Ok, so this is my third fic here, and it's a prequel to my last fic, Beauty and the Boss, which was a Guzma/Reader Beauty and the Beast AU. BUT because this is a prequel, you don't have to have read that one to understand this one. Though you might miss out on some easter eggs. All you need to know that's really different, is that Guzma grows up in the mansion that eventually becomes Shady House. Po Town is a gated community for the wealthy that his parents run. Know that, and you're good to go!

This was originally going to be part of a one shot compilation on Ao3 called The Gray Stuff, but it got so long that I decided to make it it's own fic. Check me out on Ao3 under the same username if you haven't already! I've got the same username there. I don't think I'll be bringing that one shot compilation over here, so head on over to good ol' Ao3 if you'd like to see it. You can also find me on Tumblr under Bugaboozma.

"Ouch!" Guzma recoils away from the couch the Wimpod is hiding under. It's his fifth birthday, and the hissing, snapping pokemon is a gift from his mother. He looks up at her from where he's sitting. "I thought Wimpod were scared."

"He is scared," she says kneeling next to him.

Guzma lays his hands and head on the ground, leaning over and trying to get a look at the tiny isopod pokemon. He hisses and moves further back under the couch, the light glinting off his yellow eyes. "He's not scared. He's just mean."

"Sometimes fear can look like anger."

He sits up, face scrunched in confusion. "But why?"

"When I found him, he was surrounded by some kids who weren't treating him very nicely," his mother explains, simplifying the story in a way her young son will understand. "He's afraid you'll treat him like that too."

"But I won't!"

"He doesn't know that yet. You have to prove you're the antidote; not the poison."

Again his little face gives away how perplexed by this he is.

She reaches in the pocket of her dress and pulls out a few pokebeans. "When people do things that are unkind, it can hurt us and change us. It can make us afraid that it'll happen again. It can poison us." She reaches for Guzma's hand and turns it over, placing the pokebeans in his palm. "That's when we need someone else to be our antidote. Someone who can remind us that there's good too and it can cure the bad."

Guzma looks unsure, holding the beans in his closed hand. "But what if there's too much poison? What if he's just broken?"

"If you give him some time I think you'll find that's not true." She gestures to the couch. "You'll never know until you try."

His eyes move back to the bottom of the couch. Slowly he moves his hand toward it and splays his fingers, revealing the beans. They wait for a tense moment, and then there's the light skittering of feet, and two yellow eyes appear. The Wimpod watches Guzma. Guzma holds his breath. The creature's eyes move from his face to the beans he's holding and then finally it begins to cautiously nibble them from his hand.

Guzma laughs and looks at his mother with absolute delight. The noise causes the pokemon to retreat slightly.

She holds a finger to her lips and Guzma quiets. They both watch patiently until the Wimpod returns to the beans.

"You should always be the antidote if you can," she says softly.

It would take many years for Guzma to realize how much his mother was the antidote to the things his father had done and said to him. But she was gone now, and at sixteen he was left with only poison.

And it wasn't enough to unleash his cruelty on Guzma. Since his mother's passing, anyone who crossed him in even the slightest way would face his wrath. Like the girl working in this clothing store in front of them right now.

"I told you, sir, I already checked. We don't have that in the back either," she says, her pink and yellow pigtails bobbing as she speaks.

"You were gone all of a minute!" His father's voice is getting progressively louder and Guzma's growing more embarrassed. "I bet you just stood back there! Bet you didn't even check. Lazy fucking teenagers."

Now the girl looks as if she's getting angry as well. "Yelling at me isn't going to make it suddenly appear, sir."

"What's your name?" he asks her, eyes moving to the name tag pinned to her shirt. "Plumeria? Rest assured I'll be speaking to someone about this."

The girl - Plumeria - puts her hands on her hips. "Go ahead! You can have every employee in the store search, jackass, it still won't be there!"

His father's face goes red with anger. Guzma wonders if he might actually hit her for a moment, but he simply turns and storms off in search of higher ups.

The girl flips him off when his back is turned.

Guzma rubs at the back of his neck feeling awkward. "Hey, I'm, uh, sorry about my dad."

