Viper hated his new child-like form. In fact, there were only two things he hated more than looking like he needed his mommy: poor people and Fon.
But looking like a kid was pretty high up on his list of do not wants.
His motivation had reached an all-time low after the recent turn of events, as reflected by his bank statement. He blamed it entirely on the accursed pacifier around his neck. If not for the wretched thing, Viper could have made a decent profit from gambling and cons. It was his specialty. He grew up on the streets and he refused to return to them now that he had found his place in the world.
And Checkerface had taken away that place and left him with - this. A body he couldn’t make use of and an empty bank account to go with it. His stomach was aching and he was tired. It looked like tonight would be spent on the streets after all. A hotel was a luxury he couldn’t afford.
He stumbled into an alley and looked for the closest cardboard box to crawl under. Hiding was an engrained part of his being, and he wouldn’t leave himself open to attack while he got some much needed rest. Everything had been happening too fast lately: meeting the others that had become the Arcobaleno, the mission that led to search for treasure atop the cliff, the curse, the blinding light, the confusion upon finding he was no longer himself. All of it had come and gone and now he was stuck dealing with what was left. Namely, trying to figure out how he would become a part of a world that seemed too big and vast and overwhelming. A world where he could hardly see over a three-foot fence.
No one took him seriously, and his contacts had abandoned him the minute his disappearance had been made public. It was a scandal to have such a renowned illusionist disappear at the drop of a hat, and the rumors had been sure to reach all the right ears. Viper couldn’t be more sick of people than he was now.
Out of frustration, he kicked a trash can. It barely made an impact and the can didn’t even ring with sound from the hit. A stray cat merely peeked over the edge of its home and meowed, and Viper suddenly the urge to scream. Anything to prove he existed and he was here - but the moment passed and he was slumping against the alley wall, too tired to care anymore. He contented himself with thinking of the possible trouble the other Arcobaleno were in as he curled up next to the trash heap, shivering.
It wasn’t winter yet, but autumn could be deadly in its own right. And when you lived on the streets long enough, seeing deaths by the dozen, you learned to wise up to minute changes in the weather. Either that, or you ended up a statistic on some scientist’s chart. Viper had never been too big on science, unless it involved probability.
Like the probability of surviving another night. The probability of a warm meal. The probability it wouldn’t rain, or the probability a kind-hearted person would give him a few lire to spend. It came down to the odds of one out of every single homeless person on the street, and it was a dog-eat-dog world. Viper hated poor people for a reason. Then again, nothing was as honest as a person without food, water, and a place to sleep: it showed how primitive humans could really be.
Of course, Viper wasn’t above that either. He had stolen for meals. He had conned a few sweet old ladies out of cash. And those were the times he hated himself the most. Like that first time he had driven a man insane.
He had been weak, much too weak, and the illusions had taken on a form of their own, using his panic against him and stealing from the depths of his mind, where he had hidden every feeling of despair. The man had screamed and screamed and Viper remembered muffling them with both hands as tears streamed down his adolescent face. He wouldn’t mind that face now, soaked in tears and reliving those distant memories, if it meant getting rid of this damnable baby fat. Anything had to be better than being in a body that appeared so innocent that it was sickening.
Heaving a world-weary sigh, Viper bottled up his turbulent emotions before they could recklessly took form. He wasn't sure he had proper control in a body as fragile as this one. He then turned his gaze skywards and admired the murky grays above, clouds drifting by and never straying from the pack. The density of those clouds, and the darkness, could only bode trouble for him in the future, but he couldn't bring himself to care, let alone worry about what to do.
Maybe dying would be the perfect way to repay Checkerface.
“Fucking trash!” It sounded like a fight, not too far off, but Viper didn’t pay it any attention, gaze still trained on the sky. Going somewhere far away sounded nice right about then.
Something collided with the trash can he was huddled beside and the cat jumped out, hissing and spitting. Viper rubbed the sore spot where trash can had met with his arm but didn’t say a word. If two idiots wanted to fight in a back alley, who was he to stop them? Someone must have kicked the cat, because a second later there was a loud, inhuman cry that soon became as distant as the sun on a day like this.
