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These Kids Are A Disgrace

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" Listen up, all you dust angels and turf chasers. These waves are carrying bad news today. It seems that the leader of the Killjoys himself, that's right our very own Party Poison, has gotten himself ghosted trying to return everyone's favorite motorbaby back to her place in the zones. So we raise our glasses to you and bid to a fond farewell for the time being. Smile now, zonerunners, and remember that it's never over until we stop coming back."

 

The diner is too silent when they get back, too empty. Kobra can hear Grace muffling her sobs against Jet's jacket and Ghoul doesn't even look before he heads to the back room, probably gonna try and send a wave Dr. D's way. He strips off his jacket the moment he gets inside, and then his shirt, which he chucks across the room, wanting to be as far away from the red stain on the chest. His hands are shaking when he tries to get the gun belt off and he has to press his hands on the counter to make them stop.

Kobra can't close his eyes because when he does all he can see is Gerard getting shot, hear his own shout, feel the blood as he tries to stop the wound. He can still hear his brother tell him to go, to take Grace and get out, that he would just slow them down, get them all killed.

He looks back when Ghoul pulls him away, even though he knows better. It was stupid and sentimental and he sees it when the Korse and the Dracs converge on Gerard.

The shaking hasn't stopped, if anything its gotten worse, and Kobra closes his eyes as he feels them start to get wet.

He lost his brother, again.

* * *

Show Pony shows up at dusk.

"I'm sorry," is all he says, but that's enough for Grace to start crying again.

He brings supplies with him, some of the good stuff from the flea market down in Zone 4. He's sweaty and there's glitter stuck to his skin, which makes Kobra realize that he must have come straight from one of the Fuck You houses in Zone 3 after hearing Dr. D's broadcast, since there are only two or three that could get their hands on the substance.

Jet Star just nods when he takes the supplies.

* * *

Kobra hates to think about the fact that there was ever a time he didn't have his brother, that there was a huge chunk of his life he knew nothing about. But he knows that life went on after he left the city, abandoning his brother to his nine to five job in Marketing. Things had been so boring back there, so tedious, and there had been times when he just wanted to scream just to break the monotony. He had always wondered what was beyond the walls and even Party had been curious when he'd been younger.

After the medication had changed he stopped caring though. Anytime Kobra would even mention going outside, Party would just look at him like he was crazy.

He joins the others in one of the booths, half eaten cans of pulp in front of them. After poking at his own for a new moments, he sets it down and looks at Grace. "What was he like?" Kobra asks her, because he has to talk about it, has to know, and no one else can tell him. "Back in the city, I mean.”

"He's always taken care of me. He was trying to protect me from Korse when we left." She still sniffling has she talks, wiping her face on the sleeve of her shirt. "I never liked Korse. He always freaked me out." She curls up against Ghoul, closing her eyes and for a moment Kobra thinks she's fallen asleep. "Party never liked him either. I think Korse realized it too. He was really bad a pretending."

"Pretending?" Jet asks, looking as confused as Kobra felt.

"Back when we lived in the city," Grace replies, "Party had to play nice cause they worked together."

Ghoul laughed, a bit sharp and empty but still real and Jet snorted. Even Kobra felt himself amused by the idea. "I never would have thought that Korse would have had much to do with marketing."

"What are you talking about?" Now Grace is wide awake, sitting up and looking between them all, confused. "Party used to be an exterminator, back when he was Gerard."

* * *

He can hear the humming of machinery when he struggles back to consciousness. His body hurts, likes he's spent too long in the training simulator, and he can hear a female voice above him.

"Welcome back, Agent Way."

Gerard blinks up at her, screwing up his face against the harsh light. It dims immediately and he can start to make out his surroundings as they snap into focus. "Did I go somewhere?"

* * *

Before

It starts out in zone three.

By the time Gerard gets there, the cleanup crew has already arrived. There are bodies littering the area and the transport van is full when it passes by. All in all, it looks like it had been a successful raid. Gerard almost feels sorry he missed it.

The dracs avert their gaze as he comes through, heading for the building. One of the bolder ones approach him when he gets inside. "It's completely clear, sir."

"Good," he replies, sparing him a look. Still, he takes a look himself.

The building is run down, dirty, and he can almost taste the germs in the air. It disgusts him how the desert rats live.

He's almost out the door when the crying begins. Gerard immediately looks over to the group of dracs, but they just glance between each other, confused. He rolls his eyes and heads toward the noise, pulling his gun.

The source is in the corner of the room, blocked from view by a couple of boxes. A pair of wide eyes blink up at him, startled when he shoves the boxes away. "Ugh." He holsters his gun and spins back around to face the dracs. "I thought you cleared this place," he spits.

"We did," one of them says, sounding sure.

He shoots them a look that has the group cringing back before biting out, "Obviously not."

The child starts crying again, this time louder. None of the dracs step forward to take the child so he bends down and picks it up. It stops crying, instead just watching at him speculatively.

One of the zonerunner's, no doubt. He shouldn't be surprised that one of them would abandon a child on its own to die while they saved their own skin. Maybe its parents were among the bodies being piled onto the trucks. Or it could have been among those who were in the transport, heading back for rehabilitation. It's possible that it was none of the above as well.

They stare at each other for a few moments before Gerard shoves it into the arms of a drac. "Just... do something with it."

He waves the group off, heading out the door. He doesn't pay attention to the way the child follows him with its eyes.

* * *

He’s completely forgotten about the whole incident when the file lands on his desk. It looks like the rest of the files sitting there, generic pale blue with a label neatly stuck to the tab. The only reason he even notices it is the fact that it’s sitting crooked on top of the stack, causing it to stick out like a sore thumb.

No one is stupid enough to mess with his desk and everything is always neat, organized, perfect and pristine. All new files are handed straight to him and his mail is always waiting for him on the table beside the office door, untouched.

There’s only one person who would even dare.

When Gerard looks up Korse is smiling at him from his own desk through the glass. It’s not pleasant, sharp with far too many teeth, and he has to bite his cheek from snarling back.

He opens the file, reads the cover page, then slaps it shut.

Korse is clearly amused when he slams on his desk. The smile is still there, mocking. “Is there a problem, Gerard?”

“What the hell is this?” he replies, motioning toward the file on his desk. He clearly recognized Korse’s signature as one of them who signed off on it.

He just leans back in his chair, looking smug. “They appear to be guardianship papers.”

Gerard slapped his hand down on the file, leaning over the desk. “I don’t need some desert brat wasting my time.”

“I’m afraid this isn’t an option, unfortunately. These orders come from above.” He waves his hands as if to say ’what can we do’. “It’s an experiment to see if this resistance is hereditary or if it can be raised out of them. Several other employees were also chosen for this as well if it makes you feel any better.”

There’s anger rising up inside him, boiling under the surface of his skin until he itches to lash out at the exterminator. He takes a couple of deep breaths to try and bring it under control. Straightening up, he readjusts his vest and brushes invisible lint off the shoulder. The anger was still there but buried deeply, under his control. Maybe he should see about upping his dosage.

Gerard takes the file back to his office, ignoring the way Korse watches him leave, the way he studies him, looking for a weakness to exploit.

There were no weaknesses there, Gerard is sure of that, and he is going to make sure it stays that way, he thinks as he props his feet up on his desk and opens the file.

It’s sparse, filled with vaccination records and basic information. There’s a snapshot pinned up near the top and he recognizes the kid. She looks better fed and is dressed in white. Clean and neat.

