And how is your new babe? I was fretful with worry when word reached us that you had been taken right from King Carlisle's own castle!"
Isabella briefly considered reprimanding her mother for the faint note of satisfaction in her voice as she recounted the king's perceived ineptitude. But, as with all of Englasia and Arizia, she knew her mother would be unable to entirely forget past prejudices in a trice. So, with a patient yet firm tone, she replied, "Yes, James showed himself uncannily fast-thinking and shrewd in the endeavor, for how else could he have achieved such?" Then, before her mother could interject, she turned to her father, "It is because of James that I am here, incidentally."
"Is it?" Lord Charles asked, bemused.
"Yes, and I would like to begin my business as swiftly as may be," his daughter answered. "Shall we make our way to the council room?"
"But surely you can wait for one day, dearest!" Lady Renee exclaimed. "You have only just arrived, and you must rest from your journey."
"I am afraid that the matter I must attend to has been far too long waiting for someone to pay it heed," Isabella said firmly, leaving no room for argument. Her mother and father exchanged unsure glances at being dictated to by their daughter. The last time they had seen her, she had been with the king and the queen, so she had had no reason to assert authority. Now, though, she was the highest ranking noble among them, and they were not at all sure that they could stomach that truth easily. Isabella, feigning ignorance of their turmoil, continued. "Father, let us confer together in the council room and set the necessary wheels in motion that I might return to the castle as soon as I may."
Charles felt a soft pang in his heart at her eagerness to leave him, but he knew that it was not borne of a desire to leave his presence but rather a desire to be with her new family. The news of her pregnancy had been diligently spread throughout all of Englasia, as is the custom with royal announcements. He could understand her eagerness to return to her husband, though he was unsure why she had traveled hence alone but for the carriage driver who doubled as her guard, a Sir Benjamin.
Shaking such thoughts away with the self-assurance that she would soon explain all, he offered his arms first to his daughter (as the ranking lady) and then to his wife. As they walked up the stairs that led to his castle, Renee continued to chatter.
"As the herald said you were travelling without attendants—" Here she paused with a glance at her daughter so as to read her expression and give her opportunity to interject. When Isabella's expression did not change and she did not speak, Renee continued, "I have asked your former train to attend you for the length of your stay."
"That was very thoughtful, Mama, thank you," Isabella said with a smile and a nod.
As the small party reached the entrance chamber, Renee took her leave to oversee the preparations for the feast that evening in Isabella's honor, and Charles led her to the empty council room.
Once they were both seated and were comfortable, he finally spoke, "My child, what is it that concerns you so?"
"Father," she began, consciously reverting to a slightly more formal address. "I am here to reopen an investigation into a crime that was swept under the rug ten years ago and to oversee a reform in the judicial system."
Her father's jaw was slack by the end of her statement, unsure how to process or respond. Finally, he uttered the first coherent thought that occurred to him. "But you said your business had to do with that scoundrel, James."
"And it does," Isabella assured. "The crime to which I am referring is the brutal rape and murder of his wife, Victoria."
She went on explain the contents of the letter that James had left behind. Charles's brow furrowed deeper with every sentence, and his troubled expression did not lift once she had finished the telling.
"And you wish to launch an inquiry?" he concluded after a brief silence.
"Of course. I wish to discover who would be so callous as to willfully overlook such a crime, and I wish to discover the perpetrator as well if at all possible," Isabella answered passionately.
"But what of this reform you speak of?" Charles asked carefully. "It is true that our legal system remains somewhat separate from that of Englasia proper while I live, but we still operate under the authority of the king."
"It is under the king's authority that I come, Father," she answered. "I know that, had James been able to petition you for help, you would not have let this atrocity go unpunished. I do not blame you for the laws which thwarted him nor for a circumstance of which you were entirely ignorant. But, especially with the joining of the two nations, you must see that opportunity for similar such abuses borne of prejudice are more abundant than ever. We must find a way to prevent them."
Charles regarded his daughter for a moment before nodding slowly. "Does the king have a plan he wishes to implement?"
"He does, one that I proposed to him, and he has agreed that I may handle any necessary negotiations or alterations while I am here."
"And why did he not send Lord Eleazar for this task?" Charles asked carefully. He had never understood his daughter, and her deep involvement in this matter was baffling to him.
