Belle couldn’t deny that she felt at least a little better after she had washed up and gotten into her own clothes which had been sitting in bags on the bed of the dorm room, that seemed to be allocated to her. Gemma had left a note on the bed explaining they had collected her things from her apartment and that she had personal hygiene items in the attached bathroom. It had taken her five minutes to convince Tig that she would be fine alone. She had been touched that he had cared enough to look out for her.
She was now sitting on the bed in her most comfortable pair of sweat pants and a loose t-shirt. Tara had come back in to rewrap her ribs before she had left. She had pulled back on the hoodie Gemma hd given her for the hospital trip even though she had sweaters of her own, there was just something about it that made her feel safe. It made no sense given that it was part of the reason that Darby had beaten her so badly, but she just didn’t want to be without it.
She stared at the two bottles of medication sitting on the bedside table. She needed to eat really before she took anything, but she wasn’t really hungry. Even if she had wanted to take them she wasn’t sure that she could take the lid off of the bottles.
A knock at the door pulled her from inside her own head “Come in”
“Hey Doll, how you doing ?” TIg pushed the door open a small smile on his face “You look a bit better now you're clean and all
Belle smiled as much as she was able. She couldn’t explain why by Tig just made her feel better. He made her feel safe and secure in a way she couldn’t ever really recall. Now more than ever she knew that she wasn’t just a mechanic, maybe he wasn’t any better than Darby, but in the same way Darby made her skin crawl, Tig felt like home.
“Yeah the shower made me feel better and doctor Tara helped me wrap my ribs” She shrugged a little which made her wince a bit
Tig pulled the chair over to sit in front of her. “I’m glad. You gave me a hell of a scare last night, I’m glad you remembered what we told you though, that you came here”
“I…I don’t really know how i did but I am glad too.”
“You taken your meds yet”
Belle shook her head “No, I probably need to eat first but I don’t know if I’m hungry”
“You should eat Belle, Look I know you need to rest and all but the others, they’ll have questions about what you heard last night” Belle felt her heart rate pick up and the thought of having to go over it again. The images played in her head enough. Her breath stated to come in short pants and her face felt hot. Cool hands touched her face and cool blue eyes looked into hers “. You’re not in trouble Belle. I need you to listen to me, nothing, NOTHING, will happen to you here, I wont let another person touch you”
She kept her eyes on his. She couldn’t really hear what he was saying but his eyes seemed soft and reassuring.
“Fuck come on Doll, come back to me” Belle was aware of hands rubbing up and down her arms and it helped her focus a little. She consciously made her eyes blink, once twice, the third long blink let her pull her attention back to the here and now
“I’m scared Tig, but if you need me to explain I can do that” She could see the relief in his eyes
“Of course you can. You’re a fuckin’ warrior Belle”
Belle looked up as the door pushed open again and Gemma came in directing a man she didn’t know to put a tray on the dresser.
“I hope old Tigger here isn’t giving you too much trouble. I’ve brought you something to eat, Now that the Doc has cleared you we can get some food in you. You might not feel like it but you’ll be glad you did after you take your meds”
“Thank you Gemma”
“That’s what family does. Now I figured you wouldn’t be able to go back to work straight so I spoke to Jill and Sanchez. Jill can keep your job open for a bit, but I’m afraid that the Day care cant”
Belle felt her heart drop. She was grateful that at least one of her jobs would still be there but her heart was sad that she wouldn’t be able to keep her daycare job, “Thank you “ her voice broke “ Thank you for speaking to them”
“You’re a smart girl Belle. You worked hard and you’ll find another job. I take it you were smart about the money you earned. When I went to get your things, I didn’t find any money in the house”
Belle nodded. She was a little uncomfortable with the idea that Gemma had looked through her things, Did she think this was a set up, like Darby had?
“Yes Ma’am. I have a bank account. I didn’t tell my family about it. I wanted to get enough money for a deposit so I didn’t have to stay there”
“Smart girl” Gemma seemed impressed on some level with her response. “Look it’s gonna be a while before you can get back to that job of yours. In the mean time, when the Doc has cleared you, your going to come and work in the office with me. It’ll be mostly phone calls and paper work so the Doc will clear you sooner. Until you get a good deposit set up you’re going to stay here. You helped the club out with the information you brought last night. I spoke to my husband Clay, he’s the president here, and he agrees we owe you, and the club pays its debts,”
Belle felt overwhelmed, she had gone from peace and comfort being with Tig, to being content, to being terrified and now she had been thrown a life raft. She shook her head a little and then stood, shakily “Than you Gemma, I…I didn’t know what would happen, what I would do. You’re all being more generous than I could hope for”
Gemma looked at her with an appraising light in her eyes Belle tried to stand a little straighter. It was important to her that Gemma saw she was genuinely grateful.
