“This isn’t technically our normal hideout,” Ghoul explained, setting their bags on the nearest cot. “We normally live in Zone 6. Unfortunately, before you guys showed up, we didn’t think the car was going to make it that far.”
Rhi was uncharacteristically silent for a moment, looking about the small room rather pensively. In reality, it was nothing special. Just a small room with two cots crammed inside and a few boxes of supplies lining the walls. However, to Rhi, it was a little piece of heaven, a small step toward something more permanent, something she and Al could call home.
“I’m sorry it’s not-" Ghoul began, misinterpreting her expression for one of disappointment.
“No,” Rhi and Al insisted in unison.
“It’s perfect,” Rhi assured him.
“We’re just happy to have real beds,” Al added.
The girls snickered at the honesty of the statement. It had been a good month since either of them had slept on anything slightly more comfortable than the ground. Compared to what they were used to, this might as well have been a luxury suite.
A smile found his lips and he nodded, looking relieved.
“You’re going to love the diner then,” he chuckled.
Running a hand through his messy black hair, he took a few steps toward the door.
“I’ll leave you guys to getting settled,” he said brightly. “See you at dinner.”
“Dinner?” Al repeated as he began to slip out the door.
“Yeah. Don’t tell me you’re not used to eating either.”
“Not as a group,” Rhi admitted. “None of the other groups-“
“We’re not like the other groups.”
As he slid out the door, Rhi could have sworn he winked, though she wasn’t sure. Shrugging it off, she turned to get a proper look at the small room. There were a few fliers on the walls for a show, which Rhi found rather entertaining. “Mad Gear and the Missile Kid”, they all read. “4 cents at the door. Don’t miss!”
“What do you suppose that is,” Rhi asked, unzipping her duffle bag and rifling through it, in search of God knows what.
“What?” Al asked.
“Mad Gear and the Missile Kid,” Rhi clarified, nodding at one of the brightly colored fliers
Al grabbed her bag off the first cot and threw it on the other, claiming it as her own.
“No idea,” she shrugged. “A band, I’m guessing.”
“I didn’t know they still had shows,” Rhi mused. “Al, we could see a show.”
“The band probably doesn’t even exist anymore. I’m pretty sure most bands have given up by now, Rhi.”
Nodding, Rhi shrugged off her coat, before continuing to dig through her duffle.
“We should ask at dinner,” she suggested, grabbing a very worn “Misfits” t-shirt out of the bag and sliding it on over her tank top.
“Go ahead,” Al shrugged, slumping onto the bed. “Might as well have something to talk about over dinner. Other than your hideous amount of tattoos.”
“I do not have a hideous amount of tattoos. And I still think it is super weird that they have dinner together.”
Al shot her a glance that said let’s not get into this argument again, and laid back, staring at the ceiling.
“I think it’s cute. It definitely gives it a family sort of feel,” she mused.
“But they’re a rebellion,” Rhi objected.
“And rebels have to stick together. At least they make the effort for everyone to get along.”
“No other groups ever had family dinners.”
“Well the other groups also generally lived in bigger groups than this. Not to mention most of them had so much drama that there would have been no peaceful dinners.”
Shrugging, Rhi conceded the point and collapsed face first onto her bed with a sigh.
“Are you sure we’re cut out for this, Al?” she mumbled, pushing her bag onto the floor so that she could properly climb onto the bed.
Al made a disapproving sound at Rhi’s uneasiness, but offered a nod of reassurance.
“Of course we are,” she smiled. “We’re exactly what the Killjoys need.”
“And if they turn out to be dicks we can take ‘em,” Rhi snickered.
“Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that,” Al laughed. “But I did put Poison in his place, didn’t I?”
“You were a total badass,” Rhi assured her.
“I hope he doesn’t hate us after that. It was kind of-“
“We proved our worth.” There was an assertive finality in Rhi’s voice that was rather uncommon. “That was what was asked of us, wasn’t it? Anyway, don’t hate the player, hate the game.”
Snickering, Al nodded.
“I’ll tell you you’re right if you promise to never use that phrase again,” she giggled.
Rhi laughed, but agreed nonetheless.
“The silly things you learn from the Undead Army,” she mused, burying her face in her pillow.
“Sometimes I wish I would have met them,” Al commented, rolling onto her side to face Rhi, who was nuzzling her pillow like a lover.
“They were pretty cool, but definitely not my scene. They were perfectly fine with letting BL/Ind take over, as long as they weren’t brainwashed in the process. “
“Sounds like a bit of a double standard.”
“You have no idea.”
For a while the girls were silent, taking in the events of the past day. They were finally getting somewhere, after almost a year of uncertainty. Finally they had somewhere to sleep that wasn’t a prison cell or a their car.
Smiling slightly at the thought, she stretched, watching the muscles of her forearm tense under the tattooed skin. The ink had been in her skin so long that she had nearly forgotten that the skin had, at one point in her life, been a normal color. However, the art that crawled up her arms and spread onto the rest of her body were as natural to her as the skin she was born in. Her entire life story thus far was illustrated in her skin, and plenty of room remained for more.
