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Litany Against Fear
Topic Started: Mar 15 2014, 06:35 PM (1,335 Views)
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((Mirabella Strong continued from All Battles Are Fought By Scared Men Who’d Rather Be Some Place Else))

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing......Only I will remain.


Bella stared blankly at the words on the page before her, scrawled in a messy font far removed from the delicate cursive she’d maintained back home. A long time ago she might’ve bitten her lip and chided herself for such sloppy handwriting, especially given how important these words had been to her, but now she didn’t care at all about such insignificant minutiae. It didn’t matter anymore. Very little mattered now, in fact.



She and Ami had quickly ran from the area in a hurried rush, their point of destination completely unknown to the pair of them. Though Bella had resisted her friend’s hurried urges, any attempts at fighting back had quickly fled her system, replaced merely by thoughtless following in Ami’s footsteps. They’d eventually reached the outskirts of the shopping mall, arriving there winded and desperate for shelter and rest. At the same time, however, Bella didn’t want to stop. She didn’t want to stop running away, because running away meant that she didn’t have to acknowledge what had happened, didn’t have to accept that her very world had been yanked away from under her.

But she stopped anyway, having found herself unable to protest against moving into the store. All in all, there were worse places to go to, the mall providing some practical use to them both. Neither of them had left for the trip well prepared for a situation like this, and days of roughing it out there had left their clothing a thread away from falling apart completely. They’d found the store easily enough, a small clothing boutique, the name of which Bella didn’t care about, filled with a myriad of labels that she didn’t care about either. Things like brand names or whether it was colour coordinated or suited her figure had lost all significance now, replaced by the basic need for something that’d aid her in one thing; survival.

Bella gathered the clothes quickly enough; some old jeans, a baggy t-shirt, a puffer jacket, and a pair of hiking boots. Nothing special, but it did the job. She shortly returned to Ami, her new outfit bundled together in a loose pile in her arms, and titled her head to the side as she spoke of her own accord for the first time in what seemed like forever. “Would you mind leaving for just a few minutes?” She asked, her voice halfway between a monotone and betraying some semblance of emotion. “I’ve got to get changed, is all. I’ll be fine. It’ll just be a few minutes.”



Once Ami had left, Bella sat up calmly and removed her pack from her shoulders, withdrawing the beret she’d stowed within it what seemed like forever ago. She stared at it blankly, the happy memories she’d once associated with it having long since lost their significance. It was no longer a relic of a brighter past, of times of joy, now merely an object that had found its way into her belongings. In spite of its seeming pointlessness, though, merely glimpsing at the well-worn hat sent revulsion coursing through her system, its very touch making her want to retch. She didn’t know why, and she didn’t care. All she knew was that she needed to ensure that it went away, ensure that this singular object that’d conjured up such feelings within her never did so again.

She walked silently and deliberately towards one of the the racks of clothing that divided the store, nary an emotion etched onto her features as she turned the fabric of the cap over and over in her hands. At first, she wasn’t sure why she’d asked Ami to leave, but when she properly examined the hat within her shaking hands she knew the exact reason.

Tucked within the corner of the beret was a rolled up photograph, stowed there some point in the past. She’d almost forgotten about it, the memory of its existence only returning to her once her nail had traced along its side. It was fairly mundane, in truth, a mere snapshot of her with her alongside her father at a party of some kind. He looked so happy and smiley, unawares of what’d happen to his family only a few months on. Her attention lingered on his glossy features for a few seconds, before snapping back to the other occupant in the picture. Looking back at her was Mirabella Strong, honours student and valedictorian nominee with a ride to Brown University, the same Mirabella Strong that panicked over a simple spelling mistake and fretted over what skirt to wear to school,

the same Mirabella Strong that had someone in her life who’d protect her and keep her safe.

Her Garrett was gone, as were her parents who’d always promised to be there for her. They were the only important ones in her life, the only one that mattered, the only reason she lived, the only things she needed or wanted in this world, two of whom she’d never see again, and the other having been snuffed out by a girl whom was allied with someone she’d once labeled a friend. All of this ran its way through Bella’s mind, emotions violently churning within her like a tornado as the truth she’d jettisoned from her mind returned in full force.

