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Twice Orphaned, Still Fighting

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My name is Motorbaby, but everyone calls me the Girl. My birth name is Grace, Grace Jeanette, but no one calls me that any more. Well, Jet calls me Gracie sometimes, but only when no one can hear him. I live with the Fabulous Killjoys, because they're illegal like me. Not the way I used to be seen, being Hispanic. That's something Jet and I share, our heritage. People mistake me for his daughter. That's how I met them,actually. Saw the hair, ran at him screaming "Dad!", he turns round and I pull up short. He smiles. " I'm sorry" he says, "but I think you've got the wrong guy. I'm Jet Star, and these are the Fab Four." "I'm Grace", I said. He looked worried and grabbed my hand. " We don't use our Before names here, sweetie. We need to give you a Runner name." Then this guy, barely taller than me and inked like a tattoo parlour model, pipes up "Let's call her Princess Fro" Jet glares at him "Not a chance, Ghoul, not a chance" "Motorbaby" says this other guy, tall and thin and bleach blonde, in a tiger stripe shirt and red leather jacket. "Like DJD's broadcast slogan" Jet smiles gratefully at him "Thanks Kobra, finally a sensible suggestion" 'Ghoul' sticks his tongue out at him "Why so touchy, Jet? Don't like your old name?" Jet clenches his fist, ready to take the little punk out, when a put-upon sigh comes from behind him. "I wouldn't annoy him, Ghoul. He'll take you out if you piss him off too much. And Jet, don't rise to his bait, you know how he is, he wants a reaction." Then he sights me. "Now who's this? You picking up strays again?" Jet pulls me to him. "She ran. She thought I was her dad, so she needs protection and she'll be safer here than out in the Zones or in Battery City." "Name?" he says. I look to Jet. "Her name's Motorbaby." He nods. "Party, Party Poison." He extends his hand towards me and I take it. He helps me into their Trans Am and yes, I know I shouldn't get into strangers' cars but they were my best chance.
So I stay with them for a bit,learn their names and habits. They pair off a lot, Jet Star with Kobra Kid, Party Poison with Fun Ghoul. Party and Kobra are brothers but they don't spend much time together. Every night, one pair goes off into the desert and one stays with me. Kobra is practically nonverbal, but Ghoul talks enough for everyone. I think Kobra might be one of Jet's strays. Not in the same way as me, but I think Jet is his protector and confidant like he is mine. He just sits in the corner staring at a picture of two guys. I think the taller one is Kobra, but his hair is light brown in the picture,not bleach blonde, and he's wearing glasses and a beanie. The shorter guy, he's got dark hair and eyeliner. He's taller than Ghoul, I think, but shorter than Party. I asked Kobra the guy's name and he just smiled sadly and didn't answer.
A few days later, I found out where they went in the evenings. I went out with Jet and Kobra and Ghoul and Party to a mailbox in the middle of nowhere,covered in bright colours and names. Kobra wandered around writing down stuff occasionally. I started noticing patterns. Runners mixed with Befores. Four girls with one last name, Lyndsey, Bandit, Kristin, Rowan, all called Way,three girls and a boy with another, Jamia, Cherry, Lily and Miles Iero. I asked Jet if the four girls were related and Party answered. "The women were sisters in law and the girls were cousins. Lyndsey was my wife and Bandit my daughter. She was nine. Kristin and Rowan were Kobra's. Rowan was barely two." "What about them?" I pointed to the list of Ieros. "Ghoul's wife, his twin girls and his son." I took a moment to digest this. "Are they buried here?" Party giggled. "No, they're buried further out." "What about Jet's family?" "Ah, he carries his with him. He won't write their names down. Ghoul says its because he's incapable of moving on. Ghoul is terminally catty, and I say that as his boyfriend. His wife was called Christa, I know that, but not much else." I went off to look at more, then found another family list. "Pete, Meghan, Bronx, Saint, Marvel. Who names their child Marvel?" Kobra whipped round. "Pete Wentz." "Who's that?" I asked. He sighed and showed me the picture I saw him staring at for the past few weeks. "That's Pete. He used to be my boyfriend, but he became obsessed with his singer and we broke up. He moved on from him too, married Ashley, had Bronx, left her, married Meghan and had the other two. I still cared for him, but we were more friends than anything else. We found them. They- they died in the initial blast. I think it was painless, I hope so at least. We've watched too many die. We all found our wives and children dead. Finding the Wentzes almost killed me. I think Jet kept me alive, out of pity, and because losing me would likely break Party."
