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The Lights You Make

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Honestly, driving is the easy part.
Even with an infant in one hand and the wheel in his other, Kobra feels relatively in control of this situation. However, if you add in what's going on in the back seat of the Trans-AM, well Kobra’s no so in control anymore.
He’s used to driving one handed; often times it’s necessary when they have to shoot their way out of something. One hand on the wheel and one on a gun is normal, comfortable. But, a dying man in his back seat is all but that.
Kobra can hear Ghoul cursing under his breath at every bump they hit. No one ever said Guano was an easy road to drive on. Sand, rocks, debris, you name it is piled up and down the stretch of pavement. It runs long ways through the Zones and there’s always wrecks and things happening near daily.
The sand is the biggest issue. Like it is in just about everything else.
Newer rebels, ones who haven't exactly been in the desert long enough to know how to drive on a sandy road, often wreck. They assume the sand gives them better traction and end up spinning out if they’re lucky, flipping if they’re not.
Kobra knows cause he was one of those idiots that flipped.
It ended up being okay but at the time, Party was both pissed and absolutely terrified. His brother still has a scar on his ribs from the glass that had ended up there while they’d flipped. He of course was more worried about Kobra than himself at the time but that was beside the point.
Now, Kobra knows how to keep all four tires on the road and the car in his control. That doesn’t mean though that it’s a smooth ride.
Especially because he’s pushing well over a hundred on the speedometer.
Each second that ticks by the man in the back gets worse. Ghoul’s already told him that he can barely feel a pulse and Kobra’s waiting for the news that there isn’t one at all.
“Fuck,” Ghoul calls from the back seat, promoting Kobra to chance a glance through the rearview mirror.
His friend has the stranger half strewn out on his lap, his long legs bending a little to fit him in the back seat. Meanwhile, Ghoul has his legs crossed in the seat and the man’s head on his lap.
Kobra watches his friend keep one hand on the man’s stomach, which has bled through the makeshift bandage they’ve got pressed against it, while the other runs over his forehead.
“How’s he doin’?”
Ghoul looks up, making eye contact and simply shakes his head.
It’s bad.
Before they’d left, Kobra had made sure to radio Party and told him to have their medical things ready for when they got back. Of course, that led to some panicking on his brother’s part but after he was assured that it was neither Ghoul or Kobra who were hurt, Party had agreed and told them to get there quick.
As if Kobra was going to go slow or something?
Ghoul was also freaking out though. Normally it was him who was the one needing patched up. He had some sort of weird death wish involving homemade bombs and picking fights with the wrong rebels. Sure most of the time those people were assholes but you don’t just pour out someone’s water supply after they call you a name.
Okay, so it had been a pretty bad name to be called. Especially since Ghoul was ya know, sorta in a relationship with a man.
Party and Kobra though, they’d been in the desert a long while. Enough to where they knew, for the most part, which battles to pick. They rarely needed patched up, other than the small shit like scraped up knees or something.
In other words, Ghoul’s never been in a life or death situation, that wasn’t about his own life, and it’s showing. Kobra can see him trying to not freak out, for which he’s grateful.
“Oh fuck,” Ghoul exclaims, eyes wide when Kobra chances another look through the mirror. “He’s not breathing.”
The simple sentence sends ice down Kobra’s spine.
They’re so close, maybe two minutes away, and he might just be able to see the outline of the old shed they still call home.
With no regard for the car’s engine, Kobra presses the gas pedal to the floorboard.
He doesn’t care what his brother will say later, the baby in his arms and the man in his back seat pulling all of his attention.
It’s exactly a minute later that Kobra brings the car to a halt, sand and dust flying everywhere as he jumps from the car the moment he cuts the engine.
Party is already waiting, probably has been standing in the doorway, and makes his way over to them quickly.
Kobra has the door open in record time. He still has the baby in his arms, can’t just set her down in the sand, so he stands there awkwardly as Ghoul and Party maneuver the guy inside. Ghoul gives Party the brief version of the story.
They found him shot and laying in the sand. There was a baby. The guy stopped breathing about two minutes ago.