She raced back to her daypack, hurriedly pulled the notebook from beside it, and wrenched it open. Pages upon pages of the same words, written over and over again with each subsequent letter losing coherency and form were torn from their bindings; a simple photograph that’d been a mere moment to her but was now a sickening reminder of the truth; a beret that she’d been so pleased to recieve all those years ago - it was all roughly torn into hundreds of pieces as Bella let out every emotion that she needed to, removed every trace of evidence that reminded her of her Garrett or her family or anybody else.

But that wasn’t enough. Even with the pile of paper and cloth at her feet, she wasn’t finished, wasn’t done releasing her anger and fear and every other singular feeling that rampaged its way through the ruin of her mind. The racks crashed the ground with a boom that resounded around the area, cracking the linoleum and sending dust and clothing around the room. They were followed by the remainder of her own personal belongings, a multitude of insignificant reminders of a life she’d never be able to fully regain scattered across the mess of the store.

Bella stopped eventually, the damage she’d done coming to the forefront of her mind. At first she regretted what she’d done, regretted taking out everything and letting herself become such a mess, but after a few seconds she dismissed it. She didn’t care about that anymore, and why should she? She needed to do it, needed to do something to vent every emotion she’d abstained from releasing. If she hadn’t, then she would’ve gone crazy.

She wasn’t crazy, was she?

She limply dropped to her knees, letting herself lie down upon the chaos she’d strewn about the place in her rage. She considered returning to her feet, replacing the mask she’d maintained for so long, but she didn’t. Couldn’t, rather. There was no way for her to return to some plastic smile, pretend that everything would be okay. Because it wouldn’t. There was no chance for anything like that, not anymore. So she stayed there, amongst the tattered fabric and twisted metal and shards of glass, not caring who saw or what they thought, even when Ami returned.

Because Ami would understand.

She knew she would.
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Ami found the cigarettes in a inlet, one of those Newspaper Stands that sold more drinks or peanuts than newspapers. Place had been half-ransacked. The packs were still factory-sealed and Ami took her chances. Newport. Ami had only started two months before the trip so she didn't 'have' a type, just picked what was closest.

She took a piece of the crumbed floor and held it in her hand. The glass snked, gave way after that.

If Ami had looked she would have known that there was a lighter in her medkit, had she looked, implying that she would have ever needed to look. Instead she took her chances with the only chance she had and reached her hand into the jagged maw. She didn’t cut herself, small favors, but for a second a tiny spot on her hand burned and she felt whole body freeze. Ami took out a zippo, silver, standard.

What did Dillon tell her? She tapped the front of the package against her palm and opened it. She removed one, keeping it between knuckles. She breathed, inhale, exhale, then placed the filter to lip, drawing them in. It took three tries to get it work, five more to actually light the tip. Pulled, breathed in, out, then pulled.

Ami sputtered. The cigarette clenched in her knuckle as she hacked. She'd get used to it. Ami breathed deep, ragged, like she was trying desperately to stop her throat from passing out her lungs, then placed the filter between her lips. Inhale, exhale, through the nose. No taste that time.

Close your eyes.

II On the right -- the sun.
On the left -- the moon.
Ahead -- the stars.


Mira would be fine, she told herself. Mira must have been self-conscious. That was okay. Not everyone was comfortable with undressing in front of others. Ami worried about a lot of things, her body not being one of them. She was not the type to shy away from the locker room. It was all natural. She didn't mind. Besides, even if she were shy about things like that, wasn't that what clothes were for?

Her eyes were heavy as she opened them back up. She looked down. The oxford shirt underneath was open, parted, covering just enough to keep it pg-13. Ami didn't seem to care so much about being half-naked as she realized the leather jacket she had on top. Christ. Didn't Gavin wear one of these? No wonder he wore that stupid thing around, if it was half as comfortable as the one she had on. Jeans that fit her without a belt, running sneakers. Didn't bother with a bra; all of them were scattered across the floor and Ami didn't have the patience to look for the one that fit her. Wasn't like anyone was going to notice.

That was when she noticed the camera staring right at her. The thought occurred to her to just give them what they wanted. They probably had already seen it, back in the store. That was as much as she was willing to give them, though. With cigarette between lips, smoke flowing in her nostrils and her cheeks filled with heat, Ami tugged her shirt closed and began to button it up. Making twelve year old's dreams come true, no thank you.

