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The Lights You Make

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Jet is currently sitting alone.
Not in the high school lunch table sitting alone sort of way. More so in the, possibly the worst storm the desert has ever seen is happening right now while me and the crew who saved my ass are hiding from it, sort of way.
Well, okay so Jet never went to high school. They’re one of the few people actually born in the desert and have been here their whole life. But they get the main idea of that sense of loneliness that’s thought of as a 16 year old kid eating alone. Sure, they’re not 16 anymore but they can understand how alone that kid may feel.
The others are currently in the other part of the shed, keeping watch and trying to keep the water and everything out. Party came in a little bit ago to bring Jet breakfast and Ghoul followed soon after, setting Grace down in their arms. Apparently, their room is the safest, the most secure, place in the shed. But Kobra hasn’t come in today.
Jet’s not sure exactly why. Maybe he’s regretting that moment they had the other day and Jet’s not quite sure what day it is, so who knows what is going through Kobra’s mind after he’s had time to think about it. In the moment, it felt like Kobra had wanted it too.
Sitting there the other day, so close to Kobra, they’d gotten lost in his eyes a little. The way he was looking at them, blue eyes all soft and big, captured Jet like nothing else. They hadn’t been able to look away.
It was funny, they’ve never been to the ocean, only seen pictures on old postcards in abandoned gas stations, but they imagine it looks a lot like Kobra’s eyes. At least, they hope it is as beautiful as his eyes are. From all of the talk of the ocean that they hear from older rebels, it should be. And even if it’s not, Jet had gotten a glimpse into their own ocean, right here in the middle of the desert.
They’d gotten so entirely lost in Kobra’s eyes, in the almost mesmerized way he was looking at them, that they hadn’t realized how close the two of them had gotten.
A piece, a very big piece, of them wonders what would have happened if Kobra hadn’t pulled away. His eyes had flickered down, maybe to their lips, but had trailed further before he’d backed away like they hadn’t just been two inches apart for like 10 minutes. Like Jet hadn’t been moments away from capturing his lips like they so desperately wanted to.
In the back of their mind, Jet wonders what Kobra might have seen, might have thought, that would lead him to pull away like that. Maybe it’s the same problem as always…
Maybe Kobra asked the ‘what’s in your pants?’ question to himself and didn’t like the answer he’d come to. That’s happened a couple of times too so honestly, Jet shouldn’t be this upset over it.

And yet they are.
Kobra’s been… well he’s treated Jet and their sister like old friends, even before he even knew who they were. He saved them, along with Ghoul’s help of course, and his crew has continued to feed, patch up, and provide for them. So really, Jet should not have this ache in their chest when they think about what kissing Kobra might have been like.
But they do.
Their chest aches with every thought of how soft his lips may be and how he would wrap his arms around them as they kiss, until one hand finds its way into Jet’s hair…
They take a deep breath, trying to dispel those thoughts as far away as possible. If Kobra had wanted that then he’d done just that. But he hadn’t and so Jet shouldn’t allow those things to plague them.
Grace giggles in their arms, pulling their attention down to her. She’s grinning, toothless, with one tiny hand wrapped tightly around Jet’s finger as they hold her.
“Hey sweetie,” they say gently, “did you think I was ignoring you?”
They know she’s not going to answer but still, just talking to her like this is nice. Grace coos, her little feet squirming under the blanket she’s wrapped in. She’s so happy, just the knowledge that she’s okay is enough to dispel the worst of the ache in their chest.
Jet plays with her for a while, just making silly faces to try and get her to laugh. It’s nice, normal. Even with the sound of the rain drowning out everything except their voice and Grace’s giggles. They don’t want her to be afraid of the rain… not like they were when they were little. Like they still are a little bit now.
When they were small, their Ma would always hold them during storms, especially ones like these. She’d hold them and chace away their fear in the way only mothers can...

~18 Years ago~
A bolt of lightning strikes right outside and the immediate booming of thunder shakes the entire building. Ray squeaks, the sound more of a whimper than anything, burrowing even closer to their Ma.
She’s got them held tightly against her chest and is humming a nameless tune to try and soothe them. It’s sorta working but they still feel like their heart is beating out of their chest with each clap of thunder. They always get like this during storms… Their Ma is always here though, always willing to protect them in times like these.
“Shh baby, you’re okay.”
The room around them is dark, only the flashes of lightning providing them with any indication of where they are. They’d woken up to the storm, had hoped going to sleep before it started would allow them to sleep through the night.
But with the first claps of thunder, Ray had woken quickly and hasn't left their Ma’s side since.
