“I can’t do it.”
Kobra looks up from the Vend-a-Hack he’s fiddling with. “What’s wrong?”
Jet Star shakes his head and looks like he’s about to cry. “I can’t—I can’t get the thread to go through the needle.” He lays down his sewing supplies delicately, too delicately. “I’m gonna—I’ll be outside.” He stands up and tugs at his eyepatch, walking out the diner with his shoulders hunched in defeat.
Kobra watches him walk out and sighs, waiting a moment before following him. He glances at the sewing project on his way out. A pair of Party’s ratty jeans with a hole in the knees lay on the table, abandoned, a reminder of yet another thing Jet won’t be able to do now.
He finds him leaning against the side of the building, shoulders shaking and hands fumbling for a cigarette. He never smokes unless something’s bothering him, but Kobra doesn’t need to see the lighter for him to realize that.
His eyepatch is on the ground by his feet, leaving his now-blind eye exposed as he looks up. The sclera is clouded, filmy, with the blood vessels standing out slightly more than they should. The missing half of his eyelashes still haven’t grown back in and neither have the burned parts of his eyebrow.
Everything’s healing as well it can, under the circumstances, but it will never be normal again. He’ll never have his vision back; he’ll have to wear an eyepatch or sunglasses or something to cover the useless eye up.
“I just want t’ be alone right now,” he answers softly. But the opposite of his words is written across his face, clear as day.
“Hey. I’m here if you want to talk about it.” Kobra opens his arms a little bit, enough for Jet to see that he means it.
Jet is always there for everyone in the group. Kobra figures it’s his turn to give back to Jet, to switch the roles and be the listener for once. It’s the least he can do.
Jet takes the cigarette from his mouth and shakes his head. “It’s… I dunno. I just can’t do half the things I could before. Everything, easy things, they’re hard now. No depth perception, y'know? I can’t thread a needle. Can’t shoot straight. Can’t catch anything. Half the time I can’t even walk without bumping into somethin’.” He flicks the ashes from his cigarette and stares out into the horizon before shaking his head again. “But it’s—it’s not a big deal. I’m jus’ overreacting… I guess.”
Kobra doesn’t say anything; lets him go on.
“It’s not fair,” Jet says quietly. “But I know I shouldn’t be complaining, because Ghoul has it bad too, with his scar. Life’s just… it’s gonna be harder for me now. There’s nothin’ I can do about it either.”
“You’re gonna figure it out,” says Kobra. “Hell, I’ll even thread the needle for you if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“It’s not a big deal,” Jet repeats, waving a hand in the air. It’s as if saying it enough will convince him of it.
But Kobra knows what Jet thinks he doesn’t—the small things stick. It’s not like he’s having a breakdown over sewing, it’s that all the little stuff, every new inconvenience, it’s all starting to pile up into a wall that he can’t see over. With either eye.
“Jet. Look at me. Please.”
Jet lifts his head, and the expression on his face is utterly disheartened.
“It’s gonna be okay. You’ll find a way around this, all right?”
Jet Star drops his cigarette and stubs it out with the toe of his boot. He’s shaking his head the slightest bit, like he doesn’t believe it. Kobra knows he doesn’t.
“Don’t be like that. Man, I wish I could do somethin’. Get you your eye back, or… I dunno. This sucks, dude. I know . But you an’ me, and Party and Ghoul, we’re gonna get through every single shitty thing this world throws at us. Together.”
Jet gives a forlorn smile. But there’s a light behind it, behind the sadness. It’s barely there, but it’s enough for Kobra to notice. And at least that’s something.
He picks up the fallen eyepatch and goes to hug Jet.
Jet hugs him back.
Jet Star walks back into the diner next to the Kobra Kid, his spirit somewhat repaired. And right now, that’s enough.
But Kobra has a plan to raise his mood even more.
It involves a sewing needle, thread, some fabric, and Fun Ghoul and Party Poison.
That night, they wait until Jet Star falls asleep, then gather outside with a flashlight. The Kobra Kid motions for them to kneel in the dirt.
“All right,” he says, dusting off his hands. “He’s gonna wake up for the next shift in like an hour, so we hafta hurry this thing up.” He points to the polka-dotted fabric, which is only somewhat torn and moth-eaten from where they found it in the back room. “We’re gonna make it into a shirt.”
