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“Motherfucker!”

The car swerved as Jet Star jerked from the sudden noise, his head nearly smacking into the rearview mirror. His ears were already ringing, but damn if that shout hadn’t worsened the headache that bubbled under his skin.

Kobra Kid practically spasmed to life, his eyes shooting wide open as he arched his back, gulping in air as if he’s been holding his breath this entire time. There was a frenzied look in his eyes, a panicked glimmer that sent chills down Jet’s spine.

“Poison!” He croaked, his head swerving around, trying to find the redhead. “Poison!”

“Kobra Kid, I need you to calm down-“

“Where are they?!” He was hysterical, clawing at his seatbelt, trying to thrust himself into the backseat. “Poison!”

“Kid, shut up,” Ghoul’s voice sliced through the air. “Please stop yelling. You’re giving me a headache.”

“Where’s Poison?” He had unlocked his seatbelt and was trying to clamber over to the back seat, following Ghoul’s voice.

“Kobra, there’s a lot we need to fill you in on.”

Kobra paused, biting his lip as he tried to peer into the backseat. Fun Ghoul filled his vision, leaning against the driver and passenger seat, and Jet wasn’t sure if he’d been there the whole time, or if he only just appeared.

A few moments pass, before he goes, “What happened?”

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

He frowns absently. “We were attacking a BLi headquarters, where they were keeping our Girl. We managed to find her, but we were surrounded by Dracs. They became too many for us to take on and...”

Jet could see the recognition flutter across his features, the dawning realization. The memory of watching his brother get cornered by Korse, the gun jammed into their neck and then hearing the deafening buzz of electricity as they were shot point blank.

“Oh god.”

“Before you panic,” Ghoul interjects. “We’ll pick up the story for ya. I got knocked out right after you, but Jet Star managed to sneak out and delivered the Girl to Dr. D and the gang, and they picked her up. She’s with them, probably already waiting at the radio shack, which is where we’re heading.”

“I got shot not long after they drove off. I blacked out for a bit, but I eventually came back too. I managed to drag you and Ghoul out of the building, and I grabbed Poison as well. I gunned it out of there, and I’m heading to the radio shack so we can reconvene with the good doctor.”

Jet Star finished his tale, licking his lips. He remembered waking up, and desperately ramming back into the building. He had found Ghoul first, and dragged him into the back of the van. He didn’t have the time to check for anyone’s pulses, he was just focused on getting them out of there.

Ghoul had rigged some timed bombs to go off, and Jet didn’t want to be anywhere near the building once they finally hit zero.

“Yeah.”

“Is my brother okay?”

Ghoul and Jet briefly made eye contact, sharing a quiet look. It didn’t go unnoticed by Kobra. “Well-“

Kobra flung himself out of his seat, pushing Ghoul out of his way, his gangly limbs smacking against the stick shift as he wormed his way into the back part of the van. Jet Star cursed quietly as he kicked the radio counsel, and tried to watch him in the mirror, still keeping his eyes on the road.

There was a choking gasp, wet with raw emotion, and Jet’s eyes darted to Kobra. He was shaking, leaning his head over an unmoving body, and Ghoul was patting his shoulder as Kobra gripped Poison’s hand,

Red filled his vision, from the stains on the floor to the jarring color of his friend's hair to the wrinkled jacket on the blond.

“Shit.” Kobra’s voice sounded so tired.

“It’s actually not as bad as it looks,” Jet tried. “Korse and the Dracs had set their blasters to stun, so they weren’t actually shot, per ce. But they were blasted point blank, so it’s definitely leaving a nasty injury instead of just the usual sting.”

“They’ll be fine. But they do need medical attention soon, or else they're going to risk infection, and it is a pretty gnarly hit.”

Kobra wasn’t listening. He murmured softly, his head leaning on top of Poison’s, his grip tightening so hard his knuckles were turning white. “Poison, for the love of the Witch, you can not fucking die on me you, hear? I’ve left you behind before, I’ve failed you once, and I’m not going to let you down again. I promised I wouldn’t let him take you again. I promised. I promised.”