Her name is typed across the top of the page, along with her identi-number.

Grace.

It be worse, he supposes.

* * *

The case worker brings her by a few days later.

She keeps any disapproval over this to herself when he lets her in but he’s sure he sees it in her expression when she thinks he isn’t looking. But the woman, who introduces herself only as Case Worker 472, answers his questions as thoroughly as she seems to be able to.

Grace just sits on the floor through all of this, playing with a few of the learning toys that BL/ind produces.

The case worker leaves a stack of papers behind with her, this one thicker, filled with the mandated psychiatrist evaluation, which isn’t very long, mostly filled with social assessments, and dietary instructions. Gerard learns that she’s advanced for her age, though how they can tell he can’t be sure, and she’s malnourished.

There is a lot of stuff he still needs that he wasn’t aware of but he apparently knew enough to at least have the basics right. He makes a quick list of stuff that’s still missing and it comes out surprising long. If he delegates it to one of the dracs he can probably have everything he needs delivered to the apartment by tomorrow afternoon.

Gerard crouches down next to her, watching her work the blocks. “I guess we’re stuck with each other, huh?”

She throws a block at his head.

* * *

Gerard’s office sits on the 68th floor of Batter Towers, encased in glass and it overlooks the rats cubicles on the floor below. It’s a sign of his place, of his importance, of his job to make sure the city stays clean.

He’s always made sure that Grace knows that. Whenever she is there she has to maintain a certain respectable composure even though Gerard has never let her have any lingering contact with the dracs that work there.

Grace always stays in the office whenever he has to run out, working through one homework problem or another from her holopad.

This is why he freezes when he catches sight of them, stunned.

He can’t hear what’s being said, the glass is soundproof for security reasons, but from the look on Grace’s face he can pretty much guess what Korse is saying to her. Her fingers are white where she’s gripping her holopad and he can tell she close to saying something.

Grace isn’t stupid. This is something that Gerard is sure of. He’s raised Grace, watched her take in her lessons with great enthusiasm. She knows right from wrong, good ideas from bad ideas, what is acceptable and what isn’t.

But she is a kid, still not in completely in control and too young for most of the medication that could help her control her emotions.

Which is why he has takes the rest of the stairs two at a time and he’s still not in time to stop her from saying anything.

Gerard catches Korse’s wrist before he has a chance to backhand her. “I believe that is enough.” His grip on Korse is tight and he finds himself hoping that it’ll bruise before he lets go. He grabs Grace by the arm and pulls her away from Korse, wanting her as far from him as possible.

“You need to keep her under control, Gerard,” Korse says, his words low. “Or I will find someone who will.”

That‘s a threat, there are no two ways about it. His clutch on Grace‘s arm tightens slightly and she whimpers slightly but doesn‘t say anything. He doesn’t loosen his grip much, needing to make sure she won’t move. She seems to understand though because she stills. “I will make sure she’s properly punished,” Gerard bites out.

“You do that,” and that’s all he says before straightening his jacket and walking out.

Gerard glares as him as he leaves. By the time Korse has made it back to his office Gerard is pulling Grace out of the office, down the stairs, past the elevators and into the stairwell. It’s not likely that they will be found since it’s rarely used but he still has to be quiet. He spins around, keeping his back to the camera.

Grace is staring up at him, petrified. He can see tears starting to form in her eyes. It takes him a few moments to realize that she’s actually scared of him.

He lets go of her arm and takes a deep shaky breath. When he finally feels back in control, he kneels in front of her, placing his hands on her shoulder. “You can’t do that.”

There are tear tracks down her face. “He was being mean. He said bad things about you.”

She was defending him, he realizes. That was sweet. Stupid, but sweet. “It doesn’t matter,” his voice is loud and echoes down the stairwell making him cringe. He starts again, lowering his voice considerable. “I need you to understand, Grace, that he could take you away from me. All he’d have to do is say a word and you could be sent off packing to one of the children’s homes.” His hands get tighter at the thought. “I can’t protect you from him.”

Grace looks away from him, ducking her head down. “Don’t be mad. I’m sorry,” she sobs. Her tiny body begins to shake and he feels bad for telling her this, for making her cry. But she has to know this. He knows that Korse would take her away if he saw a reason to.

“Look at me.” He takes a hand and lifts her head up to look at him. “I’m not mad at you, okay? But you can’t say stuff like that to him again. I want you to promise me, Grace. Promise me that no matter what he says you won’t talk back.”

She throws herself at him, burying her face in his neck. “I promise. I promise, Gerard,” her muffled voice says into his neck. “Just don’t let him take me away.”

“I won’t.” He hugs her back as she cries against him. “I won’t let him take you away.”

* * *

She finds the broken piece of machinery out in zone two, picking through the rubble of the trashed building while Gerard supervises the draculoids that are loading up the prisoners. It's the knobs that catch her eyes first, the way the sun glints off of them, somehow still shiny and unrusted despite the elements. Grace carefully pushes aside the pile of clothes on top of it with her feet, Gerard's warning about desert predators other than zonerunners still ringing fresh in her mind. Nothing comes slithering out though and she grins, leaning down to wipe some of the dirt off of her new find.

"Wicked," she mutters in a low voice. She carefully picks it up, frowning when the back falls off, exposing a tangle of wires. Some of them look like they have been chewed on but there are a few that are still in good shape. It wouldn't be that hard to put it back together, to figure out how it works.

Just as soon as she figures out exactly what it is.

"What have you got there?"

Grace turns to see Gerard's familiar form standing in the doorway, the glaring sunlight making him look even paler, like some sort of phantom. It's comforting illusion. "I don't know," she replies, holding it up. "What is it?"

He frowns and crosses the room, kicking aside anything that gets in his way, and grabs it. Disgust crosses his face as soon as he recognizes it. "It's a radio," he spits and then he gives a snort as he gives it a closer examination. "Well, it used to be one."

"So..." Grace trails off, rocking back on her heels nervously. "Can I have it?"

He frowns. "Why would you want it?"

She shrugs, trying her best to look disinterested. From the look on Gerard's face it doesn't work very well. "It looks interesting. I want to see if I can put it back together."

Gerard shakes his head. "Not a chance. It's too dangerous for you to have." There was no way he could let her have it. Evaluations were already becoming more frequent as was the not so subtle remarks about letting her have too much freedom.

"It doesn't even work. What's so dangerous about it?" she asks. There’s nothing in her voice but pure curiosity and that’s the only thing that makes him falter slightly.

But he just shakes his head and holds it up. "This right here?” He shakes it a little. “This is an instigator and it creates nothing but trouble."

“I’ll be really careful with it! I promise! I just want to see how it works!” She seems excited about the idea, which doesn’t surprise him even a little bit. Putting things together, taking them apart. She liked to figure out how things worked, which he had always encouraged.

There‘s a heavy sigh and he can already feel the beginning of a migraine starting to form behind his eyes. “You’ll have to be careful to hide it, alright? And the moment you figure it out, it’s gone.”

She nods and reaches out to take it only to have him pull it away again, looking at her seriously. "You understand what kind of trouble you could get into just by having this, right? Working or not, it will be considered contraband."

Giving a long suffering sigh, Grace nods. "It'll be fine. I'll trash it as soon as I figure out how it works."

Indecision is still lingering on his face as he shakes his head and hands it over. "Just make sure you hide it," he hisses through his teeth.

