Chapter Fifty: Chuckles and Giggles, Victims of Love!
"How the time has flown." Belle sat back in the tree, looking up at the sky.
"It certainly has." Charlie replied, half-asleep.
"Remember the time Masked Revolver took over the school?"
"How could I forget. Remember the first time we pantsied Master Revolver as Chuckles and Giggles?"
"Will never forget that. Let's not forget when we met the Knights of the Last Order, or Sunny for that matter. Didn't she turn out to be a great friend after all?"
"She sure did, in more ways than one."
"I really don't need to know the fine details!"
"Still, it wasn't long after that…I still wish he'd just stayed put instead of getting himself killed."
"It wasn't your fault your grand-father got killed Charlie. Just like it wasn't my fault that Johannas got my Aunt Jessie."
"That flood was something, wasn't it? You'd think after something like that the people of this city would learn."
"They almost did, until Tate got involved over her stupid infatuation with Webster. That University was the best thing that happened to Pleasantville in a long time and now it's gone with no plans to build another one."
"Yeah, well, I wasn't too fond of that University at the time. It took my best friend away."
"You were too busy with Sunny at the time!"
"It didn't end well either way. We had a huge fight after you left for Brisvegas and I went to Awesomica not long afterward."
"That was fun, living in Brisvegas. I ended up in Awesomica for a bit though when I went with Dad on a world trip."
"You never told me that!"
"It never came up. I was glad to get back to Pleasantville though, even if it wasn't so pleasant at the time."
"We put Daryl back in his place. It's just a shame that Mr. Jones got into power."
"I tried to stop him and his ilk, but the people of this city wouldn't back me up."
"I still have nightmares about that mattress."
"At least Izzy and Lizzy weren't Knights then. I don't think you could have coped knowing your baby sisters were being hunted as well."
"Did you know that Lizzy is going out with Sam now?"
"I know! Isn't it great? Better than that Hugo creep that Izzy hangs out with. How OLD is he?"
"Early twenties I think."
"He's still gross."
"HEY! BEAUTY! CHARLIE!" They heard Peter calling for them.
"Yeah Dad?" Belle poked her head out of the tree.
"Dinner's ready! Then afterward we're going to Ozzys school play!" Peter replied.
"I love having a little brother and a little sister. I wasn't sure about Mum at first, but I'm glad my Dad married her." Belle slipped effortlessly out of the tree.
"Especially considering your past." Charlie landed with a thud next to her.
"Yeah. You know, now that Dad's married, I don't mind being an unwanted bastard anywhere near as much as I used to." Belle headed inside.
"You're definitely not unwanted Beauty." Peter caught his oldest daughter up in a strong hug. The bond between father and daughter had never wavered, and was stronger than ever. For the start that Belle had, Peter was bloody proud of her.
20 year old Peter Masters ran as fast as he could home. Not because he had to be there any earlier, but because running helped him forget.
His mother was dead. She'd died two weeks prior from cancer. It had been a huge blow to hear her diagnosis a year ago, especially when his girlfriend of three years had dumped him the day before.
He wanted to forget that he'd lost his mother. He wanted to forget the woman who'd left him. He wanted to forget that his best friend wasn't talking to him, and hadn't spoken to him in years. He wanted to forget that his father was disappointed in him for breezing through his Law degree instead of putting in an effort. He wanted to forget that his sister hadn't been heard from since Mother died.
His long hair was coming loose from its ponytail. He pulled it loose and shook it out as he made his way up the stairs to his apartment. It was a cold, wet day and the stairs were slippery. But that isn't why he slid over.
The baby crying on his doorstep was the reason he slid over and landed on his backside. A crying baby with a hacking cough.
He didn't stop to think. He grabbed the bundle and hurried inside to try and help the poor creature. Not that he had any idea about babies.
"Are you okay little fella?" He asked as he lifted the baby from it's basket. It looked up at him, and started screaming again.
"Yeah, I'd scream if I saw me too." Peter sympathized. He found a small collection of bottles in the bag attached to the basket – several had milk in them. He threw one into the microwave while trying to soothe the disquieted child.