With both his brother and Ghoul working, the stranger’s limp body is placed on what is currently functioning as their kitchen table. It’s just a long piece of plywood with four plastic buckets on each corner to keep it up. Not exactly sturdy but it’s all they have. Plus, it’s cleaner than the floor.
It’s low to the ground though and Party has to kneel to be at the right level. He’s in full medic mode now, hair pulled back in a hair tie and attention on checking the man’s vitals.
Shrugging off his own jacket, Party turns to Kobra.
“Set the damn baby down and c’mere.”
He doesn’t argue, knows it’s pointless when his brother is like this. So, Kobra finds a lawn chair, a comfortable one that has netting along the sides underneath the armrests. The baby looks maybe two or three months old, he’s not sure ‘cause he knows fuck all about babies, and he doesn’t wanna risk her rolling off.
Once he’s sure that she’s secure, Kobra returns to his brother’s side. The three of them work to pull the man’s leather jacket off as well as his t-shirt underneath while at least one person keeps pressure on the wound at all times. Both pieces of clothing are covered in blood because the wound is still bleeding heavily despite it being the better part of an hour since they’ve found the man.
Party pulls the bloody rag away from the man’s stomach, inspecting the wound with extreme concentration. Even Kobra can tell that the blaster was shot at point blank and has most definitely hit some organs. There’s way too many layers of skin burned through and it’s a literal hole above his navel instead of a burn or blister. Though those cover the area around the hole, black and painful looking.
There’s blood still pouring out of the wound though and they really can’t get a good look. Kobra may or may not be slightly panicking.
He feels responsible in a way. If they were faster…
“He’s still not breathing,” Party’s calm but urgent voice says as he presses his fingers to the man's neck. Kobra can tell when he doesn’t find a pulse, the way his face drops.
Nodding to himself, Party gets to work fast.
Connecting his hands and placing them on the man’s chest, he begins to press down in quick, strong beats.
“Pulse.”
Understanding what Party means, Kobra presses two fingers against the man's neck and feels for a pulse. After a few sets of the compressions, Party looks to him for a pulse. Shaking his head no, Kobra watches as his brother pinches the man’s nose and breathes for him.
The cycle repeats.
Three, maybe four times, before there’s the slightest thump under Kobra’s fingertips. He nearly thinks he imagined it but then it happens again.
Party’s on compressions, sweat beading down his forehead from the effort and mouth parted in a silent count.
“Got one,” he informs Party, who nods sharply and places his own fingers on the man’s neck beside Kobra's.
He pulls away a second later, seemingly pleased with the irregular beating of the stranger’s heart, and leans back on his heels.
Party takes a deep breath, wiping his forehead and looking back down to the man.
“Right,” his brother says, mostly to himself as he picks up their first aid bag from the floor beside him.
Even while Party gets the bleeding to stop and begins to clean up the wound, Kobra keeps his hand on the man’s neck. He counts the beats in his head but some of them are so faint that he’s not sure if they’re actually there or not.
He’s got a tight feeling in his chest as he watches his brother work.
Party is fully focused, needle now in hand as he sews up the man the best he can. It’s sorta ironic, how good his brother is with this sort of thing but when it comes to himself Party would probably rather die than let someone near him with a needle.
Still, his hands are steady as he ties the last bit of thread and packs away the sewing things. Reaching for the bottle of antiseptic, Party cleans his hands off a little and then gets to work cleaning the man’s stomach once again.
Without all of the blood and stuff, Kobra thought that the wound would be small or something. That he’d be able to be like ‘wow, all this fuss over this little thing?’
That was most definitely not the case.
The wound covered most of the man’s stomach, right above his navel and nearly to his chest, and there was a deeper part directly in the middle from where the gun had rested against his skin. It was sickening to say the least but Kobra trusted Party’s skill.
He hadn’t always been this good with stuff like this but when you’re new to living in the desert, sorta like Ghoul, you end up getting hurt a lot. In their early days, Party patched Kobra up more times than he can remember.
Again, he wasn’t the brightest when it came to this stuff at first.
“How is he?” Ghoul’s question interrupted Kobra’s train of thought.