She nods again, smiling animatedly, "I will. I promise." Shooting forward, Grace gives him a quick hug before heading for the door, glancing outside to make sure none of the draculoids are lingering nearby, and making a break for the car.

"I'm going to regret this," Gerard mutters under his breath, following her out.

* * *

“…listening to WKLI 109 live from Wolfblood Beach. The zones are running hot today, dust chasers, and the meters are off the scales. We’re checking our intake while the rats are running for cover. So head for the overhang and bump up your transmission modules as I pump out this new one from Mindless Self--.”

“What are you doing?”

Grace has the decency to look panicked as she jumps and spins around. Her hands slap at the radio, cutting off the noise and she moves in front of it, as if he couldn’t see it and then she wouldn’t be doing anything wrong. “Nothing?” she offers.

Gerard clinches his fist, knowing that the anger wouldn’t do any good. He still manages to bite out, “Is that a question or a statement?”

“Um,” she starts nervously, “yes?” At his incredulous look she straightens up, knowing he’s serious. “I mean, yes. It’s a statement.”

“And a lie,” he says. “Move.”

For a few seconds, he thinks she isn’t, that she’s just going to stand there and defy him, but finally her shoulders drop and she scuffles out of the way. Gerard moves over to the desk, devoid of the tools that are normally strewn on it. Things are nice and neat and he would have been proud if he the repaired radio wasn‘t sitting in the middle of it, standing out in the lack of chaos.

He turns the knob, needing to be sure, and music echoes through her room. It’s an interesting sound and he finds himself keeping the beat in his head. When he realizes just what he is doing, he hisses under his breath and turns it back off.

Then he snatches it up and turns to Grace, deadly serious. “This is gone. Now.”

“No, wait--” she starts but he cuts her off.

“Absolutely not. The agreement was that you fix it and you trash it.” His grip tightens as she actually starts to look alarmed at the idea. Anger, he could deal with, or even sadness, but the fact that she was already so enraptured by the machine was enough. “And this machine is clearly fixed.”

Tears start to fill her eyes and he has to look away. “Please don’t,” Grace begs.

He had known he was going to regret letting her have it. “I’m sorry,” he responds carefully. “But this is the way it has to be.”

She’s crying as he heads out the door, cutting the sound off as it closes behind him.

Gerard shoves it in a pillow case, intending to take it straight to the incinerator; sticking it in the trash compactor is too dangerous, there is too much of a chance someone could still find it. But at the last moment he pauses, looking down at the white fabric in his hand.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he remembers singing along. It was just the two of them, listening to some old records they had found in the basement, probably missed during the Wipe. He remembers being curled up, side by side, having to be quiet even when their parents weren’t home.

Gerard wraps a second pillowcase around the radio for good measure and shoves it in the back of the closet.

* * *

Grace is seven when the file ends up outside his apartment door.

He has no clue where it comes from, who sent it. It just appears there one day, tucked inside an envelope that’s placed inconspicuously under the BL/ind welcome mat. He completely misses it at first and Grace is the one who ends up pointing it out to him.

It was probably sitting there that morning, missed in the hurry of heading to drop Grace off at the pick-up point before heading into work.

She hands it over to him, looking only vaguely curious. They’d put her on a new prescription; she was finally old enough that she could tolerate something to ’even out her moods’ as they had put it. As far as he can tell all it does is make her less lively, less happy, less… everything. That’s probably the point, he guesses.

Gerard takes it from her as he pushes open the door and she heads in without a word, settling on the couch to work on her studies. He shakes his head as he rips it open, then frowns when he sees the blue folder inside. After a quick glance around, he slips inside and lets the door shut with a reassuring click. Only then does he pull the folder out.

There’s a confidential stamp on the front of the folder that only makes him pause momentarily before he flips it open. Many of the lines are blacked out, but he manages to get the gist of it. It’s a training order; he’s seen enough of them for the new draculoid recruits. Nothing really stands out to him and while he flips through it Gerard wonders if this is some sort of joke.

It’s not until he hits the ID list on the last page and the signature signing off on it that he realizes why this is important.

Grace’s ID number is one of them listed.

“Aw, hell.”

Grace doesn’t even look up.

* * *

He doesn't even think about what he's about to do. It's all on instinct, knowing exactly what he has to do. There isn't any other options; Gerard knows that he can't afford try and fight it. It would be a complete failure and put him under suspicion.

Gerard sends Grace to her room with the explicit instructions to pack a bag. She sends him a curious look but does as he says.

They can't take a lot with them and he only pauses for a moment before deciding what to take. It's not the first time he's been out in the zones, but it's the first time he's gone out there to say. There's water and food definitely, clothes too. He grabs the pillow case from the back of the closet before he can think about it and adds it to the bag.

He starts going through the drawers, making sure he hasn't missed anything he needs, and by the time he starts going through his closet he realizes that he has almost no personal possessions aside from clothes.

It's a startling revelation and he has to wonder when exactly that happened. Gerard knows he had quite a few when he moved in a few years ago; mementos from is childhood, pictures mostly.

He can't remember what happened to them, when they disappeared. He can't remember the last time he looked for them either.

There isn't time to contemplate it, unfortunately. They need to get down to the offices before the shift changes and he has to deal with unwanted questions.

Grace has clothes strewn out on her bed when he peers through the door. She's frowning, looking from them to her bag, unsure. When he enters, she looks up from the mess. "Where are we going?"

Gerard can hear actual emotions actually tinge her voice, confusion and excitement most likely. She's never gone anywhere with him before where she actually had to pack clothes. He usually leaves her under supervision whenever he goes anywhere where he's required to be gone for more than a day.

He shakes his head. "Just pack as much of your clothes as you can," he says. She nods and begins to shove stuff in there. He stops her when she starts to add her holopad. For a minutes he thinks she's going to argue but doesn't.

"Take a jacket," Gerard adds as an after thought.

They manage to get down to the SCARECROW offices and into the garage without a problem. The dracs don't even glance his way when they enter, knowing that they couldn't have gotten through without the proper security clearance.

Normally the breach in security would have him upset but right now its a complete relief.

Gerard takes the first key off the rack, not even looking at it until they reach the cars. It goes to a trans am, one of Korse's favorite cars, which Gerard finds himself amused to notice. It doesn't take long to pull the tracker from the engine and then they're gone.

They're heading through the tunnel when Grace speaks up, her voice quiet, "We're not going back, are we?"

He risks a glance her way, "No," he tells her, "we're not."

She contemplates that for a few minutes before nodding. "Good."

There's a light at the end of the tunnel and Gerard presses the gas a little harder.

 

* * *

The tank is running far too close to empty when he turns into the gas station in Zone 2. It looks like it should be abandoned but Gerard has, had, been an exterminator long enough to tell whether or not a building was occupied.

He’s never been here before but he picked it from the ripped page he took off the list of required shutdowns. Gerard carefully folds the page and slips it into his pocket.

No one comes out when he exits the car, and glances back, telling Grace to stay put.

The door is slightly ajar and he pushes it the rest of the way open, slipping inside carefully, one hand on the gun strapped to his hip. Maybe he’s wrong, maybe it is abandoned. If he’s lucky there’s still gas in the pumps; at least enough to get him to the next station on the list.

He makes it as far as the counter before he hears the noise. By then it’s too late and he can feel the gun at his back. “Exterminator scum,” the owner of the gun says.

Gerard takes his hand off his gun and raises them both in the air. “I didn’t come to make trouble,” he tells him, “We just need gas.”