“Hmm. Like I said, this is how we look after our family - and people that look out for us, they are family. People who lie or hurt us, well they’re not and they don’t have a happy ending. I’m trusting you little girl, You break that trust and you’ll find out what happens”
Belle dropped her eyes for a moment. Gemma was clearly the boss around here and Belle knew that you needed to show respect to the alpha. Even as she dropped her head she could heat the echo of earlier conversations she had shared with the matriarch and she knew what it was that Gemma would respect. She brought her head back up making and holding eye contact
“I understand Gemma. I didn’t know what was happening last night, but I am not here to lie to you. I… I’m happy to tell you all what I heard last night. It’s not a lot. but I’ll tell you. I’m a hard worker and as soon as I’m cleared i’ll do what ever you need. I’m a hard worker and i’ll pay you all back”
Gemma gave her a warmer smile “That seems to be the conclusion. I’m putting faith in you Belle. You should eat before you speak to the guys, then you should rest. Tigger once she’s resting you’ve got work in the garage” Gemma left the same as she had entered with command and no argument.
Belle let out a breath she didn’t realise she had been holding. She looked at Tig who had staid seated obviously knowing not to argue with the matriarch here.
“She’s the reason I got out you know, last night”
Tig raised an eyebrow “Gemma got you out ?”
Belle laughed a little “Sort of. When, when Darby and my brother hit me, and when they left, I was just going to lie there, I didn’t know what was happening and everything hurt, but in my head I could hear Gemma and I knew what she would do. That’s how I got out. I owe her more than she knows”
“Gemma’s a strong woman Belle, but so are you. You may have tried to be more like her, but it was you, you were the one who got out of the club. You got here and you told us what we needed to know. You did that. Not Gem, You ! I, well I like Gemma, I admire her, but you don’t need to change. You can just be you. I like you the way you are. That strength, you’ve always had it, thats how you’ve survived”
TIg stood and placed both of his hands on her shoulders as he spoke “Just be you Belle, it’ll always be enough”
Belle reached out and placed her not cast hand on Tig’s chest, she smiled at him gently “Thank you Tig. You’re a good man and I, I like you the way you are too”
TIg gave her a sad smile, stepping back from her “I’m not a good man Belle. I’ve done things that would turn your stomach. I’m no better than the people that did this to you”
She frowned at the sudden change the conversation was taken “No Tig. You’re a good man, You’ve helped me time and again. Your family is looking out for me because of you. I think, I think you’re a man who looks out for his own and I think that your family is looking out for the town. Are you… are you going to stop him, Darby I mean ?”
Tig looked at her for a long minute before stepping back and rubbing his hand over his goatee “Drugs aren’t something we want, or allow in Charming. I don’t know what will happen, but we cant let them be sold here”
Belle nodded “ I understand and I guess in getting rid of drugs, the dealers and the like have to go too right?” She watched as Tig nodded. He seemed much more withdrawn from her than he had been in the past. Her brain was still running slowly and her headache was pounding in the background, so it made her slower than normal.
“Ok, I understand what you’re saying Tig. I think. I know you’re telling me that in getting rid of the drugs means that people will have to go to, and that they wont come back” Her voice broke a little as she finally processed just what he was saying “ You’re telling me that at the end of this I probably won’t have a brother. That, that’s what your saying right”
She watched Tig he pursed his lips before inclining his head. His eyes didn’t leave hers. Belle pulled in as deep of a breath as she could before squaring off her shoulders “I understand. It doesn’t make me happy, but I understand what you’re saying. The thing is Tig, my brother, he…he didn’t come home from the war. A different man came home and I don’t know who he his. I know what he feels, he feels angry and disappointed and lonely. I know he doesn’t love me, you don’t beat someone you love. Right now, I … I don’t have anyone in this town that I can call family, not really. Drugs took my family from me and I don’t want anything to do with them”
She kept her eyes on him, watching his face. She watched him process her words before he moved forward. His face still serious
“Belle, Doll. It’s one thing to say that, another to live with the knowledge. You can say you don’t have family but you stuck with them through everything before this. If something happens to them, then you’re not going to look at me the same and I can’t tell you that I won’t be the one to hurt your brother. Not after I saw what they did to you”
Belle tilted her head How could she make it clear to him that as things were, the only people she had faith in at the moment, were those that wore the reaper. They had looked out for her, they got her medical treatment, gave her somewhere to stay and the option of a way to earn money.. With those simple actions they had done more for her than her own family had in a long time.
