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Grim Wolf
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The Very Best
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"You're welcome," Belle said, smiling at the rather-battered girl now dozing off. She grabbed the mud-splattered summer dress she'd woken up in her first day on the island and tossed it over Liz; it wasn't likely to be much of a blanket, but Belle didn't think she had anything else to offer. Did she?

She checked her bag, rifling through it's overstuffed contents. She should probably get rid of some of it, she thought, but she wasn't sure what to get rid of. Many of her excess clothes she'd already discarded--no need to keep the boys entertained when several of them would likely kill her on sight--but the bag was still a bit too heavy. Belle had some endurance, no doubt about that, but she wasn't sure she could carry this much...

Her fingers trailed over glass, and she frowned and pulled out the object in question. It was a bottle of wine--the one her mother, Belle remembered, had stowed into her bag.

Bittersweet thought, that. Her mother only drank wine when she'd been looking over her manuscripts.

Sitting in the darkness with a bottle of wine in one hand, Belle looked up towards the ceiling and sighed.

She had found Liz Polanski. There was something to be glad of, right? She had found Liz, Liz was alive, Liz was making plans and fighting the system. This was everything Belle wanted.

And she still wasn't sure it was enough.

She leaned heavily against one of the rough tunnel walls, still staring at the invisible ceiling above her. Awakening in this place had been a nightmare Belle had no desire to repeat--that sense of complete helplessness, of terrible fear. To be afraid for one's life wasn't what she had imagined it to be; it wasn't a fear of death. It was an instantaneous and total sense of loss--not only of her life but of her dreams, of her potential experiences. Everything she might do or feel was at risk, and she had felt that risk as a yawning gulf deep within her heart.

Until she'd put on her gi. Until she'd remembered that the only thing she'd ever wanted to do was fight.

And what vindication! Finding Garrett again, taking him down, and taking him down hard; leaving his arrogant ass out in the wind to suffer unconscious. When she'd won, she'd lost some of her doubt; when she'd won, she'd thought she could do as she needed to do.

Except there was Jackie. And Samantha Ridley.

Grimacing, Belle set the bottle down and pulled her bag closer to her, digging around until she found a hairpin. After a few tries, she managed to uncork the wine. She took a long pull to quiet the flutter of rage and doubt in her stomach.

Samantha Ridley. Christ.

What Samantha Ridley was doing was wrong, Belle had no doubt of that. But in spite of her certainty, Jackie had been willing to take Samantha's offer--Jackie had been willing to die. Samantha had accommodated her, but the act--the surrender--had all been Jackie's. And in Samantha Ridley's mind, she was doing them a favor.

Belle took another pull, savoring the aftertaste and the sweet ache of a regret.

Why hadn't Belle paid attention?

No answer was immediately forthcoming. Liz was asleep, and anyways Belle wasn't going to trouble her with entirely personal concerns--Liz looked like she'd gone through enough already, exhausted as she was and with those burns on her necks. Belle fingered the collar around her neck, wondering if that was the only way to disable them. She considered herself to be fairly tough, but she didn't think she could handle that much pain.

Darkness, and doubts, and questions.

I can't forgive Samantha Ridley.

The thought came like a bullet, shocked her out of the half-doze she was in. She sat up a little straighter. Why? She'd let Samantha go; she'd spent the past two days thinking about what she'd said and what she'd done. She had let Samantha go because she had been ashamed of her own anger, of her blindness to the problems of those around her. Samantha had at least acknowledged Jackie, even if that acknowledgement consisted of a fatal arrow.

Samantha wasn't evil, just misguided. Everyone on this island, every killer and every victim, was the same. Maybe the things some had done were monstrous, but none of it would have been possible without the actions of the ones who'd brought them here. Danya was the true evil; every time she got caught up in petty grudges and anger, she gave him a victory. She was only going to make it off this island if she could this collar off and break Danya; to do that, she would have to rise above herself, above her fury and her stupidity.

But Samantha Ridley and those like her could not be forgiven. It wasn't a question of circumstance; they had accepted Danya's terms as their own, and had chosen to play his game. Belle might be stupid, but she wasn't weak; she'd avoided getting trapped in that idiocy.

She wasn't going to let her dreams die here. She wasn't going to let the dreams of others die here. And she sure as hell wasn't going to allow Samantha Ridley to kill so freely, so completely devoid of guilt.

Liz started to stir besides her. Belle glanced over, frowning, and then looked at the bottle of wine in her hand. She waited a moment or two, then whispered, "Liz?"

A moment of silence. "Yeah?" the other girl croaked.

Belle swallowed. "Wine?" she asked, offering the injured goth some of her bottle. Liz didn't say anything for a few seconds, then shifted and took the bottle from her hands. They passed it back and forth in complete silence, until the bottle had been reduced by about a third.

"I came looking for you," Belle said. "I...I can fight, but that's pretty much all I can do." She looked at the bottle in her hands, feeling a bit light-headed. "And there's no shortage of people who can fight, here. Who can fight better than me, if they got any sort of weapon. Much less a gun." She grimaced and looked towards her hands. "I got...I got distracted. I was picking fights I couldn't..." She trailed off. "I want to go after Danya," she said. "He's...all the evil that happens here is his fault. I'm not saying we're blameless, but...but it couldn't have happened if it weren't for him." She looked at her hands.

"I needed to find you, Liz," Belle said simply. "I needed someone who could free me."

She didn't speak for a little while, and neither did Liz.

"I don't know if you've got a bigger plan," Belle continued. "But Danya put a bounty on you, and he hasn't killed me yet. Whatever you're doing, I...I want to help out. Try to protect you. But I've...I've got kind of a thing I need to deal with." Samantha Ridley's face appeared in front of her. "A girl. A killer. We agreed to meet at the Sawmill tomorrow." She shrugged. "If you, uh...if you don't have any plans, I think I need to..." She struggled to find the words. "I can't forgive anyone who could lose that much hope. Enough hope to start-"

A larger evil doesn't mitigate lesser evils. Sins are still sins. And just because she could understand why Samantha had done what she'd done didn't make it any less monstrous.

"If you don't have other plans," Belle continued. "We could head that way."
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Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

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