Jet felt like he was intruding in something. He didn’t blame the kid for being so rattled; his last memory of Poison was watching them be mercilessly shot in the neck by their worst enemy, an injury that looked like a fatal blow to the head.

His words held an ominous tone to them, however.

 

The rest of the ride was silent. Ghoul and Jet eventually switched seats; Jet could barely see straight since the adrenaline rush was beginning to fade, and fatigue was settling into his bones.

Kobra remained stone still, clutching onto Poison's hand, looking so tired. Poison's been injured before and had sustained worse ones than the awful blow they gained tonight, and while Kobra's always been an anxious mess when it came to seeing them injured, he was usually a lot more collected about it.

They pulled into the dust-covered driveway of a familiar base, and before Jet could even open his door, Show Pony was bolting from the inside, rushing toward them on their skates. They looked frazzled, their hair a tangled mess, their usual helmet nowhere to be seen.

"Jesus, y'all look like you've been through hell, like the devil gave you a personal tour of the place by dragging you by your dicks." They flipped their hair and glanced around. "Thank god you dolls made it out okay."

"We're in pretty good shape, but Party's not." Ghoul was sliding open the van's doors, grimacing. "They were shot in the neck, dead on, ya catch? It was only on stun, but those blasters do wild damage no matter the setting if they're too close."

Show Pony frowned. "Right. Cherri Cola and I can patch them right up."

Jet swung out of the van and helped Show Pony pull Party out of the backseat. Pony let out a low whistle when they saw the injury, and now that they were in proper lighting, Jet could see why. Electrical burns zig-zagged across their neck, and the bleeding hadn't slowed down by much.

Kobra tailed behind them, his usual stony expression slipped right back on, as if he was just dawdling around the diner instead of anxiously waiting for his brother to get medical attention. Fun Ghoul held back, mumbling how he was going to greet the doc and the Girl.

They plopped them on a bed in the back room, and Cherri Cola finally made an appearance, holding out the medical kit. Pony snatched it out of his hands and set to work, the usual stream of chatter they'd babble to fill up the silence noticeably lacking as they concentrated on treating the injury.

Cherri Cola handed them the materials they needed, watching as they dressed the wound, before turning to Kobra Kid. "Do any more of you guys need any treatment? I could do an examination since Pony doesn't seem to need my help."

Jet Star shook his head. "Naw, Poison's got the brunt of it, though I think Fun Ghoul might have a concussion. He did hit the ground pretty hard."

Cherri nodded. "I'll go talk to him."

Silence enveloped them once again. Pony didn't look too pleased with whatever it was that they were finding, making soft sounds of discontentment as they cleaned their neck injury. The air was tense as they waited for them to finish, and Jet felt like he was suffocating, a fish on land, gasping for breath in anticipation.

"All in all, I think they'll be just fine." Pony wiped their hands on their tights and shrugged. "It'll leave a nasty scar, but I'm sure they'll think it'll look sexy anyway. They might have a bit of blunt force trauma from the bruising on the back of their neck, but it's nothing too severe. It’s why they’re all conked out at the moment. Babydoll’ll be waking up soon though, I’m sure."

Jet Star let out a sigh of relief. "We owe you big time, dude."

"Nah." Show Pony flashed a grin. "Just Poison. And I'll make sure they repay me back in full."

There was a pause before they headed out the door. "I'll leave you guys alone. That was probably pretty uh, stressful to say the least. Y'all need'a wind-down or something. And probably have a talk."

As soon as Show Pony left, Ghoul came right in. He pursed his lips at the sight of their leader, looking almost queasy. "They alright?"

"Yeah. They're gonna be."

Ghoul turned his attention to Kobra. "It might not be the time, but I've been itchin' to ask. Why the hell does Korse have such a creepy ass obsession with them?"