“You’re right Tig. I am loyal. I stood by them through it all, through the relapses and the lack of electricity. Through the moving and the knowing I wouldn’t go to college, through the phone calls and the debts, through bruises and tears. I stood by them, I helped them and they lied and left me lying on the floor of an office. I don’t have anything left to give them. “ Belle sighed, her energy was flagging quickly “I will tell your president everything heard and I’ll do what you all need me to because you have helped me. I’ve not got my head in the clouds, I understand what is probably going to happen, and I accept that. I have no tears left to cry for them”
She knew Tig was trying to work out how much she believed what she was saying. In her head it was all of it, but her heart hurt at the notion that perhaps the last look she had of her family was her mother and brother hurting her. His eyes didn’t leave her face and she had the feeling that he saw more of her truth than she could herself. He gave her a small small smile, his eyes looked a little softer and a little sad and then he guided her towards the bed. “Let’s get you some food before it’s cold”. She allowed him to move her as he would before sitting with the tray on her lap. She gave Tig a small smile of her own before she started to try and manage some of the food.
They sent Chibs to come and get them when the Sons were ready for Church and she was grateful to see another friendly face, the idea of meeting all of the other bikers together made her panic internally. They had been a daunting sight at the party and she couldn’t imagine what they would look like in ‘Chapel’. Tig had explained about ‘going to church’ and what she would see when she went in there while she had managed to choke down a little of the oatmeal and OJ that had been brought for her. Her headache was getting worse and the aches that had been nagging had now raised their complaints to a shout, she desperately wanted the painkillers but she needed to get through this first.
“Tig explained what will happen aye?” Chibs had asked kindly his voice low and quiet as they walked. She nodded, there was a 50/50 chance that opening her mouth right now would result in vomit “It’ll be fine. You stand near me and Tig and we’ll look out for you ok” Chibs warm hand on her shoulder had managed to pull a small smile from her, but she still felt like this was the walk to the gallows.
The doors of chapel were ornate and imposing and already closed when they got there. She could hear the rumble of conversation from inside, like background noise. Chibs gave her another tight smile before he opened the door and smoke and sound rolled out. She froze for a moment scared at what would happen when she walked in there. Tig had said he would keep her safe and she wanted to believe him but walking into the room felt like she was risking her life. Tig’s hand was warm when it touched her back to encourage her forward and it made her start before she took as much of a deep breath as she was able and followed Chibs into the unknown.
It took her a moment to adjust to the lower light and the smoke. She coughed a little and it made her ribs flare in pain. It took her a couple of minutes to get herself under control. She was aware of Tig hovering at her side the entire time but she was incapable of reassuring him. When her breathing was under control she stood as straight as she could and took a quick look around the large redwood table. There were some faces, like Jax and the big bearded man , that she recognised., but the others were all strangers to her. A man sat at the head of the table, Gemma had said his name was Clay. She met his eyes briefly and looked away again. There was no warmth or affection there for her.
“Tig - sit down, lets get this shit done” Tig looked at her before he took his seat but he made sure it was canted slightly towards her and he gestured for her to step up more closely between himself and Chibs.
“Now young lady, I understand that you’re feeling under the weather and my wife tells me that you need rest, so I’ll keep this short and to the point. I want to know about last night and what the hell Darby is doing”
Belle nodded and tried to pull her thoughts into order “My brother was upset when I got home from staying over here. We argued and things got heated. He said Mr Darby needed to see me. He had asked me to, come around before but I didn’t like him, he scared me. My Mum likes him, I think they’ve been dating “ The men around the table had snickered at that and Belle felt herself blush “My brother took us to a bar - the Hairy Dog and Mr Darby was waiting there, He was on the phone. I don’t know who he was talking to but he said that things needed bagged up and shipped, that the gas station was clear and they needed to have a lookout and the rest needed to go to Oakland. He asked a lot about what happened here the night you called me to pick up my Mum. I said nothing, he had the hoodie Gemma gave me and when I couldn’t tell him anything he was upset and did this. He brought my brother in and he joined in. There was a door into the ally way and I managed to get it open. I had seen a phone booth and was going to call for help and then someone brought me here” She rushed out what she could remember. She felt so uncomfortable with all the eyes of the club on her and her body felt ready to collapse.