About a week after that, we went scouting for houses we could use as a secondary base. The first thing I noticed was the mailbox. It had 'Urie' painted on it in big letters. Jet just grabs my arm and says "Stay here,Gracie. I'm going in, I need to see." He came out a few minutes later,shaking his head. "Both?" Party questioned. Jet nodded. "God. How long?" Jet considered for a second, then decided "Given the state of them, I'd say initial blast. At least the Dracs didn't get them." They brought them out, one man and one woman. It was the first time I'd seen dead bodies. We buried them that evening, added their names to the memorial. Brendon and Sarah Urie. I remember seeing Kobra write it, because he had the best writing and I said "you don't spell it like that, its either B-r-e-n-d-a-n or B-r-a-n-d-o-n" and he said, "no,that is how you spell it, Urie was something special" and he got this faraway look in his eyes. We stayed in the Uries' house for a while then moved on, leaving a mark to tell other Zonerunners that it was a base, a safe haven.
The next time I saw someone dead was about two months after that. We were scouting again, and we stumbled across it. I could smell something wrong as soon as we got there. We went in, all five of us, though I don't know why they took me in. There were three of them, a couple and their son, but we didn't know that. They hadn't been dead long by the look of them. Party saw the guy's face and went really pale. He looked at us. "They survived. They survived and then those bastards killed them." Kobra started rifling his pockets, looking for something, before pulling out his notebook. He flicked through it before stopping on a page and showing it to Party. "This looks about right time-wise. See which name might fit." He replied almost instantly. "Soul Punk. It has to be. It was his solo album, the joke he had, that he had a soul voice and sung in a pop punk band. AI hated that, remember?" I knew AI, it stood for American Idiot. He was pretty, with jet black hair and emerald green eyes, but he was intense and he scared me. They read down the list that Kobra held. "Soul Punk, that would be him, Truant Wave, that's her, I suppose and- oh! It says- it says 'unfortunately, Youngblood, aged seven, was caught in the crossfire'. He was just a child! They don't kill kids. Where is he, anyway?" Ghoul, kneeling by the woman, looked up. "She's holding him. He died protecting her." I looked at them. The man was familiar, but I didn't know why. I turned to Kobra, seeing how torn up he was. "Who's he?" He looked at me sadly. "His name is Patrick Stump. He was the singer in Pete's band." "The one he was obsessed with?" "Yep. He was a good man. Kind, caring. He didn't deserve this. Party liked him, but not as intensely as I fell for Pete. Both sets of us bonded over our talents. Urie was part of the same group." A thought struck me. "What name will you write?" He looked at me oddly "What?" "The name" I said, "what will you call them on the memorial?" Party answered,as he often did when the others were at a loss for words. "Their Runner names, but we'll record who they were, and DJD will broadcast both names, so that the Band Brigade know who they've lost."