“Ma,” they whimper as the rain picks up once again.
It’s loud and pounding. Too much noise. The rain is no better than the thunder and lightning really, all of it is dangerous. And Ray hates all of it.
“He at it again?” comes the rough voice of Snake.
He’s somewhere in the room with them, though Ray can’t see him, and is their guard for the night. Their crew normally travel, they never stay in one place too long, but on nights like tonight they always find a place to ride out the storm. Somehow Snake is always their guard.
“They’re just scared,” their Ma bites back before turning gently to them. “ Ray, sweetie, are you okay?”
Ray shakes their head against their Ma, trying so hard to ignore the sounds of the storm outside. They still hear Snake sigh.
“Really? You’re still letting him do this ‘they’ thing?”
“Yes really. It’s not just a thing,” Ray’s Ma says pointedly, wrapping her arms a little more tightly around them as thunder rolls once again.
“He’s four-”
“You knew you were a guy at four.”
“Well I-”
“Snake, just leave us alone okay. You’re supposed to be guarding, not harassing me and my already terrified four-year-old. So if you could please just do your job,” their Ma says, using one hand to wave to the door.
Rather than arguing, Snake just mumbles something Ray can’t hear and goes back to the door.
Now, Ray is a big kid. Sure, they’re sorta small for their age, according to their Ma anyway, but they’re mostly grown up. Ray can tie their own shoes, open cans of food, and even steer their Ma’s bike sometimes. They even get to pick their rebel name on their birthday next year and the year after that they get their own gun!
They’re not a little kid anymore and should definitely not be as afraid of the storms as they are right now.
So, they try and think of all of the big kids and adults in their crew. Their Ma doesn’t count because she’s really young, that’s what the others always say. She’s a grown up but Ray doesn’t think they could ever be as brave as she is. It’s just not possible.
But the others are not afraid of the rain, they just go to sleep and wake up when it’s over. Maybe it’s time for them to learn how to be just as brave.
Ray pulls themself out of their Ma’s grasp, making her look down at them worriedly. They then pull away completely, sitting on the sleeping bag with actual space between the two of them. Ray feels proud of themself, that they could sit here like this even with the storm.
“Ray?”
“Imma big kid,” they say, crossing their arms over their chest.
“I know you are, sweetie.”
Ray’s Ma sounds proud, happy, and it makes them feel a little more secure.
A near blinding bolt of lightning flashes just outside the dirty, old window in the room, illuminating them all for a brief second. Ray squeaks against their will and has to fight not to go back over to their Ma.
The thunder rolls.
“But-but rain is scary,” they add in a small voice.
“It is. You know, I used to be scared of the rain too.”
They hadn’t been expecting that answer. All they can do is stare at the Ma in surprise and wonder how someone as brave as she is could be afraid of the rain like them.
“You?”
“Mmhm. I used to never be able to sleep when it stormed but you know what I did to make it easier?”
“What?” they ask, staring up at her kind smile.
Ray is beginning to forget about the rain, forget about the rolling thunder and harsh lightning in the way only their Ma can manage.
“I found someone to snuggle with,” she says, pouncing on them and pulling them into another hug.
This leaves Ray in a fit of giggles as she tickles them. Squirming a little, she finally lets up and they snuggle close to her.
She smells of sand and gasoline. Home.
This is their favorite place to be, in their Ma’s lap as she holds them against her chest. They can hear her heart beating, a steady rhythm that lulls them right to sleep. She holds them all night, humming and singing even after the storm ends.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Kobra stands by the window, watching with growing concern as the old fabric that’s stuffed along the edges gets steadily more soaked. There’s holes forming in the cloth now, some parts even steaming a little as the acid in the rain eats away at it.
They’re so screwed.
Each gust of wind shakes the shed and Kobra is beginning to worry about how much longer it’s going to hold up against this storm. In all of his years in the desert, he’s never seen a storm so strong, so violent.
It’s absolutely terrifying, knowing that the people he cares about are only a few flimsy metal inches away from the storm outside. What makes it even worse, if that was even possible, is when a particularly close lightning strike kills their generator. The few lightbulbs swinging from the ceiling flicker out at once, as does the old fan.
Great.
“Fuck,” Party curses loudly.
Kobra can’t see where he is, the next moment the clap of thunder assaults his ears. It’s loud and he’s positive it shook the walls. The room is dark now though, even the desert sun struggling to penetrate the fierce clouds swirling outside. It looks like it’s those final moments of twilight, the sun flickering out to make way for the night.
Except it’s currently noon.