The man snorts and the barrel of the gun is shoved harder into his back. “Yeah right. And let you run back to the city? I’d have the dracs here before nightfall.”

“We’re not going back to the city,” Gerard snaps at him.

There’s a disbelieving chuckle from behind him. “And why is that?”

For a moment Gerard wants to tell him why, wants to tell someone else just so he doesn’t feel like he’s completely crazy, but he doesn’t. It’s not safe. “We couldn’t stay there.”

It gets quiet behind him for a few seconds. “Move,” the man finally says, pressing the gun into him to get him moving. “Monkey’ll get pissed if I get blood on the floor.”

He lets the guy maneuver him towards the door. If he can just get outside he knows he can get back the upper hand. It’s only one zonerunner.

When they reach the door, the man freezes. “Fuck, that’s a kid.”

Grace hadn’t listened to him and was walking around the car, looking at her surroundings. The blank look she had been sporting since they’d left the city had faded some to Gerard’s relief. She freezes when she sees them and her eyes widen. “Gerard!” she calls.

“Grace,” he tells her firmly, “get back in the car.”

The pressure at Gerard’s back disappears and he spins around and backs away, putting himself between the man and Grace, drawing his gun. But the man is putting his own gun away, watching them with something akin to curiosity. “You really are runaways, aren’t ya?”

“Yep,” he says, and sees Grace nod as she peers around him.

The man nods, then glances toward the desert, where the sun was setting on the horizon, making the scene almost pretty. “Right then, you gotta place to crash? You really don’t wanna be out in the dust at night.” When Gerard doesn’t reply he continues, “We’ll get you gassed up and sent on your way in the morning.”

It sounds too good to be true, but the car is sitting on E and he really doesn’t enjoy the idea of him and Grace sleeping in his car tonight. Gerard can hear himself accepting the offer before he thinks about it. He knows he won’t sleep tonight but Grace will.

“Good,” the man says with a grin as he motions for them to follow him inside. Grace clings to him as they enter, watching the zonerunner with a strange look. “They call me Train Wreck.”

Gerard doesn’t have time to respond before another man come into the room, stopping short when he sees them.

“Another stray?” the other man asks Train Wreck, completely ignoring Gerard

Train Wreck glares at him, “Fuck off, Monkey.”

Monkey laughs.

* * *

“Where’s Gerard?”

Train Wreck turns and looks at Grace, who’s frowning at him, clutching her doll to her chest. “Up in front, watching the store.”

She shakes her head. “I checked. There’s no one up there.” At his alarmed look, Grace continued, “I locked the door so no one can come in.”

“Monkey’s probably conned him into helping him with something,” he growls, heading toward the garage. They both know better than to leave the front empty and vulnerable because shit like that is how they are going to end up getting robbed blind someday. He’s going to chew them both the fuck out when he finds them and he wonders momentarily if he should let Grace see this; it’s not going be fucking pretty.

Grace just shakes her head. “He told me he hasn’t seen him. That’s why I came to ask you.”

That makes him pause and turn to look back at her. “Well, that’s… not good.”

When they find him, Grace screams.

Train Wreck jerks at the sound and runs over to him.

Gerard is pale, even more so than usual. He’s cold but there’s a pulse and when he tries to move him he can see that Gerard is shivering slightly. His whole body is clammy but his clothes are damp with sweat. This is something that Train Wreck has seen a thousand times before.

“What the hell was that?” Grease Monkey glares that them, shoving his way into the room with a loud bang of the door, but any actual distain on his face drops away when he sees Gerard laying there. “Shit, is he dead?”

“Dead?“ Grace‘s eyes widen at this and her arms tighten around the doll. “Is he dead? He’s dead, isn’t he?” comes from Grace, her voice cracking. Just the idea seems to devastate her.

He shakes his head at her. “He isn’t gone on us yet.” Turning toward Monkey, he says, “We need to move him. Give me a hand. ”

Grease Monkey gains a look of disgust as he helps Train haul him up. “Fucking nitro popper,” he mutters under his breath, “should have dumped his ass in one of the fuck you houses and got it over wi-- ow.” He automatically grabs his leg, cringing, because jesus can that little girl pack a punch when she needs to. Gerard almost falls to the floor. “Crap!”

A groan comes from the unconscious man but he doesn’t wake up.

It takes some doing but they finally manage do get him back to his room, dumping him on the cot. Wreck can’t help but cringe when his head bounces.

“Is he going to be okay?”

He starts to tell her that he might not be, that junkies sometime crash so hard they never make it back up, but when he looks at her he realizes that he can’t. She’s a little kid, one that doesn’t deserve this and he sure as fucking hell isn’t going to be the one to tell her that he might not wake up. Wreck smiles, hoping it doesn’t come off as fake as it really is. “He’ll be fine.”

“If he ever wakes up.“ Monkey doesn‘t seems to have the same problem, though.

Wreck sends him as nasty look and hisses, “Shut up.”

“What did I say?” He seems legitimately confused so he motions over to kid and he finally seems to get it because he just goes, “Aw, hell.”

Grace is just watching them with clear alarm. There are tears starting to form in her eyes and he sees Monkey wince. It would serve him right to have to deal with it. Him and his big mouth.

“He’s strong,” he tells her as she starts to sniffle. “There’s no use worrying. That boy is no dust angel.”

She nods and even tries to smile through her tears but even he can tell that she really didn’t buy any of it.

“There’s nothing more we can do for him except try and keep him comfortable.“ When he glances over Monkey is already half way out the door. Wreck rolls his eyes and follows him.

From the corner of his eye he can see Grace wonder over to the bed and run a hand through the black hair.

He pauses in the doorway. “I’m gonna go open the station back up. You gonna stay back here keep an eye on him?” There’s a nod in response. It’s not like he really expects any other answer but he still has to ask.

Hopefully, Gerard will be strong enough to survive. The kid would be devastated if he ends up ghosted and, to be honest, he’d be a little disappointed. It’s nice to have the extra hand around, especially one that doesn’t want to steal him blind.

He’s gonna have to stop bringing in strays. They seem to bring him nothing but trouble.

As they leave, Grace curls up on the cot next to Gerard.

“Wake up,” Grace cries, burying her face in his shoulder. “Please wake up.”

* * *

 

Gerard gets better.

It’s not easy, and he’s not a friendly person to be around most of the time, but he starts looking less like death and more like an actual human being. Grace is ecstatic, of course. She was there when he woke up, muttering curses under his breath.

He spends most of his days feeling miserable as he works at the counter in the station, glaring at the customers as if they’ve personally affronted him. It’s not a pleasant experience and he most of the time he’s freezing, even in the desert sun, until he finds the Dead Pegasus jacket buried in the box crap that Wreck and Monkey keep in the backroom.

Anyone smiling, or just seeming generally happy grates on his nerves. It gets so bad that he almost shoots one of the customers when he laughs too loud. Wreck takes the gun from him after that, only giving it back once they leave.

“You’re just a regular party poison, aren’t you?” Monkey says once and then takes a shine to the name and keeps on calling him that, the ass. It pisses him off and that just seems to amuse Grease Monkey to no end.

Train Wreck just shrugs, working his way through a can of pup. “If you don’t want to be called by your name we gotta call you something. ‘Hey you’ gets old after a while.”