She just gives an exasperated sigh, rolls her eyes, and walks away from him.

Guzma follows after his father. When he turns around to look at the girl one more time, she's staring at the ground and slowly pacing, a worried hand on her forehead.

One more person who's sampled the venom.

He tracks the sound of his father's voice until he finds him at the front of the store speaking to what looks like a manager. His face is still discolored and he's waving his arms around dramatically, embellishing everything that had just happened with Plumeria. He was so easily set off these days. Not that his temper wasn't short before, but his mother had a way of quelling it. Usually.

Something outside catches Guzma's eye. Two boys dart by the window and around the corner of the building. Both looked to be about his age, though their heights were drastically different. One was tall, broad, and built, with short hair that was dyed green. The other was shorter, skinnier, and his shaggy hair was blue. Dressed in faded tank tops and baggy shorts, they looked so unlike all the teenagers he's used to seeing.

Only the wealthy are allowed to live in Po Town, and Guzma's parents were the wealthiest of them all. No one within the town looks like these kids; which was something that always fascinated him. He certainly didn't fit in with anyone else his age there - they seemed completely content and comfortable with the luxury and seclusion while he felt bored with it. As a result, he had few friends and none that were close. That his parents were so important within the town didn't help, and if anything, only made this worse. He is rather lonely. Between the lack of friends, the death of his mother, and the angry outbursts from his father, Guzma had become distant, troubled, and quiet. In many ways, it felt as if his voice had been stolen and replaced with a constant unspoken discontent. He wanted something beyond Po Town, and he wondered if he would get along better with people like them.

He watches them disappear out of view, and exits the store, mesmerized. He cautiously peaks around the corner to see both of them tying black bandannas around their necks and lifting them over their mouths and noses, leaving only their eyes and foreheads exposed. What were they doing?

The shorter one reaches into the pocket of his shorts and pulls out a can of spray paint. So they're going to vandalize something? The tall one crouches, allowing the one with the spray paint to sit on his shoulders, where he shakes the can and uncaps it. He begins drawing something with the paint in big, broad strokes of his arm.

There's one eye, then two, a head, teeth - Guzma realizes it's a skull. A simplistic one, but it's not bad considering that the kid's only using spray paint and creating it in a matter of moments.

"What the hell are you doing?"

Guzma whips around and finds his father staring at him. He looks away. "Not doing anything."

His father doesn't question him further. He seems as if he's still too angry about the girl in the store to start nitpicking Guzma's every action. "Let's get back to town. This whole city is an eyesore."

Guzma does not find Malie City an eyesore. In fact, he thinks it's quite the opposite; it's a city alive and teeming with all kinds of people and things. It's not bound by the aesthetics of the wealthy like Po Town is. But he doesn't voice this as he knows it'll break the peace between the two of them. Now that was an activity that he sometimes does willingly when frustration within him boils over. Though right now he's not anxious to make himself his father's new target after the scene in the store. They leave for Po Town.

He spends the next day thinking about the two kids who had tagged that building. Why a skull? Who were they? Malie City and all its intricacies seem far more appealing than the bland gated community that can feel so much like a prison to him. He was restless and the thought of staying in Po Town grows more unbearable with each day. He had to go see; he had to explore on his own, and potentially pissing off his father is starting to feel like an added benefit. He roots around in his room until he finds his old ride pager - a relic from his short-lived attempt at the island challenge.

Guzma frowns remembering it. That had been a hell of a welcoming home. He feels a flicker of anger at the memories that play behind his eyes. The yelling, the throwing of objects, the slap across the face. His resolve steels further. He has no real plan, but it doesn't matter. He just needed to get out of Po Town for a bit, and the fastest way to do that, was by pressing this button and stepping outside. Maybe he'd find those two guys he saw and ask his questions.

The first place he goes after landing in Malie City is the alleyway where he'd seen them. There, in dripping blue spray paint, is the completed skull. Guzma walks over to it and reaches up, just barely able to touch the bottom of it, as they'd placed it so high. It was just a plain old skull. Why put that on a building? Did it have any meaning? He let's his hand run down the wall and return to his side. Nothing better to do. Might as well try to find them and ask.

