You know those people who, when their lives start falling apart, they bury themselves in work and just kinda push themselves to figure shit out one day at a time. It’s also a great method to deny that shit’s falling apart. After all, if it’s not actively in your face and you’re doing work and you’re doing it well, how could anyone say you’re falling apart? 

I am that person.

And in the second half of May, my life unraveled at the seams. By July, all I had were a few threads painfully clinging to one another, unable to let go until the last, heartfelt tug was given and the knot broke apart. 

To say I was utterly broken would be an understatement. When writing doesn’t happen, when it’s painful to eek out 500 words in a day, I’m in bad shape. Writing is my work. Parenting is also my work. Cleaning the house, making sure everyone is taken care of — these are the things I do, the things I throw myself into when things are tough. When I can’t even do that….

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post about how my therapist says I’m not allowed to stop writing. That I need it. He’s not wrong. Word counts are how you know how well I’m functioning. Finished works are an indicator strip; the higher the number, the better I’m doing. 

Today, I submitted another erotica short for publication on Amazon — it was one I wrote a few months ago, that I edited to stand alone. I also wrote a 1400 word chapter for a fanfic, because I wanna play and not work. And I wrote 750 words for a novella I intend to publish when the time comes. It’s actually an expanded version of another short I published on Amazon; when this one is finished, I’m taking the short down. Tomorrow, I hope to submit a work or two to a magazine. Start the process of trying to get my non-erotica related name out there. 

After all, it’ll help when the time comes for my novels — the ones that aren’t purely erotic romance — to get published. I’d like to go the traditional route with them, if I can. We’ll see what happens. 

Until then, enjoy some fic, where Savin is basically me:

“What’re you doing here, Savin?” Mari asks, annoyance creeping into her voice. She doesn’t look up from the chart she’s staring at. Doesn’t even hand it over to me like she would if she needed a consult — and I can tell she does, the way she’s chewing on her lip and furrowing her brow. 

“You said that I should stop by the hospital, sometime,” I quip, offering her a shaky smile. I put my hands in my pockets. 

“Yeah, as in to work, not lounge around,” Mari mutters, glancing at me. 

My smile falters somewhat as I look around the hospital floor. “Looks like you guys aren’t all that busy. How’s trauma been without me?”

“Awful,” Mari says with a sniff. She closes the chart, holding it in front of her. Her eyes soften somewhat as she looks over at me again. “You can’t sleep, can you?”

I shake my head. Better not to answer with words; my voice might crack, and as I follow Mari to one of the nurses’ stations, there are quite a few eyes on the both of us. She seems to sense it, too, and just shakes her head as she walks, shoving her hands in the pockets of her lab coat. “You sure you can’t just throw on a pair of scrubs and head down to trauma?” she asks, glancing at me over her shoulder. 

“Mari, you know I can’t –”

“Savin, if you were going to sleep, you wouldn’t have come here,” she says, putting a hand up to stop me from saying anything else. She pulls out a couple of bills from her pocket. “Go buy a pair of scrubs. Go clock in. Do a few hours of work.” 

I glance down at the money, frowning at it. She really can’t think I’m really going to take it, can she? Except she doesn’t lower her hand at all, even thrusting her hand forward again and giving me an expectant look. Sighing, I take the money from her and shove it in my pocket. “Surprised I haven’t been fucking fired yet.”

“Don’t think they can fire the Emperor, Savin,” Mari says, placing her own hands in her pockets. She glances around the nurses’ station and moves in close to me, lowering her voice. “You haven’t been on the fucking roster since you became Emperor, anyway. Any work you do here is moonlight work, and you know it, so go help out. There was a MVA just an hour or two ago. At least one patient is still waiting for surgery.”

“If they’re waiting, then their case isn’t that bad, and –”

“When was the last time you did surgery?” 

I clamp my mouth shut, my fingers twitching at the very question. I hang my head, pursing my lips together. Bite back a response about how I’m still the best, even if I might be out of practice. I can’t even tell her when I last performed surgery. “I’ll…go see if they need help,” I said quietly, heading towards one of the scrubs machines.

Mari stops me, one hand on my arm before she pulls me close to her, wrapping her arms around me tightly. “It’ll help clear your head, okay?” she whispers into my shoulder. “Might even help you sleep.” 

I nod, not knowing what else to say. “Thanks,” I murmur as I pull away from her. “I’ll see if it does.” 

Mari smiles up at me. That same, warm smile I fell in love with over a decade ago. She picks her chart back up, studying its contents as I give myself a small shake. It feels weird as I pick up a pair of scrubs and change in the hospital’s locker room. Thankfully I had a pair of contacts in my locker still, as wearing glasses while doing surgery is a pain in the fucking ass. 

When I’m done changing, I find that I feel different. Right, for the first time in who knows how long. Mitchel is free to annoy the ever living shit out of me. The hospital staff still welcomes me as I walk into the trauma center and take a look around. Mari’s smile from earlier. The Empire, for the time being, is still holding on to its last shred of hope.

And so am I, I realize as I take hold of a scalpel in who knows how fucking long. The knife fits perfectly in my gloved hand, completing me in a way that only Jazz really could — at least, as complete as I’ll ever be, without him. 

Except as I slip into my old surgical routines, my shoulders relax. My mind settles. I may have made a mistake letting Mitchel free. I know that now. But it’s a mistake I’m willing to own, and a mistake I’m willing to correct, in whatever way I can. The Empire won’t fall apart. Mitchel doesn’t want that any more than I do — he just wants to see it move towards a better path, just like I do.

He’ll challenge me. But I need that. He’ll be an asshole, but I think I need that, too. No matter how I look at things, I keep coming back to one, simple truth:

I need Mitchel. 

I’m just not sure how much.