That was the last time I went scouting with them. They left me with DJD- Doctor Death-Defying, that is, and Show Pony when they went out. I learned from him that the Band Brigade was a group of people who had been in alternative bands Before. The Fab Four were in it,though they never went, AI, Mad Gear and Missile Kid, chances were, so was Soul Punk. They met once every few months to discuss what was going on. I was more hooked on the fact that I knew people who knew Mad Gear and Missile Kid. I looked up to them, they were an awesome two man band who ruled the airwaves. I'd never met them, though I had met AI. I wish I had. Met them, I mean. Party calls them the babies. They're younger than the Fab Four by about ten years. Missile's a drummer, Gear a singer. DJD said that's how they survived,as a band. About the only things you can play out here, a voice and a beat. Apparently Gear used to play a lot of instruments,especially piano and ukulele, but there's no chance of that any more. The fact that my protectors used to be a band was hard to get my head around. I mean, I'd heard Party sing before, but I didn't know about the others. I suppose that the lack of instruments would explain that. I asked DJD why they don't play any more, why they couldn't be like Gear and Missile and he muttered something about someone called Bryar and a few choice words. I caught him doing the same kind of thing as Kobra does,looking at pictures and being sad. With him its a woman, dark hair, red lips, short plaid skirt. A bass player. He said her name was Lyn-Z, Lyn-Z Ballato. That was her maiden name. She became Lyn-Z Way, about ten years ago. Party's wife. He points out a guy on the other side of the stage, the guitarist. Him,before his injury put him in a wheelchair. No wonder he keeps an eye on them, he knew Party Before. Pony usually takes me away when he gets like that, starts crying. Pony's teaching me to skate,like they do. I think Pony was born a boy, but they're not any more. Gender isn't real in the Zones.
When the Fab Four come back for me, they seem sad. We go out to the memorial and they add two new names. Vampire Dandy and Cobra Starship. Friends of the ones we found. Two more of the Band Brigade bite it.
Over the course of the next few months,we find more people, some dead,some living. There's a new band of Runners now. Northern Downpour, Horseshoe Crab and Crossfit Catcher. The former was one of Urie's and the other two were the other half of Pete and Soul Punk's band. Unfortunately,the others Downpour knew were gone before we found them. Their names were Spencer and Jon, Smith and Walker. They stayed together. We found another Runner we couldn't save, Cain Modern. He had a wife, Daily Gale. They found that funny for some reason and they had to explain that a. her first name was Breezy and b. the Daily Mail used to be a paper. They had children too, once, but they were nowhere to be found.
Fast forward to a few months ago, and we're at DJD's, getting ready to go out scouting for supplies. I hand Jet his blaster and smile at him. He smiles back and we climb into the Trans Am. Party drives and they let me ride shotgun,so I stick my head out the window. We get attacked by Dracs and Ghoul let me help him with the mounted gun. We stopped at a gas station to refuel and Ghoul and Kobra nicked some magazines. No one would stop us,the place is abandoned. Then I helped Kobra hack a vending machine for batteries and blasters. We left quickly, before we were found. It didn't work. Korse and the Dracs found us. Jet got bottled, the next time I saw him, he had an eye patch. There was a standoff, Dracs on bikes, coming for me, Party took them out, grabbing,shooting. The Fab Four fell. And then a Drac has me in a chokehold and then Korse is there, watching them expectantly, blaster trained on Party. His eyes flick open, Party's,that is and Korse has this expression on his face, somewhere between a grin and a grimace and he says "Keep running" and then they drag me away to his car, kicking and screaming and saying every bad word Party and Ghoul had taught me. I stayed with a lady called Miss Yukisada for I don't know how long. I spoke to them every day, in my mind, wrote to them, drew, sang, even when BLInd threatened me.
They came for me, of course. I knew they would. I watched them arriving, on the monitors, as the Dracs freaked out. I watched them blast their way in, the Dracs going for their rifles, Yukisada for her katana. Then the Fab Four got to me and Ghoul shot out the windows and the Dracs and Party hugged me tight and Kobra and Jet were standing guard. Yukisada had gone by then, I didn't know where. They grabbed me and we tried to get out. We got as far as the lobby before they found us. Korse started shooting and they shot back and I just stood there,my back to them, hoping no one would die. They took out a lot of Dracs, Party unmasked one then looked down in horror. He must have known him, which makes me sad. Then Korse grabbed Party,pinned him to the wall by his throat. He had a blaster shoved up under his chin. Party just smiles, says something. Kobra notices what's going on and starts to sprint to them. Korse pulls the trigger. That's when I started screaming. I saw Party slump to the ground, Kobra firing, Korse starting to crumple, his finger still on the trigger, shots going wide. He hits Kobra. He falls. Korse is dead, but was it worth losing them both to do it? Ghoul and Jet run to me, dragging me towards the door. Ghoul herds me and Jet through. I thought he'd follow,but he doesn't. He bolts the doors, and that's when I realise what he's doing. He wants to take out as many Dracs as possible, doesn't he? He wants to be martyred, like his boyfriend and his boyfriend's brother. Jet grabs my arm and we run. I glance back, just in time to see Korse, miraculously not dead, advancing on Ghoul and Ghoul falling. Its just me and Jet now. Jet tells me to run, DJD and Show Pony are coming, they'll keep me safe. He turns to cover my escape. I see him go down. Then Pony jumps from the van and they're shooting at Dracs, yelling at me to run. I climb into the van and we're off, gone, out. The closest thing I had to a father, gone. All four of them. I feel numb.