He looks down empty alleys, behind buildings, even in the library and in the massive garden the city holds. Occasionally he finds more skulls sprayed in random places, which only piques his curiosity further. He feels like they're leading him in a certain direction, though he can't be sure, but they seem to be getting more plentiful as he goes along. He continues through the city dodging around people and watching the walls for the brightly colored spray paint.

Until he finds himself in front of an abandoned warehouse in a rundown part of the city. It's a large, unkempt building, and its age shows in the faded bricks and mildew. It's covered in spray paint, including numerous skulls.

Guzma sees him through a broken window - the boy with the blue hair.

He runs to the doors of the warehouse, excited to have finally found what he'd spent hours looking for, but he stops. What exactly was he going to do? Just barge in there? He swallows and looks around, trying to think. He doesn't know these people and how they'll react to his sudden presence. He's still deliberating his next move when the door suddenly swings open and reveals the tall kid with the green hair looking down at him. Guzma just stares up, wide-eyed and slack jawed. This guy doesn't look mean - in fact he looks nervous and unsure - but Guzma steps back anyway. He was tall for his age, but this kid was still taller, and stronger. Before Guzma even has a chance to say anything, he grabs him by the back of the shirt and pulls him into the building.

"Hey! Hey, let go of me! Wait!" Guzma yells struggling to get out of his grip and failing. He's dragged along in the building, panicking, unable to wrench himself out of the kid's hands while trying to keep his feet from going out underneath him. He has no choice but to stumble along, kicking up dust and dirt. The front door leads into an enormous empty room that maybe once held machinery. Their footsteps echo off the walls as he pulls Guzma across it. Then they're though another door and into what must have been the administrative wing. Offices line the hallway on either side and some even have old placards hanging on them. Down a hallway, around a corner, through a door, and then he's thrown to the ground.

"Saw you outside," says a girl from behind a laptop. She doesn't even look at him. "Cameras."

"Yeah," this from the blue-haired boy who he's finally getting a good look at for the first time. He's standing up from an old, rusted office desk he was perched on. He's all worn clothes, cuts and bruises, and a face that's trying very hard to look menacing, but can't hide the mirth in his eyes. "What are you doing here, huh?"

Guzma gets to his feet and is quiet for a moment. Now that he's about to speak it aloud, his reasoning feels silly. But aside from the green-haired kid, the three of them don't seem so tough. He's not intimidated. "Saw you tag that building yesterday."

The blue-haired kid looks surprised. "So. You got something to say about it?"

"Why a skull?"

Another confused look. This was clearly not a conversation he expected to be having with some random person. "Why anything? It just is. It's my calling card, ya know?"

"That's it? There's really no meaning behind it?" He's not sure what he expected, but he'd hoped for a better explanation than that.

"You came here to ask me about-"

The door opens and a girl's voice says, "Liam, what the hell was that? Someone here?"

Guzma turns and finds that it's the girl from the clothing store - Plumeria - of all people. She stops when she sees him.

"Eh, it's just some kid, Plumes," the blue-haired guy, who's name is apparently Liam, says.

Plumeria continues to stare at him, scrutinizing. "Wait, I know him. You're that kid from yesterday." She walks towards him, pointing a finger, anger etched on her face. "Came in with your jackass dad. You're from Po Town, you rich brat. Your dad got me fired!"

Liam crosses his arms. "That what this is? Come to apologize, huh?"

"No," Guzma tells them. "How was I supposed to know I'd find her here?"

"So what then? Rich kid come to laugh at the poor kids? Whaddya want a tour of how the other half lives?"

Guzma feels his temper flare within him. He was not just some spoiled rich kid. At least, he didn't think so. And he certainly didn't come here to sight-see. "No, I just-" But what did he come here for? To try and make friends? It's not like he can actually say that.

Liam seems to pick up on this without him even saying anything. "What, you just came here to hang out?" He looks to the others in the room, silently communicating something. "Ok, kid, show me what you got?"

"And how am I supposed to do that?"

Liam smiles at him. "A fight."

Now this Guzma could do. He reaches for a pokeball. "You got it."