Isabella paused for the first time since the meeting had begun. "Because I felt very strongly that as this was an Arizian crime deliberately overlooked by Arizians, it should be Arizians who put it to right. This was our responsibility as a nation, and we failed; it is our mess to clean up, as the commoners would say. The king did not disagree, so he indulged me in this. Once the initial investigation into the particular events of that day is complete and we have agreed on a plan going forward, I shall leave and Lord Eleazar shall return to oversee the long-term implementation."
Charles nodded thoughtfully, briefly considering how much respect the king must have for his daughter to allow her such influence over his decisions in this matter. Swallowing his reluctance and for the first time allowing a woman to lead, he asked "And how do you wish to proceed?"
"Today, I only wish to send out a small band to discover the location of Victoria's murder," she said immediately. "Once that is determined, we shall find out what local authorities presided over that area ten years ago."
Charles agreed. "If we select the members of the party today and they are currently in residence at the castle, I can have everything readied for an early departure tomorrow."
They eventually decided that the party would be led by Lord Ephraim, a brother of Lord William Black who had traveled the whole of Arizia many times in his service to the former King Charles. He knew the province as well as anyone and had contacts nearly everywhere. Also going would be Ephraim's son Jared, Lord Seth, and Lady Susan. Despite her father's protests that such a journey should not be undertaken by a woman, Isabella knew Susan to be capable and hearty and suspected that a woman's presence might ease fear and loosen female tongues in the villages. They acknowledged that the group was all related in some way, but neither trusted aught but Charles's closest advisors after Demitri's betrayal.
As they suspected the crime must have taken place in a border village, as even the most friendly of Englasians had rarely ventured further, the group would begin there. Such a crime, even one quickly dismissed, would have caused talk among the villagers, so their hope was that it would be a relatively simple matter to find the correct location. If they failed to discover it on the border, they would slowly work their way inward until they found the site of the crime.
Once all the appropriate parties had been informed and preparations had begun, Isabella rose from her seat and said, "Now I shall indeed rest as mother suggested, for nothing more can be accomplished today that will not be equally effective tomorrow. We shall talk then about the reforms the king desires."
Charles, having risen as soon as she had, offered his arm without a word, still unused to being subject to her orders. He escorted her to her former chambers and left her there to rest and ready herself for the evening's banquet.
Isabella spent three weeks in total at her childhood home, which was fortuitous as Edward had been unwilling to allow her to remain apart from him for more than a month while she was pregnant. Though she allocated time to reconnecting with her parents and former comrades, and though some time was spent engaging with and reassuring the Arizian people who were as yet uneasy about recent events, her focus was primarily on the missions with which the king had entrusted her.
Lord Ephraim and his team did not send back word of the location of their quarry for two weeks, during which time Isabella, Charles, and his remaining trusted advisors crafted the new system for appeals. Isabella's plan, which had been approved by the king, called for a panel of men and women from both Englasia proper and the province of Arizia to be formed. The committee would be available to all those with grievances against the government, particularly of discrimination based on their place of origin, to air their complaints. The panel would then decide whether the complaints were valid and merited further investigation and pass along their findings to the appropriate parties.
Once she had explained to the Arizians the plan and they had exhausted all their questions and objections, they moved on to negotiations. They spent hours of time sequestered in Charles's council room arguing the ratio of Arizians to Englasians, the frequency with which the group would convene, and the process for voting on the complaints' validity. After what seemed an eternity of endless discussion, an agreement was reached that was satisfactory for all parties, ready for implementation once Lord Eleazar arrived.
Soon after, Lord Ephraim sent a messenger with news of the village wherein Victoria's murder had occurred. The town was called Volariton and was one of the places earmarked as a likely candidate. Charles and, over his half-hearted protests, Isabella immediately set out for the town to join the investigation that Lord Ephraim already had launched. The lead investigator of the town, Constable Felix, who had been the one to close Victoria's case, was by this time retired. The younger men who had served with him, though, and who had assisted in the cover-up, were still in power. Through much time spent questioning the townspeople, threatening the corrupt authorities, and reassuring the reluctant that there would be no ill consequences for their honesty, the sordid truth was pieced together.
Constable Felix had been across the street glaring with hatred at the Englasian couple through a shop window when James had taken his leave of Victoria. He had followed her, forced himself upon her, and then ensured that she would never be able to tell another of his deeds. When James had brought the crime to light, Felix had played on his fellow officers' prejudices to pressure them to "leave well enough alone." After all, were they truly willing to arrest a fellow Arizian in the name of an Englasian?