Party had been stood over Ghoul as the younger man worked on his explosives and stuff. Only he would want to do that in a storm like this. But it’s kept Ghoul’s anxiety down so Kobra hadn’t said anything.
He’d tried to get his brother to lay down for a bit as Party had been looking a little run down. Kobra chalked it up to the chest thing he’d been fighting but didn’t press when Party said no. It wasn’t like Kobra could convince him to rest if Party didn’t want to.

Still, all Kobra can see at the moment are the half formed shadows that make up his brother and Ghoul. He can see just enough to where he’s almost certain he won’t run into something should he try to walk around the room. Maybe.
There’s rain coming through the front door, has been for a while now. The puddle of acidic water is getting bigger and Kobra is beginning to wonder if this storm will ever end or if they’re all going to die here. It’s not a nice thought, far from it really.
There are so many things he still needs to do-
“Is everyone okay?” Party asks to the dark room, his voice drowned out nearly completely by the storm.
Kobra had nearly forgotten about how close that lightning strike had been. The hairs on his arms were still stood up with the static electricity lingering in the air.
“Fuckin’ peachy.”
Maybe Kobra should have laughed at Ghoul’s sarcasm but he can’t bring himself to. There’s too much going through his head for that.
The smell, the acidic tang in the air is getting stronger. Kobra has his own bandana now tied securely on his face but he can still smell it. His skin sorta tingles, the exposed bits anyway, in a way that tells him how bad the acid is tonight.
“Fine,” he answers his brother at last, unable to say anything else.
He’s still overwhelmed with guilt at the moment. This is his brother, the only person he’s known for the entirety of his life, and here he is, lying to him, withholding information. But there’s some things that he just- he just can’t tell him. In the future, hopefully sooner rather than later, he’ll be able to.
Party coughs then, deep and painful, making Kobra turn quickly to try and find his brother despite the darkness of the room. He tries to catch his breath, Kobra able to hear the sharp intake of breath as he does so, but it is quickly overcome by another, more harsh, cough. This is turning into a fit and Kobra feels the guilt swelling once again.
If he’d gotten them out sooner, convinced them to leave-
His brother has been trying to hide it but Kobra saw how he was still a little too pale, a bit too quick to get out of breath. Party might be acting like he’s fine but he wasn’t completely better. Yeah, Kobra should have convinced him to lay down earlier.
All of this acid in the air is absolutly not good for his lungs and fuck-
This is all Kobra’s fault.
“Party?” he asks frantically, his mind already running worst case scenarios.
Then he hears the creaking of a door opening but from the lack of rain and wind pelting him, he assumes its to the other room. The room where Jet and Grace are.
“Guys?”
Jet’s voice sounds strained, borderline afraid, and Kobra wishes he could see them more clearly. But the room is too dark and even the frequent flashes of lightning don’t provide enough illumination for him to see them. Not really.
But Party continues to cough, so harshly it sounds like he’s retching, and all Kobra can see is the blurry outline of his hunched over form. On the next flash though, he’s able to see him hunched over with Ghoul hovering right beside him.
The room around them flashes from slightly visible to near pitch black again. Even the rain seems to be getting stronger, if that was possible.
Kobra is afraid now, not sure what to do. Three of the five people in this room are particularly vulnerable to this storm and he feels like this is his fault. They should have gone. They should have left this shed in the fucking dust.
Hell, even the car would have been a safer bet than this.
Finally, Party seems to gain his breath. His shadow blends in too much into the background, only forming a shapeless blob against the slightly different grey of the wall behind him. On the next flash of lightning Kobra is able to see Ghoul ease him down into a chair. The constant shift between near pitch black and bright flashes are giving him a headache.
His head throbs behind his eyes but Kobra ignores it.
“We gotta go,” he says, loud enough for the others to hear.
Ghoul laughs disbelievingly and Kobra can see the look he’s giving him without even being able to actually see it. Yeah, this sounds crazy to him too.
“And just where do you presume we go?” Ghoul challenges.
“Anywhere but here. It’s not safe.”
“And- and out there- is- is any safer?”
Over the rain and everything else, Party’s voice sounds even weaker than it should. At least, that’s what Kobra is telling himself…
“Yes. This building isn’t gonna hold up. The door is leaking bad and so are the windows,” he says matter of factly.
However, he can’t help the bubbling pit of anxiety growing in his stomach. This building may not be the most steady but their car is still parked a good few yards away. They’d have to traverse the storm in order to get to it.
Then, Grace cries on the next clap of thunder, drawing Kobra’s attention to the shadowy outlines of Jet. They look mostly upright but his chest constricts at the thought of them up and walking like this. Just yesterday they barely managed the trip across the room. And that was with Kobra’s help. They really shouldn’t be up, let alone doing this by themself and with an infant in their arms no less.