It was true. Korse was dead set on hunting them all down, but he seemed particularly interested in Party Poison. The two always seemed to clash even way in the beginning, and the only time Jet ever seen Korse's eyes flash with manic spite is when his gaze is on Poison.

It was unsettling to have the man on their tails, and it was a whole other level to see him stalk their leader so diligently.

And the episode that occurred today brought that obsession to light. Korse had been the one to deliver the what could have been fatal blow to Poison, despite having stayed in the sidelines for most of the fight. It seemed he had only wanted to get involved if it meant he could take down Party.

Kobra frowned. "It's not my story to tell."

So he did know why, at least. "Of course."

"Hey Kid," Jet began, hesitant. "Back when you were in the van with Poison, you kept mumblin' how you didn't wanna fail them or leave them behind again or somethin'. What was that all about?"

Kobra leaned on his hands, still staring at his brother. "Not my story to tell."

Jet didn't wanna push. After all, what was in the past was in the past. It wasn't right to dig up things about their teammates that they didn't want to to drudge up.

Fun Ghoul didn't really see it that way. "Ah, come on. You were absolutely hysterical and we just wanna know what the hell you were talking about. Party’s been through worse. Why were ya so upset?"

“Not my story to tell.”

“What’d you promise them? Keep them away from who?”

“Was it Korse?”

Kobra Kid’s head whipped up at Jet Star. “Huh?”

“Did you promise to keep him away from Korse? That bastard’s always been after Poison. Is there really some history or whatever between you and him?”

Kobra bit his lip. “Kinda.”

“Then you should tell us.” Ghoul rubbed his side absently, likely the place where he’d been shot. “If there’s something going on between you guys and the guy that’s been chasing after our asses, we deserve to know. Secrets like these don’t do anyone any good when it’s somethin important.”

Jet really didn’t think Kobra Kid would even consider his words. The boy was just as stubborn as Party, if not more so sometimes, depending on how set he was on something. Changing his mind was like trying to move a mountain out of sheer will power.

But there he was, chewing on his lip, clearly contemplating Ghoul’s words. Like he was actually debating on something.

“Okay.” He sucked in a deep breath. “I guess this does concern you. I guess you guys should know why Korse is always breathing down our necks.”

Jet tried not to show the surprise on his face. Fun Ghoul nodded and leaned against the wall. From the looks of things, it might be a long story, and he wanted to get comfortable.

“We didn’t... we didn’t come here together. We didn’t come to the desert together.”

Oh. Jet didn’t like the implications here.

“I... I came out here first. You know how after a while, your body kind of builds up a tolerance to those pills BLI feeds you, ya know? And at a certain age, you’re supposed to like schedule an appointment to get the dosage upped and fixed so you can go back to being mindless? Well, when I was supposed to get my dosage fixed, our car broke down, and I couldn’t get to the doctors. So, like, I started to realize all that shit. You know? I slowly became self-aware. That BLI was bad, that all these things I was feeling- they shouldn’t be suppressed.

“But Party, Party didn’t feel that way. Back then, they weren’t at all like now. They weren’t messy or chaotic or a little bitch. They were...” Kobra struggled for the words, looking anxiously at the prone figure on the bed. “They were, like, obedient and shit. I think it’s because they gave them some pretty high dosages to keep them under control, but whatever it was, it fucking worked. Party was like, perfect to BLI and shit.

“And I tried so hard to convince them to see otherwise, but they wouldn’t listen. They didn’t believe me when I said that BLI was in the wrong, that feelings aren’t so bad. I had to quit trying to rouse them because they kept threatening to report me. So I just...”

He looked so tired, running his fingers through his hair. “I had to leave them behind. They wouldn’t listen. They were too drugged up to understand, and I couldn’t figure out a way to save them. So I ran off.

“I ran into the desert, ‘cause I heard all those rumors and shit about the Killjoys. I thought maybe they could help my sib, you know? But I got all lost in the desert until Cherri Cola found me passed out from heatstroke or whatever in Zone Two. He brought me to Doctor D, and for a while, I had to make it on my own.”

