This was initially inspired by a post started by ladyk18 and continued by cywscross which includes immediate spoilers for the fic. You can find the html link on the AO3 version of this fic via my profile. However, it was only written due to a lot of chatting with rikkamaru about KHR so you can thank her as well.
Title comes from the quote by Aiki Flinthart "Four things come not back: the spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, and the neglected opportunity."
"You can't tell him, Viper."
This is probably the most pleasantly surreal moment of my entire life, Viper considered blankly. It certainly wasn't as traumatic and horrific as the moment they were cursed, and it wasn't as relieving as the giggling high of the day when it finally sunk in at last that the Curse was well and truly gone. However it certainly matched those two instances in how absolute it was in rearranging everything she thought about life.
"Viper. Viper, I mean it."
How did it even come to this? She was an information broker! It was her specialty. It was what she had chosen to do for herself when options were few on the ground and before necessity had shown her how good a creative Mist could be at killing. Even full-time employment at the Varia as an assassin and being cursed hadn't kept her from keeping an ear to the ground and an eye out at all times for anything worth knowing (and potentially selling).
"… please. Please don't tell anyone."
A hand squeezed the grip held on her wrist – gentle but firm – and Viper glanced down briefly at the black leather glove before flickering back up.
One purple and one ash black eye stared back at her pleadingly.
The Mist Arcobaleno shook her head at the world and spoke up before he could start overthinking anything. "You shouldn't have freaked out, Skull. You wouldn't have given anything away if you hadn't panicked."
The stress practically melted out the stuntman as he let go of her wrist and slumped over the bathroom counter. The weak laugh he gave as he rubbed his ungloved left hand over his face was verging almost painfully on hysteria. Viper hooked an ankle around the door behind her and casually shut it leaning against the wall across from him. She pretended to examine her appearance in the mirror but kept a careful eye on how the Cloud appeared to almost force muscles in his shoulders and neck to unknot.
My guess MUST be right, she thought, watching Skull's hands shake as he hiked himself up besides the sink to sit with his back to the mirror. The very idea of it is absolutely insane, but he wouldn't be reacting like this if it didn't have deep implications.
"Did you choose the purple to go with your hair?" she inquired carefully. "There's no possible way Verde could be dying his hair because he has no taste in appearances, but I've always assumed you had a preference for stand-out fashion."
"The uh, the hair's actually my own color," the stuntman admitted, running a hand through it absently before an eye twitched and he yanked back the leather-gloved hand. He focused on picking a few purple hairs out from the seams of the leather as he spoke, "I choose the purple contacts because my mom had that eye color. Well, my sister does too, half-sister actually: she jokes that Cloud Flames run in the family strong enough to color us for ease of identification."
There was a bitter twist towards the end of the sentence that Viper chose not to poke at. Skull seemed relaxed enough about his parent and sibling, but the Arcobaleno had –as a group– practically tabooed the topic of family decades ago.
Besides, Viper could already think of several reasons to dislike the idea of people knowing your abilities offhand.
"You've been wearing them since before we met you then."
The apparent teen nodded. "I used to switch between colors ever since I was little. My sister always had a lot of cash and paid this Mist she knew to put anchored illusions on the contacts. She gave me my set when I was six for about 30 different shades and I'd switch between colors to go with outfits or to make a statement when I was doing different shows or stunts." He shrugged absently. "I didn't start wearing the helmet constantly until after we met, and contacts were a good way to shove some of the directors or other assholes off-guard when they kept trying to railroad me for being too young."
And then we were ALL too young, she thought with a faded but familiar mix of rage and irritation before refocusing.
"How many people know? It can't be many." It would be all over the entire Underworld by sun-up if people knew.
Skull shrugged and slipped off his remaining glove to fiddle with a damaged seam. Viper had never seen him so fidgety and unsure, yet there was also a strange relaxation settling in as he volunteered more information openly. "My mom knew of course. My sister, too, but our family's kind of weird about blood so I don't think she's even considered it important. Maybe Byakuran since it's impossible to know what that weirdo remembers about other worlds. Besides you, it's just that manipulative fucktard puppetmaster."