“Call for help hmm… and tell me just who were you going to call?” Clay blew out smoke from his cigar as he squinted slightly at her
Belle swallowed, it didn’t take a genius to know that her answer would likely get her into more trouble “The Police”
“The Police, and yet rather than calling them you ended up here, in my club house having told the prospect that you knew people here. Tell me little girl what did Darby pay you to come here, what shit are you about to bring down on us” Clay didn’t raise his voice but the tone dropped and it was less than friendly
“Clay man come on!” Tig protested on her behalf but Clay just raised his hand
“Yes the police. I didn’t have anyone else to call” She felt tears well in her eyes. “I was scared and hurt and I knew that if I stayed there I wasn’t coming out alive. He wanted information I didn’t have. I’d like to tell you that if I did know anything I wouldn’t have told him but I’m pretty sure at some stage I’d of said anything to get them to stop” Her voice wavered and her head pounded even harder. “I….I don’t know who brought me here, I didn’t make it to the phone and someone helped me. They asked me who I knew and I told them Gemma and Tig. Thats…. Thats all I did” Organising her thoughts was becoming harder and Belle struggled to keep looking at the imposing man who scowled at her.
“Did Darby mention where in Oakland he needed to drop the drugs”
Belle shook her head, The feeling of nausea was back one hundred fold and she worried about throwing up in here and upsetting more people
“So lets say I took this at face value the fact that you knew Tig before all this, that your family seems to have come to Charming and has gotten messed up in some bad shit straight off the bat. Well that doesn’t paint a very good picture of just who you are and the danger you pose to my people”
Belle didn’t look away from Clay, she could feel sweat breaking out over her body but she didn’t feel warm, if anything she felt cold and she wrapped her arms around herself.
“Tig tells me that he approached you, not the other way round, and the others tell me that you haven’t been hanging round so that is in your favour. You see Charming is our town and drugs don’t belong here,” Clay sat back in his seat and took another pull from his cigar. Belle struggled to focus
“Clay” A new voice accompanied the sound of a chair pushing back and Belle tried to turn towards it, but she felt like she was moving through molasses “Shit, someone catch her” She went sure what happened but somehow she found herself lying on the floor, her head resting on something soft.
She blinked trying to work out what was happening, there was a hand on her wrist, she turned her head slowly and saw Chibs “Alright lassie, you gave us a scare there. I need you to lay still ok, so I can check your shoulder. Opie caught you before your head hit but your shoulder wasn’t so lucky. You let me know if this hurts”
She felt hands pressing along her left shoulder and she winced a little but there was no overriding pain
“OK good girl” Chibs stood and moved back and Belle struggled to orient herself. Her head throbbed and moving just seemed like a lot of effort right now. Her body seemed a long way away.
“Clay, I think she’s told us everything she can, she needs rest” The deep voice seemed to come from above her. She tilted her had slowly and found herself looking at what seemed to be a beard, whom ever it was looked down and she met a pair of warm hazel eyes. She blinked slowly
“Yeah, Ok get her back to her room, we got shit to discuss”
Belle realised she had closed her eyes again as she became aware of Tig talking to her, “Hey Doll come on we’ll get you back to bed”
“It’s fine man I’ve got her” The beard man answered. She wasn’t sure who he was but he didn’t make her uncomfortable the way some of the others had. “You should sort things out with Clay” She was aware that Tig and the beard shared a look that she was in no fit state to interpret.
