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Born This Way

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The winter season was in full force with piles of cold, wet snow in your usual spots, forcing you to find different places to try and not freeze to death in your sleep. Like hell you were going back to grovel and beg that bitchy harlot of a ’caretaker’ at the orphanage, you left that place for good.

”Please, I need to get home. My pops will worry if I’m not back soon.” A voice from the alley ahead whimpered, cut off by a gruff older voice. “Oh we know ya pops, kid. And we got some problems wit him, so you’re gonna help us out…” Oooh how you hated that voice, Frank ‘Mad Dog’ Martin had a reputation for kidnapping, playing dirty, and being an all around, complete asshole to children. His drug smuggling was often hindered by his own addiction to his goods and withdrawal made him live up to his name. You figured this poor kid was from one of the many families Mad Dog had beef with, so the treatment he would get from being held ransom wouldn’t be a good one, the black, blue, and bloody variety.

If you wanted this kid to be safe, you had to strike fast and hard. Frank didn’t care who you were, if you messed with him, you die. Plain and simple. Peeking into the alleyway, you could see Frank and one of his lackeys cornering a scrawny kid, holding him by the scruff of his jacket. If you died saving this brat, you’re haunting his ass.

”Who the fuck- Hey!” Acting fast, you kicked down his lackey via a foot to the jewels and hitting the ringer when his face was close enough to punch. Mad Dog dropped the kid and gave you his full, furious attention. “You’re dead, kid!” You wanted to snort at his lame fighting words, dodging his powerful swings. You’ve seen him break a man’s back with one punch, so you stuck with avoiding him hits. Thankfully the kid had some smarts in him and scrambled away from the fight, allowing room for you to jump around not get him in the line of fire.

”This ain’t none of ya business, kid! Get outta here if you wanna live.” You ducked under his wide swing and went for his knee, snagging a dull knife from the dumpster earlier was the smartest thing you’ve done. The man above you howled in pain as you twisted the blade in his leg, shoving you shoulder to knock Mad Dog on his ass and take him down a notch like you’ve wanted to for so long.

”H-hey now, we don’t havta do this. I-I’ll leave, I swear!” He was groveling, a twisted smile etching itself into your face. He was groveling, the big Mad Dog was begging for his life to a child. Your face settled into a lazy smirk, chuckles getting lost in the howling wind. “Nah.”

Using the knife to swipe his hand away, you threw punch after punch, not caring if he was knocked out or dead. His face becoming a bloody mess before delicate hands grabbed your wrist, almost punching the kid you saved.

”Stop! Stop, he’s already dead!” You let out a huff of air and got off the corpse, blood and sinew freezing onto you knuckles as the kid rubbed his eyes, trying to keep them from freezing shut from the tears. He looked unharmed, if not a bit roughed up around the edges. That’s when you could see the similarities.

This kid was Mahoney’s baby boy, the man was the leader of the largest group in the city and, unlike Mad Dog, his line of work hadn’t royally fucked with his head. Mahoney was a civil gentleman, even generous, using his business to help the people in his territory. You had met his wife, the Matroness, once and she gave you some scraps from the bar they controlled.

”Thank- thank you… Uh-hey! Hold on!” The kid, Alphonse, if you remember correctly, grabbed your arm before you could walk off. “Your hurt a-and you don’t have anywhere else to go, right? Come home with me, mama will let you stay the night.” If you knew one thing, this kid was likely stubborn like his old man, so you let him pull you to the nicer side of the city. The wind had died and that brought a few people out from hiding, giving the two of you looks as a well-dressed son of the mafia dragged a dirty, bloody street rat like you were his best friend. You glared at those that tried to approach you two, getting protective over the little marshmallow.

”Alphonse Fredrick Mahoney, where have you been!-oh?” A saint of woman opened the door of the house, the Matroness, stood before you in a thick dressing gown, staring at you with curious blue eyes that her baby son inherited. Said baby boy shuffled his feet, not meeting her gaze.