* * *

There’s a little girl sitting on a crate outside when they pull into the gas station. Her focus is on the block in her hand and when Show Pony pulls his helmet off, it takes him a few moments to realize that she’s actually playing with an ancient rubix cube. She spares them only a glance before doing a double take; her eyes linger on Pony.

There’s a frown on her face as she tilts her head to the side thoughtfully, as if he was a problem that she was trying to work out.

"I think you're missing part of your shirt," the little girl says, eyeing the 'Noise' on his chest skeptically.

Pony gives her his most warming smile, ignoring the way that Ghoul snorts. "It's a personal choice, motorbaby."

She seems less than amused by his response and crosses her arms, looking them over closely, her eyes lingering on the guns on their hips. Pony gets the strange feeling that she's sizing them up.

"Grace," a voice snaps.

There's a dark haired man in the gas station doorway, looking irritated and uncomfortable. The man is watching them suspiciously and Pony notices that his hands are twitching at his side. He seems kinda pale, strange for anyone who had spent time out in the zones.

The girl, Grace, sort of huffs and rolls her eyes. "I was just talking." The man sends her a look and she sighs and mutters, "I know," before heading inside. The man sends them a final look before following her.

"Well," Ghoul mutters, "that was pleasant."

"Don't let him get to you," Grease Monkey says as he comes out from behind the station. "He's a tad bit overprotective." Pony waits for him to say more but it doesn't come as a very big surprise when he doesn't. "So you wanted me to look at the bike?"

"Yeah."

* * *

Gerard was never really good at dealing with people. Even back in the city most of the people he came in contact with were either dracs, his superiors, or Korse. It might have been a personal choice more than anything but he was always able to fake his people skills well enough.
But now that he was off the pills it wasn’t that easy. All he knew was now he was feeling and he was feeling everything.

He wasn’t quite sure he liked it.

Still, he knew enough to know when someone was flirting with him. He just didn’t know how to react to it.

Show Pony smiled at him, easy and bright, as he flirted. “So, Party Poison, huh? There a story behind that?”

“No,” he says quickly, even has Grace says, “Yes.” from behind him. Gerard shoots her a look but she just smiles back, all sunshine. “There’s really not a story.”

“Yes, there is. He shot a customer.” Grace found the whole thing amusing and she likes to share it with anyone who will listen. Of course, most of the people she tells are customers themselves.

He gives a sigh and rubs his forehead. “I didn’t shoot a customer. Anyways, they took the gun away before I could actually shoot him, so I just attempted to shoot one.”

“Ooh,” Show Pony seems amused by all this and Gerard is sure that he doesn’t believe them.

From the way Ghoul snorts from the corner of the room Gerard can tell he doesn’t either. “So what did they do?”

“They laughed,” Gerard replied.

Pony just laughs but that trails off when he realizes that Gerard is serious. It gets uncomfortable for a moment when he exchanges a look with Ghoul and looks then back at him.

He just shrugs in response.

They leave when Wreck rolls out their bike, sparkling and shiny, not only in good working order but devoid of any of the desert grime. He watches them through the windows as they look it over.

"Careful now." Grease Monkey is standing in the doorway, watching him. "If Dr. D finds out you've been making time with his boy, he'll ghost you himself."

“Seriously?” he asks, incredulous. He thinks back to everything he’s heard about the infamous Dr. Deathdefying. The radio is almost always on in the station, usually flipped to 109 unless Monkey’s been messing with it. That’s where he recognized Show Pony‘s name, Gerard realizes. He’s heard it on one of the broadcasts, along with Fun Ghoul’s.

"Yep, that right there is Dr. Deathdefying's errand boy himself."

Gerard watches the bike pull away from the station. "Not a fan, I take it."

Grease Monkey shrugs. "Knew him once. Decent sort of guy. I just don't like people who draw attention to themselves." He sends a sharp look Gerard's way. "Not everyone wants to 'make some noise'."

* * *

It takes a few months for him to even realize that the black is starting to grow out. It must have been obvious to everyone else but no one says a word to Gerard about it. He doesn't even notice one day until he passes by a hubcap that Grease Monkey shined up and his reflection catches his eye.

The image is distorted but it’s still there. He reaches out to the top of his head tentatively, touching the brown color. It had been so long since it had been anything other than black that it makes him feel alien, like someone else is staring back at him. His mandated bi-weekly visits to barber had always taken care of any color before it had a chance to make a reappearance.

The brown stands out more than he can ever remember it did.

"I think we've got some black dye in the back if you to take care of that."

Gerard looks at Train Wreck's image in the reflection, even more distorted than his own, and bites his bottom lip. A part of him wants to say yes, to give him some familiarity out in desert, but that feels too much like giving in so he shakes his head. Train Wreck nods and turns to leave before Gerard calls over his shoulder, "Wait."

He stops and glances back, his expression blank.

"Do you have any other colors?" he asks, because he might not want the black but he doesn't want the brown either. There is too much emotion tied to them both.

Train Wreck frowns, looking thoughtful, and then nods. "I have some red put up somewhere."

Gerard glances back at his reflection. "I'll take it."

* * *

Grace loves the red, of course. She actually squeals when she sees it and then reaches out grab some of it, giving it a hard yank as if she expects it to come off. It doesn't of course, but Gerard can't help but let out a vicious string of curses that make Grace giggle as he pulls his head back. His hair is still wet and the extra dye didn't completely come out with the rinse so her hand comes back red, looking almost like blood. "Wicked," she hisses, rubbing to hands together to make it spread.

"I really should be worried about what you're learning out here," he mutters under his breath as smacks her hands on her arms, leaving red dyed handprints behind. It makes her look like some sort of riot kid, the kind you would see at the edge of the city, all painted up like vicious animals.

Grease Monkey just tells her it looks righteous and she beams at him in response.

 

* * *

 

It's like they weren't even trying to be quiet.

The door slams open, waking Gerard up from his light slumber. He scrambles out of bed, grabs his gun and presses himself against the wall beside the partly open door. Grace sits up in bed, wide-eyed and panicked. He presses a finger to his lips and she nods, slipping out of the cot quietly and sliding underneath it.

He can hear Train Wreck come crashing out of his room and sees him shoot past him, heading for the store front. He could have strangled the man for such a stupid move.

There's yelling and stuff crashing but thankfully there's no shooting, which means that either Train Wreck managed to take them down by himself (doubtful) or they managed to get the gun from him.

Gerard slips out the door and moves quietly down the hall. The yelling had died down to some muttering but he can still hear Train Wreck cursing. The light is on in the store front when he gets there, and whoever it was that broke in apparently wasn't too concerned with being stealthy.

He glances around the corner and almost drops his gun in surprise.

Train Wreck is on the floor, cursing, with Fun Ghoul and another guy he doesn't recognize standing over him. But what really catches his attention is the man lying on the floor. More specifically, the guy wearing a helmet who was bleeding on the floor, no matter how much Show Pony tries to stop it. It's a blaster wound, Gerard recognizes immediately, which meant that they had run into trouble before they broke in.

He hopes that they weren’t followed.

The guy he doesn't recognize is the only one with a gun out and he recognizes blaster as Train Wreck's. They all have guns but they're holstered and Fun Ghoul looks kinda flustered, as if he hadn't expected this.

Gerard doesn't even think about it before he moves, grabbing Fun Ghoul around the neck and pressing the gun to his head. "Let him go," he said evenly, nodding towards Train Wreck. The guy immediately drops the gun and Train Wreck scrambles out of the way.

"Party Poison!" Show Pony exclaims.