“Aye come on Ope, lets get her settled. We’ll get you some of those meds lassie and you’ll be right as rain in no time”
She was lifted far further in the air than she had expected and they left the Chapel, with Chibs in tow. She was just letting her eyes close again when the clicking of heals preceded a voice that she recognised “What the hell happened” She felt a cool hand on her head, “Jesus look at the state of her. Tell me that you guys treated her like a friend and not some god damned snitch” Belle didn’t seem able to open her eyes. She wanted to tell Gemma that it was fine and that she understood, but her body didn’t seem to want to cooperate. “You two make sure she is settled and she’s taken the meds” Then the hand was gone and she was moving again
“You think she’s giving Clay shit?” The rumbling voice jarred her back to more alertness
“It’s a day ending in y, what do you think?” Chibs joked back “But aye, and it won’t be any more than he deserves”
The next thing she was aware of was being placed on a mattress and being shaken gently.
“Hey lass come on lets see those eyes” There was a hand on her cheek - she guessed Chibs. It took her a minute to manage to open her eyes. The light stung but she managed to keep them open.
“There we are lass. Ok so tell me how you’re doin’ what hurts?”
Belle swallowed “Probably easier to say what doesn't. Mostly its my head. I…I feel like I’m alway’s one step away from voting and earlier I felt sick and dizzy. I…I’m sorry about in your meeting” She couldn’t help but feel ashamed
“Aye now non of that. The headache is to be expected, now you’ve done what you needed so its painkillers and antibiotics for you. Ope brotha, help her up”
Large hands helped her sit up and supported her when her head started to spin. When she felt a little more under control she looked up to see the beard man. “Thank you - for helping me I mean”
He smiled and it made his serious face look much younger “Don’t worry about it. We should have looked out for you in there, not leave you standing, the state you’re in and all” He looked uncomfortable
“It’s ok, you guys don’t know me, you’ve been kinder than I could ever of expected”
“Ok lassie, lets get these into you” Chibs came over with a bottle of water and a collection of meds which she dutifully swallowed down. She wasn’t sure they would stay in but hopefully they would be in long enough to help.
“Aye now you lie down and rest. I’ll put the trash can here in case you need it, but if you sleep maybe you’ll keep ‘em in.”
Opie helped her lie back down and stepped away as Chibs pulled the comforter up around her shoulders, Her eyes were already closing as she heard the door click closed.
Tig was pacing outside the chapel. He was furious. He had promised Belle that she would be fine, that the club would look out for her, and the first time that she met them formally they attacked her until she collapsed. He didn’t want to call out his Pres but the way that he had treated Belle was wrong. Christ the way things went he doubted that she would even want to speak to him again.
The heals clicking on the floor let him know just who was coming his way. He didn’t have the patience to deal with Gemma’s bullshit today - he turned on his heal when her voice stopped him
“Don’t you walk away from me Trager. I thought you at least would have stood up for that girl”
“Not now Gem”
“Yes now. You’re the one who said she would be safe here. Now where the fuck is my husband? Clay!”
Tig put his head down and shoved his hands into his pockets. Shit! non of this was going to go well.
“What the fuck is it Gem, We’re not done with Church” Clay walked out cigar still clenched between his teeth
“You want to tell me just what the fuck you think you were doing. That girl was just carried out of here after she helped out the club. You assholes couldn’t even give her a seat. She’s been beaten to shit and no one here treated her any better than Darby!”
“Jesus Gemma - It’s club business which makes it not your business. Now back the fuck off”
“Well guess what asshole, I’m making it my business. I made a promise to that girl that she would be safe here, that she can stay here, and that when she’s better she will work here, so you all better get your head around it and you better start treating her like family!”
“The fuck you say?” Clay barked back as Gemma stomped off “You think you can talk to me like that?”
“I just fucking did and I will again. You want to act like a dumb ass thats your call, but I know that she gave you what you needed to deal with Oswald, so why don’t you all stop measuring your dicks and get on with it”
Clay stomped back into church and Tig just shook his head. “I hate it when mommy and daddy fight” he muttered to himself.
He waited outside of Church for the others to come back. Opie just nodded on his way past but Tig stopped Chibs with a hand on his arm
“Aye, just overwhelmed with everything. The concussion is making her sick and she just pushed herself too far. I mean Jeysus, she took a beating that would normally keep someone in hospital”
Tig nodded as Chibs moved to go back into Church. He ran a hand over his beard. He went to follow Chibs back in when the Scott turned and looked back at him
“She said sorry”
“Belle she said sorry that she wanted to better in there. That’s who she is brotha, she’ll always say sorry, she’ll always try and do what she can to make things better. It’s a rare gift brotha, and if you aren’t up for that, then you walk away from her now. The lassie doesn’t need more hurt ”