Opening the door to his brother’s room as quietly as he can, Party isn’t quite sure what he is expecting. Would Kobra be pacing the floor, anxious and unable to sit still? Would he be curled up in the corner or in the sheets, overthinking everything?
Pushing his hair out of his eyes- he should probably get it cut, it’s so fucking long- Party lets the door slowly creak open. The old wood pops and protests opening, making him wince at the sudden, loud noise. Jet is probably trying to sleep right now and he’d really rather not wake them. Thankfully though, the door doesn’t make a sound on the last few inches.
The inside of Kobra’s room is surprisingly dark and none of the small lamps have been turned on. Party knows for a fact that there were at least three in this room alone, so his brother not having one on was surprising. Ghoul had just been in here, maybe an hour or so ago, and Party doubts that his brother would be able to sleep so soon after-
“Kobra?” he calls quietly, stepping in further.
He leaves the door open and the small bit of light from the hallway helps to illuminate the room just enough. Party is almost certain that the lump on the bed is his brother, curled up and turned away from the door.
After a few moments of quiet Party realizes that the lump is in fact his brother, can see the little tips of his hair poking out from the top of the covers pulled up to his nose. But he’s asleep, eyes closed gently and breathing even. He was wrong it seems. Kobra’s asleep and he’s grateful for it really. He needs it.
A smile finds its way to Party’s face as he closes the door as quietly as he can behind him. Sitting down in the wooden chair by the small desk, he settles in for the night. He fumbles a bit but finds the switch for the smallest lamp, the one that sits on the very edge of the desk, and flicks it on.
Soft light fills his corner of the room and he does a double check to make sure Kobra is still asleep. Thankfully, he seems to be out pretty hard.
Party had wanted to talk to him, to make sure that wasn’t still convinced they were all against him. He knew how sometimes, in the mists of anxiety, Kobra’s mind could play tricks on him, convince him of things that weren’t true.
Settling back against the chair, Party brings one knee up to his chest and leans over to wrap his arms around it. He sighs, watching Kobra’s back move as he breathes in his sleep.
Truthfully, Party’s waiting for the moment when he wakes up. Not when Kobra wakes, no, himself.
They all survived today, and other than some mental stuff they all need to work out, they’re fine. No one was hurt, not really. Sure, Jet’s on bedrest and Kobra’s probably going to sleep like the dead for the next day or so. And yeah- a laser beam got a little too close to Party’s arm for his liking, burning a painful- but not deep- graze in his left arm.
To walk away with just those minor injuries though…That’s just- it’s not possible. Party is just waiting to wake up and it be a dream, for this peace to be nothing but a figment of his imagination. Because as painful as what’s going on between his brother and them, a reality where he loses his crew is so much worse.
Lost in thought, Party shifts without thinking, elbow hitting the lamp on the side of the desk and sending it to the floor with a sharp crash. He freezes in place, eyes wide in the sudden darkness.
He hears a groan come from his brother’s bed. Then the sheets shuffle.
“Whosethere?” Kobra’s voice mumbles in the darkness.
Even though he sounds half asleep, Party’s sure Kobra’s awake enough to know someone is actually in the room with him. Thankfully, he’d spotted his brother’s gun on the table by the bed so Party knows he’s not about to get shot just for waking Kobra. Not that he’d blame him really. It’s better safe than sorry.
“It’s just me. Knocked over the fucking lamp like a dumbass,” Party says, laughing a little at himself.
He gets up and flicks on the overhead light. Kobra is sitting up in bed, looking more than half asleep, while the broken lamp sits shattered on the floor where Party had sat.
“Did it cut you?” Kobra asks quietly, groggy eyes flicking up to meet his.
Party shakes his head; he’s fine.
Kobra breathes a deep sigh of relief and only now does Party notice the anxiety as it leaves his brother’s frame. He’s all slumped over with dark bags under his eyes and the blankets pulled up around his shoulders like a cocoon. Honestly he looks exhausted and Party is a little guilty for waking him.
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” Party tells him, “Let me just clean up the broken bits and you can go back to sleep.”