Show Pony takes me to the memorial the next day. I write their names, both Before and Runner, Party Poison, Fun Ghoul, Kobra Kid, Jet Star, Gerard Way, Frank Iero, Mikey Way, Ray Toro. I notice a weight in my pocket. Its Kobra's notebook. One of them must have slipped it to me before they went down. Pony turns to me and says, "Those four were great men, idols to many people. You should know their legacy." They begin to tell the story. "Their band was called My Chemical Romance. Party was their singer, Jet was lead guitar, Ghoul rhythm guitar and Kobra was their bassist. Their drummer kept changing. Party knew Korse once,in fact, Korse used to be his mentor. DJD played music with Party's wife, he cared for her deeply. A lot of these names" here they tapped the mailbox memorial, "were people they knew, people they found, people they loved."
I went from safe base to safe base after that. I lived with Mad Gear and Missile Kid for a while. I wish I'd met them in better circumstances. They said I reminded them of Jet. I broke down crying. I met the new band. They told me their Before names almost immediately. Northern Downpour was tall and stick-thin, even more so than Kobra. It looked like he'd snap if someone blew on him. His name was Ryan Ross and he was close to Brendon Urie, they were in a band called Panic! at the Disco together and it sounded like it could have been more. He was a guitarist Before. Horseshoe Crab was about the same height as Party, with curly hair. He's the kind of guy that my birth parents would call a 'stoner'. His name is Joe Trohman. He had a wife and two girls Before. We added their names to the memorial that evening. He was a guitarist too. Crossfit Catcher was about the same height as Ghoul, with about as many tattoos, brown hair and a ginger beard. I found that strange. His name is Andy Hurley, he used to be a drummer. He has a high voice, it kind of reminds me of Jet.
I started thinking as I passed around. I remember how upset I was when we heard the Traffic Report. I still remember every word. "Bad news from the zones tumbleweeds. It looks like Jet-Star and the Kobra Kid had a clap with an exterminator that went all Costa Rica.
And uh, got them selves ghosted, dusted out on route Guano. So it's time to hit the red-line and up thrust the volume out there. Keep your boots tight, keep your gun close. And die with your mask on if you've got to. Here is the traffic." I remember about a month ago,when I was taken, and Korse pointing a blaster at Party, saying "Keep running". They didn't die then, what if they haven't now?

Months later, I'm sitting at base, talking to Downpour, when the radio starts up. " 'Calling all Motorbabies and Brigade Marchers. The mailbox is now open and fully fabulous.' That was a message from an anonymous source, and now for our next tune. This is 'Cancer' by Mad Gear and Missile Kid." Downpour and I look at each other and say, simultaneously, "They're back!"
I go alone. I'm ten now, nearly grown up, and its the Fab Four we're talking about. My protectors. My family. I see four figures approaching. Its them, but not the way I remember. They're all too thin. Party's hair is black again, not red. Jet's hair is short. It doesn't suit him. Kobra's hair is brown, they got rid of the bleach. Ghoul is silent. Its the first time that I've seen him and he's not jabbering. I fear I've lost them already.

