Belladonna felt like a whole knew person in the days following her haircut and small shopping spree. It was amazing how much better life could feel when you could actually get up and go out in the morning instead of being cooped up in the same few rooms day, after day, after day.

She'd also never realized-at least, she didn't think she ever had, it felt like something that came as a new surprise instead of a reminder of something she'd already known-what a difference it made to have clothes that more-or-less fit instead of whatever she could borrow from a group of guys who seemed to come in every shape and size except her own. She wasn't totally sure that the style was really her, lots of leather, lots of black, ragged skirts and holey stockings, but Ace had found things for her that he said went with the look of the band and whenever she caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror with the guys she guessed that she was right. Aside from the color of her skin and the fact that she had tits she blended right in with them, like the only thing holding her at all apart was the hole in her memory.

And she liked that. She liked being part of a group, liked being more than just herself alone. The more comfortable she felt with them the more she felt that was a true part of who she was, something that had been part of her even before she lost her memory. There weren't many things she could say that about.

The whole city felt just a little bit off to her, the people more unfriendly than she expected, the streets more dirty, the sky too smoggy to be the right shade of blue. But she had no idea if it was really wrong at all, or if as long as her memory didn't come back she'd feel exactly the same way if she found the nicest, cleanest, blue skysiest place in the world to walk around in because she just couldn't remember what would be right.

But, in spite of the offness, it didn't take her long to love the city. She knew it might just be because she'd been bed-ridden so long that anywhere at all would have instantly won over her heart as long as she had enough space to wander around, but she didn't really care. She liked the way that as soon as she'd left her block she could walk for hours without ever seeing a place she'd passed by before if she just picked a right direction. She liked discovering people who were friendly, who would chatter her ear off for hours and never seem to care if she was dull and quiet in return because she couldn't remember anything about what they were talking about to keep up her end of the conversation.

And she loved it for finally really giving her a chance to get to know the rest of the guys apart from Ace.

She guessed that it was probably weird that it had taken that long. The weeks she'd spent getting better should have been more than enough time to talking to them for ages, right? The problem was that Ace had seemed to be the only one comfortable spending time with her, the others avoiding her when they could and awkward with her when they couldn't. Ace said it was because they didn't know how to treat her now that she didn't remember them, and she got that, she really did. She didn't know how to treat them either when to her they felt like almost-strangers instead of old friends. She wished it could be the same way with them as it was with Ace-he was always so easy with her, treating her like he never even thought about her amnesia, that it hadn't been hard at all to start feeling like she really had known him for years-but it just didn't work out that way. Even Billy, sharing her room with her, never really reached out to her, though she thought he was just following the lead of the others.

Not until she'd been given permission to spend time outside, and with it had come the condition that at least for awhile she could only leave the apartment if one of them was with her. She'd rolled her eyes at Ace's overprotectiveness, it was definitely starting to get old, but had agreed to the condition because if it meant getting to leave the apartment she could deal with it.

At first it had still mostly just been Ace sticking with her, and that was fine by her. His company was her favorite, even as the others started growing on her that didn't change. But every few days or so she'd start itching to get out of there while he was gone or busy with something, and she'd have to get one of the others to take his place. And wandering the streets of the city they started learning to relax around each other.

Grubber, she learned, seemed to have a sixth-sense when it came to finding the most weirdly interesting stores around no matter how well they were hidden away. With him she gorged herself sick in a candy shop where every treat was shaped and decorated like a beetle, and tried on hats decorated with insanely detailed miniature scenes until her sides hurt with laughing.

Billy, though dumb as could be, could also be nicer than any of the others. He was the one who was with her one day when they came across a little girl crying about her kitty being stuck up a tree, and had easily lifted Belladonna high enough that she could grab right onto the branch the was sitting on and pull herself up. Something in her had felt right when she'd hopped easily back down with the cat under her arm and the girl had grabbed onto her hand to thank her again and again, but no memory had come back with the feeling to let her know why.

In the couple of months that they'd lived in the city L'il Arturo had seemed to befriend every street performer that worked within miles of their apartment, and their walks together would lead to him chattering rapidly at some juggler or musician and the next thing she knew their performance would seem geared straight at the two of them. Over a few weeks those talks seemed to naturally shift until suddenly Belladonna was being included in the chatter, until finally Belladonna and Arturo kept up a conversation even after they're walked away from a busker and from then on they never had trouble talking to each other.

Snake was the hardest by far. Even after she'd really started to feel like she could call all the others friends even if she still couldn't remember knowing them before he kept acting twitchy and nervous around her, avoiding being the one to go with her when he could and hanging back silently while she did whatever she wanted when he couldn't. It didn't change until the day she'd hopped on a trolley through the city just to see where it went, neither of them realizing that it went straight out to the bay.

She screamed when she saw the water, even though it would embarrass her forever to think back on it, and flung herself straight over the safety railing surrounding the trolley and onto the street below. She was running the minute she hit the ground, tearing over the ground to get herself away as fast as she could. She only stopped when it was out of sight again, and she would have kept going if she hadn't remembered that he would be looking for her.

He found her leaning against a building, shivering with her arms curled around herself, her mind filled with tossing waves and jagged rocks and the great black pit they'd left in her brain. For a minute he couldn't talk, short of breath from running to keep up, but finally he hissed out, "Ssssssshit. You okay?"

She nodded, then took a deep breath and told him, "Sorry, that was really dumb. I wouldn't have been so stupid if I'd known it was coming, but when it surprised me like that-" She shook her head, and let her arms drop. "Is it okay if we get a cab home instead of walking? My head really hurts."

"Ssssure," he said, pressing a steadying hand against her back as she started moving like he'd forgotten to be uncomfortable with her, and that was that.

From that moment on Belladonna could really call herself an accepted member of the Gangreen Gang.