He gets no response but that doesn’t bother him, just takes it as his cue to hurry up. Party gets to work, finding an old wastebasket and carefully disposing of the jaggid bits of plaster and glass that used to be the lamp. Once he’s done, Party sets the basket aside and double checks his work.
The floor is clean now, the hardwood making it relatively easy to find broken bits of lamp. No one will get stabbed in the foot by tiny little shards of lamp anytime soon.
“Alright. Clean as it’s gettin’ I guess,” he says, mostly to himself.
Standing back up, Party goes to turn the light back off. Kobra hasn’t said a word for a while so he’s assuming his brother is either very nearly asleep again, or just wants the quiet. Both of which are okay with him.
Reaching for the switch to turn off the light, there’s a shuffling noise followed quickly by the sound of bare feet on the hardwood floor. Two arms wrap around his middle and a head presses against his back the next moment. His hand pauses on the switch, waiting to see what’s the matter.
“Leave ‘em on, Gee,” he whispers into Party’s back. “Please.”
He smiles sadly, understanding the request. It takes a lot of shuffling and some strategic repositioning to get both of them back to the bed, but Party manages. Kobra is very rarely this clingy but when he is, it’s nearly impossible to get him to let go. Not that Party is complaining or anything.
So, when he manages to finally get his brother back into the bed and under the covers, Party knows to not even attempt to pull away from the arms still gripping to him. Kobra’s face is buried in his chest, his arms wrapped around Party tightly enough for it to make it difficult to breathe. He’s thankful the acid burns on his shoulder and front have healed enough to not be sore because this position would be painful as hell if not.
This is all so reminiscent of years before, where Party would hold Kobra as he cried. They’d both gone by different names then, both had cried over things that didn’t apply anymore. There were no more abusive boyfriends or discusting pills shoved down their throats. Party remembers once case, one particularly bad month. You see, he and Kobra had managed to stay off of them, the City’s pills, but unfortunately once his brother got to school… they’d put them in the kids’ lunches. Naturally, Party found out and had fought to homeschool him after that but- seeing a little fucking kid go through withdrawals was- it was horrible.
But that was all in the past. Those things couldn’t hurt them anymore.
Kobra’s grip is unrelenting and it’s beginning to make a pit form in Party’s stomach. What’s wrong?
“Kid,” Party breathes, trying to stay quiet, “I’m right here.”
“You could’a died today.”
Unintentionally, Party stiffens. Well yeah, it’s true. He very well could have been ghosted today. But he hadn’t. They all could have died if he’s honest. They were lucky, extremely lucky.
“I didn’t. I’m okay,” Party assures him.
“But you could have. So could Ghoul and- and Jet and- I- I fucked up again.”
Kobra sounds too shaky, maybe moments from another anxiety attack. All Party can do is let him hold on to him, let his brother ground himself while they talk. He recognizes it now, the clinging. It’s Kobra trying to keep himself calm. With any luck, they’ll be able to avoid another panic attack. Hopefully anyway.
“Why do you say that?”
“You were all worried ‘bout me ‘cause I ran the other night. We might have seen the patrol coming sooner if-”
“Hey-” he interrupts, “I think we all did pretty good for a last minute thing, don’t ya think?”
“I guess- but-”
“No buts Kid. We did it. We’re okay, all of us.”
Party sighs when Kobra doesn’t answer. He knows his brother is continuing to blame himself but just- he just doesn’t know what to do.
Then, Kobra is resting against him now, no longer holding so tightly. His head sits gently on Party’s chest, very likely listening to his heartbeat. Some of the tension in his body is gone as well. Party counts it as a small step in the right direction.
He needs to confront Kobra about Ghoul and his conversation but- he just doesn’t know how. Ultimately, Party decides to just go for it because he doesn’t want to miss the chance to talk to Kobra about this.
“Hey, look, Ghoul said he came in here earlier,” Kobra tenses up against him and takes a shaky breath. “Said you guys talked for a bit.”