Chapter Text

Months go by. I'm living with them again, thank fu- the Phoenix Witch. I shouldn't swear, Jet says. "Do as I say, not as I do", he says. Ghoul takes me aside and says he's proud that I'm picking up his habits. Party cuffs him round the ear, asks what he'd say if his kids swore. "The same bloody thing." he says. He laughs, we all do, even Kobra. That's rare. He barely smiled before the incident at BLInd, less so after they came back. I notice him getting close to Jet, closer than usual. I can already tell they'll be worse than Ghoul and Party. Jet's sentimental, he'll be a total gentleman. Kobra is too, but don't let him hear you saying that. I wonder which one leads. Ghoul leads, when he's with Party. Party runs the Fab Four, but when he's- no, they're- with Ghoul, Ghoul is in charge of them. Party is 'they' now, like Show Pony. I don't much mind, after all, they're still Party. But anyway, as I said before I got distracted, I think Jet leads. Kobra depends on him,so much. I asked how they got together and Jet goes scarlet and Kobra laughs. "Told you you're not subtle, Toro". It's the first time I've heard one of them call another by a Before name. They tell me what happened after I ran. Jet starts. "I was first to wake from being ghosted. We're in some kind of lab, on slabs, like autopsy tables. Kobra's next to me, just lying there not moving and I watch him. I noticed Party and Ghoul waking on the other side of me,but Kobra doesn't move and before I know it, I'm next to him, shaking him, pleading. 'Please wake up, please, Kobra, the Killjoys need you, God, Mikes, I need you.' It was the first time I'd admitted what I felt for him. I tried so hard to keep loyal to Christa, be a good, faithful husband, though I was a widower." At this point, Kobra takes over. "So I wake up, head hurting like I've been on a week-long bender. Which I do not recommend, by the way. Not many people have the tolerance Party and I had and even then its hell to wake up with a hangover. I wake up and one of my best friends is standing over me, sobbing, saying he needed me to live, for him. That's when I realised that Party wasn't the only one it would destroy if I died. I'd loved this guy since my brother brought him home. He was so kind, but strong and I thought, 'he'll be good to me'. I got bullied a lot, for being a comic book nerd, and gangly, and not quite straight. I was mostly straight, mind, but there were a few exceptions and people tend to latch onto that. Suddenly I had a decent protector. Three years older, over six foot, not afraid to use his fists if anyone messed with me. How was I meant to turn away from him? Thing is, he was straight as a ruler. No interest in me whatsoever." Party scoffed. "You do realise I would have gutted him if he'd tried anything untoward, don't you? Also, I am offended that you didn't see me as a decent protector." "Oh, come off it. You were a bigger nerd than me. They would have pulverized you." Then Ghoul joined the conversation. "We all know that 'good to you' doesn't mean protector, it means-" the rest was muffled behind the hands of all three of them.
Ghoul and Party were planning their wedding by then. AI came by, he wasn't impressed. That's another reason I'm not keen on him. He was going off at them, saying it would get them caught and killed. It was loud, scary, more full of swear words than most conversations with the Fab Four. Then he finally calmed down, clapped them both on the shoulder, said "I'm happy for you" and left. Ghoul called him a jumped-up Zone rat, quite loudly. The Band Brigade were invited to the wedding, AI included. He didn't show up, but the others did. I was flower girl, bridesmaid, pageboy, all at once. DJD performed the service, of course. Kobra and Jet got engaged shortly after. They said I could be all those things again.
A few weeks after Jet and Kobra's wedding, Party says they've got an announcement. They say that they want to adopt me and I'm confused because I thought they had. They say, "no, properly. Legally." and I look to Jet, like I always do, and he says "All four of us, Gracie, not just Party" and of course I say yes because these men are the closest thing I've had to parents since the Helium Wars started. On that note, I finally wrote my parents' names on the memorial and Jet wrote his family's. We decided to let them go, now that we have people who will help us move on. I lost my parents and now I have the Fab Four, he lost his wife and son and now he has a husband and a daughter.