"It's okay, I'll look after you until we find your Mummy and Daddy." He cooed. The baby settled, and looked up at him with such trusting eyes that he almost teared up. Those eyes were his eyes. His deep, brown eyes. There was no doubt that this child was his.
"So I guess I'm your Daddy. Hi!" Peter said softly as the baby reached up to touch his face. The microwave signaled that it was finished, and Peter tested the bottle before giving it to the tiny child. Another sign that it was his child – Peter Masters had always been short – even shorter than his best friend Thomas Begly.
As he fed the baby, his eyes fell upon a piece of paper that had fallen from the basket. Guessing that it would lead to the identity of the childs mother, he picked it up and read it. What he read angered him, and destroyed what little love he had left for his ex-girlfriend. The baby was a little girl, with no name, and apparently was too much of a burden to be kept by her mother, who had dumped her onto Peter.
"Well, we'll get along all right little one." Peter told the baby, who coughed in response. "We'll need to get you to the doctor first though, that cough doesn't sound good at all.
He finished feeding his daughter, before grabbing the phone and calling his father.
"Hey Dad, my lovely ex has dumped my daughter on my doorstep and I think she needs a doctor, do you know any child-friendly doctors in the area?" Peter said the moment his father picked up.
"WHAT?" Joe Masters yelped. "Say that again?"
Peter then explained the situation a bit clearer. His father exhaled sharply.
"I'm coming over in the car to pick you up. The kid sounds very ill and needs to get to the doctor quickly." Joe decided.
"Thanks Dad." Peter replied, hanging up. The baby looked up at him quizzically. "That was your Pa. He's going to come and take us to the doctors. Then we'll get your cough sorted out."
He looked into those brown eyes again. He traced her features with his eyes, marveling in how much she looked just like him.
"You're beautiful. So very, very beautiful. My darling little Belle." He whispered, kissing her on the forehead.
Meanwhile, back in Pleasantville, 20 year old Thomas Begly was having trouble of his own.
"You're FIRING me?" Thomas cried.
"We simply have too many staff, and seeing as you're one of our newbies, you're first cab off the rank. We're really very sorry." 25 year old Arnold Jones didn't sound sorry in the slightest. "Unfortunately these cost-cutting measures are necessary."
"Really." Thomas narrowed his eyes at his now former employer. "You do realize I have a child to try and support?"
"I have two." Mr. Jones replied.
Thomas glowered at Mr. Jones, who smirked back. He got up and walked away from his former boss, seething. Thomas had been a metalworker for as long as he'd been able to, and this was how he was repaid?
The worst of it was, Arnold Jones owned a fair few of the businesses around the city. Getting another job was going to be impossible. At least he had the house that his father had let him have after he'd moved to the retirement village. Tim Begly was good for that kind of thing.
He didn't want to move out of Pleasantville, but it looked like he'd have no choice. He got into his car (a brand new Elantra, that'd have to go) and headed back home to break the news to Betty, who thankfully still had a job.
"You got fired too?!" Betty cried when Thomas told her the news.
"This is insane. I can't believe he's fired both of us. What's he playing at?" Thomas sank down into the couch, defeated.
"Maybe he wants the house. His simpering little wife was over here earlier asking about it." Betty sat down, holding onto the sleeping Charlie.
"Well he can't have it. The Beglys have lived here since the dawn of Pleasantville, and they'll be here when she burns, which will be sooner rather than later at this rate." Thomas said bitterly.
Just then, the phone rang. Thomas got up gingerly and answered it.
"Begly residence." He said wearily into the phone, not looking forward to any further bad news.
"Hey Tom? It's Billy. How have you been?" The voice of Bill Masters greeted him.
"Billy? Billy Masters? Mate, it's been too long!" Thomas cheered up, smiling at Betty. "We're having a few issues up here at the moment, how are things down there in Brisvegas?"
"I really don't know if they're good or bad. You know Mum died a few weeks ago." Bill started.
"I was sorry to hear that mate, she was like a second mother to me." Thomas felt a pang of loss.
"But that's not all, Pete has a daughter." Bill continued.
On one hand, Thomas was thrilled for his former best friend. On the other, he was still very bitter about the falling out that had occurred.