A muffled agreement from Kobra has him continuing. However, any plan he’d had is thrown out the window now. Kobra doesn’t need to be grilled on the whys of how he’s feeling, truthfully Party already knows the answer. Right now, his brother needs something else.
“You know that I love you, right?”
Finally, Kobra looks up at him. His eyes are red and vulnerable as he studies Party’s face.
“Yeah,” he answers in a whisper.
“Good. Cause I fucking love you Mikey. There is nothing that would ever change that, okay?”
Kobra looks down for a moment and Party can practically hear the sound of his mind going a million miles an hour. He’s over-thinking it, like always.
“No matter what. I love you; you’re my baby brother and no one, no-thing, can change that,” he promises with a quick nod.
Kobra rolls his eyes lovingly, in that way only siblings can. Somehow Party knows he’s said the right thing; he’s helped.
“I just- I don’t get why Ghoul is- why he’s acting like nothing’s happened.”
“He cares about you too Kid, you know that. We’re family, all three of us, and you don’t just start hating someone after they make a mistake.”
“Five?” Kobra says so quietly that Party nearly doesn’t catch it. “Jet and Grace, they- they’re family too right?”
He agrees. Sure, they have quite literally known them like 8 days total but- but yeah- they’re family. There’s not anything he wouldn’t do for Jet, or the baby. They’ve both grown on him in a very short amount of time.
“Yes. Yeah, you’re right.”
There’s more he wants to say, more that Party needs to say, but Kobra yawns. He’s blinking slowly, trying to stay awake.
“We can talk, all together, in the morning. Get some sleep, Mikey. You need it.”
Without protest, his brother curls a little tighter around him. In moments, Kobra’s breathing evens out and he’s asleep.
Party doesn’t move, stays as still as possible so that his brother doesn’t wake again. His mind wanders, naturally.
He thinks about Kobra, about how far he’s come in his time in the desert. From that scared kid who was tasting freedom for the first time, to the way he’d saved Jet’s life today. Kobra could have died, he could have misjudged the distance and the blast from Korse’s gun could have burned a whole through him.
Party doesn’t like to think of that scenario, doesn’t allow himself to dwell on it for even a second after it’s created. Instead, he takes comfort in the knowledge that his brother did survive, he did save Jet’s life, and he’s currently-finally- resting.
The diner is quiet, the only sounds Party can hear are that of his brother’s breathing and- and now that he’s listening- the low tone of Ghoul’s voice as he shows Jet his tattoos. A smile finds its way onto Party’s face at that. Jet and Ghoul seem to be getting close, becoming good friends in a short amount of time.
He should be worrying about the risk of another patrol but truthfully, with how little noise is in the building right now, they’d be able to hear the engines before they approached. Plus, Party is almost certain that Ghoul is going to fall asleep soon and then wake up in a couple of hours. It’s slightly concerning but Ghoul never gets more than two or three hours in one sitting. He takes short little naps during the day whenever he can spare the time but Party has never seen him get more than five hours in one full day.
But, in this situation, it’ll come in handy because Party physically cannot bring himself to pull out of Kobra’s arms. The kid had to sleep alone too many times in his life and Party will be damned if he has to again tonight.
When Ghoul wakes in a couple of hours, he’ll be fidgety and full of nervous energy like always and so, he’ll go on watch until everyone else wakes.
Party doesn’t sleep though.
Even as he hears Ghoul’s voice taper off, telling that he’s finally fallen asleep, and the building goes into that otherworldly state when no one else is awake but you. It’s only Party, he’s the only one awake, the only one to hear the whistling of the wind outside, the sound of sand hitting the glass window as it’s kicked up. It’s only him.
But Kobra mumbles something in his sleep and before Party can react, he’s rolling over and literally laying on top of him. Party had been sitting up, leaning against the headboard while his brother slept against his side. Now though, he’s slid down onto the pillows with Kobra laying completely on top of him. The kid’s light, even in sleep, and truthfully, Party doesn’t mind in the slightest.
The body heat keeps the chill away. And it, hopefully, will keep any and all nightmares away from his brother.
The next morning, Jet Star actually wakes first. Surprising right?