”Mama, this person saved me! I-I was cornered by a man that had some beef with pops and-and they-!” The Matroness coddled her boy as he started to cry, the context of the event resonating with him. She gestured you to follow as she guided her boy to the kitchen. Out of common courtesy, you removed you holey, dirt-crusted shoes at the door and stood off to the side as she sat with Alphonse. The house was warm, well decorated with family photos and paintings of landscapes. You became very aware of how filthy you were compared to the spick and span house you were in.

”Who was the man that cornered you, baby? Papa would like to have some words with him when he wakes up.” Alphonse didn’t respond, he didn’t know. He looked to you, tears trailing down his freckled cheeks as you sighed. “Mad Dog. He’s dead.” You muttered, voice strained from lack of use, but you’re words had the Matroness looking you over with trained eyes. Seeing your bloodied knuckles and dirty frame had her walking over, freezing you in place as she picked up your soiled hands with gentle touches.

”What’s your name, darling? I’ve seen your face before, but I didn’t catch a name.” You shrugged. Not remembering a name from before or after the orphanage and never taking a name for yourself, didn’t seem right when you did. Your hands shook in her grasp, from the cold still in your bones or fear, you didn’t know.

”Odette, is Al home?” A deep, baritone voice called from the hallway and in walked the big boss himself, clad in thick pajamas and house slippers. Antonio Mahoney spotted his wife holding the bloody hands of some dirty stranger in his home and pulled a gun out of nowhere. “Doll, who the hell is that?” Alphonse hopped out of his seat to your side.

”Pops, they saved me! Don’t shoot, please.” Al gripped his little hands in your threadbare jacket, Odette pulling the both of you behind her. “Mad Dog tried taking our boy and this child put him down for good. They don’t even have a name, Toni, a name.” You watched Antonio put the pieces together and put the gun away, turning back into the hallway, muttering something about a kit.

”Pops is gonna fix ya hands, is that okay?” C’mon and sit, mama could you them something to eat please?” Al’s sweet voice worked its charm over his mother, fixing up some steaming soup and sandwiches for both of them. You sat down in stupor as how your life had from looking for a place to sleep to getting served and fixed up by the most powerful couple in the mafia. Al shifted uncomfortably as his pops came back in with a box in hands and phone tucked between his shoulder and ear.

”Check the alleyways, the ones between the school and my place. If he’s not there then follow the trail, he’s not getting away with pullin’ that shit. Yep, bye.” Antonio sat down beside you, pulling one of you hands away as Odette exchanged the empty soup bowl for steaming water and a red towel. He turned it over, examining the busted knuckles as he washed away the blood.

”Is that…?” With a tweezer he pulled a sliver of blood coated material, washing it away revealed, “A tooth? How hard did you hit him, Kiddo?” Wrapping up your hands and putting away the kit, Odette tried to get Al to go to bed, but he wasn’t having it. His dad even tried but Al wanted to stay with you, and when you went to bed, he would too.

”Then I’ll be quick about this, since you have school in the morning, young man.” He went from fatherly stern to head honcho as he looked at you, still a dirt covered street rat with the exception of your hands. “Alphonse likes you, that’s good. I would’ve kicked you out once he went to bed, but that’s not the case anymore.” He looked down at your hands then back to your face, you focused on his face, anywhere but his eyes.

”I’ll make you a deal: you grow up with Alphonse, protect him and keep him company. At the same time, you work for me and work your way up.” He stuck his hand out to you, a casual smile on his face. “There’s some potential in you, with the right teachers you could be a good fighter.” Looking between the man’s face and his hand, you weighed your options. Don’t accept: back to the streets with a target on your back. Accept: dramatically shorten your lifespan but gain a job and maybe a family.

”Okay.” And shook his hand, mindful of your bandages. His smile became warm, other hand clapping over your shoulder. “Good choice. Now, lets you cleaned up. What orphanage did you run away from? Wait, don’t tell me, Francis’s Orphanage on 5th street?” You nodded, nose wrinkling at the thought of going back.

”I agree with your expression, that lady should not be working with children. We’ll get things official and get you in the books, but you need a name.” You were stumped at that, names didn’t work or didn’t fit right with you. You scratched your nose when Al clapped his hands. “I got it! Jo, just J-O. Plain, simple, and neutral.” Jo Mahoney? You liked it, giving the boy a thumbs up. You had a name and soon a family, you couldn’t ask for anything else.