Ghoul was hovering on the other side of the table, arms crossed in front of him but hands not touching his shirt. They were covered in red, as were he and Party, so Kobra made an executive decision while his brother took a few minutes.
“Gonna grab some water.”
With that short explanation, Kobra pushed himself up and went over to their storage room. Really it was a tiny closet in the far corner of the shed but it was packed full of their most important supplies, and relatively easy to hide if someone tried to find it.
He pulled out two water bottles, the clean kind not the treated stuff they had so much of. Party had just worked his ass off and deserved the real shit, and Kobra was pretty sure the stranger should have clean water while he recovers.
That brings his thoughts back to the baby, still sleeping in the chair across the room. He wonders when she’ll need to eat.
What can she eat?
Where the hell are they gonna get formula?
Kobra doesn’t dwell long on that though, instead grabs a few bottles of the treated water as well and goes back over to his brother and friend.
As he sits down beside Party, Ghoul is already letting him lean his head on his shoulder. It’s a soft moment, one that Kobra knows they don’t realize he can see, and he feels bad for interrupting it.
“Here, you need it,” Kobra says, putting one of the bottles of clean water in his brother’s lap.
This gains his attention and Party pulls away from Ghoul enough to take the water. He’s right back against him the next moment though, head laying on his shoulder and eyes closed.
Party looks exhausted, which he probably is. Saving someone’s life wasn’t exactly easy.
Plus, one look out the little window tells Kobra that it’s well into the night now.
Maybe after midnight? He can’t see the moon from where he’s sitting but the shadows on the sand look right.
“Come on Party, hands,” Kobra says, already grabbing his brother’s hands and a clean rag.
Thankfully he doesn’t protest, just turns so his back is to Ghoul’s chest as Kobra uses some treated water to pull the worst of the staining from his hands. Party doesn’t speak but he’s watching Kobra as he works.
He keeps glancing at Kobra and then tuning a little to look at Ghoul. Kobra pretends not to notice, focusing on the caked blood under Party’s nails, but after the fifth time he has had enough.
“What’s on yer mind?” he prompts.
Ghoul flashes him an appreciative smile; he’d been thinking about asking too.
However, Party takes his time answering. He’s no longer looking back and forth between them, just set focused on Kobra’s hands cleaning his own.
“He lost his whole crew,” Party whispers, still not looking at either of them.
He and Ghoul look up at the same time, making eye contact as Kobra’s hands stop in their scrubbing. It’s Ghoul that speaks though, twisting his arms around Party’s chest and squeezing gently.
“Yeah but that ain’t your fault. You just saved his life Poison and his sister is alive,” Ghoul comforts, voice as soft as his brother’s.
Suddenly, Kobra feels like he’s intruding on something. He wipes the last bit of the stranger’s blood from his brother’s fingers and closes the bottle of treated water he was using. Ghoul has convinced Party to drink some of the real water, for which Kobra is grateful.
Setting the other bottles of water and things down, Kobra stands up. His brother and Ghoul are lost in their own world, not even noticing as he gets up.
Ghoul’s got Party wrapped protectively in a hug from behind, rocking them slightly to try and keep his brother from freaking out.
Family shit always got to him.
Kobra could understand it, really he could. His brother’s whole world revolved around him and Ghoul, to loose them would be worse than death. Kobra knew this because he felt the same way about Party and Ghoul.
Even without Party saying anything, Kobra could tell that he was running scenarios through his head of how he and Ghoul could die a horrible death.
Being killed by a patrol of Dracs like the stranger’s crew would probably fall under that category. However, as much as Kobra wanted to leave and go to the other room with the baby, he just can’t. The stranger is still laying on their table, wounded and unconscious and Kobra can’t bring himself to leave.
This man just lost everything; he shouldn’t have to be alone too.
Well, Party and Ghoul were technically there but Kobra knew they were so lost in eachother that they’d probably not hear a damn bomb going off.
Now, it’s not like Kobra is jealous or anything.
Fuck no, it’s not that.
It’s just that as Ghoul and Party get closer, Kobra is left a little to the side. His brother still loves him just as much as before and he knows that nothing has changed, not really. Ghoul is- well he’s Ghoul so he’s a bit of a little shit but it’s all well intended and he’s loyal as fuck.