For those who had been unwilling to look the other way based on her nationality, he had resorted to subtle threats against them and their families. And though those men suspected strongly based on his words and actions that Felix was the guilty party, in the end, none were willing to risk their lives and livelihoods in order to prove it. However, when their former king arrived with what seemed half his court and began demanding answers under threat of imprisonment or even death for treason should they lie, the constable suddenly did not seem quite so terrifying by comparison.
The constable was arrested along with the officers who had willingly overlooked the crime, though the charges for those who had been threatened were to be lighter. Lord Ephraim agreed to remain in the village as interim constable until the many positions that had been left empty were filled once again, and the rest of the party returned to Charles's castle, leaving the prisoners in his capable hands for holding until trial.
Isabella began her journey home the day after their return from Volariton, over the insistent protests of her mother, having accomplished all that she had intended and desiring greatly to lay eyes on her husband once more. Her parents watched her carriage until it was no longer visible from the castle steps, feeling a sort of admiration for their daughter as they did. It was not pride – after all, she had little in common with the woman they had intended her to be and so seemed a stranger to them in many ways – and it was not without ruefulness at her sudden leadership over them. But it was genuine.
Crown Prince Edward stroked his wife's stomach absentmindedly as she read beside him, caressing the babe within her womb. The rest of his family sat about the room, each engaged in their various pursuits or in scattered idle conversations. His father had summoned them all to one of his private sitting rooms to enjoy the evening as a family, knowing that their bonds needed affirming and strengthening as they each healed from recent events. He had insisted on a few hours dedicated to quietly and simply being with one another without regard to the ponderous affairs to which they had been attending.
Edward's gaze travelled lazily to his youngest brother and sister as he pondered their situation. He and Isabella had spoken to Jasper and Alice respectively in an effort to, with blunt honesty, interrupt the destructive pattern their relationship had fallen into. Neither talk could be said to have gone well – Jasper having attempted to punch Edward at one point and Alice having thrown herself at Isabella to sob hysterically into her shoulder – but it seemed that after the strong emotions had subsided, the two had taken to heart the advice and hard truths that had been presented to them. They were not as peaceful in their relationship as they once had been, but they were slowly finding their way back to one another.
Rosalie was chatting quietly with Alice, her stomach bearing witness to the babe growing within her, and Edward felt a small thrill of anticipation for when Isabella's middle would similarly grow. A subtle fidgeting at his size drew his eyes back to his wife, and he noted with some curiosity her finger as it tapped rapidly against the cover of the book in her hands. If he did not know his wife as he did, he might have said she seemed nervous.
"Is something troubling you, wife?" he said lowly into her ear.
Isabella's head snapped around in surprise before she schooled her expression. "Nothing troubles me, Edward," she said sincerely. At his doubtful look, she went on. "I have something I wish to discuss with you, and I wonder what will your reaction be, but it is nothing alarming."
Far from being stifled, his curiosity increased tenfold at her words. But he nodded acceptingly rather than pushing her for answers he knew she would not divulge in the current setting. He soon found himself mirroring her restlessness and breathed a quiet sigh of relief when his father at last announced that he was retiring, effectively granting the rest permission to do the same. The others in the room copied him, noting the lateness of the hour, and Edward eagerly escorted his wife back to their chambers.
"Now, my love," he said immediately after the door had closed behind them. "What is it that you wish to discuss?"
Isabella smiled faintly before wordlessly walking over to a small table that rested beside the bed. From the depths of one of its drawers she drew a small velvet pouch before making her way back to Edward, avoiding his inquisitive gaze.
"Shall we sit?" she asked, not waiting for his reply before settling herself on a couch. He joined her slowly, almost warily, the careful way in which she was conducting herself confusing him.
"Isabella?" he said.
She wordlessly handed him the bag, and he carefully opened it to reveal a beautiful silver wrist cuff. It was adorned with a single large ruby, and he could tell immediately that it was both very valuable and very old. He was going to voice his gratitude and his confusion when Isabella began speaking.
"I do not know if you are aware, but had Arizia stayed autonomous, I would have ruled sovereign after my parents had passed," she began quietly, looking mostly at her lap.
"Eleazar once told me, yes," he said, utterly thrown by the place in which the conversation had begun.