There was a long stretch of time where Ami could not remember her dreams, not even her nightmares. When she did, they were pleasant in the sense that she always woke up when the best part was starting. She dreamt about many things: about her parents, about Princeton, about Mallory, about her friends, about a poor deer on the side of the road, the gore exaggerated to such a degree that it made her chill to the bone just thinking about it. The dreams were steadily increasing on the island and they all had deer in them and that was when she stopped sleeping and doubly so after she made a mess of Sara’s pretty face.

Sara was pretty, this, she knew. A shame she ruined it. She wondered why she had been with Sean. Did she like Sean? Like, like like? Like Garrett and Bella? She wondered if Sean had even been lucid enough to realize what Sara wanted, if that was what she wanted. She wondered if that was what she wanted. She wondered if Sara's family would ever forgive her, if she would even be able to ask for forgiveness.

Ami wondered a lot of things in those few, brief moments of silence. About the argument she had with her father. About why Ruby abandoned Ami so easily, and if she was okay. About how Garrett could have easily written her off as harmless and how she had so easily left him to die. About Hansel, who shot Mallory in the leg and not in the head. Most of all, she wondered about her plan.

The plan was simple enough. Find someone who could protect her, then lay low until help arrived. So easy a child could have done it. That someone came in the form of Ruby Forrester. And as much as she secretly adored the girl, when she saw Brian die and saw her nearly get herself killed, she realized Ruby was nothing more than a barking chihuahua. So the plan changed. Lay low until there was barely anyone left. Don’t draw attention. She’d work it out from there, when she was still alive. Again, a child could have done it. Again, she failed, spectacularly, even before Sara.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Ami hated that cliché but she appeared to be the textbook example. She kept trying. And trying. Expecting a different result. There was something she was missing, a piece of the puzzle that held the answer to living.

Ami looked down at her lighter, flicked it, watched the flame lick over the tip of her thumb. Right then occurred to her that she could just end it. The Lord would understand, wouldn't he? No. No, he would punish her just as hard, if not more so. No. She did not want to die. And so, as Ami searched her mind for a possible idea, some idea that she could latch onto, and when she did, she found... pretty much nothing. Nothing, apart from Mirabella and the other answer that she did not want to ever consider.

Mirabella was the only person Ami had. She knew Bella wanted to live just as much as she. That was it. The plan.

Perhaps, if she kept the goal on her chest, she could avoid the boiling anger that was inside her. The last time she let it out, someone died. It scared her to think she could do it again. But she would have to do it again, even if she wasn't the survivor. This, she knew without a single doubt.

The cigarette was down to the filter. Ami pocketed the Newport, thumbed the lighter. She flicked the butt on the ground, pulled the black jacket over her white shirt, then she walked back to Mira.

(Ami Flynn continued from All Battles are Fought By Scared Men Who'd Rather be Some Place Else.)

The Ami Flynn that walked out of the clothing store was not the same one that walked back in. This, Ami was not aware, not yet.

She didn't feel different, other than the high that accompanied smoking that was neither pleasant nor nauseating. Usually, it took her a moment to feel the benefits. Less stress, more focus, a light burn across her throat. Mira didn't give her that much time before knocking shelves over.

Ami found Mira on her knees, hands balled in her lap, eyes downcast. Almost immediately Ami understood. She could see it in Mira’s face, the way her shoulders drooped and her silence. Ami could see a lot of things that had evaded her before, the connections almost automatic. Had this been the Ami from the hospital, she would have nodded her head and let Mira sit there. But the Ami Flynn that walked out of the clothing store was not the same one that walked back in. This, she was slowly understanding.

Ami walked straight over to the heap Mirabella was sitting in.

"...Mira."

Ami reached out, clutched both of Mirabella's shoulders and squeezed. Ami and Garrett, they were barely on speaking terms, but she knew he wouldn't have wanted this.

"Mira. Mira. Come on. You have to get up."

Still, nothing. Ami frowned harder. Please don't do this to her, goddammit...
V6

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Bella’s solitude was quickly broken as Ami returned to the scene, though she didn’t truly acknowledge her arrival until the other girl was beside her, shaking her violently by the shoulders. Words began to form in her throat, yet she could offer no response to her friend’s shaking cries. She didn’t know what to say, didn’t know what to think. The anger and adrenaline that’d flowed openly through her as she’d made a wreck of the store still remained, and she feared that nothing she could do would ever cause it to go away, feared that she would never be done expressing her rage and emotions no matter what happened. If she could’ve, she would’ve kept on overturning shelves and shattering mirrors, would’ve let out as much as humanly possible, but the weight of several days worth of exhaustion had rendered that impossible. She wanted nothing more than to sleep, to have some modicum of rest that would enable her to think clearly and clinically, even with the emotions that rampaged their way through her, to be able to let out even just a little bit more of her anger and fear.