"Nah, not a pokemon battle."

Guzma pauses. "What?"

Liam reaches into his pocket, pulls something out, and tosses it to him.

Guzma catches it and looks at the object in his hand. It's a pocket knife. Confused, he looks back up at Liam, who's unfolding his own knife.

"Liam, just leave the kid alone," Plumeria says, crossing her arms. The green-haired boy just watches, looking worried and the girl on the laptop just continues to clack away.

"Eh, it'll be fine, Plumes. I won't hurt him. Probably." He moves towards Guzma and slashes at the air in front of him.

Guzma steps back and hurries to unfold his knife. He feels fear and panic, but also, strangely, excitement. A knife fight was certainly new territory for him. The two of them circle each other now, knives in hand. Still, did this guy really mean this? Maybe he should try to talk his way out of it. "This really necessary?"

Liam laughs. "Nah, this is just for fun." He takes another swipe at Guzma, nearly missing his arm.

"Fun?" He wonders what he could mean by that. Did he actually find the possibility of being stabbed fun? He avoids another jab and is silently thankful for some of the dance classes and other things he had been forced to take when he was younger. He'd always found them pretentious and aggravating, but he had to admit it made him nimble when he needed to be. Guzma takes an experimental swing at Liam who moves out of the knife's path.

"Yeah, fun. Got that where ya come from?" He swipes again and this time he leaves a cut on Guzma's hand.

Guzma yells in pain and strikes back, catching Liam on the arm.

Liam makes no noise but moves back. "Hey, you actually got lucky, money bags."

Guzma moves in again, but Liam avoids him. "Not my money."

"But it's your dad's." Liam swings the knife wide, leaving a cut along Guzma's arm.

Guzma backs up, wiping at the fresh blood. "Yeah, but he's an asshole."

Plumeria huffs. "True, I don't envy having to live with that prick."

Liam moves toward him. "Think bein' an asshole is just part of bein' a dad. What about your mom, huh? She a bitch?"

Guzma has never heard anyone call his mother that; not even his father, for all the disagreements they'd had in their marriage. It'd been a year since his mom's passing, but the hurt from it still feels fresh. To hear her insulted sets off something within him. In a rage, he yells out and goes for the kid's knife hand, digging his knife into the knuckles.

Liam yells, droping his knife and Guzma lunges, tackling him to the ground. He straddles Liam, gritting his teeth, with the knife poised over his chest. "My mom's dead! And she wasn't a bitch!"

Liam just stares up at him, eyes wide. He blinks up at Guzma, who's still on top of him, breathing heavy. Then his face relaxes and he starts to laugh.

Guzma slumps, bewildered. what was wrong with this guy?

Liam keeps laughing as he pushes at Guzma. "Yeah, yeah, alright, kid. You made your point. Get off of me."

Guzma stands, still confused.

Liam gets up, smirking at the look on Guzma's face. "What did ya think it was to the death? Told ya it was just for fun!"

Guzma rubs at the back of his neck. "So-"

"Eyy, you wanna hang out? Whatever. Hang out. We can swap sad stories, right?"

Guzma feels completely bewildered by Liam. What a strange guy. He was right; these kids are nothing like the ones in Po Town.

Liam opens the drawer of the old metal desk and pulls out a box. "Here," He hands Guzma band-aids. "They ain't diamond studded or nothin' but they do the job."

Guzma takes them, still fixing Liam with complete bafflement.

"You're sure quiet. Come on, I'll get us started on the sad stories." He wipes the blood from his hand down his shirt and then extends it to Guzma. "I'm Liam."

Guzma slowly takes his hand and shakes it. "Guzma."

Liam grins at him. "Guzma, huh? Guzma from Po Town gonna grow up to be the boss one day, right? Hey, that's what I'm gonna call you, eyy boss? Don't take it as a compliment."

"Uh, ok." How much energy did this kid have?

Liam continues, gesturing to the warehouse around them. "This is home."

"You all live here?"

"Yeah, and it's just as sad as it seems. Ya gotta have some sob story to get here. Me? My parents kicked me out. Said I was too much trouble, couldn't focus, good for nothin', the whole nine yards."