"A daughter you say?" Thomas ventured cautiously.
"Jill dropped her on his doorstep and skipped town. He's fallen in love with the poor thing already, calls her Beauty and named her Belle." Bill said.
"And he's sure she's his?" Thomas worried slightly.
"We did a DNA test. Even if we didn't, she looks like his little clone anyway. Definitely his progeny." Bill chuckled. "But she's dying."
"Dying?!" Thomas cried. "How old is she?!"
"Six months old. She already had pneumonia when she was dumped. It's gotten worse." Bill said sadly. "Tom, I know you and Pete had a huge fight, but he really, really needs you."
"Of course he does! I'll be there as soon as I can!" Thomas slammed down the phone and turned to Betty. "Pete's got a daughter, she was dropped on his front doorstep with pneumonia and it looks like she might not live to see her first birthday!"
"NO!" Betty shot up, waking Charlie who began to bellow. "You have to go to him Thomas, I don't care what happened in school."
"There was no question of it." Thomas kissed his wife, before heading upstairs to pack his bags. Pretty soon, he was on the road south to Brisvegas, praying with all his might that little Belle Masters would be okay.
Peter Masters sat next to the humid-crib that currently housed his infant daughter. He'd only known her for a few weeks yet he loved her with all of his heart. He hadn't needed the DNA test to know that they were family. He didn't want to lose her, not so soon after meeting her, and not so soon after losing his beloved mother.
"You okay Pete?" Bill came over and sat next to him. In any other situation, the pair would have looked comical, both of them nearly identical with their long blonde hair, one large like their father and the other small like their mother. It was hard to believe that Peter was four years older.
"She has to live. She has to. I know she has to because if she does she's going to have a brilliant future ahead of her. Look at her Billy, she's going to change the world one day." Peter replied, looking sadly at Belle, who was still shuddering with every difficult breath.
"I hope you're right." Bill sighed. "Look at how tiny she is. She looks so much like you."
"Hopefully she'll be a bit taller though." Peter chuckled bitterly, still a bit sensitive about his height.
"She looks just like you did when you were that age son, right down to the coughing and spluttering." Joe said from near a window. "You were as sick as a dog for your first few years too."
"Stunted your growth perhaps?" Bill teased lightly. He felt bad when his older brother didn't retaliate in typical Masters fashion.
"Mr. Masters? There's someone here to see you." A nurse popped her head into the room, startling all present.
"Thanks, you two keep an eye on her for me." Peter warned his father and brother. He headed out of the room and down the hall, where an old friend was waiting for him.
"Tom?" Peter did a double-take when he saw his former best friend standing before him.
"Hey Pete. Bill told me what happened." Thomas looked sheepish. "I had to come and see you."
Peter couldn't believe it. He grabbed Thomas into a fierce hug, and then and there the friendship was restored permanently.
"You don't look so well old friend, are things okay at home?" Peter noticed the worry lines around Thomas's eyes.
"Not really, but I think your worry is a bit more pressing." Thomas tried to shrug it off.
"I need a break from my worry anyway mate, sit down, we'll talk." Peter motioned towards some nearby seats.
So Thomas proceeded to tell Peter what had happened with Mr. Jones.
"I know he has one son, Daryl, who's a bit older than my Charlie, but I didn't know he had another child too." Thomas finished his story. "I don't know why he'd be after my place though."
"Dad was saying how he'd been inquiring about our place too, the greedy mongrel." Peter grimaced. "We might not be living there anymore, but that's Masters land and it always will be."
"I think he's sick of the renters to be honest." Thomas replied.
"Well, we'll figure out a way to get him back, you'll see." Peter stretched his tired muscles.
"We could always ruin his business." Thomas chuckled.
"Yeah, but he's the only metalworker in town and has a monopoly on the place. Even if he was slandered pillar to post, people will still go to him." Peter quickly tried to put a damper on that plan.
Thomas began to smirk.
"No. NO. You don't get to do that when we've just become friends again and my daughter is dying!" Peter yelped.
"Actually Petey, the doctor just came past. It looks like Belle will be okay!" Bill came rushing out to tell the pair the news. He saw the look on Peters face and blinked. "Did you just get Claused again?"