“It’sa long way to the car,” Party points out.
Maybe Kobra’s eyes are growing adjusted to this near darkness because he can see more clearly how Party leans against Ghoul, even though he’s sitting down. He can see how Jet is leaning rather heavily against the door frame, the baby held tight in their arms as she continues to cry loudly.
The storm isn’t letting up.
“I’ll go out first, get the car like right next t’ the door for you,” Kobra says already trying to figure out how far he’s going to have to run to get to the car before he fucking melts.
It’ll be worth it though. There’s a few real buildings that are abandoned scattered around this Zone, maybe they could inhabit one of those till this blows over.
“No,” Party says but has to cough once again. When he restarts, his voice is so quiet Kobra can barely hear it. “No Kobes, it’s-”
He can’t finish, breaths too shallow, and really, that makes Kobra’s decision for him.
“Jet,” Kobra says determinantly, “Sit down, please, before you fall. Party you stay down too.” He turns to Ghoul, “And Ghoul, please can you just grab out stuff. Just the major shit. Food, money, medkit.”
Just barely he sees Ghoul nod and Jet push themself off the door frame with a grunt. They wobble over to the other chair and all but fall down into it.
They hiss and Kobra thinks he sees a hand snake over to their stomach while the other holds on to Grace. He feels horrible now, knowing that all of these people are in danger.
Jet, Party, Grace, Ghoul, they all need him and he’s not going to let them down. Party may be the leader but right now this is on him. Second in command or some shit.
It’s the least he can do-
“I’ll be right back,” Kobra says, already zipping his jacket up as far as it will go.
With the zipper of the jacket holding the lower parts of his bandana in place, Kobra then finds a spare piece of fabric, he doesn’t care enough to figure out what it is, and wraps it tightly around his head. Assuring his bandana is firm against his nose and mouth, Kobra takes a deep breath.
“Be safe,” Party asks horsley, another bout of coughing hits him a moment later.
Kobra’s heart breaks.
“I will,” Kobra assures, even before his brother is able to pull in a steady breath.
_________________________________________

 

Jet can only watch as Kobra flings the front door open purposely, an instant gust of wind flying through the room. They hold on tightly to Grace, turning her face towards them to try and protect her from the worst of whatever is in the air. And it burns their eyes, whether that be whatever sand is in the air or the acid they’re not sure.
Party continues to cough, only able to pull in a few wheezing breaths while Ghoul jumps up to slam the door shut. The wind had caught it but Kobra’s shadow was already faded into the storm and he hadn’t been able to shut it.
“Fuck,” Ghoul mumbles under his breath but goes about gathering their things anyway.
Honestly, Jet wants to do something. They can’t stand just sitting here but they don’t know what else to do. Their little trip was hard enough inside and Witch knows how hard it would be to get to the car through this storm.
They’re scared, can admit to that at least. This is by far the worst storm they’ve ever seen and Jet’s not sure if they even want to think of the possibilities flowing through their mind at the moment.
What if they’re all no better off in the car, in another building?
With the storm as bad as it is… how are they even going to find where they’re going?
Kobra can’t have been gone five minutes before they hear the engine roaring beside the door, telling them that he’s right outside.
Slowly as they can with their stomach and the urgency, they stand. Just barely through the dark room, they see Ghoul shoulder a large bag and support Party with his other arm as he too stands. There’s still a few more bags of their things sitting around the floor.
“Stay, we’re going first,” Ghoul says, “grab the blanket from the other room. Use it to cover you and the kid, once I get Poison out I’ll come back.”
They nod, though they’re not sure he can see them.
“No- Ghoul,” Party interrupts quietly. “No. Them first.”
“What c’mon Party-”
“Them. First,” he objects, pulling from Ghoul’s hold defiantly.
Jet kindly doesn’t acknowledge the way Party’s shadow sways as he loses Ghoul’s support, figures that won’t help this situation. Ghoul just sighs loud enough for Jet to hear over all of the background noise and goes to grab the blanket for them. They’re sorta stood in shock, not really knowing what to do or say.
“I-” they start, not really knowing where they’re going with it,
“You don’t gotta ‘pologize. You ‘n her need out first. Ain’t the end of the world.”
Again, Jet doesn’t know what to say so they just wait for Ghoul to get back. When he does, he hands them the thickest blanket from the mattress. He’s got it folded a couple of times but it’s still long enough to drape over their head and upper body, protecting them and Grace.