We're happy, as a family. Korse is gone, the Fab Four made sure of that, and the Dracs with him. The Zones have become less sectioned off. The children have been released from Battery City, the Band Brigade have taken in the ones that belong to them. Actually, there's only four of those, and two are Crab's, Ruby, renamed Scarlet Storm and Zayda-May, renamed Blue Rhapsody. The latter makes no sense to me, but the Fab Four found it funny. The last two kids are both girls, Amelie and Genevieve. The former is the daughter of Cain Modern and Daily Gale. She can't go to her parents, they're dead, so she's joined us. Her Zone title is Crash Queen, so we match. She's ten, the same age as me. We get on alright. Technically, we changed things a little, so she's Ghoul and Party's daughter and I'm Kobra and Jet's, but we know we're both kids of the whole band. We get on with Scarlet and Blue as well, though they're younger. Scarlet's seven and Blue is two. Genevieve is Vampire Dandy's daughter. She's twelve and she lives with us too. She refuses to be adopted, she knew her dad really well,and his boyfriend, but not her mum, so, after losing him, she won't allow him to be replaced. She's the only one of us kids who chose her own name, Madeline Pendragon. Its not a typical Killjoy name, but she absolutely refuses to change it. I admire her for that. So yes, we're a happy family and I hope we stay that way.

Chapter Text

I reckon I'm rare. There aren't many female Runners, even less Lone female Runners. I think that should be capitalized, Lone. Most other things are. Runner, Zone, Zonerunner, Before. I'm Fake Happy, if you didn't know. I usually live in the outer Zones, but I had a notion of going in, announcing triumphantly and then riding off into the sunset. Of course that went down the pan.

So I ride in, on my beat-up motorcycle, jump off and almost collapse. I'm on the floor, gasping, like the guy that ran the first marathon. I call out, "Korse and the Dracs have fallen, and Bat City with them!" My only audience is this little girl, sitting on a rock, polishing a pale blue blaster. "I know," she says, looking up at me "My dads took them out." "Your dads?" I say. Can't be her real parents, surely. This area's been turned over for shelterers. Then I look at her properly. I realise who she is a split second before she speaks. "The Killjoys. The Fab Four, to be precise." This is the famous Motorbaby. I realise her weapon is a smaller, lighter replica of Jet Star's, which makes a lot of sense considering her appearance. Even if its not biological, she looks every inch his daughter. She grins. "Grace, but they call me Motorbaby. And you?" "Fake Happy", I tell her, and she giggles. " Your real name, silly. Your Before name." I just goggle at her. "Well, BLInd has fallen, so we might as well." "Hayley," I say, and its like a weight comes off. "Hayley Williams." She seems pleased with this, then whirls round and yells "Party! There's a woman here, wants to make an announcement! Round up the others!" He strolls out of the building. "Grace, sweetie, you don't need to yell for us, you can just come in." Then he sees me and draws himself up to his full height (about 5" 9', so not tall, but taller than my 5" 1' frame). "And you are?" he says. I think he's trying to intimidate me, but he's got longish bright red hair and he's wearing a pinny. He looks like a punk housewife. "Hayley Williams. Fake Happy. Lone. Outer Zones. Here to announce the fall of BLInd, though apparently that's pointless. I'm not here to harm you or her, sir." He giggles. Its infectious. "Oh, good. Don't call me sir, Hayley, for future reference. One, its really formal and honestly no thanks and two, its quite masculine and again, no thanks." On seeing my perplexed look, he elaborates. "I'm nonbinary, so they/them pronouns,please. I'm Gerard Way, but call me Gee. You might have heard my name before, both on the music scene and here, as Party Poison. You'll almost definitely know my brother and his husband. Kobra Kid and Jet Star? Their deaths were announced, wrongly, on the Traffic Report a few months ago." They invite me into the compound and I go, willingly. I recognise most of the faces in the room, from Wanted posters and personal acquaintance. The Fab Four are here, Party, Kobra, Jet and their fourth member Fun Ghoul, who, from the way he's clinging to Party, is the reason for their wedding band. Mad Gear and Missile Kid are in the corner, bent over a table talking. Horseshoe Crab is sitting with Crossfit Catcher and Northern Downpour. The three of them are watching children playing. Motorbaby