That’s how long it had been since Jet Star last saw Party Poison and the Kobra Kid.
That’s how long it should’ve been. And yet they still weren’t back.
And damn, if he didn’t miss ‘em.
Jet didn’t know if either of them were ghosted. So far, there hadn’t been any announcements on WKIL 109, though that might’ve been what was more concerning about the whole situation. Jet didn’t know what happened to them. They could be anywhere . A crow coulda captured them! They could be slowly dying! A rival crew mighta spotted them alone and decided to get them outta the way! For all he knew, Party and Kobra had found a new crew to run with.
They coulda abandoned him! Jet didn't wanna suggest that idea to Ghoul though. He was just as worried after he’d figured out something had definitely happened to ‘em. Telling Ghoul they’d abandoned them would only make matters worse…
No, no, NO! Jet shouldn’t be thinking like that. They were probably fine, right? Right. Party and Kobra were some of the strongest people he’d ever met. They wouldn’t allow themselves to be picked off that easily, especially since there were two of them. Those two stuck together like glue, too. There was no way they’d gotten killed. No goddamn way. And they wouldn't just abandon Ghoul and him either… would they? No. Kobra might've, but Party . Jet knew Party. Party would never do that. Party cared about him, and Party cared about Ghoul. They didn't abandon them. They would never. Or maybe he was just hoping they didn't.
Jet was shaking. He didn't notice at first, and probably wouldn't have if Ghoul hadn't brought it to his attention. Ghoul, who was previously in the kitchen area of the diner, was now sitting in the same booth as him, a concerned look across his face.
"You alright, dude?" Ghoul put a comforting hand on Jet's shoulder, bringing him back to reality.
"Yeah, no, just thinkin' about where Party and Kobes could be…"
"Don't worry, we'll find 'em. We have to, right?"
Jet nodded slowly, looking down at the ground, a chorus of doubt echoing in his head. 'You won't find them. They're gone. They left you both. They aren't coming back.' Jet tried to shake himself out of that mindset. It wasn't working.
"That's the spirit! We gotta stay positive, okay? And, uh, I'm gonna head out to Zone 3 if that's alright with you…?"
"Y-yeah, you can go. Make sure to take your radio with 'ya" Jet's voice came out shakier than he was expecting.
Ghoul gave him a sad smile, "Yeah, thanks, won't forget it. 'M gonna go stock up on Power Pup, and see if anyone knows where they are. You sure you'll be fine here on your own?"
Jet nodded, "Mhm. I guess I'll try to reorganize the office… keep myself busy, 'n all that."
Ghoul gave a heavy sigh and patted Jet on the shoulder before picking up the crate of his explosives that lay by the door, and leaving with no more than a wave goodbye.
Jet let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. He felt his eyes start to tear up, too, but decided to ignore it. He had to stay strong. He couldn't cry. Besides, he said he'd clean the office! Not cry over losing his best friends.
He got up from the diner booth and started making his way to the thick wooden door that separated the rest of the diner from the office. He tugged open the heavy door to find a mess of things he'd told his crew to throw away months ago. There was the "Motorbikes for Dummies" book Kobra insisted Ghoul read, the oversized wrench Ghoul kept throwing at people, the bag of dead grass Kobra had bought for 50 carbons, the stupid plastic flamingo Party had named Henry for "religious reasons", and a bunch of other useless junk preventing anyone from getting anywhere in the office. It was gonna take awhile to get through, and Jet was fine with that. The more distractions, the better.
Jet started on the pile closest to the door, which contained only old notebooks, filled to the brim with doodles and sketches Party and Kobra had done. It was difficult for Jet to look through without breaking down. Even when he'd found a suitable distraction, he STILL wasn't able to forget about them. Typical.
After sorting out which notebooks were trash and which were treasure, Jet picked the 'treasure' pile up and brought them to the bookcase lining the wall of the office. He'd filled the first shelf and was about to move onto the next, when a small book from one of the higher up shelves fell and almost hit him on the head.
The book landed wide open, it appeared that someone had… written in it. It took Jet a moment longer than he would've liked to admit to realize that it was a journal, of sorts… Party Poison's journal.
Jet could tell just from the messy scrawl: Party's handwriting.
He picked up the leatherbound book and flipped to the first page. In bold, red writing it read: "KOBRA DON'T READ THIS."
Technically, it didn't say Jet, meaning he was allowed to read it… That was Jet's logic at least, as he flipped to a page at random and started reading it to himself.
“ Stupid Kobra. You didn’t HAVE to get shot. You coulda just not gotten shot! Fucking worried me. Thank Destroya you’re still alive. Still though. Told me ‘A shot to the leg isn’t gonna do anything.’ like, YEAH RIGHT dumbass, you complained about a shot to the arm last week and that ended up getting infected. Who knows how much worse it could get with time?”