"You woke me up," he growls. “Tell me why I shouldn’t ghost you all right now.” Then he tightens his grip on the gun. “Or better yet, toss you to the dracs and let them finish you off.”

The one he doesn’t recognize glares at him, but raises his hands. “We just need somewhere safe to patch him up and then we will be on our way.” He nods toward the unconscious man on the floor.

“So you decide to bring trouble to our door?” he hisses. Show Pony has the grace to look guilty. "Drop the guns. All of them," Gerard says, motioning with his head.

He can feel Fun Ghoul swallow against arm as they do as he demands. "You really gonna shot me?" he hears him say.

"I don't like being woken up." He presses the gun harder into his neck and Fun Ghoul flinches. “You too.”

Ghoul makes an amused sound. “You’re going trust me to grab my own gun?”

“Point,” he concedes. “Wreck?”

Wreck moves in quickly to take the gun from the holster. He still looks a little disconcerted, probably from the whack he took to the head. “You good?”

“Shiny,” he mutters back, still holding the gun.

“At least let us get his helmet off,” Pony pleads, looking down at the hurt man, upset, “He’s got to be suffocating in there.”

“Alright,” Gerard motions, “do it.”

The other guy has to help Show Pony with the helmet and Gerard is starting to get impatient by the time they get it off. The man lets out a low groan as his head falls back. Gerard can feel his arm tense at the sound and Fun Ghoul makes a choked off noise. He shifts them around, giving him some relief.

“Um,” the man gives again, “-et? Gho’l? P’ny?” he rasps out, blinking up around him blearily, trying to focus.

Gerard knows that voice. He’d know it anywhere. It’s Mikey.

The gun drops as he shoves Fun Ghoul away from him. The man sends a distrusting glance over at him, but Gerard can’t take his eyes off the man on the floor. “You can stay,” he responds.

There’s a cough to his left and he sees Train Wreck glancing over at him, eyebrow raised.

“If you okay it, of course,” he has to say, glancing away. The blood on the floor is no longer an annoyance, now something that makes him want to cringe. Mikey lets out a soft noise, no longer able to keep his eyes open.

Train Wreck must have seen something in his face because he just shrugs and mutters 'keep them out of the store' before heading back to his room. "Move him to the back room. There‘s a cot back there you can put him on," Gerard says.

"Thanks," Pony replies, looking relieved, but Ghoul and the other guy are still watching him with distrust.

* * *

It’s dark when Kobra wakes up. It takes a few moments for his eyes to adjust but when they do he freezes. He doesn’t recognize his surroundings, not the bed, more of a cot really, or walls and there really isn’t much of anything else. His first reaction is to reach for his gun and it’s only then that he realizes that it’s missing; as a matter of fact, the whole holster is gone. What he does find is a makeshift bandage wrapped around his torso and he winces when he accidentally hits it.

The only thing that is slightly comforting is that none of this exactly screams of BL/ind, which means that they had gotten away from the raid safely. Or at least he did.

Getting off of the cot is more work that it should have be, every move pulling at the wound on his side. The room looks slightly better from this angle, but he is also slightly woozy from the sudden movement.

He stumbles slightly as he heads for the door and he catches himself on a chair. His fingers hit leather and it’s his gun holster, the gun still safely tucked away. Kobra pulls it out and grabs the doorknob.

It swings open, barely missing him.

It’s a little girl. She just sort of blinks at him before declaring, “You’re really tall.”

“Um,” he replies, “thank you?”

The girl just looks at him and then the gun, before dismissing them completely. It’s kind of disconcerting but the girl leans back into the hallway and calls, “He’s awake,” to whoever is down there before he has time to process it.

Then she shuts the door in his face.

He blinks and frowns, before shaking his head and opening the door. Kobra’s moving down the hall when Ghoul almost runs him down. “Kobra!”

The firm grip on his gun loosens fractionally. “You alright?”

“Milkshake,” he waves it off. “But what the fuck are you doing up? Did you miss the part where you almost bled to death from the gaping hole in your side?” Ghoul all but shoves him back into the room and forces him onto the cot. “You almost got fucking ghosted on us, you asshole. And my ass almost got shot trying to save yours.”

Kobra knows he should be protesting this treatment but he feels so fucking horrible that he can’t work up a half-decent protest. “Where the six hells are we, anyways?”

Ghoul snorts. “A station in Zone 2. Breaking in probably wasn’t the greatest idea. Party almost finished the job those dracs started.”

The name strikes a chord but it takes a few minutes to place it. “The guy Pony was talking about? That one found all those records?”

“Yeah, Party Poison.” Ghoul looks less than amused, rubbing his neck which Kobra thinks looks a little red but he can’t be sure.

“What about the kid?”

There’s a shrug from Ghoul. “She’s belongs to Party’s crew. She’s not a bad kid. Definitely has more people skills than him.”

It‘s Kobra‘s turn to be amused. “Have a hard time making friends?”

“She didn’t hold a gun to my head,” he replies.

“I apologized for that,” says a voice from the hallway.

“No, you didn’t,” Ghoul calls back.

“Well, I’m not really sorry,” the voice is closer, more familiar.

Kobra isn’t sure what to expect when the man enters the room. Someone bigger, maybe, more intimidating. Not someone who looks like they are still half-strung out. Not even the bright red hair, even though he’s sure Pony has mentioned it before.

But what he certainly doesn’t expect is the fact that he recognizes him. It takes him a few moments before he can speak. “Gee?”

“Hey, Mikey.”

* * *

Gerard hovers in the doorway, unsure what to do. He shifts from foot to foot, carefully avoiding the questioning looks that Fun Ghoul shoots between the two of them.

He doesn’t have to wait long though, because Mikey hauls himself off the bed and crosses the room, wrapping his arms around Gerard and pulling him in. It’s been so long since he’s been hugged by someone who isn’t Grace and his whole body is tense, even as he hugs him back.

The hug is awkward but Mikey seems to refuse to let him go, tightening his grip when he tries to pull back.

“Jesus,” Mikey mutters against him, “I can’t believe it.” He pulls back slightly, only enough to look down at Gerard.

Down at Gerard. He thinks his brother has actually gotten taller, if that was possible.

Mikey laughs, as if he can hear what Gerard is thinking, and pulls him back against him. “I missed you.”

“Missed you too,” he responds, hugging him only a fraction tighter. But he can still feel when Mikey cringes. This time when he pulls back he doesn’t let his brother pull him back in. Mikey lets him manhandle him back into the bed, but doesn’t let go of his shoulder when he sits down, pulling Gerard with him.

“Should I leave you two alone?” Fun Ghoul asks, his expression crossing between amused and disconcerted. “

Mikey can’t seem to keep the grin of his face and Gerard knows there’s a small one on his own. He can even start to see Ghoul’s start to twitch in response. Mikey shrugs, which doesn’t work very well with the way he’s holding on, and says, “Can you blame me for missing my brother?”

“Brother?” comes Ghoul’s incredulous question and he looks baffled by the prospect.

He doesn’t see when Grace first pokes her head in but he hears her voice all the same. “Party,” and that still throws him every time he hears her say it, “Monkey’s looking for you. He says you need to do something with that paint or he’s tossing it outside. The smell is starting to spread.” She wrinkles her nose at the thought.

“I’m on my way,” he says because he knows if he doesn’t the paint will end up drying up in the midday sun before he even has a chance to touch the car.