is among them, but there's three others, plus an older girl who's talking to an imposing dark-haired guy at the back. I think that must be American Idiot, AI, one of the most famous Lones of all and leader of the Band Brigade, but I don't know the girl. Then the two of them spot me and come over. "I suppose you're new." she says, not bothering to conceal the disdain in her voice. I'm barely taller than her, despite being more than twice her age. "I'm Madi and this is AI." He rolls his eyes. "Billie Joe," he says, with a slight smile. "Don't mind Madi, she doesn't like people. She lives with me now, lost her parents to Dracs. No connections to anyone else. After the fall, she lived with the MCR boys, but got sick of Motor and Crash, so sought me out. We all live in the compound, but each pseudofamily has their own house. Course, that's only five. Party, Jet, Kobra, Ghoul, Crash and Motor; Missile and Gear; Downpour, Catcher, Crab, Scarlet and Blue; DJD and Show Pony, who aren't here because someone has to run the radio station and of course myself and Madi. Would you prefer to join us or live alone?" I'm trying to figure them out. I know most of them and I know who's missing and why. A lot of this room are labelmates. Missile and Gear, Josh and Tyler, seem very close, of course they already were, but they've become more so. They both had girls before, heck, Tyler, Gear, he was married. The other group with kids are familiar too, and I feel a pang looking at them. Ryan Ross, the last of his kind. We lost the originals (or as close as you could get) to the blast and the new guy to BLInd. I'm not surprised he calls himself by the name of their saddest song. The other two's names make me laugh slightly. They just adapted alter egos from ten years ago. I realise that the full band never did that and it sobers me up a little. We lost the loud, vibrant one, the reason that Decaydance exists before a blaster was fired, and how could they kill the label's on and off producer and his seven year old son. The children with them, well, they have to be Trohman's. Ruby and Zayda-May. I don't know who Crash is. She's maybe ten, like Motor, but I don't recognise her, per se. There's something about her, and indeed Madi, that I know, deep inside, though.
I accept AI's offer to move in with them. About a week later, Madi comes to speak with me. "Hayley? Can I ask you something?" I nod. "What did you do before? Who did you know? How many of your friends are gone?" "I was a musician, like most of this compound. A singer. The only girl among guys, all of whom are dead now. As for my other friends, a lot of them are here. Gear, Missile, Catcher, Crab, Downpour, and most if not all of their bandmates." "Did you know William Beckett?" It was like a flash going off. "Bilvy, you mean? The one that was attached to Gabe Saporta and Travie McCoy by turns?" She dropped her gaze. "He's my dad. I lived with him and Gabe. I don't know what happened to Travie. I liked him, Before. Gabe was my second father. I called him Papi. That's the way it was, Dad and Papi. I knew the same people you did. I know more about Ruby and Zayda-May's dad than they do, I reckon. I never knew my mother." "Do you want a mother figure? Do you want me to be that?" She untied the bandana from around her wrist and twisted it in her hands. "It would be... nice, to have a female role model, for once" I became curious "Is AI your dad? I mean, not literally, but..." She laughed. I think its the first time I've seen her not frown. "Oh goodness, no! I stay with him because he knows what its like to lose everything. And he scares the others, so they leave me alone. I'm sick of them. They don't see what its like. Ruby and Zayda-May still have their dad, Grace doesn't know if hers are alive or dead, but seems like she's happy enough with the Four and Amelie- well, god knows what Amelie's thinking, but she's pally enough with Grace that she doesn't seem to care. I've lost my parents, I have no contacts in the world and then I'm dragged to a fucking laboratory where the government tries to force me to comply with their regime and they expect me to be alright? They tell me that they're so hard done by because a lot of their friends died, like I didn't know those people too, like I wasn't friends with Bronx Wentz before they were even thought of. I didn't know them very well, wasn't part of their playdates, but I knew their bloody parents. I thought the sun shone through Patrick like they did. I started Bronx's nickname, not them. They appropriate it then tell me I can't use it because I 'didn't know him'. Well