Jet remembered that. It was about 3 weeks ago, Kobra had taken a nasty hit to the leg from a drac. Unsurprisingly, he’d been fine afterwards, but that didn’t seem to stop Party from getting pissed over it. Jet wondered if, wherever they were, they were still mad about it. Last he’d seen Party, they were still a little put off by it, but then again, it’d been 2 weeks since he saw Party. Jet didn’t know where they were.
Hell, Jet didn’t know anything anymore. He tried to ignore that and the sting in his eyes as he focused his attention back to the journal.
“Okay, sure, Kobra and Ghoul DID score us a few carbons, but what the fuck was that?? And why the HELL did that kid pay 17 carbons to see two almost fully grown men throw dirt into each other’s mouths? I don’t even know where they got the dirt!! Nothing but sand, sand, and more sand for MILES. I don’t know if I would classify that as impressive or disgusting.
Ah fuck it, that was the grossest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Why did Party’s journal have to mention that? Jet didn’t know, but it brought back unpleasant images of Ghoul’s muddy face. He shivered in disgust, deciding to find a blanket to wrap around his shoulders as night was falling along with the temperature. He took a seat in the old leather desk chair and started flipping through the pages in Party’s journal, looking for his own name. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to read the whole thing that night, but maybe he could find something Party said about him. Eventually he found a page that his name was scribbled in caps once or twice. He decided to go for that one.
“Everyone’s an idiot these days. Kobra’s dumbass crashed his motorbike into the shed last night, Ghoulie threw a hammer in the air and it somehow ended up falling down and hitting him on the head, and then there’s Jet’s level of idiocy. The others are dumb but then there’s JET. Nothing new though. I swear to the Witch, I’ve been dropping hints since we goddamn MET and he still somehow hasn’t picked up on them! I don’t know what the hell JET fucking STAR thinks when I’m flirting with him, but it sure isn’t what I’M implying! Why can’t he come to his senses and realize that we were practically MADE for each other?? Cause he’s a dumbass. That’s fucking why.”
Jet didn’t know what to think of that. Party was his best friend and… well, he never really thought it through much more than that. Maybe, well, come to think of it, yeah, you could say he was ‘in love’ with Party and that wouldn’t exactly be a lie… Still, it was confusing. He didn’t think he was dumb either. Confused, at best. He could figure out how he felt later, preferably when he knew Party was okay. For the time being, he was gonna ignore his office cleaning responsibilities and continue reading what Party wrote. Jet moved to the back of the book to read the last entry. He was curious.
“If I don’t come back from this, it’s all Kobra’s fault. Just kidding, but yeah, it’s him. About an hour ago we told Ghoulie and Jet we were going on a run in a bit. Not a lie, but not the total truth either, is it? I’m not sure when we’re leaving, but it should be any minute now. I really hope we don’t die. That probably wouldn’t be good. Probably will die though. Oh well.
- Party Poison”
Where was the context, Witch’s sake!? Jet needed to know what that was about. The lack of context was practically killing him until he found a particularly lengthy entry about a ‘Secret Mission’ that the two of them were supposedly going on.
“Great. Just fucking great. When everything’s going well, of course Kobra has to sit down with me and talk about some stupid mission he accepted without asking me first. The point of the mission is to get some little kid outta the city. There’s no goddamn way we’re NOT gonna fuck that up somehow. He said it’s just gonna be me and him going in, because Ghoul and Jet would never agree to it. So we’re two people down and Kobes is making us go into the city, on nothing but his motorbike, no less. I don’t know how he expects us to fit me, him, and the kid on that bike. That is if we even survive this thing!! I don’t think we will, but it’s not like I can do anything to convince Kobra to forfeit the mission. There’s so much I still really wanted to do, but oh well, I guess. That kid deserves freedom, and dammit, we gotta give it to them. Not gonna try and argue about this. Kobra says we leave in 3 days. Wish I had more time, but it is what it is. I hope at least the kid gets out safe.”
No. No no no no, this wasn’t real, right? Jet couldn’t believe it. Party wasn’t… they weren’t… dead…? Were they? No, no they couldn’t be. They were fine. Probably just taking their time getting home! They woul-
“They’re gone.” a low, unfamiliar voice sounded. Jet didn’t know where it was coming from, but he didn’t like it.
“No.” he said aloud to combat the voice, attempting to keep his voice steady.
The voice spoke again, “They’re dead . Both of them.”
“No!” Jet shrieked, hardly aware of how cold it was as he stood up and started looking around for the voice. Whoever it was was WRONG. Kobra and Party were fine, they were LYING. They had to be.
“You know they’re dead too. They’re dead, dead, dead! Gone!”
The voice was lying!
“Stop denying it. You know what’s true.”