Well- wait. Actually, they’re pretty sure that Ghoul was in here when they’d fallen asleep and he’s gone now so…
Okay, they’re the second one up. Still, an achievement.
They feel pretty good, all things considered. Their stomach is really sore though, likely from everything yesterday and the stress they’d put on a literal open wound.
Jet sits up carefully, using their elbows to prop themself up and look around the room. Everything is bathed in that soft morning glow and the heat of the day hasn’t really begun yet, though it will very soon. They can’t see the window from their position but they can see Grace, her face soft with sleep. She’s thankfully, not awake yet and they have a few more moments of quiet.
Actually, the entire building is quiet.
If Ghoul is up yet, and not just passed out somewhere else, he’s being silent for once. If Jet is honest, that is more suspicious than if he was being loud.
Sitting up completely, they push the blankets off. It’s getting warm, not uncomfortably so but enough to where the additional layers are not needed. They pause before standing, Party’s request coming back to them.
He wanted them to rest, to take it easy until they figured out what the hell was going on with their heart. Which, really, is terrifying.
On top of everything else they’ve had thrown at them this past week, of course their heart has to pitch a fit and start acting up. Jet prays it’s nothing, that this is just left over from their near death experience. That it’s something that will go away in time.
The alternative… leaving Grace behind… it’s just not an option.
Shaking their head, Jet stands. They need to do something, can’t stand laying around all day. Mostly, they just want to talk to someone, preferably Kobra.
They need to talk, the two of them, and Jet’s not too keen on waiting any longer.
But wait- he’s probably not even awake yet. They remember how dead on his feet he was the night before. The chances of Kobra being up right now are slim.
With a sigh, Jet sits back down on the mattress. It dips a little with their weight, the old springs creaking.
Even the bed is protesting them laying around all day.
But, if they’re really, really honest, they know they should take it easy.
That’s the frustrating bit. Everything that’s keeping them from talking to Kobra, from actually talking to the others about the fucking bomb Korse dropped on them yesterday, is completly resonable. Jet needs to rest, so does Kobra, and it’s almost like the very universe is pushing them apart.
Sitting here in this bed, alone and in the quiet, Jet drifts.
First they’re just thinking about Grace, how they’re going to find her some toys to replace the ones she lost in the clap. And just like that they’re crying.
It’s not a soft, quiet cry. No this one hurts, it burns and tears at them as they try and muffle their sobs in their hands.
They don’t know how well they’re doing with keeping quiet but at this point they don’t care.
It’s not fucking fair.
Why did it have to be their crew? Why did Korse single them out to get to Party and Kobra? What was so goddamn important about them for him to make that decision?
Even worse is the probability that Korse chose at random. He chose to murder their entire crew, to leave them alive, entirly on a whim.
Their chest constricts painfully at that. God- what did they do to deserve that?
Jet’s nose is running, their face sticky and too warm with the never ending, salty tears that pour from their eyes. They’re breathing in short little gasps, chest way too tight to do any different.
It hurts, down to their very core.
They’d tried so fucking hard to not break down, to not let Better Living win. Their Ma wouldn’t have wanted them to give up.
But sitting here, right now in the silence of the room and the horrible constricting in their chest, they don’t know how to keep going.
If all of this was planned, or, at the least, out of their control, what was the goddamn point?
Sobbing harder, Jet leans over until they’re laying back down on the bed. They curl in on themself, not even bothering to remove the hair sticking to their wet cheeks.
They try to calm down, to get themself under control, but it’s hard, unbelievably so. Their head is literally splitting and their entire body is numb, almost like it’s not connected to their mind at all.
Eventually, they do stop sobbing. All that’s left are those silent tears, the ones when you’re too exhausted to do anything else, they’re still streaming down Jet’s face but they don’t make any move to wipe them away.
Hiccupping, they do bring a hand up to press against their forehead. Their own cool hand brings at least some relief to their burning skin.
They take a deep breath, their lungs practically shuttering with the effort it takes.
Then, they hear it.
At first it’s too quiet for them to make out, just a soft sound in the air that carries over their stuttering breaths. But then it gets louder, more confident.
