Chapter Thirty: My Best Friends, Part 2.

 Chuckles sighed. Alongside him, the Knights of the Last Order were standing around looking bored. Meanwhile, Ruby Giggles was singlehandedly making life hell for the Death Valley Mobsters.

It had been a week since Ruby Giggles triumphant debut, and she was only getting stronger. She'd learnt how to form Ruby Shields which were strong enough to keep even the Lucky Seven Gun at bay, and her aim with the Ruby Shards was deadly.
Chuckles sighed and examined one of the Arm Scythes. Lady Courage checked her watch. Sir Lionheart and Sir Dark were playing on their Game Pads, and Sir Hyper was sending text messages to Lady Luck and Lady Silent, who were back at the tip preparing for any injuries.
“She finished yet?” Sir Lionheart looked at his watch.
Chuckles looked over. “Yeah, the DVM have run away.” He got himself up off the wall.
Ruby Giggles grinned to herself. She felt strong, powerful, relevant. She didn't need anyone!
She swooped down to join the others. “How good was that?” She bragged.
“Saves us a job.” Lady Courage scowled, which made Ruby Giggles feel even better. Antagonising her rival was always good fun.
“I'll catch you guys at the tip!” Ruby Giggles soared off.
“Wait! Giggles!” Chuckles ran after her, but she was gone. “What happened to being a team? She always used to fly me back to the tip.” He pouted.
“The Backpack always gave out and she nearly always dropped you.” Sir Dark pointed out.
“THAT'S NOT THE POINT!” Chuckles wailed. “No one understands me.”
“You're starting to sound like Belle.” Lady Courage raised an eyebrow as Chuckles dissolved into hysterics.
“Hey Uncle Bill. Hey Pa. Hey…Dad? Who's this?” Belle walked into the house that afternoon. She had just dropped her bag on the table when she noticed Lara sitting there, holding hands with her father.
“Beauty, this is my friend Lara Vargus.” Peter introduced his daughter to his new girlfriend.
“Hi…?” Belle was a bit dumbfounded. She'd known that Lara existed, she'd known that her father was seeing a woman, but now she was actually MEETING her fathers friend?
“Hi Belle. Your father has told me a lot about you. You're going into Law too aren't you?” Lara shook hands with the younger woman.
“Yeah. Criminal Law.” Belle looked quickly at her father, who was grinning.
“Belle is doing her University studies part-time alongside her Year 12 studies.” He said proudly, making Belle blush a little.
“How smart!” Lara smiled pleasantly.
Belle felt rather uncomfortable. In eighteen years Peter had never had girlfriends. Not even female friends. Belle had no idea how she was supposed to behave.
“I'm just trying to make a difference.” Belle shrugged, figuring modesty was the best way to go.
“Lara and I met through work – she does Family Law.” Peter tried to edge the conversation along.
“Yes, he told me about what happened to you, very interesting from a legal perspective.” Lara smiled.
Belle tried not to scowl. Even after all this time, the thought of what she had been through still hurt. Lara quickly realised she'd said something wrong and tried to make amends.
“But that's in the past, you've grown up to be quite a grand young person even without your mother.” Lara put her foot in it again.
“I need to go and study.” Belle stomped upstairs, leaving her father bewildered.
She dumped her bag by her wardrobe and closed her door. She then flopped down on the bed and sighed. She rarely thought of her absent mother, or her maternal grand-parents who had only appeared on the scene after her mother died. She didn't even know her mothers name.
And now her father was in love again. Was Lara going to try and be Belles mother? Did Belle even NEED a mother? Betty Begly had always been like a mother to her, even after the whole Charles/Sapphire affair.
Belle looked outside. Charlie and the others were sitting outside near the old rotted stump, talking about something. Now she was on the outer with her friends too. Belle began to wish she had never started University. If she'd stayed in school full-time then Charlie would never have had the opportunity to get close to Sunny (who he now had his arm around), she would still be getting all the jokes and having fun still. Instead she was constantly studying and trying to keep her grades up so she could stay in University.
At least she was going to make a difference.
A knock on the door woke her from her thoughts. Joe walked in and sat down on the bed next to her.
“After the war, Tim and I had a huge fight – it's how I got the scar on my lip. Charles took Tims side of course, and I didn't speak to either of them for two years, even though I lived next door to Tim and our sons were best friends.” Joe sighed. “We only became friends again when Thomas lost his little brother Jack – Jack and Bill had been inseparable, and Tim was devastated to lose his youngest son.”
“It seems the Masters and the Beglys are always having fights.” Belle pointed out. “Dad and Thomas had one too didn't they?”
“Yep, but only one. Ever since that fight both Pete and Tom have been inseparable again. Ever since the fight I had with Tim we were the greatest of friends again – one could say our friendship was even stronger for the argument.” Joe smiled. “You and your friends will work this out, it might take a little while but everything will be fine.”
Belle tried to smile back, but it was hard when all her friends were sitting there happily without her.
“Why don't you go out to play?” Joe suggested. “Surely you can take a break from the constant study?”
“I have a couple of assignments due for school Pa, and if I fall behind at school I'll lose my University place.” Belle pointed out.
“You're as bad as your father.” Joe shook his head. He kissed his grand-daughters head and got up. “Staring out that window isn't going to help you study or make you feel better.” He pointed out.
He closed the door as he left, leaving Belle to her thoughts.
“It's good to be home, isn't it boys?” Tim sighed and stretched out in the sun next to Pleasant Creek. Young Peter was playing with young Thomas, and it looked like Delilah was pregnant again.
“Sure is. No more jungle fighting or hand-to-hand combat.” Joe sipped his beer.
“What are you talking about, you never fought at all!” Charles laughed as he set his fishing rod again.
“I didn't kill anyone you mean. I got in plenty of fights thank you.” Joe frowned.
“What, while you were hiding?” Tim sniped.
“I was gathering intelligence!” Joe tried to defend himself.
“You were hiding in a village trying to avoid getting into a fight!” Tim corrected him. “I don't know why you bothered signing up, you did absolutely nothing.”
“I saved your lives! If I hadn't come along when I did you would have both bled to death in the jungle! If that bullet had hit you instead of my cheek then you would have been done for!” Joe pointed to the nasty cut on his cheek, which was still being held together with stitches. “I only signed up to protect you two.”
“So that no one would realise how much of a coward you are.” Charles stated.
“My orders were to wait in that village!” Joe yelled. “You could have stayed too.”
“We wouldn't abandon our mates like that.” Tim stood up. He was still very wide, and very short. “Charles is right, you ARE a coward Joey, and you use your loyalty to the Masters Code as an excuse.”
“Can you NOT say that in front of my son?!” Joe growled.
“What, you want him to be a coward too?” Tim spat. “I used to look up to you Joe, but you let me down.”
“That is complete and utter rubbish!” Joe roared.
“I don't see you proving it.”
“I don't need to. I don't have to spill blood to prove myself like you do you short moron.” Joe hissed.
CRACK. Tim punched Joe hard in the mouth, splitting his lip open with his wedding ring. Joe glared back at him, but said nothing – the old scar, the healing scar and the new scar all combined to make him look hideous and for a split second Tim regretted striking his best friend.
“We're leaving.” Joe said, seething. Delilah quickly gathered up Peter and the small family left.
Joe flicked through his old photo album. He missed Tim and Charles. He wondered when his time would come.
He wondered when he would be forgiven.

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