He bit his lip. “I’m gonna be honest here. There’s a lot Party hasn’t told me about what happened during the time I was in the desert before they eventually caught up to me. But, I’ve, uh, I’ve heard some things. And I really, really need you to stay calm when I tell you something next.

“Party was a Scarcrow.”

A pause. A silence enveloped the group, suffocating them as the tension thickened, an icy quality to the room that didn’t melt despite the heat.

“What?” Jet wasn’t actually sure he had heard Kobra right.

Kobra looked almost nauseous. His usual calm composure was deteriorating quickly as he told his story, nervous energy radiating from him. It was so strange to see the usually stony kid babble and show his anxiety.

“They were a Scarecrow. You see, after I left for the desert, Party got like, drafted or something. They got handpicked to go into the program, by Korse.” He spat his name, venom dripping from the word like he was whispering a curse. “So they promoted them into the rank of a Scarecrow.

“This is kinda where it gets shady. During the conditioning, something sorta went wrong. The drugs they gave them to really subdue them- they didn’t work right. I ain’t sure if it was like an allergic reaction, or maybe it just triggered the wrong thing in their brain, but something went really, really wrong. They started to like, hallucinate and shit. They kinda went a little... insane, I guess.”

Another pause. Kobra folded his hands together. “They snapped. One day... they... they became desperate to stop the hallucinations. So they stole a bottle of those pills, and they popped them all. Maybe they thought they’d fix them up like they were supposed to if they took enough of ‘em. Or maybe they really did wanna die. I don’t know.

“Either way, they kinda OD’d. But they didn’t. Poison says something mystical happened, and when they were finally revived by BLI, they could think clearly. They could feel and shit. And they broke out.

“For the love of the Witch, I can’t figure out how they did it. But whatever happened, they broke out and made it into the desert. Korse was desperate to get them back, because he’d just lost a Scarecrow in a very, very public way. Party had made sure to make an exit people wouldn't forget. He couldn’t afford the public image of BLI to tank. But Party managed to escape his clutches.

“Nearly two months after I lived in the desert, Show Pony found Party practically dead in the desert, near the edge of Zone Three. Looked like they’d been running none stop since they breached Bat City.

“From what I understand, Korse is so dedicated to getting them back because he wants to fix his mistake or something. And now that Party’s such a huge figurehead, he wants to expose them at just the right time, wants to say that ‘once a scarecrow, always a scarecrow’, if they capture them again. He wants them back so he can prove that the system is infallible, that once you're conditioned, you’ll always come back.”

Another pause filled the air. Jet's mind whirled at the information Kobra spilled, trying to process it all. There was so much to unpack, so many questions he still wanted answered, and so many concerns. The kid had definitely spilled more than he likely intended, since he rambled a bit as he spoke, and he was anxiously bouncing his leg in anticipation.

"Jesus," Ghoul finally answered. "So Korse is after Party because he wants to make them back into the Scarecrow they used to be?"

"Yeah. That's how I gather it. Or maybe he just didn't want to be wrong. He didn't want to fail."

Jet had never been so thankful he'd been born and raised in the desert. He'd never been more thankful to have never stepped foot into Battery City. He knew it was an awful place, he knew the stories he'd heard from hundreds of other people, but every aspect of what Kobra Kid had relayed made him sick to his stomach.

It all made so much sense though.

He remembered when he had first met Party Poison and their brother. Doctor D had introduced them all together, hoping to get Jet a new crew after the falling out with his last one. It couldn't have been that long after Party had escaped.

The Doctor had pulled him aside one day and had warned him that Party was still suffering from withdrawal. "They hadn't been out from the city very long," he'd warned, "and they were still under some pretty nasty side effects, so you may not even meet the real Party until a good long while after this."