Someone’s singing they realize.
It sounds distant, like the singer is outside.
The words are harder to distinguish, mostly mumbled. The notes remain, strong and steady. Whoever this is can actually sing, like really well.
Their voice is a little whiny but deep and ragged at the same time.
Ghoul, they realize a moment later.
Who would have thought he could sing?
But yeah, it’s definitely him.
Jet still isn’t sure what song he’s singing, or if there even is one and he’s not just singing nonsense to himself at ass o’clock in the morning.
Even still, it helps them calm down.
They finally brush the hair out of their face, noticing the trembling in their hand as it passes their face. Feeling dizzy, Jet decides not to try and get up just yet.
Laying in bed all day doesn’t sound so bad anymore.
It’s mid morning when Grace wakes.
They were drifting in and out, mind too hazy and tired to pull them completely in either direction. Hearing her cry, more of a ‘I’m alone and I’m bored; pay attention to me’ sort of cry, makes Jet finally move. Just rolling over takes too much effort and if it were anyone, anything, else, they wouldn’t have even tried.
But this is their sister, the only thing that Korse hadn’t taken from them, and they can’t just ignore her. They don’t want to ignore her.
Finally sitting, Jet takes just a moment to catch their breath. God- they’re sore as hell. They groan but pad over to Grace as quickly as they can.
“Mornin’ little one,” they coo, voice rough and weak from earlier.
Grace doesn’t seem bothered, she grins up at them, gums and all, and reaches out for them to pick her up. They do, bringing her close to their chest and filling their aching lungs with her smell, hearing her soft breaths.
“How’d you sleep?” they ask her quietly.
She, of course, does not answer. But if the way she’s making happy little baby noises in their ear is any indication, she’s in a good mood.
“Yeah? You’re smiley today Grace.”
Jet pulls her back, holding her at arm length. She squeals and giggles as they pull a face.
Just like that, that crushing weigh in their chest lifts. It’s still there but they can breathe, can function a little easier now.
“You’re getting heavy!” they tell her, pretending like it’s a monumental effort to pull her back against their chest.
Again she lets out a series of high pitches giggles and clings to Jet. They hold tightly to her, relishing in the knowledge that they have this. They have her, alive and happy and healthy.
She’s so small, so vulnerable, and the thought of all the danger outside makes them want to keep her this close forever.
“I love you Grace,” they whisper, pressing a gentle kiss to her forehead.
Jet lovingly spits out the hair that found its way into their mouth, realizing that they wouldn’t trade this for anything.
“She loves you too,” comes a soft voice from the door.
They spin around to find Kobra leaning against the frame, just as his brother did last night. Jet freezes, their mind suddenly both racing and entirely blank.
They almost certainly look like they’ve been having a breakdown all morning- because they fucking have- and they really don’t want Kobra to see them like this. They’re bound to look an absolute mess and they’re not at all certain they won’t start crying again if he asks them about it.
But at the same time- holy shit this is their chance to talk to Kobra without interruption.
“You’re a good sibling to her and she loves you, appreciates you,” he tells them like he speaks baby or something.
Kobra is smiling so softly at them, something unreadable in his eyes.
They don’t know what else to say.
Jet really hoped Grace knows how much they love her…
Looking back at Kobra, they take in that he looks… good- better than good really. The bags are gone from under his eyes and his posture is tall yet awkward. It’s familiar and they’re more than relieved that he’s finally gotten some rest.
“Party told me that you pulled the stitches yesterday, I um- how’re you feeling?”
Kobra looks down at his boots and suddenly Jet is very much aware that they’re currently only in their tank top and socks. They’d stripped sometime when talking to Ghoul, the jeans proving uncomfortable to sleep in. Jet hadn’t thought twice about it last night, Ghoul was just Ghoul, but now-
They need some new clothes before they die of embarrassment.
And there it is. It’s that age old white lie. The ‘I’m fine’ that you tell when your insides are currently burning with the weight of everything running through your mind. If only to prevent the worrying that you know will occur if you tell the truth.