But for now, she didn’t have that.

For now, she just had Ami. Ami who’d stayed with her even though she’d had no just cause or preexisting reason to. Even Garrett ordering Ami to stay with her didn’t mean anything, now that he was gone. Once upon a time Bella might’ve thought that people respected the wishes of others, even once they were dead, but that wasn’t the case anymore. People did what they wanted, now, the desires of other people be damned. She’d had that shown to her time and time again on this island, and each and every time she’d felt a little more drawn towards doing things just for herself, and each and every time she’d chided herself and dismissed some notions. But now, she understood. She understood why people struck out on their own, why they’d done what they’d done.

So when Ami had stayed with her, Bella knew that she’d found someone who actually cared, someone whose motives she didn’t need to question.

Except she did, didn’t she?

Ami could be using her, could be ready to manipulate her and throw her to the wolves without a moment’s hesitation. Her motivations didn’t have to be noble, and, in a place like this, they likely weren’t. So she needed confirmation - no, she needed a reason. She needed to know why Ami was with her, be it selfish or selfless. Bella wanted it to be for selflessness, wanted Ami to be staying with her because she wanted to help her and stay with her, but she knew that mightn’t be true. And she accepted that. She wanted Ami to care about her, but if that weren’t the case then she was fine with it. People who she’d thought had cared had betrayed that trust again and again. One more person to add to that number didn’t really matter. She merely needed to know why Ami was with her. That’s what she told herself. That was all.

It took her mind all of three seconds to process all of that.

Bella’s glassy eyes locked with Ami’s, rich hazel meeting uncomfortably with Ami’s own similarly-coloured irises. Bella had never noticed how alike their eyes were before now. She slowly shifted out of Ami’s grasp, discomfort prickling at the edges of her skin as she pulled herself up into a shaking standing position.

“Don’t touch me.”

Her voice was soft and chilled, the subtle sunniness that’d usually accompanied it having long since fled.

“Sorry,” she murmured instinctively, extending a hand towards the other girl. She almost paused before delivering her next few words, almost spoke with some sense of trepidation. But she didn’t. She didn’t need to worry about what she said, not anymore.

“Why’re you still here, Ami?”

“You don’t have to stay with me. There’s no deep promise you’ve made anybody - unless you’re counting what G-Garrett said,” she paused, unable to keep the wavering out of her voice as Garrett’s name passed through her lips, “and even that doesn’t matter anymore - nothing like that. You’ve stayed with me of your own accord, and I want to know why.”
Version Seven:
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Shouldering Bella's reluctance and her scattered emotions was turning out to be more of a burden than she thought. Bella had cried at first. Ami could deal with mourning. Mourning was an everyday occurrence to her. It was natural. But for the past while, Bella wasn't mourning. No longer crying, no heated conversation. It was like she was pretending none of it mattered to her when it very clearly did. It made Ami frustrated. How was she supposed to help if Bella acted like that?

When Bella told Ami to back off, Ami complied. She flinched, jerking her hand back, suddenly worried.

"I'm sorry," she did not say. "I was only trying to help," she also did not say. "Listen, I'm not like that," Ami thought to say, if only to quell any misconceptions, only to remember...

Mira interrupted before she could say anything. Mira apologized, held out a hand, then asked why Ami was here.

Ami stood there.

"Why?" She clenched her fist. "You're asking me why?"

The buzzing was back.

"Because you're my friend. That's why."

There was a long pause. Bella kept her hand held out. Ami hesitated. The buzzing was leaving her but she couldn't think straight. She considered. Then she denied it, turned her head away. Crossed her arms around her front, head tilted away but eyes still locked.

She couldn't stay mad. Not at Mira, not after what happened. Ami shut her eyes and turned.

"Christ, Mira. What are you expecting me to tell you? Did you honestly think I had an agenda? Do you even know how much that hurts, to hear you say that?"
V6

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Bella’s bottom lip began to quiver throughout Ami’s speech, and the corners of her vision began to blur. She sharply jerked her hand towards her face, roughly batting away the beginnings of tears as Ami continued. She wouldn’t cry, not anymore. She’d done far too much crying already, and if she hadn’t cried at the loss of the most important person in the world, then she wouldn’t cry at the reaffirmation of friendship. She hadn’t expected Ami to say those things, pessimism having firmly taken place of the hopeless optimism she’d once taken comfort in.