Peters eye twitched.
"So you're going to go into business AGAINST Jones?" Peter cried a few days later. Belle was back at home, and Thomas was ready to head back to Pleasantville.
"Yup. I've found a creditor here in Brisvegas, so there's no way he can sabotage me." Thomas grinned.
Peter chuckled. "So you're heading back home tonight to get started huh?"
"Yeah, I've just got to fix up a few more things this morning and then I'll head back after dinner." Thomas finished packing his bag. "Betty and Charlie will be missing me."
"Maybe one day we'll come back to Pleasantville, and Belle can meet Charlie." Peter mused.
"And continue on the family traditions." Thomas smiled. He looked out of the window. "I wonder what would have happened if Jack was still around. He and Bill reminded me a lot of you and I."
"They probably would have had a huge fight too. We're Masters and Beglys, we need to have one good fight in our lifetimes otherwise it'd get too soft and sappy." Peter joked.
"Anyway, I'm going to the bank, I'll be back for dinner!" Thomas high-fived Peter and headed out of the apartment. Peter watched the door close behind him and thought.
"Hey Beauty, do you wanna go and help your Uncle Thomas?" He said slowly.
Baby Belle gurgled.
"That's what I thought. Good girl!"
And when Thomas returned to the apartment to get his bags and be off, he found a large dual-cab ute waiting for him. Not wanting to leave his friend without a mode of transport, he decided to leave the Elantra behind.
Which was the same Elantra that Charlie, Lizzy, Sam and Belle piled into to go and see Ozzys school play.
"Even though this place is a horrid crime-haven, I'm glad my father brought me back here." Belle drove the car towards the school.
"I'm glad too." Charlie grinned at his best friend.
"Me three." Lizzy piped up. She'd been getting along famously with Belle since she'd tossed in the Lady Starlight mantle.
"I think we're all glad that things turned out the way they did." Sam took Lizzys hand, and the pair smiled at each other. Charlie gave Belle a knowing glance and she giggled as they reached the school, Peters car not far behind.
"I remember when the old private school was around, where you guys used to go to." Peter ruffled Belles hair as they sat down towards the front of the stage.
"The one where we got taken hostage?" Charlie sat down next to Belle.
"That was one of the scariest days of my life." Thomas shuddered. "I thought you and Belle were goners."
"I was so scared that the DVG were going to come after Daryl and I, because of who our Dad is." Sunny sat on the other side of Charlie next to Patrick, who was holding Melody.
Belle looked up at Charlie, who smiled down at her. That had been the day that changed everything for them. It had been the day that Belle had first gotten a hold of the Lucky Seven Gun, and that Charlie had decided to become the unnamed hero who would eventually become Chuckles.
The play started. It was the story of the founding of Pleasantville, how Simon Masters and Louis Begly dammed up Pleasant Lake, creating a big enough hole in the ground to fit a safe, little city. Unfortunately it had all gone wrong when the Mobster Kings and the Red Valley Gang (the precursors of the more modern Death Valley Gang and the Mobsters of Misneach, who had now fused) moved in and turned what was supposed to be a haven into a hell-hole.
At intermission, Belle stepped outside into the cool air. So much had changed, yet so much was still the same.
"Thinking again?" Charlie came out and joined her. She leaned on him and he put an arm around her.
"I've been alive 22 years. So much as happened." Belle looked up at the stars. "I just wonder about the next 22 years."
"So much can happen. You might even be a mother by that stage." Charlie pointed out. "I could even be a father."
"We'll just have to see what happens, won't we?" Belle hugged her best friend tightly, and he squeezed her just as hard. For a few minutes, they were both silent, simply enjoying each others company. Finally, they both pulled away and looked at each other.
"IT'S THE DVM! RUN FOR IT!" They heard someone screaming inside.
"The stuff is in the car." Belle rolled her eyes.
"Best get to it then." Charlie sighed.
They both grinned. No matter what happened in the next 22 years, 50 years, 100 years, there was no doubt that it would find Belle Louise Masters and Charlie Thurlow Begly as best friends, and Chuckles and Giggles as the heroes of the city of Pleasantville.