“You’re wrong…! I- you’re wr- right.” Jet’s voice broke.
Jet wanted to believe they were lying. They were lying! Why didn’t he believe that? It was true, so why didn’t he believe it…? Was it not true? Jet didn’t know. He was confused, hurt, and no… fuck. He couldn’t see. Where did the office go? He was just there! Now all he could see was blurred darkness. It was also quiet. Too quiet. All he could hear was the sound of his own sobbing.
It happened for real this time. The world was dark and silent. He was alone.
Fun Ghoul had stayed out longer than he expected. Hopefully Jet wasn’t worried. Jet hadn’t actually ended up radioing him, despite being out for awhile. Worrying to dwell upon, but Ghoul took his advice from earlier and tried to stay positive. He was probably just so caught up in cleaning the office that he hadn’t remembered to radio him! Sounded like something Jet would do, so Ghoul brushed it off as he pulled the trans-am up to the front of the diner, the backseat full of power-pup and water bottles.
He decided to leave the food in the car for the sake of finding out what Jet was up to. He also wanted to tell him something he’d heard from someone in the market. Apparently, one of the person’s friends had spotted Party and Kobra zipping around on a motorbike in Zone 2. Not exactly a primary source, but he could hope, couldn’t he?
Ghoul pushed open the door of the diner and glanced around. Well, he tried to. Jet hadn’t lit any of the candles inside, so nothing was really visible. Ghoul made it his job to get a few of them burning as he couldn’t see 5 feet in front of him. He grabbed his lighter from his vest pocket and lit a few on the counter up. Better. Now he could find Jet without smashing his face into the wall.
Ghoul walked towards the office door, lighting candles as he went along. When got to the door, he pushed it open.
“Jet, holy shit!”
Jet Star was underneath the office desk, clutching a small leather book, shaking violently, and murmuring “No, no, no, no, no…” to himself. He didn’t look very well, he was a lot paler than he should’ve been, but he was alive. That was good. Now he just needed to get him to calm down. Ghoul kneeled down to meet Jet face to face.
“Jet. Jet look at me. Jet I’m right here.” Ghoul grabbed hold of Jet’s arm. He was cold. Too cold. “Jet, up here. D’you wanna get up? Do ya need a jacket?”
“Jet, can ya hear me? Right here, Jet.”
Jet slowly turned his head towards Ghoul, and squinted in his direction, “Ghoul?”
Jet’s eye was puffy and his face was blotchy, presumably from crying. His lips were twisted into an ugly frown, and his eyebrows were drawn together. He looked incredibly tired. Ghoul needed to know what happened. Why had he been crying?
“Yes! Yeah, it’s me. What, uh, what happened…?” he let go of Jet’s arm and grabbed both his hands in his own.
Jet gave him a blank stare, “They’re gone. They’re actually gone.” his voice died on the last word.
Ghoul was confused. Jet had been home the whole time, right? How would he possibly know what happened to Kobra and Party? Maybe he’d just thought about it too hard, and had tried to accept they weren’t coming back. But they were coming back! The person in the market said so. They were alive and they were coming back.
“No, Jet, they’re fine, I hear-”
“NO! They’re gone. They’re gone and I know it. I… trust me, they’re not coming back…”
How would Jet know if they were gone or not? He was here the whole time, while Ghoul was out. There wasn’t anyway he could know for sure. He was just being pessimistic.
“Jet, someone at the market today, they have a friend who saw them out in Zone 2. They’ll be back anytime now! We’re not that far off.”
As he finished his sentence, for a moment, he saw Jet’s eye light up. He had hope. Hope was all they needed then. They just had to hope Party and Kobra would make it back alright, and just maybe, they would. Ghoul watched as the spark in his eye died out, as he lost hope.
“Party is dead. Kobra is dead.” Jet handed him the small leather book he’d been holding gingerly. “They’re dead.”
Ghoul grabbed the book out of his hands and shoved it in a vest pocket. No way some stupid old book could tell if someone was dead or not. No fuckin’ way.
“No offense, but d’you seriously think an old book would tell us where they are?”
Jet started saying something, but Ghoul cut him off. “Jet, you need some sleep. You look cold and tired as shit, and you’re obviously not thinking straight. You can take the mattress all for yourself tonight, I’ll bring by some blankets in a bit, okay?”
“No, Ghoul, please just read it!” Jet’s voice went up an octave. He looked desperate.
Ghoul gave an annoyed sigh. “I’ll read it when you go to sleep , okay?”
“I-” Jet sighed, tired. “Yeah, okay. Promise?”
Exhausted, Ghoul brought himself up on his feet, and helped Jet up after him. Without exchanging words, the two made their way down the hall to the closest of the two bedrooms. The room Ghoul and Jet shared. Ghoul made Jet lay down on the pillows, while he left to get some blankets to keep him warm. Ghoul’s mind was racing.