Ami had no reason to lie, nor did she have no reason to tell the truth. She really wanted to stay with Bella, not because there was anything to gain - and, truly, was there anything to gain from her? Did she have any assets left to take advantage of? - but because she was her friend. And Bella knew that Ami was the only one left. She was the only one who wouldn’t judge her or write her off, just as the others would. Ami was all she had now, and her friend’s recent words had merely served to bolster that fact.

“Thank you,” she said, the wavering of her voice still faintly audible. “I was just... scared, is all. I didn’t want you to leave, I... I wanted to be sure... I just... thank you.”

Words spilled from her mouth, a hundred thousand thoughts and fears and motivations scrabbling to be heard, all of which were lost beneath the shaking of her delivery and the chaos in her mind. She was glad Ami was staying; she’d never been more glad of anything, ever. And if Ami was staying with her because they were friends, irrevocably, permanently friends, then there was something Bella could get off her chest. Something Ami had said had cut her the wrong way, had stung just a little bit more than she was comfortable with.

Ami had openly criticised her and Bella had taken it as strongly as she could. There was no reason that Ami wouldn’t do the same, not if they were so similar, not when they were friends. Part of Bella considered the risk of what she was saying, but she quickly shunted it to the back of her mind. She didn’t need to listen to that constantly cautious, constantly anxious part of her anymore. It was wrong.

“And... of course I know what that feels like! Don’t you fucking dare accuse me of not knowing what it feels like to have your motives questioned, to have your place within a group criticised or considered useless. I know more than anyone what it feels like. I...”

She regretted it almost immediately, the assuredness that once rushed through her replaced with apologies and confusion and fear as her sudden bark trailed off. She didn’t know what’d come over her. It was the anger, it must’ve been. She just hadn’t fully ejected it yet - though she doubted whether she’d ever be able to be fully rid of the rage that simmered within her, flared by any fear or slight against her.

“I’m sorry!” She started, wide-eyed and her voice brimming with panic as she rushed to apologise, to make up for what she’d said.

“I didn’t... I didn’t mean what I said.”

That wasn’t entirely true, of course.
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Ami stared at Mira. She frowned. It hurt Ami to see her like this. It was out of character for the Mira she knew. Mira, the girl that looked like she had everything together. Mira, the one who called her a bitch the day before. Like salt in the wound, needles in her belly.

Ami let out a drawn out sigh and turned her head away again.

"Of course you didn't mean it."

She bit her lip.

"Of course."

...

"Bella."

Ami turned back. Her face turned cold and absolute.

"I know this is going to be hard to hear, but you have to pull yourself together."

She closed the gap between them, shoes squeaking against the stain-tile floor.

"You're not the only one who's scared. I am too. But that doesn't change the fact that, if either of us is getting out alive, we have to stop acting weak."

Ami placed her hands on Bella's shoulders.

"I want to help you Mira, I really do, but I'm not going to be around forever. Everyone dies, Mira. No one lives forever. If something does happen to me, you have to be able to take care of yourself. That means you need to stop worrying about other people and start worrying about yourself."

She squeezed Bella's shoulders, then let go.

"You almost died back there. Garrett almost got you killed, because he was playing town sheriff. I'm not going to let something like that happen again, not to you."
V6

G052 - Reed, Jasmine - 0% - Falchion - START END
G060 - Pfeiffer, Scout - 100% - Sawlaska Thunderfuck 5000 - START
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Protection.

That’s all that anybody ever did for her. Protection seemed to be their main instinct when it came to her, as though they took one look at her and decided that she needed to be sheltered, that she couldn’t cope by herself. And maybe she couldn’t. Maybe that was why she’d let herself be the burden, be the one who trailed along but didn’t contribute anything. Or maybe she’d gotten so accustomed to the process, had become so used to playing the supporting role over her lifetime that she’d been unable to see another way around things.

Whatever the cause, Bella was tired of it.