Fun Ghoul frowns. “And how exactly are we gonna do that?”
“Magic,” whispers Party, doing jazz hands in the air.
“I’ve pro’lly never picked up a needle in my life before,” Ghoul squints. “I’ve got absolutely no idea how this is s’posed to look.”
With a shrug, Kobra hands him the scissors. “You’re wearin’ a shirt. Model it from that.”
Forty-five minutes and three pricked fingers later, they’ve got something that vaguely resembles a shower curtain.
“This sucks,” Party comments. He’s got the tip of his pointer finger in his mouth, sucking on the newest of his sewing needle wounds. “We can’t sew for shit.”
“Yeah, no kiddin', dude. But you know what? We tried, and maybe Jet’ll realize that even with one eye, he’s still fifty-fucking-million times better than th’ three of us combined.” Kobra holds up the newly-fashioned garment, and it’s then that they see how terrible their work really is.
“This looks like a vampire cloak or somethin’,” says Ghoul.
“Wha’s a vampire cloak?”
“I don’t fuckin' know, man! This!” He gestures frantically at the sorry excuse for an article of clothing. It does, indeed, look like a vampire cloak. Whatever that may be.
“He’s gonna love it,” grins Kobra. He balls it up and goes inside, tiptoeing slowly so the floorboards won’t creak.
All they have to do is wait for sunrise, and then they’ll reveal their wonderful, beautiful, amazing grand masterpiece to their friend.
Jet’s up and awake before the rest of them, carefully avoiding the booth with his sewing supplies. He’s grabbed a few cans of PowerPup and popped them open before shaking the other three Killjoys awake.
“Mornin’, boys,” he greets cheerfully, as though his and Kobra’s exchange the night before had never happened. “Rise ‘n shine.”
Kobra stretches awake, keeping the present underneath his pillow until Jet turns away. He smacks his brother on the arm. Party’s never been one to wake up quickly. “Hurry up,” the Kid hisses.
“Why?” the redhead mumbles, eyes half-closed. “Leave m’ alone.”
“No. We gotta… do the thing. Give the thing… to the person.”
Jet eyes him curiously and Kobra starts just throwing out words, trying to divert his attention. “And after that we’ll go to that place and pick up some supplies an’ stuff and—yeah. Sound good?”
He smacks Party again.
Ghoul is easier to wake up, and after five minutes they manage to get themselves situated around the table. The Kid’s holding the shirt in his lap and his feet keep tapping nervously on the floor.
“You okay there, Kobra?” asks Jet. He’s got his eyepatch back on, the blond notices.
“Oh, yeah. I’m shiny,” he says, only half paying attention. He catches Ghoul’s attention and asks with his eyes whether it’s time to hand over the shirt.
Ghoul nods yes, his head bobbing up and down more times and much more exaggerated than needed.
“Allrighty then,” Party beams. “We got a surprise for ya, Star.”
Kobra unveils the shirt with a flourish.
Jet stares at it for a good fifteen seconds, his head tilted to the side. “What is it?”
The Kobra Kid grins sheepishly. “‘S a shirt. For you. We made it last night outta one ‘a the tablecloths.”
The realization dawns on Jet, and he reaches out and takes the fabric, clutching it in one hand. “You guys sewed me a shirt?”
“Yeah. Kobra told us how you were upset and we figured we could try ‘n make you feel better.” Party twists a strand of hair around his finger. “Ya like it?”
Jet’s visible eye fills with tears.
“Aw, fuck, is it that bad?” Ghoul asks. “I tried hard, y’know.”
“No, it’s—I can’t believe that you guys… that you did this for me—it’s… it means so much.” His voice breaks.
Ghoul’s got that look on his face, the oh god, tears, crying, somebody else deal with it look, so Kobra intervenes.
“We love you, man. You do so much for us, like, you take care of everything for us. It was our turn to do something for you.”
The other three Zonerunners converge on Jet for a group hug, shuffling closer until they’re squished together. Kobra’s head pokes out from between Party and Ghoul.
“So anyway,” he says, “You wanna try on that shirt?”