But not Ghoul-
“Wait- whatta ‘bout you?” they ask.
They are currently struggling to remain standing, legs progressively feeling more like lead with each passing moment. If they’re going to go out in the rain, they need to do it now.
But Ghoul will be completely exposed, these sheets in Jet’s hands are the last ones.
“Fuckin’ trust me,” is all he says, pulling the fabric over Jet’s head and guiding them out.
They feel the moment the door is opened, already tucking Grace as close as they can against their chest. Suddenly they don’t feel so safe under this blanket. There’s just a few small layers of thread between them and the storm and-
“Go!” Ghoul yells over the howling wind, nearly pushing them out the door.
Jet can’t see a thing as the three of them trudge through rain-soaked sand. It’s only a few steps but it’s nearly all they can do to stay upright. Ghoul’s got his hands on their shoulders, gripping tight and guiding them towards the car. Hopefully.
The wind is harsh, blowing against them with enough force that they’re truly struggling. They’re running out of strength quickly, more quickly than they should be, but there’s nothing that Jet can do.
Finally, after a lifetime, their shoes already soaked through and the acid beginning to burn the skin of their feet, they hear a car door open. They’re all but shoved inside, the blanket ripped off of them as they fall inside.
They’re breathing heavily, blinking as the interior of the car comes into view. Kobra’s got the lights on inside, allowing Jet to see the wall of black surrounding them just outside the windows.
Fuck-
They’d just walked through that.
Suddenly they remember Grace, turning her away from their chest to inspect her. Even as they do so, the car door slams shut, meaning Ghoul has gone back for Party.
They’re more caught up with looking at Grace though; her cheeks pink and her eyes wide. She’s terrified but safe.
“Shhh,” they whisper, rocking her. “You’re okay.”
It takes a surprising few moments for Ghoul to return. Sure, their trip had felt like forever but not- not this long. They can tell Kobra is getting anxious too. He’s drumming his hands against the wheel in a fast rhythm, eyes fixed on the spot the shed most likely is.
“Fuck,” he exclaims at last, “I’m going in for them. Stay here.”
And just like that, Jet is left alone.
________________________
Kobra is on fucking fire.
His jacket and the shirt he’s got wrapped around his face are doing very little to protect him as he walks through the ten feet between the car and the front door. The skin on his face burns like he’s pouring bleach on an open wound and the air literally is stinging his lungs.
Honestly, Kobra can barely see but he’s determined to get to his brother. He’s got a bad feeling that something’s wrong.
Pushing the front door open, Kobra stumbles inside. It’s just as dark in here as it is outside so it takes him a moment to land his eyes on his brother. His shadow is hunched over the floor by the chair Ghoul had sat him down in. Party isn’t moving, not that Kobra can tell, and Ghoul is nowhere to be found.
“Party?” Kobra calls.
Instantly the shadowy figure of his brother moves and Kobra’s pretty sure he turns to look at him.
“Kobra help.”
That’s not Party’s voice, that’s Ghoul’s and - oh
- oh no.
He’s by Ghoul’s side in seconds, his own discomfort forgotten.
Party is apparently on the floor by Ghoul’s feet, unmoving. He curses under his breath but Ghoul is already talking.
“I helped him up again to take him outside and he just collapsed. I can’t wake him up Kobra. He won’t-”
“Hey,” Kobra interrupts, maybe a bit too harshly. “Don’t think like that okay. He’s fine, we just gotta get ‘im into the car okay.”
Kobra hears Ghoul mumble his agreement.
Looking around, Kobra thinks he sees the outline of the sheets they’d used for Jet. He’d only caught a glimpse of them as they’d been pushed inside the car but the sheets would be useful with Party.
“Can you grab the sheets for me. We can cover ‘im with it and carry him out together.”
And so they do, lifting Party’s limp body up and draping the semi- soaked fabric over him. They do their best to arrange it so the driest part is touching his skin, not wanting to risk anything else.
Together they cary Party outside. Ghoul uses his foot to close the door behind them, the rain beating down heavily and wind blowing just as strong.
With his arms busy holding up his brother’s chest and head, Kobra can’t protect his face from the rain. It stings and burns his eyes so badly he’s worried it’s going to affect his vision.
Ghoul’s in much the same position, his arms preoccupied with holding Party’s legs.
When they finally get to the car, Jet opens the door door for them, allowing Kobra to push his brother head first into the back seat. It’s sorta cramped but Jet maneuvers so Party’s head rests on their lap.
Party isn’t the tallest person so he compacts pretty easily into the back seat.