Kobra trusts Ghoul a lot more than he ever thought he would.
So it’s not jealousy or that Ghoul is taking all of his time with his brother away from Kobra.
It’s more… lonely.
Kobra still has Party to talk to. His brother knows literally everything about him, from his anxiety to his favorite pizza topping that he totally has never eaten because pizza isn’t a thing anymore. Everything from the bad to the good, Party knows about Kobra.
And Kobra knows a fuck ton about his brother too.
How he does remember what pizza tastes like and how he remembers their parent’s faces even though Kobra has no recollection at all.
Even Ghoul knows a lot about Kobra. Well, more than most people anyway.
He’s just that kinda person, Ghoul is, who is so easy to talk to at 3am because you can’t sleep after a nightmare. He’s a damn good listener, which is honestly surprising, and he can be really sweet when he wants to be.
But with Party, Ghoul is different. He’s more soft and open. Kobra knows that it’s because they’re both in love or some cheesy bulshit but are too damn stubborn to actually admit it. He’s never seen two people kiss and do couple shit like holding hands like they do and still not admit that they’re dating.
Maybe that’s the problem, Kobra realizes as he sits back down, all thoughts of leaving the room gone.
His brother and Ghoul still aren’t paying attention to him, Party’s eyes have slipped shut.
He wonders if any of them will be able to get more than an hour or two of sleep tonight. It’s not rare, nightmares and things keep the three of them up pretty regularly.
But, Party looks comfortable and Kobra doesn’t want to jinx his brother’s chances of a few good hours of sleep.

Kobra wonders what it’s like. To have someone hold him like Ghoul is holding Party.
For someone to latch on and fight away all of the messy shit in his head.
He’s never had anyone like that. Sure, he’s had a few one night kinda things but they’ve never lasted because Kobra gets too attached. Still, he wishes that there was someone out there who actually would want him for more than a night.
Maybe he’s a hopeless romantic but watching Ghoul with Party makes Kobra’s heart ache. He wants this, so badly.
The baby cries, his brother stirring in his sleep as Ghoul looks up sharply at the sound. Kobra is already on his feet, going over to the baby and picking her up.
He tries to shush her before she wakes Party up, Witch knows he needs the sleep, but she won’t stop crying. Again his mind goes to food and how often a baby needs it.
Bouncing her in his arms, Kobra turns around to Ghoul.
Instead, the room is empty save for the unconscious man and a creaking floor telling Kobra that Ghoul moved Party into the bedroom.
He’s alone again with no clue how to care for this baby.
If anyone should know it’d be Party. He was like four when Kobra was born so he’s bound to remember something. Maybe.
But Kobra can’t ask because his brother is sleeping and he really doesn’t want to wake him.
Somehow, he gets the baby to stop crying. It takes fucking forever and he’s beginning to worry about Dracs or other rebels hearing the sound because holy shit. How can so much freaking noise come out of something so small?
Still bouncing the quieting baby, Kobra goes over to the sleeping man.
He’s about the same as before, all pale skin and shallow breathing.
It reminds Kobra of how Ghoul looked that first week after they’d saved him. He’d been in much of the same state, however he hadn’t actually, ya know, died.
The memory of his brother restarting the man’s heart from a few hours ago pulls another, older memory as well. One that Kobra would rather not remember.
Still, the quiet sounds of his brother sleeping in the other room aren’t enough to push the memories away as they resurfaced.
Like he said, he didn’t have the best track record for dating.
Often, Kobra would end up in some shitty bar and take home the first person who smiles at him. That in of itself was probably not a good thing and he hasn’t done anything like that in a long while. However, one night in particular stands out.
He’d gone to some new bar out in One.
Party hadn’t wanted to go.
They had fought over Kobra not needing to go and how Party wouldn’t go to watch him because being the only sober person isn’t fun. Now, Kobra knows he was being a dick that night but he’d just wanted to do something.
Something other than sitting around in their car and smothering in the heat.
So, after Party had gone to sleep in the back seat he’d snuck out and fucking walked to the bar. By some miracle, he’d brought his mini radio with him and was able to call for Party when things went downhill.
