Charlie watched as Belle sat silently on the floor in front of her father as he brushed out her washed and dried hair. She had been in the shower for twenty minutes trying to get the smell and the feeling of the old rotten mattress off her. He didn't blame her, it had been disgusting hiding in there. Reduced to cowering in filth from the Death Valley Mobsters.
Some heroes they were.
“I could have gotten everyone killed.” Belle whispered. “I am such a fool.”
“It's okay Belle, no one is holding it against you. We were all thinking of what life would have been like if we'd succeeded. We were doing so well until everyone ran off!” Charlie banged his fist on table.
“We never stood a chance. The people we rallied up were either cowards or as guilty as those we opposed. How could we ever expect anything to change?” Belle let her head fall into her arms. “It's just like 93 years ago.”
“No, it isn't.” Peter said.
Lara walked over with some hot chocolate for the pair of them. Thomas was sat with his hand on his sons shoulder, and Betty was sitting by the fire with the twins.
“You survived.” Peter continued. “Ninety-three years ago there were no Knights of the Last Order or Chuckles and Giggles. The protesters back then didn't even try to run or defend themselves. They certainly hadn't been spending years previously defending the city.”
“What does it matter, we got completely humiliated out there.” Belle sighed. “OW, Dad! Gentle!”
Peter yanked the comb through his daughters stubborn hair. “That wasn't the battle. That was only the drawing of the battle lines. The REAL decider is if you guys continue on. If you guys give up now, then it will be just like all those years ago. But if you get back up and keep fighting, and show Demon and his Mobsters that you aren't beaten, then THAT will make all the difference.
“After the massacre, no one dared to fight again. Until you guys stepped up. Suddenly there are now nine people fighting for Pleasantville. Not to mention the influence you're having on your siblings and the people around you. Already you've recruited Webster, and you were able to save Sunny. You just have to keep going, slowly but surely you'll turn more and more people to your side until Pleasantville is changed forever.” Peter finished his little sermon by tying Belles clean hair into a ponytail.
“Show Pleasantville you won't be beaten. Show Pleasantville that the good guys won't give up on them.” He kissed his daughters forehead. “And get to bed. You've got a fair few scrapes and bruises to heal up, and given tomorrow is Saturday I don't want to see you out of bed until at least 10, got it?”
For the first time since Belle got back from Brisvegas with those forsaken flyers she smiled. “Yes Daddy. Good night!”
Charlie sighed, the weight in his chest feeling lighter. At least Belle was smiling again.
“C'mon hotshot, it's time you went to bed too.” Thomas helped him up. As he walked home with his family, he felt his fathers arm around him.
“You heard what Pete said Charlie, and Pete's the smartest guy I know. These things take time, and it probably won't be in your lifetime that it will get fixed. I just hope you realise that and don't get too discouraged.” Thomas said as they walked in the front door.
“I won't. I'm in for the long haul. G'night everyone.” Charlie limped up the stairs, his two sisters looking up the stairs after him.
The next day was bucketing down with rain, which suited our heroes just fine – they didn't want to do anything either!
“Rainy days are always good in moderation.” Petunia yawned, sitting on a sofa in the back of Bills restaurant.
“Yeah, we've been due for a good one.” TJ agreed, his head resting in her lap. Both of them had black eyes from the previous days adventure.
“And now that we have a functional dam, there's no more fear of another drenching.” Sam joked. Even after his heroics that day, he was still very wary around water. He was sporting a plaster under his eye from where a bullet had grazed him.
“Anyway, Dad is SPEWING about yesterday. He called me this morning to see if I'd heard about it. He's arrested three reporters and two television producers over it, but he can't hold them because the government is now looking into things here.” Sunny grinned. “Our little protest got a fair amount of coverage around Ostraya.”
“So we might have made a difference after all.” Belle smiled, nursing a sore shoulder.
“We've certainly made people sit up and take notice. Dad will find a way to paper over the cracks, no question, but I dare say the heat will be on for a long time yet.” Sunny told them.
“Hopefully we can keep that heat on long enough for the next generation of Knights to take up the mantle.” Webster smiled at his daughter, who smiled back.
Tate, Melody and Madeliene were all sitting in the middle of the floor playing with blocks. Even though there was still a long way to go, everyone in the room felt a bit better about the future of the three little girls.
“The best thing is I don't think there'll be much in the way of crime going on for a while. We can finally have a break!” Daniel laughed.
“It'll be nice going into uni without people wondering why I'm all beat-up. I tell them I do roller-derby and it usually keeps them happy.” Tammy told them. After regaining her voice, Tammy decided she wanted to become a speech-therapist.
“Imagine, spending weekends fishing, camping, reading…Belle! Can't you keep your nose out of a book for five seconds?!” Charlie yelped as he saw his best friend was nose-deep in another textbook.
“What?! The massacre of 93 years ago was whitewashed, I wouldn't be surprised if this one got similar treatment.” Belle looked at them.
“Do you EVER stop?” Webster giggled as Sunny shook her head.
“Nerd.” She poked Belles arm.
“But it's important to know! After the last demonstration is when the Death Valley Gang first appeared – they were originally a faction opposed to the corruption of Pleasantville!” Belle yelped. “They started off as a 'Robin Hood'-style gang specializing in robbery, which is probably how they became corrupt and started working with the Mobsters of Misneach and the Light Reach Clan to get rid of the March Hill Crusaders, the Silent Lake Gang and the Hidden Fear Crew – seriously?! Why does no one ever listen to me?!”
Just about everyone had fallen asleep listening to Belle lecture on about history! Poor Belle.