But then Kobra gives them this look, like he knows they’re lying. Jet feels the tears prickle their eyes and they fight, hard, against it.
“I am. I’m good, never better.”
“That’s good,” Kobra says, looking at them like he knows exactly what’s going on in their head.
“Jet?” he asks suddenly.
They set Grace down in her bed, crossing the room to stand a bit closer to Kobra. From this distance they can still see the tiredness in his eyes, the disheveled look of his hair and clothes telling that he’s not as okay as he’s acting either.
“You can tell me if you’re not. I know that- that I fucked up, that I broke your trust in me. But, as long as you want me to be, I’m here for you. If you- if you need to talk, or anything, I’m here.”
That has to be the longest sentence they’ve ever heard him say and they’re left shocked by that knowledge for a few moments. Then, their mind reminds them that they’ve been waiting on their conversation for a while.
“It’s okay,” they say seriously, because it is.
The reasoning behind Kobra’s actions makes sense, even if his decision was not the best one, and Jet just can’t bring themself to stay mad at him. He did his best and he’s working hard to fix the mistakes he made.
Kobra relaxes visibly, a weight likely taken off of his shoulders. He stands much easier, waiting on them to keep going.
“I just- what Korse said, I-”
They fight back the tears, pressing roughly against their eyelids to try and keep them at bay. It doesn’t work, they feel the hot tears once again cascade down their face, down their arms.
“Oh, Jet. No no, don’t-”
Then Kobra is beside them, pulling them against him and wrapping them in warmth. That’s the only way to describe it, warm. It’s as if Kobra is this bright, burning force, chasing away the shadows creeping up, overtaking their mind. These tears are different now, less hopeless more cleansing.
“The- the worst part,” the whisper into his jacket, his cologne filling their senses with nothing but the thought of him and the peace he’s bringing to their mind. “The worst part is that it was for nothing. They died for nothing.”
They’re shaking again and they’re sure they'd have fallen if it weren’t for Kobra keeping them upright.
“Shh,” he soothes, taking his own steadying breath before continuing. “They died fighting for what they believed in. Your crew died fighting Better Living, they fought to make a difference.”
“But it doesn’t matter because Korse was just after you!”
The words leave their mouth before their mind has even caught up. Kobra tenses against them and they hear him take a shaky breath.
“And I will do everything in my power to make him pay for that,” Kobra tells them, the sincerity and intensity of his words hitting them full force.
“I mean it, Jet. Korse will pay for everything he’s done.”
All they can do is nod against him.
They hadn’t even noticed the tears stop, hadn’t noticed that their own heart is now beating with his and that they’re leaning entirely on him. He’s a rock, a focal point keeping them afloat.
“You’re not mad that Korse used me to get to you?”
Jet had to ask, the unknowing like a spike to their heart.
“Never. I would never be mad at you for something like that.”
Jet sighs, closing their eyes. Kobra is warm, strong and they never want to leave this moment.
“Thank you,” they whisper.
They stay like that for what feels like forever, Kobra slowly putting the pieces of Jet back into place.
Later, there’s a soft knock on the door.
Jet’s back in bed, laying on top of the covers with one of Kobra’s comics in their hand. Kobra himself is holding Grace, pointing out random things out the window and telling her all about them.
They both look up at Party comes in. He smiles when he sees Jet following his request, probably not believing that they were going to listen and actually stay in bed.
“Sup,” Kobra says from the window, already back to showing Grace the desert.
She may be a baby but she’s seen plenty of desert already in her life. They don’t bring that up though, just watching Kobra with her makes their heart flutter with warmth.
“Mornin’,” Party answers, setting down his bag on their bed and giving them a look of sympathy. “Sorry Jet, gotta clean it again. Without the stitches you’re gonna run a greater risk of infection for a couple of days.”
So, he cleans their stomach as Jet continues to read. This comic is old, predating the Wars, and it’s well worn. The pages are flimsy with age and use, no longer crisp and smooth. However, it’s evident that Kobra has taken very good care of this book, kept it safe for a long time.
Jet looks at Party from over the comic.