Party really hadn't looked too hot when they had first met. They were gaunt, stick thin, their skin bleached pale. They looked sick and were a little reserved, a little hesitant. A little hollow.

And Party had long been known to have hallucinations. Doctor D had warned him of that when they’d met too, fighting Jet Star ought to know the scope of the damaged brother’s before becoming a part of their group.

They’ve watched them wander around in a delusional state, watched them stare out into the distance mouthing incoherent whispers, or start screaming when they saw something grotesque. They never really understood why they were like that; neither of the brothers were too inclined on saying why, so they just assumed they’d always been like that.

Jet glanced down at Party, absently watching his chest rise and fall. He wasn't sure what to say, what to do. Kobra Kid didn't seem to mind the silence so much, though he was still carefully analyzing them, as if trying to make sure they weren't going to say the wrong thing.

Fun Ghoul was frowning. He stared at Party, his face hard to read. He was thinking.

Jet leaned over and ruffled Party's hair, sighing softly. "You've seen some shit, haven't you?"

 

It was quiet.

Dust lathered their body like a second skin, matted into their hair, stuck underneath their fingernails, grinding into their teeth. They had to keep moving. They had to keep moving.

They had to find their brother. Reports said that he had gone into hiding in the desert. That he became a killjoy.

They had to find him.

The sun beat down on them, the scathing, unblinking eye of the star peering at them in the cloudless sky. Sunburns blistered their skin in ungodly places, but there was little they could do. All they had were the clothes on their back, the white Scarecrow outfit that had tanned a bit from the dirt and dust of the desert plains. They had to resist every urge to rip the fabric off them, to cleanse themself of the costume of the murderer they had tried to create them into.

They had nearly fallen for it.

But there was something wrong with his brain, the doctors had said. The drugs they gave to condition them didn't work right, because of some weird chemical imbalance or medical gibberish.

And instead of becoming the mindless drone they had wished them to be, they saw something else.

Colour.

Pigments and shades and concepts they had never even heard of before. Glittering golds, neon greens, electric blues- they made their head spin as they tried to take it all in. It was too much.

And the colors turned into people. Into static. Into so many things, they didn't want to recall.

Hallucinations, the men in white told them, susceptible to delusions. Nothing more medicine can't fix.

They took that to heart. So they popped the whole bottle in their mouth. Anything to make the colors bleed away.

They collapsed onto the desert ground, listening to the whispers of the wind, the desert calling their name as their eyes slide shut.

 

"So we meet."

They glanced at the being before them. A being of powerful energy, made of shadows that looked like whispy feathers, and they were half tempted to reach out and touch the billowy darkness.

"Who are you?" They managed instead.

"The Phoenix Witch," She answered back. "Where you'll go, you'll learn more about me."

The name rang a bell in the back of their mind. They had read about Her before. She was a harbinger of souls, a reaper of sorts. "Are you here to reclaim my soul? Is that what you do?"

She gave an impish smile, looking like a grinning crow. "In a sense. My job is to guide those who had died in the afterlife. But I'm not here to reclaim you."

"So I'm not dead?"

"Death is a relative term here. You are dying. I am here to make sure that you don't. But it's entirely up to you."

"I don't want to die." But didn't they? That's what the pills were for, right?

"I had a feeling. You are a strong, strong warrior, and I knew you'd be the right one." She folded Her arms, pensive. "I have plans for you, little child. I couldn't let you go yet, and I'm glad to see we're on the same page."

They blinked. "I just wanna see my brother."

"In due time, you will. Prove to me that you want to live. Survive the deserts." Her image became distorted as if She was dissolving into static. "Survive, and a future worth living for is sure to come. Keep running."

 

Kobra Kid grinned manically as they opened their bleary eyes. "Thank the Witch!"

Arms wrapped around them, and they felt like they were home, despite having woken up in a building he didn't recognize, with figures that danced in their line of sight that they couldn't recognise.

Kobra whispered softly into their ear. "I promise, I promise I won't leave you behind ever again. I won't let BLI or Korse take you back, away from me. I promise."