"Assuming I had married, my husband would have become my queen-consort and ruled by my side," she continued. "He would have received that wristband upon ascending the position. It is an ancient heirloom of my family and has been worn by every male ruler since Arizia's inception. You can just make out our coat of arms etched onto the inside. I know it is not customary for a member of the royal family to wear a token of a lower one, much less a conquered one, but I wished for you to have it. I wear a ring that has been passed down for centuries through the Englasian royal family as a symbol of our union, as do you. But I wish for you to have a similar mark that comes from me and speaks to my history, so I commissioned its cleaning, as is custom before giving it to a new possessor. It is yours, if you agree to wear it."
Her eyes were downcast as she finished speaking, and Edward suddenly understood her uncharacteristic uncertainty. It would be highly irregular, perhaps even frowned upon, for him to wear such a token, and the implications of accepting such a gift were many and varied. On a personal level, he would be allowing her to lay claim to him as her husband in a tangible manner, and with an artifact that was once to be given to a man who would have been beneath her, no less. Mere weeks ago, he would have been wholly unwilling to humble himself in such a way. And he knew that by this gesture she was displaying her full acceptance of him as her husband.
And, though she had not mentioned it as part of her reasoning, he knew that she was not ignorant of the significance of the act for Arizia as a whole. If it truly had always been worn by the male ruler in Arizia, then her father must have once worn it. He must have taken it off once he was no longer king and entrusted it to her, and she had secreted it away all this time. By offering it to him, an Englasian, she was symbolically acknowledging his full right to one day rule her people, a gesture that was neither expected nor coerced.
Isabella looked up at her husband after several moments of silence, desperate to know what he was thinking, feeling more vulnerable than she ever had. He was staring at the cuff in his lap with absentminded awe. This was perhaps the largest step in their relationship that she had initiated, and it left her feeling raw and exposed. She did not think that he could comprehend how much she was risking by offering him this. The truth was that this was her last stronghold, the last part of her and her past that she was holding back from him. She was offering herself with all her pieces, and she could not bear it should he reject it.
He finally looked back up at her, and she was relieved to see an unchecked smile grow across his face as he did. "I would be incredibly honored," he answered earnestly before closing the distance between them for a brief but passionate kiss. Pulling back, he held out his left arm. "Would you please?"
She lifted the cuff from his lap and carefully secured it to his wrist. They took a moment to admire the effect before Edward looked back at her with wonder in his eyes.
"I love you," he said intensely, his eyes broadcasting both his joy and his seriousness.
"And I love you," Isabella replied with a genuine smile before leaning in to press her lips to his once again.
He responded enthusiastically, deepening the kiss and sweeping her into his arms. He deposited her on their bed, and together they celebrated all that they had overcome, all that they hoped to achieve, and, in that moment in time, all that they were together.
And that, my friends, is the end. Hope it was a worthy finish.
Thank you all so much for all your support and kind words. I would never have managed to finish this if you hadn't been bolstering me and telling me that you cared about my characters the whole way through. This has been a rewarding and growing experience for me, and I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I did. And now, I thought I'd also give you a little insight into why I started this story to begin with.
To be honest, this story was born out of frustrations with certain B/E fics out there: ones where Edward is a completely horrible, arrogant person who treats Bella like trash. Yet she stills falls for him because (a) she convinces herself that even though he degrades her and tears her down time after time, there's a good man in there and it's up to her to bring him out with her tenderness and love and/or (b) he's just too good-looking, and she becomes a blubbering, enraptured fan girl incapable of standing up for herself whenever she's in close proximity to him. It frustrates me how this lack of respect for herself is often portrayed as romantic, when in reality it's just unhealthy.
Those kinds of fics are everywhere, and one night I wrote the first chapter of Desperate Outmanned as a cleansing exercise, almost. It was sort of a venting of all the things I wished authors would let Bella say to all those Edwards. Afterwards, I decided to post it on a whim. I certainly did not expect it to get any attention, and I had not planned anything more of the plot than what was in that first chapter. But when I did decide to continue, I made sure that Edward reformed himself and then Bella fell in love with him, not the other way around. I can't believe what it grew to become with your encouragement and help. Again, thank you.
Right now I'm not planning to write any more fan fiction, though that's not to say I never will if another idea strikes like this one did. I've been playing around with an original work for some time now, and I'm hoping to dedicate more time to it now that this is finished.
Thank you (one last time) for all your reads, reviews, follows, and favorites – you guys are the best! Bye!