When blanket is removed, Kobra still standing in the rain, unable to move, he can see how pale his brother has gone. There’s definitely a fever once again; Kobra could feel it as he’d carried him.
“I gotta go back! Still some supplies left!” Ghoul shouts behind him.
“No! You get in, I’ll go and get it. Take care of him!”
He gives Ghoul no room to argue, back already turned as he goes through the rain once again. Their medical supplies are in those bags, along with food, real water, and baby stuff. If he leaves it here then there’s a very good chance that it’s gonna be their names on the next morning broadcast. Ghosted from a storm.
The wind is horrible still. Somehow, in the hours this storm has been on going, it’s still just as strong as when it began. Kobra is truly beginning to believe that Better Living created this.
It’s just too unnatural, too strong, to be normal.
-----------------------------
Hours later they pull up to an abandoned looking diner.
During their drive the rain had finally let up, allowing them to actual navagate onto Guano and find a place to stay. The storm was still going on though, even as Kobra helps Jet inside.
Flashes of lightning are still common, the thunder still loud, as he guides them. The sky is dark as ever, painting everything in shadows.
Each time the lightning flashes, Jet tenses up. Kobra’s not sure if it’s left over nerves or if they’re afraid of the storm.
He doesn’t press though.
Getting them inside is hard. He is exhausted, face feeling like it’s sunburned from its exposure to the rain, and the adrenaline finally crashing. However, Kobra doesn’t have time to sit down and rest for a few moments.
Not when Jet is only barely standing right now. Not when his brother is unconscious and running a rather dangerous fever just inside the diner.
Kobra thinks that maybe this is karma of some kind. Payback.
But, he reminds himself, this is for the best.
Then, Jet pitches forwards, a weak groan escaping them as they do so. Kobra only just manages to catch them, now supporting them completely.
Their eyes are scrunched shut, head lulling to their chest as Kobra slings their arm over his shoulder. He drags them inside like that, his own exhaustion forgotten as he gingerly lays them down in a nearby booth.
Grace is crying somewhere in the room but Ghoul is currently hovering over Party. He’s got him stripped down to just his undershirt, an old, grey one that says ‘keep smiling’. Ghoul mumbles as he brings a hand up to feel Party’s forehead.
The shirt feels ironic right now.
“He’s burning Kobra,” Ghoul says dejectedly, turning fearful eyes towards him.
Crossing the room, Kobra takes in his brother’s form.
Party lays on top of a nearby table, his knees bending and falling off of the edge. He’s damp, either from the rain or sweat, and his breathing is short, labored. There’s a definite wheeze and rattle to his breaths as well.
“We just gotta cool him down. Here,” Kobra takes off his jacket, bundling it up to make a pillow.
They can’t let Party stay completely horizontal, gotta get him at least somewhat upright so he can begin to get the shit out of his lungs. Again.
“Kobra,” Ghoul whispers, making him turn his gaze away from his brother.
Ghoul looks terrified, eyes still wide and his fingers trembling where he’s got them resting on his brother’s forearm.
“He’s -”
“He is fine. It’s gonna take a lot more than a cough to bring him down. Just trust me,” Kobra reassures him, purposely leaving out how hot his brother’s skin is with the fever.
“I-I’m gonna- I’m gonna bring in the bags in, ‘case the rain starts again.”
Kobra just lets him go, knowing he needs to get rid of his anxious energy somehow. With him alone now, Kobra just sets about doing the routine checks that he’s learned from his brother.
Make sure the unconscious person is breathing, heart beating, unconscious...
The list goes on. It really helps a little to reign in Kobra’s anxiety, to get a conscious feel for the state his brother’s in.
Party isn’t actually in that bad of shape, just out of it because of the fever. So really, he’s worrying for nothing. Probably.
When Ghoul returns, four duffle bags slung over his shoulders, Kobra can’t help but notice how shitty he looks. He’s got acid burns all over him, nearly head to toe, and he’s got a sinking feeling Ghoul didn’t cover up.
“Stop starin’,” Ghoul says grumpilly, setting the duffle bags down at Kobra’s feet.
“You look like shit.”
“Yeah. Sucks.”
“No seriously,” Kobra presses, pulling out a water bottle. “Did you not cover up?”
Now, Ghoul looks almost guilty, staring down at his boots like he can’t meet Kobra’s eyes. Sure, he’d gone out unprotected on the last trip too but he is nowhere near as burned as Ghoul.
“Jet and the baby needed it more,” Ghoul says quietly.
And now Kobra just can’t be pissed at him for being reckless. He’d done the same thing so really, it’d be hypocritical to get on Ghoul now. So, rather than yell, Kobra just searches through the bag with their medical supplies.