One of her most notable pieces caught her eye as she glanced over the inked skin. It was a slightly warped version of Van Gough’s “A Starry Night”, which had been her mother’s favorite painting, and now stood as a constant reminder on her bicep that she was different.
Unlike most, Rhi had never been subjected to BL/Ind propaganda as a child. Her parents had been artists, therefore they had avoided BL/Ind attempts to enforce conformity like the plague. When the Art Wars began in 2015, Rhi’s parents helped all they could from the sidelines. After all, they had four children to take care of, or else they would have likely been fighting on the front lines. Their three sons and young daughter had kept them from combat, but, unfortunately, hadn’t saved them from being ghosted all the same.
Shaking her head, Rhi tried to avoid thinking about her parents. She had loved them so much and her world had been torn apart when they were murdered. Had it not been for her older brother, she probably would have died with them.
There was a loud crash from downstairs that pulled her from her flashbacks.
“What the fuck?” she grumbled, glancing toward the door.
“Should we go see what’s going on?” Al asked, not sounding as concerned as she probably should have.
“Probably,” Rhi sighed. “Bring your gun just in case.”
“Obviously,” Al muttered, sliding off her bed and taking her ray gun from its holster.
Rhi mimicked her, taking the first few cautious steps toward the door. As she reached toward the door handle she could hear a few profanities being spewed in the garage below. Cautiously, she turned the handle, almost jumping when she saw Kobra standing there, arm raised as if he were about to knock. A look of equal surprise took Kobra’s face, and he tried to cover the squeak that escaped him with a cough.
“Hey,” he greeted, looking at his feet awkwardly. “Dinner will be ready soon.”
“What was that sound?” Rhi inquired, trying not to feel a bit awkward herself.
“Uh, I think Ghoul dropped something on his foot, which probably lead to him running into something else.”
He snickered a bit and the girls couldn’t help joining in.
“Does that happen a lot?” Al laughed.
“More often than he would like me to admit,” Kobra chuckled.
Breaking his gaze away from his feet, he looked up at them, the goofy smile still refusing to fade from his face. He looked at the two of them for a moment, his eyes drifting to their ray guns, which they were futilely trying to hide.
“We thought we were getting attacked,” Rhi explained, reading the confusion in his eyes.
Awkwardly, she holstered her gun, seeing a bit of skepticism take Kobra’s face as he watched her.
“I promise we weren’t planning some sort of sneak attack,” she giggled, trying to erase his uncertainty in the lightest manner possible.
Still, his gaze didn’t leave her hands.
“What?” she half demanded, feeling a bit uncomfortable under his gaze.
It took him a moment to respond, a smirk taking his lips as he looked her in the eyes.
“You have Batman on your arm,” he stated, almost laughing as he said it.
Relief washed over Rhi and she laughed a bit.
“Not Batman himself,” she said with a bit of pride. “Actually, it’s the Joker going to smash the Bat Signal. But-“ She turned her arm, so she could properly show him the scene that played out on her left forearm. “Spiderman is climbing up the building to stop him.”
A huge grin broke across Kobra’s face as he looked over her half sleeve.
“Is that-“ he began, pointing at Master Chief, who was aiming a shotgun at Jason Voorhees. For a while he looked over the tattoo, his face lighting up every so often when he noticed a character that he favored. Al rolled her eyes, holstering her gun and leaning against the doorframe looking rather amused. Finally, Kobra looked satisfied and thoroughly awed by the pictures in Rhi’s skin.
“We should probably go to dinner,” Al suggested, stopping him before he could even begin the excited babbling that was obviously forming in his throat.
This deflated him slightly and he nodded, seeming to come back to reality.
“Good call,” Rhi agreed. “Don’t worry Kobra, my ink isn’t going anywhere.”
Snickering, Kobra turned to lead them down the stairs, casting one last glance at Rhi’s arm.
“Did you design them?” he asked hopefully.
“Yeah,” she replied as they entered the garage. “All of it.”
“Wow. The guys are gonna be so impressed!”
The statement made Rhi swell with pride. Maybe this group was going to be easier to get along with than expected.
“Is everyone in to tattoo design?” It was hard to hide the excited curiosity in her voice.
“Not exactly. I mean, BOB’s a tattoo artist, so he is.”
“BOB’s a tattoo artist?” Al asked, sounding a bit surprised.
“Yeah. He’s awesome. I mean, he’s done all of Ghoul’s, which is pretty impressive. If they still had shops…”
He trailed off as they went through a side door and into the kitchen.
“Holy shit,” Al muttered, seeming to read Rhi’s thoughts, as she often did.