“Uh- somethin’ Kobra gave me. Ain’t sure what it’s called.”
“It’s one of yours, Party,” Kobra adds from across the room.
They let Party look at the comic after he packs the supplies back into his kit. His expression grows reminiscent as he runs his hands over the pages slowly.
“I didn’t know you still had it.”
“Yeah. Kept it hidden. Ghoul musta’ grabbed it on accident when we left cause I found it in my bag this morning.”
The brothers smile in unison, both very likely relieving some old, fond memory.
Party passes the comic back to them a moment later, telling them to be gentle with it.
“So, Jet,” Party starts, seriousness returning. “How’re you feeling this morning?”
“Honestly?” He nods.“Sore as hell.”
Party cracks a grin at that but continues with his questions. At the change of topic, Kobra sets Grace down and walks closer, listening in.
“Any times yet today when you’ve felt your heart get fast again?”
“Yeah. Now that I’m looking for it, whenever I stand I get lightheaded for a moment and I can sometimes hear my heartbeat for a few seconds.”
Party nods,thinking it over.
“There’s gotta be a cause of it, and I plan on figuring it out,” they notice Kobra roll his eyes at that. A question for another time as Party continues.
“But for now, you’re off of bed rest but I want you taking it easy okay? I know I’m being sorta controlling but you mean a lot to me Jet, and I really don’t want to see something bad come of this because I let you take off sprinting through the desert with a weak heart.”
They laugh, they can’t help it.
Jet does agree though, Party’s shoulders sagging a little in relief.
“Alright. Mandatory meetin’ in the diner in thirty.”
“Everything okay?” Kobra questions, noticing the hint of something else in his brother’s tone.
“Yeah- just, I’ll tell you all once we get downstairs okay?”
Thirty minutes later, Jet follows Kobra downstairs.
Instantly they notice something is off.
For one, it’s way too quiet.
There’s no noise, nothing, not even the constant sound of Ghoul doing Witch knows what in the background. Actually, now that they look around, they can’t see Ghoul anywhere.
Wasn’t this supposed to be a mandatory meeting?
Jet watches Party, hoping to gain some sort of clue as to what’s going on.
He sits across from them in what used to be their booth. Kobra sits beside Party, a space between them because this day is already setting up to be a scorcher.
Ghoul is still suspiciously not here.
The only indication as to what Party wants to talk about is the radio that sits on the table in front of them. It’s turned on but the volume looks to be all the way down.
Thankfully, Kobra looks as lost as Jet currently feels.
After a while, Party takes a deep breath.
“So. First order of business, that stranger who tried to turn Kobra in.”
Kobra instantly looks down, fiddling with something under the table.
“Whatta ‘bout him?” Kobra asks without looking up.
“Ghoul’s currently holding him at gunpoint.”
“What?” both Jet and Kobra ask at once.
“He woke up a couple of hours ago,” Party explains with a shrug.
“And he said some shit about Kobra and I had to stop Ghoul from beating him to death.”
At that, Kobra seems to pause. He thinks for a few moments before asking his next question.
“What did he say?”
“You really want to know?”
Kobra nods, even though Jet really would rather not want to hear what he said about him. If it was bad enough for Ghoul to want to kill him over…
“Basically that he wishes he wasn’t as drunk as he was cause he’d have, and I quote, ‘made that scrawny twink ass mine.’ Ghoul broke his nose shortly after that.”
“You’re way to calm about this,” Jet states, confused as to how Party can be so nonchalant when talking about this perv.
“Eh. Kobra’s safe as can be because Ghoul can and very likely will shoot his ass if he tries anything.”
“Can confirm,” Kobra adds.
“Okay… so what are we gonna do?”
“That’s why we’re here. Or at least part of why. Do we kill him, scare the shit out of him and then let him run off back home, or mysterious option three that I’ve yet to come up with?”
“I can guess Ghoul’s vote,” Kobra says with a smirk. “I personally, since it’s literally my ass on the line, vote we beat the shit out of him and let the sand decide his fate.”
“I can get behind that. Jet?”
