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Lies and Loneliness

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Bellamy Blake has had a year to consider his sins.

A year without his sister. A year mourning his mother. A year telling himself he'd never wanted to be a guardsman anyway.

A year of taking out other people's trash.

He tells himself he'd been a lousy guardsman anyway. He tells himself he'd hated Inspector Grus so much he would have killed the man eventually. He tells himself everyone else grew up an only child, and he ought to just get used to it.

The only time he can't believe it is when Jackson touches him.

"If you don't stop this," the doctor whispers, "they're eventually going to decide brawling is a crime." His hands are steady as he stitches the cut on Bellamy's lower lip. His breathing is steady, too, as if he hadn't had that lip between his teeth two nights ago.

It's the look in Jackson's dark eyes that makes Bellamy close his eyes and tell himself to ignore the pain. He's stronger than the pain. He's stronger than the loneliness. He doesn't need anyone.

He keeps trying to tell himself he's only surviving for himself. The look in Jackson's eyes--that's how he knows he's lying.