They had found their brother.

 

Jet Star shook their hand. It was a little too strong, and they could feel their arm limply moving through the motions.

"Party Poison, huh?" He gave them a kind smile, glancing back at Doctor D and Kobra Kid in the next room, who were reshuffling some of the channels. "The Doc tells me you're something important."

"Something like that," they answered easily. They had run a few solo missions for the Doc by that point, and their name seemed to spread. They weren't sure why, but it might have been because of all the graffiti they make sure to leave behind. And maybe their lack of a filter and loud voice. “If you stick around with us, maybe we could all become something together."

Jet Star grinned.

 

Poison snapped their attention to the sound of Kobra's yelling. He was struggling against someone who was clearly trying to steal his bag, which was full of freshly looted supplies from the recent raid. Jet Star was waiting in the van, too far away to be of assistance.

They barreled into the attacker, and with a solid punch to the jaw, the attacker fumbled to the ground, clutching a can of PowerPup.

Later, they'd learn his name was Fun Ghoul.

 

Korse stood in front of them. They both had their blasters loaded and aimed at each other, Korse at their heart, and Party at his head. A standstill.

"I promise you," Korse whispered. "BLI will get back their stolen property. We will take you back, and we will kill all of your friends that stand in our way."

 

The Girl was strangely attracted to them. Maybe it was because they had been the one to find her, of sorts. The one who stepped up to Doctor D and announced loudly in front of her that the Fab Four would take her in, as the rest of the group spat and bickered about where she should go.

She watched them with an eerie curiosity. She reminded them of Kobra sometimes, when he was much younger.

She'd been with them for a while, but she hadn’t talked much to them. They weren't going to push her to. Losing their mother was traumatic enough.

And it may have been their fault anyway.

They hadn’t exactly chatted her up since they let her in the group. They didn’t mean to ignore her, but they couldn’t help but be afraid. They didn’t want to become attached.

But here they were now. Alone.

"You're gentle," she suddenly said. They blinked. "You have a nice soul. Cherri said you'd be too broken to be able to properly take of me. I don't think you are. I think you're just right. Can we be broken together?"

They smiled. "Yeah, buddy. We can."

 

Korse grinned at them, his blaster jammed against their neck, his mouth next to their ears. "Did you really think you could outrun your past, Party Poison? That there would be no consequences to your actions?"

They weren't listening. Their eyes were still trained on the unmasked figure lying on the ground, unshed tears threatening to burst. The Drac was a kid. She couldn't have been any older than Kobra was.

She couldn’t have been any older than they had been, all that time ago, picked into being a Scarecrow.

"But don't worry. We'll fix you right up. We'll fix those hallucinations, we'll fix those feelings of remorse and empathy. We'll allow your potential to be unleashed. We'll fix your mistakes."
Their eyes met.

"You should have kept running."

Bang!

Crimson splattered against the wall, and they collapsed to the ground, sliding, sliding, sliding into nothingness...

 

Their eyes shot open, their heart pounding, threatening to break free from their ribcage. Fear pulsed through their veins, sweat beading up at their hairline, their breathing ragged as they tried to orient themself.

They thrashed, suddenly feeling constricted. There was something pressing against their neck, and they were wrapped all over in fabric. It was pitch black; they couldn’t see a thing, and it unnerved them greatly.

“Hey, hey, calm down.” They hung on to the voice, the softness and familiarity of it making them feel at ease almost instantly. “You’re safe now.”

They suddenly relaxed, settling back down, no longer trying to force themselves up. An outline of a tall man stood in the corner of their eyes, their vision slightly distorting the shape with a hazy lense.

“Star?” They croaked.

Jet Star gave them a warm smile. For some reason, Party had taken to calling him ‘Star’ since they first met. Jet was inclined to admit that he liked the nickname. “Hey, Party.”