“Yeah, that works,” they answer with a sharp nod.
The hell is wrong with the dude? Not only have Party and the others saved his life, after he tried to kill/turn in Kobra no less, but they let him recover in their base?! You’d have to be stupid to start shit like he just did.
Jet wonders if Ghoul will let them get in any punches? They’d certainly like to release some anger by beating up a creepy, tratorious perv like this guy.
“Okay, cool,” Party continues. “Next order, Doctor Death.”
“What about him?” asks Kobra as he rolls his sleeves up.
Yeah, it’s really getting hot now. But it’s not the normal heat though, the air is almost thick with it. Jet feels like there’s a layer of sticky clinging to their skin. There’s that distinct smell of acid rain lingering and they have a feeling that this is a precursor to another storm.
“You said he’s gotta fuck ton of supplies right outta the City, right? Well, he’s our best bet in tradin’ then. We’re running low on damn near everything. I’m gonna try and see what we can scrounge up to trade becuase we got fuck all in carbons.”
“Sorry,” Jet apologizes quietly.
If they hadn’t taken in Jet and Grace, their supplies probably would have lasted a lot longer.
That was Kobra. Jet glances up, finding that easy smile back on Kobra’s face. With how rarely he’d smiled when they’d first met him, seeing him like this -multiple times even this morning- makes the butterflies in their chest go haywire. They want to do anything and everything to get that smile to return.
“Seriously,” Party adds. “We don’t mind at all, just gotta make some accommodations is all. Now, Kobra, you have Doc’s frequency right?”
Kobra agrees sheepishly, flashes of guilt returning.
“Perfect. Can you contact him for us, tell ‘im we need to trade and that we finally ran into Korse?”
“Yeah, yeah I can do that.”
Jet watches Kobra nervously dial the radio until he finds Doctor Death’s personal frequency. The one he normally broadcasts to is one way, meaning they can hear him but he can’t hear them. It’s safer that way but inconvenient in times like this.
“K. Calling out.”
The reply is instant, almost like Doctor Death has been waiting on Kobra. Yet, the voice on the other end is very much not the DJ they know. This voice is softer, younger.
“You’re in deep shit K.”
Kobra huffs out a laugh, seemingly relieved. Jet and Party share a look, both are confused.
“Yeah. Yeah I know. Look, can I talk to the Doc?”
“I dunno man, he’s busy.”
“S, I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. Please just put me on.”
“He’ll have my ass for it if it’s not.”
“I know,” Kobra says, finally meeting Jet’s confused gaze.
He just flashes them a smile as they wait.
Jet mouths ‘who was that?’ to which Kobra replies, ‘later’.
Great, that was super helpful.
Then the radio crackles back to life.
“About damn time son.”
That’s Doctor Death, Jet’s honestly a little surprised. They’ve never heard him outside of his broadcasts. This version of him isn’t different exactly but it’s less dramatized, less for show.
“I know. A lotta shit’s went down since I called last. I ended up comin’ clean,” Kobra tells him.
“Was anyone a snitch?”
“No. Not really,” he looks over to Jet. “But there was an ‘unwilling bait’ situation. Korse found us yesterday.”
“Shit. Ya’ll make it out alright?”
“Yeah. But I gotta favor to ask you.”
“What is it?”
Doc sounds skeptical, like he’s dealt with ‘joys who ask for too much before.
“Willing to trade with us? We recently acquired a coulple’a new souls and we’ve found ourselves runnin’ low.”
“I don’t give freebies,” Doc warns, though his tone holds no malice.
“I know. We’re prepared to trade, just ain’t got any cash.”
“That’s fine. You know where I am.”
And just like that, the conversation is over.
“Wait,” Jet asks, just to make sure they’re on the same page as everyone else. “We’re going to see Doctor Death?”
“Looks like it,” Kobra tells them, sinking down in his seat dejectedly.
“C’mon. Lets deal with Val first.”
The name is unfamiliar…
“Who?” Kobra asks Party.
“The fucker who’s currently probably shitting himself at the sight of all four-foot-eleven of Ghoul, Val Velocity.”