She nods but doesn’t leave. Instead, Grace comes inside, looking over Mikey very carefully. “So you’re his brother?” she asks, looking between them.

Mikey nods at her, unsure where this is going.

Her expression is very serious as she stares at him for a few moments before a smile breaks out across her face and she looks satisfied. “I can see it.”

He starts to pull away but Mikey just pulls him back, the grip on his shoulder turning concrete. Gerard can understand why, he really doesn’t want to let go of his brother himself but he has too. “I’ll be back,” he promises, managing to detangle himself when Mikey finally lets go.

“Dude,” he hears Fun Ghoul say as he leaves, “your brother almost shot me.”

Some people just can’t let stuff go.

* * *

After

Something's wrong.

Gerard looks himself over in the mirror. Carefully dyed black hair, standard issue BLI exterminator uniform, complete with gun strapped to his hip, everything is white and clean and exactly the way it’s supposed to be. He frowns for a moment before he realizes what it is that's making him uneasy. It’s too quiet. Normally he would be able to hear Grace moving around, tinkering with something, and generally making a mess. Now she was gone, out there in the desert. Contaminated.

Maybe Korse had been right. He had been too lenient with her.

She was lost to him now. There is no way of knowing what the zonerunner scum had her thinking now and she’s still too young to be put through the reeducation processes. He grimaces at the thought, memories of his own time at the clinic fresh in his mind. There might be a chance for her when she gets older, as long as she's deemed suitable for rehabilitation.

But right now he can make sure to destroy the people who took her away.

* * *

"There's something you guys need to see," there's hesitancy in Show Pony's voice, enough to catch everyone's attention, and he has the folder cradled against his chest like it's precious. He doesn't make a move to show them though.

It's Dr. D that makes the first move, reaching out to tug Pony forward, and he leans against the wheelchair, laying the folder on the table. When he opens it, no one knows what to say, Kobra most of all.

Party Poison stares back at them. Except it's not him, hair jet black and dressed in standard issue BLI uniform. He's standing out in the desert, leaning against a white trans am, wide black glasses watching the dracs around him. The time stamp on the corner of the picture shows that it was taken just a few days ago. Show Pony points at it, "This was taken at the raid in Zone 3."

He moves it aside and there are two more underneath it. It’s more of Party, or at least the man who looks like him. Korse is standing next to him in the first and they are both leaning over a map of the zones. Kobra recognizes the tension in his brother enough to know he's angry, even if his face doesn't show it. It's the second one that gets him though. He has his gun drawn, pointing at a man that looks familiar, one of Dr. D's own runners. He doesn't even have to ask to know that the man had been ghosted.

Pony runs a hand through his hair, making it even messier than it usually is. "I asked around and apparently Battery City is all abuzz about Exterminator Gerard returning to duty."

Grace makes a strangled noise before exclaiming, "Party's alive!"

Dr. D glances up at them, expression carefully hidden behind his glasses. “Then you’d better bring him home, boys.”

“And how exactly are we gonna do that?”

“Don’t you worry that pretty little head of yours, Ghoul,” Pony replies, exchanging a grin with the Doc. “We gotta plan.”

* * *

Gerard really needs to stop waking up in strange places.

Consciousness comes to him slowly and it takes him a few moments to even realize that he's not actually asleep. He usually sleeps dreamless but it has been known to happen, especially after waking back up on that table.

He has to blink a few times to clear his vision and then he grimaces in disgust. Everything is dirty, even though it looks like someone tried to clean up. The room is windowless but he can still feel the heat through the walls. It's obvious that he's still out in the zones.

The last thing he remembers was the firefight. The dracs were dropping around him one by one by a group colorful zonerunners (the Killjoy's they called themselves) and it didn't take too long before they were overrun. He hadn't even managed to make it back to the car (covering the dracs asses had taken more ammo than he'd had on hand) before the tall skinny one had tackled him and knocked him out.

He was going to have to talk to Korse about stepping up the draculoid's training. The regimen now obviously wasn't cutting it.

The ropes tying him to the chair don’t have any give even after a few minutes of struggling; it's obvious that whoever tied him up knew what they were doing. His gun is gone too, as well as his jacket.

He curses under his breath and kicks. Or he tries to, his feet are tied to the chair legs so it doesn't work out so well. It seems that the chair he's strapped to is the only unbroken thing in the room. The ropes only seem to tighten as he continues to struggle.

"You're only going to make it worse," a voice says.

Gerard turns to see one of the killjoy's standing in the doorway, but it's not the one that tackled him earlier. "Who the hell are you?"

The man just laughs. "I think the better question is, who are you?"

He just looks down at his outfit and raises an eyebrow. "I think that's pretty obvious isn't it?"

"Ah, yes, an exterminator." The man comes inside and Gerard gets a better look at him. Dark hair hangs in his face and there's a green gun strapped to his hip.

"You wanna know why they call us exterminators?" Gerard leans forward with a mocking grin. "It's because we get rid of zone vermin like you. I've always been very good at my job."

There's an amused look on the man's face, like this is one big joke, and Gerard gets the unsettling feeling that he's being laughed at. "As good as Korse?"

Gerard lets out a barking laugh. "I'm better."

"Then why are you one of his flunkies?" He asks.

The term grates on his nerves, he's heard it before, and he manages to say between clenched teeth, "Who says I am?"

The man gets really quiet then, staring at him, contemplative. "I'm Fun Ghoul," is all the man says before he turns and walks out.

* * *

Gerard sighs, bored.

There isn’t a lot of stuff in here to distract him, just some broken furniture and empty boxes, so he distracts himself the best he can. He ends up counting the ceiling tiles four times (he gets three different numbers the first couple of tries and has to recount) and then just starts counting to see how far he can get (3746 before he gets distracted by a bug running across the floor and loses count).

By the time someone else comes in he’s resorted to whistling made up tunes. He stops immediately and watches a head poke in the door.

“Grace,” he says, relieved.

She looks happy to see him until she sees the ropes holding him to the chair, freezing just inside the doorway. Something incredibly sad comes over her expression then and for a moment he thinks she’s going to turn and leave. But she doesn’t and he can feel himself relax; Grace isn’t completely gone from him.

“I need you to untie me. Okay, Grace?”

That makes her back away, shaking her head. “I can’t.”

He shifts forward, even as he feels the ropes pull taunt. “You have to. It’s not safe here,” he tells her. “We can go home. You want to go home, don’t you?”

“We can’t leave!” she exclaims. “This is our home now, don’t you remember?”

Korse’s words about her being contaminated resound in his mind. They’ve gotten to her. Any hope about an easy reconditioning is getting smaller and smaller.

Gerard hears a muffled “Grace!” coming through the door. The voice strikes a familiar cord in him but he ignores it.

“Coming,” she yells, backing away. “I have to go,” Grace tells him, “I’ll come see you later, okay?”

“No, Grace, wait--.”

She gives him a parting glance, mouthing ’sorry’, before she flees.

“Damn it,” he mutters as he leans back. The chair rocks unsteadily but holds. Something digs into his back and he frowns, shifting slightly to relieve the pressure. It takes him a few moments to realize what it is.

He’d shoved the emergency beacon in his back pocket without thinking about it. It must have slid out during all the struggling. An incredulous laugh escapes him, echoing through the empty room.

It takes a bit of squirming and he can feel blood starting to trickle down his hand when he finally gets a hold of it and flips the switch on. There’s a faint hum as it tries to make a connection with a SCARECROW outpost and after a few seconds the machine starts vibrating and he feels himself relax.