damn them! Damn them all! They've got their bloody parents, they didn't see them dead. Joe wasn't there when they took the kids and they didn't see Marie fall, just heard a round being discharged. As far as we know, Grace's parents live, and she ran anyway. Amelie didn't see Cain or Gale-" "Cain and Gale?" "Cain Modern and Daily Gale. I think the surname was Weekes?" "Oh, Dallon and Breezy. I didn't know them properly, but I know the names." "As I was saying," she sounded pissed off "she didn't see her parents fall, the Dracs turned her around. Bastards had mercy. But me, they messed me about." She's getting angry, I can tell. "They came storming in, shot Papi in the head. I'm clinging to Dad, tightly, hoping that they won't hurt us. They pry me from his arms. He's fighting, trying to hit them. The shot hits him in the heart. I break away, try to run like hell. And this is what I get for it." She rolls up her leggings. There's a hideous scar pattern on her leg, centring around her knee. "Shot out my kneecap to stop me escaping. They fixed it when we reached Bat City, but I still walk with a limp." We get on better after that. She's standoffish with everyone else, but she's open with me and AI. I decided to ask her about the Runner names of our compound. "I don't know Missile and Gear well enough to tell you how they got theirs. I don't know the reason for Party, Kobra or Jet either. I believe Fun Ghoul comes from the phrase 'ba fungul'. Means fuck off in Italian. Not surprising, considering its Iero we're talking about. AI is short for American Idiot, one of his main band's most famous songs. Catcher and Crab adapted names from ten years ago, Donnie The Catcher and The Luckiest Man Horseshoe Crab. Northern Downpour, that's a song too. A sad one. I think he's got depression. The Four named Motor, and then Crash to match her. Scarlet Storm, because her Before name's Ruby, Blue Rhapsody to match her and because of Rhapsody in Blue. I'm the only kid who chose her name. Madeline after the kid's TV show, the dog was called Genevieve. Pendragon after Guinevere Pendragon, from the Arthurian myths. Its a married name, but it just seemed to fit." "Are there... others you know?" I asked tentatively. "Like your parents." I didn't want her to get upset. She smiles sadly. " Dad was Vampire Dandy, because of a music video. Papi was Cobra Starship, after his band. Patrick was Soul Punk, for an album. Eliza, Truant Wave, for similar reasons. Youngblood, sweet little Declan, because its what the fans called themselves. Cain Modern, for Modern Day Cain, a song, Daily Gale, a pun on the name Breezy Weekes. What's yours mean?" "Fake Happy? Its a song. About how we're all fronting, pretending to be happy when we're really not." "Sounds like an anthem for this place then." We chuckle. I like it here.

We become a family of Lones, the three of us. I'm not going out with Billie Joe, we're just joint custodians of the bitterest, most PTSD-ridden kid in the Zones and I couldn't be happier. We're not a perfect family like Gee, Frank and Amelie, or Mikey, Ray and Grace, or Andy, Joe, Ryan, Ruby and Zayda-May, but Billie Joe and Madi (she refuses to use her birth name) and I put the fun in dysfunctional.

Chapter Text

Amelie was sitting on a rock drawing in the dust with a stick when he arrived. A tall guy, taller than her dad, in dusty clothes. Most things were dusty around here, but he looked like Hayley did when she arrived. Travel dust. No sign of a bike or car, so he must have walked. She didn't trust him. Turning, she called for her Renny "Gee! Gee! There's a stranger here! Who is he I don't like it help me!" Gerard rushed out, ready to defend their adopted daughter. Then they grinned. "McCoy. Fancy seeing you around." "Way Senior. Built yourself a family, did you?"
The two of them shook hands. "Amelie, this is Travie. He's one of ours. Decaydance." "Is he the one Madi always talks about?" Travie looked greatly confused. Gerard took pity on him and explained "Genevieve Beckett goes by Madeline Pendragon now. She talks about you a lot. Misses you." "She's here? Are Bilvy and Gabe with her?" He seemed hopeful. "I'm sorry. They were gone before we brought her here. We found them."
Travie looked at them, heartbroken. There was a sharp gasp behind them. "Travie? Oh my god I thought I'd lost you. That we'd lost you." Madi flew at him, almost knocking him over. Billie and Hayley followed shortly behind, Billie glaring, Hayley smiling. "And you are?" said Billie, sharply. Travie stuck out his hand in a friendly manner. "Travie McCoy. This young lady's third father."