Viper couldn't help her eyebrows shooting up at the last. Why would Checkerface…
No. Viper thought darkly, Mist flickering around them unconsciously as a dark suspicion brewed, Checkerface knowing that would make sense.
A boot nudged her leg briefly and Viper sighed, dismissing those thoughts for now at the concern on Skull's face. Blithely she used Mist to poke Skull in the side, watching as he twitched and then started smiling when she did it a few more times. The stuntman was distracted for a few minutes as he wove out Cloud Flames into a transparent purple kitten which proceeded to pounce on the tickling tendrils of Mist.
There wasn't really much resemblance to be found in the face of this smiling young man before her even now that she knew to look. And Viper as a professional Mist was excellent at spotting details. The eye color was spot on in the purity of its hue and rare enough to be telling, but the shape was completely different. There may be some faint similarities in the eyebrows, the nose, and the jawline, but nothing was identical. All of Skull's features looked like they were either influenced by more than one relative or inherited directly from unfamiliar relatives.
"I suppose I can understand how he hasn't noticed," Viper admitted.
Skull sneered, disgust practically dripping from every pore as even the fake cat's hackles went up into spikes of purple energy. She actually stared in shock a bit at the incredibly familiar expression occurring on the wrong face. "I don't understand it. That arrogant son-of-a-bitch calls himself a gentleman, but can't even remember his own lovers. I look almost exactly like my mother."
Well, THAT'S an old sore spot. "He met her more than once then?"
The Cloud snorted, relaxing a bit as he crossed his arms and violently flicked a finger towards the cat who pounced on a lizard and started chewing aggressively on its transparent purple tail. "Hell if I know, but it was the 1950s, Viper. Hair color might have started gaining a lot of popularity, but purple wasn't a common color anywhere."
She considered that before nodding in agreement and adding a shredded fedora to Skull's pretend mauling. "Reborn always has been a fool."
They spent a few more minutes fooling around with illusions and Flame shapes as if they were still the ages they looked before Skull sighed and actually asked, "I can trust you not to tell, right?"
Viper smirked darkly, "Information about the Arcobaleno is very valuable in the Underworld. Information on Reborn that is unknown is at an even higher premium. Add in the cost for information that he doesn't know about something he would value heavily and the price rises further. Consider how obviously important the information would be to varying parties and it becomes truly exorbitant by anyone's standards. It hardly seems reasonable at all to give it out for free to such a shameless fool regardless of how it affects him."
The stuntman nodded and quietly thanked her.
"He does value family very highly," she warned lightly, "you need to consider how to deal with this if it comes out one day."
"He doesn't value family," Skull argued, shaking his head, "he values the idea of it. No one much matters to that bastard unless they adhere to his standards of worthy skills and behavior or he hammers them into his idea of how they should be. He won't let them be themselves. I haven't let him or Lal or Colonello change my personality after thirty plus years of them being abusive assholes and it's sure as hell not changing now. Verde said we're likely to reach late teens before the aging slows down for you guys and that'll put me back at seventeen after I had that last growth spurt. Once it stops, I parkour myself back into being used to my body and hit the stunt scene for good. He can fuck off and spend time with his favorite student and the rest of Vongola!"
"Do you hear me arguing?" she questioned pointedly, straightening away from the wall finally and smoothly dismissing the illusions and the sound barrier she'd raised absentmindedly upon entering. Skull hesitated before hurriedly absorbing the Cloud Flames back into a glowing hand and then ambushed her with a hug and lifted her off the ground! The nerve!
"Thank you Viper."
"Hmm," she snorted, ignoring any attempt her skin made at blushing while graciously allowing him to release her without being forced to. "You owe me 50 euros for my generous donation of valuable time."
"20 euros," he responded immediately, yanking out a contact case that was half empty already and applying a second purple lens.
"75 euros," she countered.
"That's really not how haggling works, Viper."
"How about I just treat us to dinner at that pasta restaurant you like on the square," he offered instead, finally pulling on his gloves and heading out into the main living space for the Varia rooms Viper had rented him.
She considered it for a moment. "I want the seafood special with white wine and crème brulee."
"Isn't that actually on a discount today?" he asked laughingly.
"Shut up and walk, idiot."