What could possibly have been in that old book that made Jet freak out? It looked ancient. Pre-wars ancient! It’s not like a book from that long ago could tell if someone present-day was dead or alive, could it? It must’ve! That or Jet was slowly slipping into insanity. Jet was usually a semi-reasonable guy, these types of things only happened every once in a while, so what was in the book? Ghoul may or may not have been dying to find out as he snatched a large comforter and the fluffiest blanket he could find from out of the storage room turned closet.
He brought the blankets back to the bedroom, to find Jet had already fallen asleep. He laid the blankets on top of him and silently walked out, shutting the door behind him. He made his way to the main kitchen area of the Diner, plopping down in one of the booths to start reading the old book. He flipped open to the first page to find Party’s angry handwriting in read reading, ” KOBRA DON'T READ THIS." Ghoul flipped to the next page and read about half of it, all just angry rants, when he heard a motorbike rev up to the front door.
A few seconds later a little girl, about 7 or 8 years old, ran through the door, a maniacal grin spread across her face.
“Who’re you?” the girl asked.
Ghoul was about to ask her who the fuck she was when Kobra stumbled in. He ended up tripping over his legs and landed hard on the ground, groaning. Before Ghoul could say anything about that, Party ran in, winded, glaring at the girl. “Get back here, dammit!” It took Party a surprisingly long time to take notice of Ghoul staring, bewildered, at what had just happened. He shook himself out of it.
“And just where the fuck have you been?”
Party’s head shot up, and they looked at Ghoul guiltily. “We were… on a run.”
“Last I checked, runs don’t take two weeks.” Ghoul hummed.
“Look, okay, it took a bit longer than we expected, but now we’re here! Everything’s fine now, right?” Party asked, they seemed thoroughly exhausted.
Ghoul glared at them, “Everything but Jet, yeah.”
Party’s exhaustion twisted into concern, “What? What happened to him? Please, he’s doing alright, yeah? Oh, Witch say nothing happened…”
“Well… actually… He died from the stress.” Ghoul said with feigned grief.
Ghoul gave a dry laugh, “Nah, he’s just a bit outta it. Asleep right now. Told me ta read this.” He held the book up in his hand and watched in amusement as Party’s eyes widened in horror.
“Give that back .” Party lunged at and tackled Ghoul, wrestling the book out of his hand as the little girl watched, delighted.
When Party got their journal back from Ghoul, they shoved it into one of their inner jacket pockets and dusted themself off.
“Hey Party?” Ghoul asked, picking himself up.
“Where the hell did the kid come from?” he gestured towards the girl.
Party looked back at the girl standing a few feet away from them, watching the two talk with her head cocked to the side.
“The, uh, the run. No parents. We’re still tryna figure out what we’re gonna do with ‘er. ‘Parrently destined to save us all.” they whispered the last sentence under their breath, so that only Ghoul could hear.
Looking at the little girl, Ghoul didn’t exactly see any traits of a saviour. She just seemed like a normal kid. Nothing remarkable. Just… her. He decided not to look too far into it. He could figure that out later. Right now, it seemed like he needed to get Kobra in a bed [the floor didn’t look very comfortable] along with Party and the girl. They all seemed exhausted, save for the girl, but Ghoul blamed it on the fact that she was an 8 year old.
Ghoul hummed in acknowledgement. “So, you tired?”
The girl vigorously shook her head, “No”.
Kobra was still on the floor, quietly snoring.
“You think ya guys could sleep next ta Jet tonight? He really wasn’t doin’ so well earlier… I think it’d help.”
Party nodded, still quite drowsy. “Yeah, s’cold too. Need body heat ‘n shit, right?”
“Yeah. Y’want me to get Kobes? You and the girl here can head to the bedroom, you know where it is. Try not to wake him up, yeah?”
“Yeah, yeah. C’mon girlie, we’re gonna get some sleep!” Ghoul could see Party trying to act excited about it, but they just looked sad. Droopy, maybe.
Luckily, the girl resigned herself to getting some rest rather than protesting. She seemed to pick up on the lack of enthusiasm they were showing. Ghoul watched the two of them head off in the direction of the bedrooms, the girl in the lead, as he picked Kobra up as best as he could, trying his best not to wake him. It was unsuccessful, but Kobra went straight back to snoring when he fell onto the mattress, curling into Party’s side out of pure habit.
The girl was already fast asleep, clinging to Jet’s side, Party, to his other side, and Kobra was curled around them. Ghoul took a spot under the covers next to the girl, falling into a dreamless sleep within the hour.
When Jet woke up, it was to find his entire crew all cuddled around him, along with a little girl.
Yes, it was hard to believe, his entire crew.
Party Poison and the Kobra Kid. Home at last.