She was tired of people underestimating her, people treating her like she was a delicate piece of porcelain. Even Garrett, the boy she’d thought might be the one exception to the rule, had treated her the exact same way; though it was only after he was gone that she’d even begun to realise that was the case. But then there was Ami, Ami who’d taken one look at her, even after she’d spat so acidly in her direction, who’d stayed with her in spite of showing that there was more than softness and sweetness beneath that ‘delicate’ exterior of hers. For the first time in awhile, perhaps ever, someone was treating her, in her eyes at least, like an actual person.

And there was nothing in the world that could’ve made her happier.

Ami had promised to stay with her, but she’d also reiterated that one of them would die, that there was the inevitable separation between the two of them. She hadn’t sugar coated anything or gone along with the thin veil of optimism Bella had once desperately forced herself to uphold. She’d stated the facts, unlike anybody else, and that’s why, when Ami promised to stay by her side, that she actually believed her. Aria, Megan, the escape group, Garrett, they’d all taken her trust and shattered it into pieces over their knees. But not Ami. Ami was the exception to the rule, the one who’d stay with her but wouldn’t lie, who didn’t sugarcoat or pretend that everything would be okay. It was so refreshing, so different to everybody else, that she couldn’t help but let herself be convinced.

Her eyes locked with Ami’s once more, and she spoke - though this time there was no wavering behind her words; this time, her voice was even and clear, as if they were two friends meeting up in the hallway between classes.

“Thank you, Ami. I mean it,” she said, swallowing back down the traces of anxiety that continued to stubbornly persist. “But, you’ve said those words, said you’d stay by my side. What sort of person would I be if I didn’t promise the exact same thing?”

She slipped Ami’s hands away from her shoulders and extended her own.

Equals, that’s what they were.

For the first time in forever, she was someone’s equal.
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"That’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler.”
[ *  *  *  *  *  *  * ]
...

Equals.

A smile bent her lips and time slowed to a crawl. She focused intensely on Mira, her friend, and even in the dim light she could make out every detail. The rot of days without soap or shampoo notwithstanding, Ami could see the rose-painted lips and the shape of her face, and recognize the significance. Mira was a pretty girl. She never noticed. Not as pretty as Mallory, but pretty enough to have someone, somewhere, miss her.

Ami squeezed Bella's hands. She'd burnt her own right thumb when she was smoking and black dots clustered around the tip. Ami kept the embrace for a moment then broke.

"Thank you. I... thank you."

The buzzing in the back of her head was back but she ignored it. Images of possible outcomes, each one more morbid and forlorn than the last came but she ignored them. The memory of Mallory's corpse on the floor in the hospital, Brian's body in the bush, Sara's face lodged into her brain, these were things that she could ignore.

Because in that moment, even though Mira screamed only moments ago, Ami wanted to believe. She wanted to believe that Mira wanted to keep her promise just as much as her friend. She wanted to believe in her friend, more than anything else. Because belief quelled Ami more than any cigarette in the world.

Her nose started running and the tears started forming and Ami couldn't stop herself. When she reached to wipe her nose with the sleeve of her shirt, she saw a flash of red.

Her nose was bleeding.

Ami blinked. She stopped smiling. Unsure, she looked up and on, through the window behind Mira. It was odd. Ami had never once stayed up to see the sunrise, until she was brought here.

...

The tears were still coming a minute later. Ami didn't think she had it in her to make them stop. The whiplash left a scar the size of a tire across the pit of her stomach.

"That's it, then." Ami sighed. "We're in this together."

Ami stared out the window. She didn't make eye-contact with Mira, almost in fear of meeting her gaze. She continued.

"But if we're going to work together, we have to trust each other, completely."

The sun poured out from sheets of gray and Ami Flynn watched as dawn bled out.

"... Do you trust me, Mira?"

(Ami Flynn continued in Two Opponents.)Please trust me.
V6

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There wasn’t much Bella could say as she watched dawn’s fresh arrival, the first sunrise she’d experienced since losing her Garrett.

There’d be a lot of firsts for her over the next few days.

She took Ami’s hand in her own and smiled, face free of tears for what seemed like the first time in forever and smile genuine for just as long as she answered Ami’s question.

“I trust you.”

That wasn’t completely true, of course.

But she suspected Ami was the closest she’d ever get to it, for the rest of her life.

Bella knew she’d never fully trust someone.

Never again.

((Mirabella Strong continued in Two Opponents))
Version Seven:
Tristan O’Hara
Dorothea Rodriguez
Ariana Simpson


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