Kobra Kid was curled into a chair a few feet away, sleeping fitfully. Fun Ghoul has stepped out for a smoke, and was likely chatting away with Cherri Cola and Pony. Jet Star had remained awake, unable to sleep, patiently watching over Party’s bedside.

“How you feeling?”

Poison itched at their neck absently. “Not too hot. I’ve been better.”

“You remember much of what happened last?”

Korse’s hot breath against their ear, his words whispered in the heat of the battle, the blood splattered against their chest and their hands stained red from the child’s corpse in front of him-

“Yeah.” Their breathing was ragged. “I remember. Korse shot me. What happened after that?”

Jet rubbed his eyes. “We all got gunned down, but Ghoul’s bombs threatened to go off. Dracs were making a mad rush to leave, and during the flurry, I was able to get you and the crew into the van. We managed to escape, and we came here to Doctor D’s. Show Pony managed to fix you right up. You took a nasty shot in the neck, and even though Korse’s blaster was on stun, it left a massive mark.”

Party’s brows furrowed. “Stun? Why the hell didn’t he just kill us all?”

“I’m guessing he wanted you alive to rehabilitate you, maybe get you back to being a Scarecrow, but I have no idea why he spared the rest of us. Maybe he wanted to do a public execution.”

Party nodded, before his words actually processed. Their eyes widened, and they stared at him, gaping. “You... you know?”

They were shaking, and Jet placed a hand on their shoulder. “Kobra Kid told us. We wanted to know why Korse was on our trail all the time, and we pressured him into it.”

Party took a shaky breath, running their fingers through their hair. “And?”

“And what?”

“You guys don’t hate me?”

“Why would we?” Jet ruffled Party’s hair with fondness. “Party, you’re our friend, practically our brother. You didn’t do anything of your own will, and you’re here now. That’s what matters.”

“But I did do everything of my own accord.” They rubbed their face. “I agreed to becoming a Scarecrow. I agreed to the conditioning. I agreed to taking all that shitty medicine. I agreed to letting them fuck me up. I agreed to it all, Star.”

“You were under the influence of their medication. Kobra said they had doped you all up. You really expect me to believe all that shit was your fault?”

Party sighed. “Even if it’s not, Korse is still gonna be riding our tails because of me, and if worst comes to worst like it almost did today, then y’all know who to blame.”

“Yeah, Korse.” Jet gently pushed Party’s hair out of their face. “It’s not like you asked for any of this. You didn’t ask to become a Scarecrow. You didn’t ask for those hallucinations. You didn’t ask for Korse to stalk you. All you wanted was to be free.”

“Freedom comes at a price,” Party murmured, fiddling with the hem of the sheets.

“It usually does. But that’s what makes it worth fighting for. You know somethings valuable if there’s a high toll for it.”

Party suddenly grinned, glancing up to meet his eyes. “Funny, getting a pep talk from you. I’m supposed to be the one giving those.”

“Yours usually consist of ‘Fuck shit up but don’t die’ or ‘Aye, it’ll get better eventually’.”

“It works.”

Jet Star smiled softly. “Maybe so, but sometimes you’ve gottahear those words too.”

Party glanced away. “I suppose so. Thanks, Star.”

“Least I could do. But you look like hell, so you should probably rest up a bit more. The Girl will be all over you once you wake up in the morning, and I’m sure Kobra will be too.”

Party shifted in the bed, their eyes already halflidded. The conversation probably took a bit out of them. “Yeah. I guess so. Night, Star.”

“Night, Party.”

The red head was out like a light, and Jet remained planted in his seat. He watched their leader for a while, focused on the bandaging around their neck.

He wasn’t really sure what to make of Kobra’s story. He knew that the brothers came from the city, but it was still strange to think of Party before they left for the desert.

And it was terrifying to realise they very easily may have never made it out in the first place. He wrapped his arms around himself at the thought. A few more pills, and maybe...

He closed his eyes.

All that matters is that they’ve lived another day.

They’ll keep running.