“Okay, but you should change outta those clothes first. I’ll find the cream okay?” Kobra tells him quietly.
Ghoul just nods and grabs his own bag, presumably full of the few changes of clothes he owns, and wonders off for a private place to change. Before he leaves, Kobra passes him the tube of burn cream, telling him to use as much as he needs.
While he’s gone, Kobra works on finding some piece of cloth or something to use as a rag. His brother’s fever needs to be fought but all of their fabric and stuff they’d had was either ruined by the rain or was in use because of the rain. And also back in the shed.
Finding no other option, Kobra pulls his jacket off, his shirt coming off next as well. He winces a little as it pulls his shoulder but continues with what he’s doing. He flips out an old pocket knife from his front pocket and sets to work.
He cuts his shirt into as many little square shapes as he can, figuring they’re gonna need more than one rag. Once that’s done, Kobra puts the jacket back on and zips it up. He’s not exactly comfortable being shirtless right now…
By the time he’s pouring the water onto one of the pieces of t-shirt, Ghoul returns. He stands beside Kobra, watching him as he presses the cool cloth to his brother’s forehead. The fever isn’t that bad but they need to keep it under control. The reason he’d fainted was probably because it’d spiked and Kobra wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again.
“How is he?” Ghoul asks quietly.
He’s wearing a black t-shirt with yellow along the borders, his jacket nowhere to be found. Kobra can see the red blotches of burns all over his neck and face, with smaller burns covering his arms where the water had gotten in.
“Party’s just got a fever dude. He’s okay,” Kobra assures him.
Maybe if he downplays this his own anxiety will shut the fuck up. Maybe.
“But he like full on passed out. That’s not okay.”
Ghoul does have a point…
“We just ‘av to keep the fever down Ghoul. I promise he’s okay.”
Ghoul looks like he doesn’t believe him.
“Can I?” he asks, pointing at the strip of t-shirt in Kobra’s hand.
“Yeah sure.”
He lets Ghoul take over, the short man sliding into the booth as he does so. Kobra watches as Ghoul takes his brother’s hand, whispering something he probably doesn’t want to hear.
So, Kobra goes over to Jet, lets Ghoul and his brother have their moment.
He finds Jet exactly where he left them. They’re laying down in one of the booths, just barely conscious. Thunder rumbles once again and he watches Jet flash a worried look towards the door. This building is way more sturdy than their shed and the windows are insulated enough to where the rain won’t get in. Even the air is more clear in here.
Party should be able to get the shit out of his lungs much easier here.
“Hey,” he calls, making them flash tried eyes up at him. “You don’ alright?”
They just nod and it’s then that he notices their hand. It’s resting on their stomach, right above the bandages.
Maybe this is from ignoring his anxiety over his brother and it’s finally coming to a head, but Kobra has a split second moment of pure panic. He’s certain they’ve torn the wound open, that he’s going to lose them-
“I’m fine,” Jet mumbles, seemingly oblivious to his mild panic. “Just wiped.”
They look to be telling the truth. There’s dark bags under their eyes and their arms shake as they pull themself up until they’re sitting. Jet is still mostly hunched over, their elbows resting on the table of the booth but hey- at least they’re sitting.
“You should eat somethin’ then get some rest,” he says, noticing once again how pale they are right now.
He wishes he could do something more, could help them recover more quickly. Actually, there is a way… the proof is in his own shoulder but- but he can’t. This isn’t the right time.
But fuck-
He promised him that he’d call back by now. It’s okay, Kobra assures himself, all he has to do is find an excuse to go out to the car. Then he can make a quick call; it’ll all be fine.
Hell, maybe he’ll have some advice for Kobra. Maybe he can find a way to get some things to help speed along Party and Jet’s recovery...
Jet nods and makes to say something else but Kobra is already turning around. His mind is sort of on overdrive. He can’t stop thinking about everything that just went wrong and everything that could go wrong. Can’t repel those lingering feelings of guilt because this is his fault, even if it is indirectly.
Kobra makes himself busy, rummaging through their bags to find something for Jet to eat.
_____________
Hours later Kobra once again is the only one awake.
They’ve managed to keep Party’s fever mostly under control, though it still isn’t falling any. That’s where Kobra is right now, sitting in the booth beside his brother. He needs to wake him soon, some water and food would probably do him good, but for now Kobra lets him rest.

There’s sweat beading on Party’s forehead, his eyes scrunched shut as his eyes flicker beneath, and Kobra knows he’s fucked up.