“Shit, motherfucking cat, getting in my way - oi, where the fuck was I?” The sound of cracking knuckles drifted on the icy wind, but it was the sound of that voice that finally got Viper’s attention. A kid? He hazarded a guess because a pubescent voice like that certainly didn’t belong to any adult. So a kid was fighting - not exactly unusual on the streets - but for what reason?
He risked a look around the safety of the trash can, pulling up the hood of his tiny cloak as he did. The kid, a young boy by the looks of it, was dressed in expensive, well-tailored clothes that were quickly being drenched in blood. The brat’s knuckles were raw and red from smashing them into a heavier object - no doubt the man that was currently getting his ass handed to him by a kid half his age.
Embarrassing, Viper thought, and stifled a laugh with his too small hand. Splatters of blood had already dried on the kid’s slacks, he noticed, which meant the fight had been going on for longer than he thought or maybe the brat just liked fighting. And picked fights with anyone in a five-meter radius.
In the end, the kid gave up punching the man’s guts out and instead grabbed a fist-full of hair and smashed the guy’s lights out with the cement. There was an ugly cracking sound and the man went still, no longer struggling. The kid wiped his hands down the front of his white button-down shirt and appeared unrepentant. Wild black hair was brushed back with bloodstained hands and then fell back to frame equally furious eyes that could have been mistaken for red in the dim lighting. Viper, without meaning to, found himself entranced with the youth in front of him, and his staring did not go unnoticed.
“Who the hell are you? Got a problem pipsqueak?” The foul mouth may have been enough to fool others, but the brat spoke in too refined a way, albeit masked under that tough exterior. Wherever the kid came from, it was from money. Only money bought clothes like that, earned you smarts and a cultured tongue - and afforded you leisure time to go looking for fights.
“A better question,” Viper spoke up quietly, “is who are you?”
A flicker of surprise from the boy told Viper he probably should have known. “You’re kidding. There’s actually street trash that doesn’t know my name?” When the kid frowned, both of those angry eyebrows came together and created the most laughable face. If the kid was trying to intimidate, he was far from succeeding. And to be patronizing, Viper would have called that ‘cute’.
Well, he didn’t have the right to say things of that sort, not in his current state, but it would have been worth it to see how enraged the kid could get. “I’ll be going then,” suggested Viper, unduly polite. A fight was the last thing he needed. He stood and started his journey anew, in hopes of finding a decent place to sleep. Perhaps one that violent rich brats didn’t frequent.
His efforts were for naught. While he managed to dodge the kick aimed at his face, those polished black shoes left him stumbling. He ended up on the ground with one of those high-dollared shoes smashing itself into the small of his small back. Viper barely restrained the urge to make the boy see hell, his temper having reached its limit, but this was too good an opportunity and he decided to try something a little different from the usual, carefully planned cons he once made his living with. He could tell as soon as he glanced sideways at the brat. The kid was interested in him. And that was great, the best thing that had happened to Viper since the godforsaken day had started.
“Is there something I can do for you?” Viper continued the demure ruse. His lip was bleeding from the fall, busted along the bottom, but he brushed the blood aside with his tongue and quirked a smile. “I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced. My name is …”
“I don’t give a fuck about your name,” snapped the kid before Viper could begin the lies. “My name is Xanxus and don’t you forget it, scum.” Another cute moment, Viper conceded, if a bit maliciously. He didn’t like being stopped for shallow reasons like introductions, and here he thought the kid wanted - “Fight me. You’re not like that bastard just now.” The teenager jerked a thumb in the direction of his previous victim. The man was still as motionless as the trash around him, maybe less since at least the trash could move with the wind. “You’re strong. I like strong.”
“You’ll be disappointed,” said Viper slowly, testing the words on his bloodied tongue. “You’ll lose.”
The kid bent down and roughly removed the hood that obstructed his view, wanting to size up his opponent. “I’d like to see you try.”
“A wager then,” Viper insisted. “If I win, you provide me with a place to stay. If I lose …” He smiled wide, showing teeth that had been dyed a faint pink. “You’re free to kill me.”
Xanxus put out a hand, as if to help him up. Viper ignored it and stood on his own. “I’ll kill you,” promised the boy.
“I’d like a bed with a canopy,” Viper commented flippantly.
“What’s your name, trash? I’ll be sure to get your last words to your Mama.”
Viper just laughed and said, “Mammon.”