All Kobra can really remember was his drink tasting funny and then the panic of the guy as he realized he’d spiked his drink way too much. The asshole had fucking overdosed him by like three times and Kobra only just had managed to fumble with his radio to call his brother after the dude just left him there.
The rest is really blurry in his mind but he remembers his brother doing those compressions on his own chest after he stopped breathing.
He hasn’t gone to a bar since.
Or really hooked up with anyone since either. It’s all just way too many bad memories and close calls.
The baby is asleep again, curled up on his shoulder and Kobra has to admit that she’s adorable. Her curly hair is somehow messy and perfect at the same time, just like a certain other curly haired person, and it’s precious. She’s breathing quietly in his ear, tiny hands grasping onto his shirt like her life depends on it.
Rather than trying to put her down, which he knows will be useless, Kobra sits back down on the floor beside the unconscious man. Her brother; the only bit of family that she has left.
Kobra can understand that; he knows how that feels.
There’s shuffling and a thump from where Ghoul and Party are, making Kobra turn his head quickly at the noise. He’s worried about nightmares until he hears a sharp intake of breath and another thump followed by a moan.
And just like that, Kobra is grabbing a blanket off of the floor and heading outside. He wraps the baby and keeps her close so she stays warm as he finds a spot to watch the stars.
They’re bright tonight, flickering without the obstruction of clouds or smog like in the City. He pretends that he can’t hear the noises from inside and wonders if they still make sound canceling headphones. Or maybe he can find some ear plugs.
He’s by the car and abstently sits down on the hood. From this spot he can see a good deal away, nearly every direction except the small space the shed takes up.
Deciding to keep watch, Kobra repositions the baby, making sure she’s still warm and bundled well enough, and pulls his gun. He’s got the blanket around both of them, letting their body heat keep her warm.
The desert is quiet and he can just barely see the bits of pavement that make up this stretch of Guano.
It’s crazy to think that just a few hours ago that the man unconscious inside was unharmed and with his family.
The guy looks to be about Party’s age, maybe a bit older, and his features are soft but attractive. He looks nothing like the others Kobra’s been with and yet the little flutter in his chest when he thinks about him is all too familiar.
He sorta wants to scream but also wants to keep thinking about the man.
He does the quieter of the two.
Thinking back to the few words that he’d spoken to the man, Kobra realized that they were going to have to break the news to him eventually. It was doubtful he’d remember the conversation with Kobra, he had been dying after all, but Kobra can very much remember.
The way his hair was laying out around him in the sand, curly and wild but beautiful all the same. The gentleness in his eyes and the relief when they’d assured him that the baby was okay.
Little things like that.
Kobra trusted his brother’s skill with stuff like this but couldn’t help but wonder if the man was going to wake up at all. The fever hadn’t even set in yet, something that Kobra knew was coming but dredded all the same.
The next few days were going to be hell.
Kobra got lost in his head, only abstently keeping watch as he thought about pretty curly haired guys. Or one in particular at least.
Before he knew it, the sun was coming up. The desert sky burned with the sunrise, streaking fire across the heavens and warming the sand way too quickly.
It was already getting uncomfortable, the blanket he had around himself and the baby was removed and placed in the passenger seat of the car within moments.
He should be tried but he’s not.
The front door opens and a short shadow comes out into the sun. It’s Ghoul and Kobra tries to ignore the way his hair is all kinds of fucked up and the sorta dopey smile he’s got as he comes over.
“Poison ‘s sleep,” he mumbles slightly as he gives Kobra and the baby a long look.
Squinting, Kobra tries to figure out what exactly Ghoul is trying to find by staring at them like he is.
“What?”
Ghoul shakes his head and doesn’t answer. Instead he goes over to the trunk.
As he opens it and begins to stack the crates of their supplies, Kobra begins to follow suit. He’s still got the baby sleeping in one arm so he can only hold like one small crate.
Together, they take all of the things inside.
It takes a while, Party apparently still sleeping, but they make good time. The sun is getting way too hot, it’s nearing noon, and they finish just in time.
As Kobra sets the last crate down, he wonders again what the baby can eat.
“Ghoul?”