They found themselves standing in a large living area that looked like something out of Rhi’s wildly illogical dreams about living luxuriously. There was a well-equipped kitchen with a large stove and brick-fire oven built into the far wall. The counter top was spacious, and there was even a sink with running water, in which Poison was currently washing something that looked like lettuce. The thought of them actually having fresh vegetables seemed a bit illogical, but seeing as they actually had a functioning kitchen made anything seem possible.
To the left of the kitchen there was a dining room with a large, makeshift dining room table, surrounded by mismatched chairs. On the far wall sat an ancient television, surrounded by mismatched living room furniture.
Rhi was a bit stunned, though she tried to hide it; this place was unlike any hideout Rhi had visited. It wasn’t just a hideout; it was a home.
In other words, it was a rebel’s dream come true.
“We did what we could with what we had,” Kobra shrugged. “We aren’t usually here. Unless the car needs to be fixed.”
“Which means we’re here all the fucking time, lately,” BOB put in from the living room, where he was sprawled out on one of the couches.
“This is your back up base?” Rhi asked, clearly in awe.
“Sort of,” Jet replied, coming in the door behind them. “This used to be our main base. But the Dracs and that fruity bald guy caught us a few miles from here when they started upping the patrols of the Zones. We figured they’d get suspicious if they saw us around here too often. So we moved to Zone 6, seeing as no one ever really patrols there often.”
“We don’t mind coming back here, though,” Kobra added. “It’s pretty comfy.”
“Comfy?” Rhi echoed. “This place is heaven. What do you do with a kitchen that size?”
“Cook in it,” Poison grumbled matter-of-factly, throwing something into a pot of boiling water.
“That much seems obvious,” Rhi shot back, her good mood slightly dimmed by the presence of the angry red headed Killjoy.
She felt a hand on her arm and turned her head to see Ghoul standing beside her, giving her something of a warning look.
“Just because he let you stay doesn’t mean you should piss him off all the time,” he teased, filing past her toward the living room. “Especially not on Star Wars night.”
“Star Wars night?” Rhi repeated, but he was already in the living room, taking a seat by BOB’s feet on the couch.
Raising an eyebrow, she looked over at Al, who seemed distracted by the large brick fire oven.
With an unintentional shrug, Rhi wandered into the living room, collapsing into one of the large armchairs. It took all self control not to sigh aloud at how wonderfully comfortable the chair was, but her pleasure must have shown on her face because BOB and Ghoul shared a snicker as she sunk in to the cushions.
“What?” she demanded, her voice not quite managing to level of irritably she had been aiming for.
“Have you never sat in an armchair before?” Ghoul giggled.
“It’s been a good year since the last time I sat on a moderately comfortable chair,” Rhi sighed. “This is kinda like heaven.”
She settled into the chair, the fourth installment of the Star Wars movies catching her eye as it played across the television screen. Ghoul’s promise of Star Wars Night seemed to be true, making her new home seem even more perfect.
“Are we watching this tonight?” Rhi asked excitedly.
“We’re watching it right now,” BOB snickered. “We’re not gonna sit here with it on repeat all fucking night.”
Though sarcastic, Rhi knew the comment was good-natured. It seemed to be BOB’s nature to be sarcastic, just like it was hers. Therefore, she knew that his comment actually meant, “We’re refreshing our memories on this episode before watching the 5th one tonight.”
“That’s cool,” she smirked. “The Empire Strikes Back is awesome.”
A surprised look passed between Ghoul and BOB, making Rhi swell with pride.
“You’re fluent in sarcasm,” Ghoul observed, holding his fist out for The Pound. With a giggle, Rhi bumped her fist against his. “I approve,” he laughed.
“And she’s a comic book fan,” Kobra put in, sitting on the arm of the sofa beside BOB’s head. “Check out her arms.”
With a chuckle, Rhi held out her arms, even rolling up the right sleeve of her t-shirt to reveal her whole “Starry Night” scene, which had the Millenium Falcon flying out of the stars. For a long while the Killjoys inspected her sleeves, BOB making the occasional comment about style and what he would have done differently. It made Rhi smile, to see them so enthused about her ink. There was a sense of pride in having people ogle over the ink in her skin. The pictures depicted various moments in her life, and the egotist in her couldn’t help feeling a bit smug as the boys admired them.
“You’ve got the Bouncing Souls heart!” Ghoul exclaimed, poking excitedly at her arm. “And the Misfits! We’re like…music twins!”
Rhi laughed, turning her right arm about to point out other music references that made up the bottom portion of her right sleeve.
“And here’s the Green Day heart grenade,” BOB gushed. “And the kid on the swing from The Offspring’s ‘Americana’ record…”
They continued on like this and Rhi noticed Al slip toward the kitchen. At first she seemed distracted by the large brick oven, but as she looked about, Poison took notice of her and said something that Rhi couldn’t read from across the room. Whatever it was, it made Al smile slightly and she nodded toward the oven, which Rhi guessed meant that she wanted to know how it worked.
“Maybe they won’t hate us after all,” she mused, the ambient babble about music and comic books lulling her into a rather unfamiliar feeling of security.