Honestly, the only reason he’s lying, the only reason he’s not telling them is because he told him not to. The man had saved Kobra’s life and really, at the time this secrecy had seemed like a good idea.
Now though, Kobra isn’t so sure.
Maybe it’s his brother, laying here like this, that’s fuling this decison. Seeing him like this is difficult to say the least and it’s making Kobra rethink everything.
It’d be so easy to come clean. Hell, it may even help them out in the long run.
Party groans in his sleep, face twisting even further into a grimace. He mumbles something under his breath as half coughs escape him.
Reaching over, Kobra just re-wets the piece of t-shirt and puts it back on his brother's forehead. It’s odd doing this now, mostly because it was Jet in this position just the other day.
“Mh- gotta- got-”
Party’s words are starting to form but Kobra still can’t quite make out what he’s saying. He’s getting worried though, worried that this is going to turn into a nightmare. His brother’s dreams are bad enough without a fever, there’s no telling what horrible shit his subconscious will be able to dig up while he’s in this state.
So, he shushes him, runs a hand through his red hair, and does his best to keep his older brother calm. It works, sorta.
“Gotta get- get out- we- bombs-”
“Party?” Kobra questions quietly, not sure if his brother is waking up or just dreaming.
“We gotta get out. Come on Mikey- Mikey-”
This turns into Party just calling his name, over and over. Kobra can’t react for a moment, too caught up with what's happening to fully process it. When he does though, he shakes his brother’s shoulders as hard as he dares.
He needs to wake him up before the whole damn desert hears Kobra’s name. Before Jet hears his name.
“You gotta wake up. Wake up Party.”
After a few rough shakes, and a dozen half shouts of Kobra’s name, Party finally wakes. He sits bolt upright, eyes wide and panicked as his hands reach towards his holster all their own.
“Hey- shit- it’s just me. It’s just me,” Kobra tries.
Party looks at him and just deflates the moment he realizes who it is. He coughs once into his arm but still offers Kobra a weak smile afterwards.
“You were dreaming,” Kobra states.
“I-I was. Did I-”
“You were calling my name… my real one...”
His brother curses under his breath but Kobra takes this opportunity to pass him a granola bar and some water. Once his brother is sufficiently taken care of in that manor, Kobra allows himself to think as Party pulls his knees up to his chest.
The way he’s sitting, still on top of the table, makes him look so small. In times like these, Kobra can see how Jet thought maybe Kobra was the oldest. Party appears so young right now, his shoulders shaking every so often as he coughs.
“What did you see?”
Maybe Kobra can help… maybe talking about it would help.
“Just- just us,” Party says, muffled through his arms. “The night we left home…”
“Oh-”
“Haven't thought of that in a long time… do you remember- do you remember it at all?”
“Yeah. Yeah I do. And I remember the lights and the coco the day before,” Kobra says, surprising himself at how… happy that part of the memory makes him.
Party lifts his head to look at him, eyes searching for something in Kobra.
“Didn’t think you remembered, with hitting your head and you being so young and all.”
“Well I do. You gave me your coco cause I finished mine in like two gulps and when I went to sleep that night the lights made my room look like a rainbow,” Kobra tells him, smiling to himself at the memories.
“Wow. You really- you actually remember?”
“Yeah. You’ve always taken care of me…”
“I always will Mikey,” Party says, voice barely above a whisper.
“I love you ya know.”
His brother smiles, suppressing another cough in his arm.
The diner around them is quiet, Jet out cold with Grace in their arms and Ghoul on guard duty outside. Just around dusk the storm had finally dissipated but the radio signals were still shit; they couldn’t even get Doc’s station they were so bad.
So, they were alone.
Kobra wonders if the station he’d called the other night would be able to get their signal. He could try it, at the very least just to see if it’d work. Or maybe to actually come clean and-
“Can I ask you something?”
His brother’s question is surprising but Kobra finds himself noding all the same.
“What actually happened when you went to get supplies. I’m- I’m not dumb Kobra, I know that something happened. Even if you did patch yourself up, that wound looks a week old rather than a couple of days. Plus, I heard you step out last night, right before the broadcast about the rain you came back in.”
“Gee I-”
“Don’t ‘Gee’ me, I know something happened. What could be so bad that you keep it from me? From your crew?”
Fuck… he’s got him backed into a corner.
Really, Kobra wants to come clean but it’s just-
Before he can stop himself, Kobra starts talking. He can never really lie to his brother, never has been good at keeping secrets. Party knew he wasn’t straight before Kobra even really knew… just has the ability to read him so well. He always knows...
So, Kobra starts talking.