Without looking up from his raiding of the overpriced granola bars, Ghoul hums.
“What do babies eat?”
Ghoul snorts and Kobra glares at him.
“You know what I meant damn it. Like we’re gonna have to go on another supply run cause she hasn’t eaten in at least a day.”
That sobers Ghoul up and he nods seriously.
“I’ll go,” Party says as he enters the room.
He pulls a granola bar from Ghoul’s hands earning a whine from the small man. Party just laughs and shoves the entire thing in his mouth. He wipes his hands on his jeans and goes over to the unconscious man.
Chewing like a chipmunk, Party does a quick check up on the man’s condition. Kobra wonders over to watch him as he does, curious if the man is recovering well or not.
“Fever’s beginning. It’s not too bad just yet so hopefully we’re able to keep it controlled ya know,” his brother says under his breath.
He’s got one hand feeling the guy’s pulse again, muttering as he counts to himself. Whatever he’s found seems to be relieving.
“Yeah. His heart’s already gettin’ stronger.”
Kobra finds himself smiling, more relieved that he probably should be.
“Okay, Kobes, you know what to do with the fever,” his brother says, turning to him now, “me ‘n Ghoul’ll come back as soon as we can.”
Of course Kobra should have known that Ghoul would be going with Party. He restrained from rolling his eyes and took his revenge by grabbing the new granola bar in Ghoul’s hands and taking a huge bite.
Ghoul groans overdramatically and pouts with his arms over his chest like a child.
“S’matter Ghoul?” Party teases, grinning brightly.
“He took my food!”
As Kobra takes another overly large bite of the granola bar, Ghoul groans again and points to Korba.
“Poison,” he wines, sounding more and more like a little kid.
When Party doesn’t do anything but laugh at his ridiculousness, there’s a full box still sitting in his lap, Ghoul takes matters into his own hands. He jumps up and goes to tackle Kobra for the food; he’s only stopped by Kobra pointing at the half-awake baby in his arms.
“No fair.”
Smirking, Kobra finsiehs the granola bar and plops himself down onto the lawn chair.
“You guys go, I’ll keep a watch on the dude and put this shit away,” he says, waving his arm to the mess of supplies thrown around the small room.
Party nods, leaving to grab his gun from the other room while Ghoul continues to pout in the corner. When his brother comes back in, Ghoul stands and goes over to Kobra. He gently pets the baby’s head, smiling a little through his pout.
“Here,” Kobra says, handing Ghoul his empty wrapper.
Ghoul sputters, a mix between actually angry and just fucking done with Kobra’s shit.
“Come on Ghoul, lets go.”
With that, his brother and Ghoul are gone. Kobra is left alone with the baby and the unconscious man.
He gets to work putting away their shit. It takes forever because he has to tend to the stranger too. It’s not that he’s complaining really, he honestly doesn’t want to think about what Ghoul and Party could be doing in the car at the moment, but he’s growing worried about the man.
The stranger’s fever comes in full force, despite the damp rag he’s got on the dude’s forehead. It’s bad though, spiking way too high way too quickly and Kobra is more than a little worried, especially since his brother isn’t here.
Party would probably know some trick for helping the fever drop but Kobra sure as hell doesn’t so he’s left there, holding a fastly warming wet rag to a stranger’s forehead. The heat coming off of him is coming through the rag and Kobra knows that it’s getting bad. This is worse than what should be normal.
He pulls the light blankets off of the man, hoping that that will make some form of difference. It doesn’t.
The man starts moving, nearly scaring Kobra half to fucking death, as his eyes twitch behind his eyelids. A fever dream most likely.
He begins mumbling soon after.
Kobra can only pick up snippets of whatever he’s saying. Something again about a woman and sidecars and someone named Grace?
He’s not sure. It’s not really making sense so Kobra does not dwell on the slurred words leaving the stranger’s mouth.
Turning to soak the rag again in the treated water he’s got on the floor beside him, he looks back right as the man’s eyes fly open.
Too shocked to do anything, Kobra can only watch as the man looks around bearlilly. When he can think clearly, he tries to assess whether or not the man is actually awake or if he’s delirious.