Reinforcements are coming.

* * *

No one else shows up, but every once in a while Gerard can hear footsteps pausing outside the room. It’s kind of a disappointment actually; he expected more of a confrontation, an interrogation, maybe even a little torture. He’d been trained for this kind of thing and they weren’t following the instructions.

Eventually, he ends up nodding off slightly, jerking awake with every footfall or loud voice. He’s almost fallen asleep when the yelling begins, followed by the ‘zip, zip’ sound of gunfire, and he’s fully awake now.

It doesn’t last long and then things get very quiet.

Draculoids burst into the room, guns drawn. The weapons drop when they realize who they’re pointing at and a couple rush forward to untie him. Its kind of heart warming to know that even restrained he can still strike fear into their cold shriveled hearts.

Korse follows behind, his jacket billowing out behind him like a cape. He’s looks pristine and untouchable and he refuses to feel grimy in comparison.

“Took you long enough,” Gerard growls at him as he gets his arms free.

Korse just grins.

Fuck that always creeps him out.

* * *

They’re loading the zonerunners (fucking Killjoys) into a containment vehicle when he finally steps outside. He can’t have been kept in there very long, probably not even a whole day, but he still ends up having to squint against the midday sun.

He has to glance around, curiosity getting the better of him, and realizes that he’s outside what had once been a diner. There are still specials stuck to the window and an open sign hanging in the door. Most of the letters on the top of the building are gone though, leaving only DI E behind. Fucking hilarious.

It seems familiar to him in someway. The thought that he might have been here on a raid before crosses his mind but it doesn’t seem right. Usually places that are on the BLI radar stay abandoned.

When he glances over he can see that the Killjoys aren’t going without a fight. He can hear them cursing, see them struggling against the hold. It’s obvious they either haven’t been tranquilized or were given an extremely low dosage.

They manage to get Grace and the one with curly hair into the van without much of a fuss; Grace goes easily, thankfully, but he doesn’t miss the way one of the dracs whips his gun into the back of the curly‘s knee.

The shortest one, Fun Ghoul he remembers, manages to head butt one of the dracs and ends up getting pistol whipped for his trouble. He goes down easily and the dracs toss him in the back of the van.

“Gee!” The blonde calls out to him and it takes a few moments for him to even recognize him.

Fucking hell. “Mikey?”

“Get us out of here, Gee.” Mikey looks at him pleadingly; it’s the same look that he used to give him anytime he tried to get Gerard to cover for him. That’s probably what got them to this position in the first place.

He moves forward, mostly likely ready to say something stupid, like ‘Get your hands off my brother’ or ‘let him the fuck go’, when there’s a sudden sharp pain behind his eyes. He hisses and clinches a fist, feeling his nails dig into his palm.

 

Grace is fascinated with Show Pony’s skates and is ecstatic when he gives her a chance to try them on. They’re far too large but she still flies across the diner, weaving around chairs and tables before she ends up smacking into Jet.

They both go crashing to the ground.

She scrambles to her feet, giggling and Jet is laughing as well as he makes a grab for her--.

 

“That’s really not his decision,” Korse says to Mikey as he appears beside him, snapping Gerard out of his daze. He turns to the dracs, “Make sure they are secure. If anything happens you will be the ones to answer for it.”

The dracs nod in affirmation, shove Mikey into the back of the van, but before they slam the doors shut Korse stops them. “No, I want the three of you back there with them. We will be the ones to drive them back to the city.”

“We?” he asks, rubbing his eyes, wondering what the hell just happened. He only half listens to the answer as he follow Korse to the van and slides into the passenger seat.

“-- know we can’t afford any mistakes,” Korse tells him.

He nods like he knows he’s supposed to and Korse seems pleased.

The pain hasn’t gone away, instead getting worse. He should probably say something or at least take one of the painkillers in the medpack strapped to the dash but he can’t seem force himself to do so. He can hear cursing from the back and it seems to make the pounding in his head worse.

 

Kobra drags him and Grace out to the diner the day the station gets raided.

He doesn’t want to go; Wreck and Monkey are MIA, gone to the dust before SCARECROW even got there. Party shouldn’t have been there himself, Wreck had all but shoved him out the door, telling him to take his newly painted car and make himself scarce for the day, except Grace had left her doll behind so he turned around to get it.

But Kobra won’t listen to a word he says and he really doesn’t have the energy to keep arguing. Blood loss will do that to a person.

 

Ghoul teaches Grace what parts of the car does what and how to tell when something isn’t working.

Jet teaches her how to count cards, rattling off numbers enough to make Party‘s own head spin.

Mikey ends up teaching her how to bandage up wounds using Party as a test subject. Gerard feels like a mummy most of the time but doesn’t say anything. From the smirk Kobra gives him, he’s not far off.

Party is the one to teach her how to shoot a gun, though. He takes her out to the sand and gives her a chance to shoot at broken furniture. It only takes a couple of tries before her aim is dead on.

It should make him proud (his own baby killjoy is growing up) but instead it just makes him sad.

 

The run went south and Gerard is patching up his brother’s case of road rash when his brother finally speaks up. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”

Gerard doesn’t want to. He’s had this argument with his brother before and it always ends the same but he can’t help but ask, “Aren’t you worried what’ll happen if you don’t end up getting away?” Because he has. He knows what happens to people who end up strapped to the table, or worse, those who are considered irreversibly contaminated.

But Mikey (no, not Mikey anymore; Kobra, his mind supplies) just laughs. “Of course I’m not worried. If I ever get taken, Party, you’d just break me back out.”

 

Party.

Party Poison.

Fucking hell, he’s Party Poison.

“You know has to be done, right?” Korse’s voices startles him, drawing him back to right now. It’s not a question, even though Korse phrases it like one, like Gerard would have a fucking option about it.

Korse is right though; he knows what he has to do. “I do.”

“Good.”

Gerard pulls the spare gun he’d taken from its holster and aims for Korse’s head. He doesn’t miss; his aim has always been fucking exceptional no matter what the fuck BLI has done to his head.

“What the hell?” Gerard hears through the mesh screen, as the van starts to swerve. He grabs the wheel and pulls them off to the side.

He jumps out of the front after relieving Korse’s corpse of its own gun, and pulls open the back of the van, guns ready, and one of the dracs falls out, unconscious. Gerard glances inside and sees Jet opening Grace’s cuffs with a key, his own set on abandoned the floor.

“I knew it!” Grace exclaims, launching herself at him. He laughs as he pulls her out.

Ghoul crawls out of the back next, looking miserable. “You gonna go fucking Costa Rica on us again?” he asks, watching Gerard wearily. Gerard shakes his head and Ghoul nods. “Good.” Ghoul moves in for a quick, albeit stiff and uncomfortable, hug before heading for one of the unconscious dracs, stripping him of his weapon. And possibly his shoes and other valuables.

“Welcome back, man,” Jet says as he hops out. He doesn’t try to hug him, thank god. Gerard’s really not in the hugging mood, and the pain is still lingering in his skull.

The relief is short lived though, because the next thing he knows his brother is right there, pulling him in for a tight hug. “I thought you’d been ghosted. Don’t you even do that again,” Kobra mutters into his neck.

He doesn’t say anything in response, not wanting to promise something he knows one day he won’t be able to keep, and hugs his brother back.

“Now what?” Grace asks him from where she still squished against his side.

Gerard pulls back and grins down at her. “Now we go home.