Guzma just nods, feeling overwhelmed by the boundless enthusiasm Liam seems to have, even while talking about things that were a little less than happy.

Liam points to the green-haired kid. "That's Jeremy. Say hi, Jer."

Jeremy looks nervous. He just waves at Guzma. Guzma waves back.

"Jeremy's the muscle, but he's real shy and real quiet. That's ok though! That's just how he is. But you," Liam looks Guzma up and down. "I think we can get you to talk." He turns back to Jeremy. "Wanna share, Jer?"

Jeremy wipes at his nose and swallows anxiously. "Parents died. Had nowhere else to go I suppose."

Before Guzma even has a chance to respond, Liam's moved on to the girl with the laptop. "This one's Sweet Tooth."

Guzma raises an eyebrow. "Sweet Tooth?"

"Yep. But we call her Sweets. Right, Sweets?" Liam waves his hand between the laptop and the girl.

She blinks, gives Liam an annoyed look and lowers the screen a bit to talk to them. She's got wavy shoulder-length hair dyed pastel purple and thick-rimmed glasses the same shade. Her makeup all looks very carefully applied, including long, fake eyelashes. There's some kind of device strapped to her wrist that looks like a large, square watch. Everything about her is soft colors and tech. She smiles at Guzma. "Hello."

"Yeah, she's as sweet as her name... if you can get her away from all her screens. She's our resident hacker."

"Well, I don't think 'hacker' is really a fitting-"

"Hacker. Go with it. It sounds cool," Liam interrupts.

Sweets laughs. "Fine, I'm the hacker."

"You joining in on the backstory party?"

She looks away a moment then meets Guzma's eyes. "Kicked out. Parents weren't happy about me being a girl. You know?"

Guzma looks at Liam confused. Was there more to this that he wasn't understanding?

"She's trans; don't worry about it!" Liam tells him.

Guzma looks back at Sweets but she just gives him another smile and returns to her laptop.

"You all sure like hair dye," Guzma notes. He almost feels out of place with his jet black hair.

"Aesthetics! Shit's important." He gestures to Guzma's hair. "What color you thinkin', huh?"

Guzma shakes his head. "I don't know if the bright colors are my thing."

Liam nods. "Well hey, how do you feel about white then?"

"I-" Guzma hadn't ever seriously considered changing his hair color before.

"Worry about it later! We've got one more person on our tour of sadness." He points to Plumeria. "You've apparently met Plumes."

Plumeria had been leaning against the doorway with Jeremy and looking none too amused at their antics. "Yeah. It was great."

"She's been pretty upset since yesterday," Liam says.

Plumeria crosses her arms.

"And pretty upset now. Plumeria's the big sis of the group. You know, like a mom friend! And her story's a little different from ours. Took things into her own hands. Wanna tell em what you did, Plumes?"

She glares at Guzma. "I ran away. And I was the only one of us who went and got a job and now it's gone."

Guzma's starting to feel defensive. She really blamed him for her getting fired? "I didn't do anything. That was all my dad."

Plumeria steps away from the wall towards him. "Exactly, you didn't do anything. You just stood there."

"Look, you don't know my dad, alright? There's nothing I could have done. Woulda just made things worse."

Liam steps between them. "Hey, maybe there's a way we can fix this."

"How?" she crosses her arms again.

"We get a little revenge!"

"Revenge on me?" Guzma asks.

"No, no," Liam says. "Revenge on the store! And to make up for it, you're coming with us."

Plumeria looks uncertain. "I don't know, Liam."

"We'll just break in and take some shit. Nothing they'll miss! They won't know anything, but you'll know, and that's good enough, right?"

Plumeria glances around the room, thinking. Then she fixes her cold eyes on Guzma. "Fine, as long as he has to take part too. Bet you've never done something like this, rich boy. It'll be good to see you nervous."

Her attitude towards him only makes Guzma want to prove himself even more. He puts his hands on his hips and stares daggers right back at her. "I'm not nervous. Let's do this." Besides, maybe this could be fun.

Liam claps him on the back. "Yeah, boss! Let's fuckin' do it!"