The man looks right at him, eyes squinting and struggling to stay open as he breathes heavily. Somewhat awkwardly, Kobra puts the soaking rag back on the man’s forehead. The stranger groans in obvious relief, eyes flickering shut as a soft exhale leaves his lips.
Kobra needs to not think about his lips.
So instead he watches his eyes and waits for them to open again.
They do a few minutes later. The man finds him instantly, a small, tired smile finding its way to his lips and making Kobra’s heart flutter.
It’s not awkward, weirdly enough, as they sit there in silence and just take each other in.
The man is beautiful, somehow despite everything, and Kobra can’t help but to notice how bright his eyes are. Well, okay they’re a little hazy from fever and ya know, nearly dying but the life in them is mesmerizing.
“Hi,” Kobra says lamely.
Rather than judging Kobra’s fucking awkwardness, the man smiles again.
“Hi,” he whispers.
The stranger closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, one hand sneaking over to rest over the wound on his stomach. Without opening his eyes he asks,
“Not a dream?”
Kobra’s face falls, suddenly wishing anyone else was here so he wouldn’t have to be the one to tell him.
“No. I’m sorry man, I really am. The baby is okay though; she’s asleep right now and the others in my crew are out gettin’ her some formula.”
The man opens his eyes. There’s so much pain, exhaustion, in them. It’s not the physical kind, at least not entirely, and Kobra doesn’t know what to do.
“Thank you,” the man whispers again.
Kobra nods awkwardly. He doesn’t deserve a thank you. If anyone does it’s Party; he’s the one who saved the man’s life.
The man takes a shaky breath, obviously trying to stay put together despite well… the death of his entire crew.
“Also,” the man starts suddenly, voice lighter than it was a few moments ago, “man isn’t exactly the right word.”
Kobra must look confused but he waits for the stranger to explain further, pouring some more water on the already warm rag and putting it back on his forehead.
“You called me ‘man’. ‘S not the right word,” the stranger explains weakly, eyes slipping closed as Kobra keeps his hand on the rag this time. The closeness should be as nice as it is.
Now he understands though. Well sorta anyway.
“What do you prefer?” Kobra asks gently.
“They/them.”
He doesn’t answer, suddenly feeling guilty for all of the times he called them ‘him’ in his mind. It’s not like he knew but still.
“Ah. I’m sorry,” he says even more awkwardly than before.
The stranger opens their eyes, smiling a little.
“It’s fine. You didn’t know.”
Their eyes close yet again and their face scrunches up a bit, hand still resting on the fresh bandages that Kobra’s brother had tapped there.
“How bad s’it?” the stranger slurs, the fever and exhaustion getting to them now.
Kobra sees no point in lying to them.
“Pretty bad. My brother is good at this shit though so you don’t gotta worry.”
The stranger nods slightly and takes another deep breath.
Remembering the water now, Kobra bends over to grab one of the clean waters. He opens it for the stranger and tries to coax them into taking some.
“Here,” he says gently, the stranger’s eyes flickering open tiredly. “You need it.”
They don’t protest, just allow Kobra to lift their head enough for a few good mouthfuls of the clean water. There’s pain on their face from the movement and Kobra feels bad for causing them anymore discomfort.
“You should sleep.”
The stranger smiles again and Kobra’s heart does the flutter yet again. He pushes it away, a thought for another time, and takes the bottle from their hand.
“Stay with me?” they ask, quietly.
Kobra can’t say no, doesn’t want to say no.
“Of course.”
“Don’t even know yer name.”
“Kobra Kid,” he says, a real smile on his own lips.
It’s strange how warmed up he is to this stranger, how he’s already trusting them with his name. Not his real one of course, he’s not that dumb, but even his rebel one can be bad if told to the wrong person.
Maybe he really is losing his mind, trusting a stranger the moment they flash pretty eyes at him.
The stranger studies him for a moment longer, something gentle in their eyes as they mummer something under their breath that Kobra can’t make out. They’re asleep again before he can ask.
He hears the engine of the Trans- AM get closer, he would know that sound anywhere, and tries to forget the soft fluttering of his heart every time he thinks about the stranger and their beautiful smile.