What is this? An update! Oh boy!
In all seriousness I do apologize for the lack of updates concerning this one and Jailbird - I just seem to have fallen off the wagon for these guys. It's not that I don't love them (I do - despite the weird angsty time I put them through) but I haven't been able to write anything that suits them.
Winters in Townsville were never particularly bad. No worse than anywhere else, anyway. They didn't get mile-high snowdrifts and the plows were always read and raring to go. Friendly shopkeepers and business owners, already paying off impossibly high insurance, went the extra mile to salt and shovel snow away from their storefronts to avoid a possible lawsuit. Droves of kids went from house to house in the suburbs of Townsville and shoveled walks and driveways. If they were older, they brought snow blowers. If there was some serious pileup or sheets of black or thick ice, the Powerpuff girls leant their heat vision to alleviate the problem.
But that was in the civilized part of town. On the outskirts, away from the suburbs and the people and the hard-working government officials and respectable people, lived the Gangreen Gang. They didn't get plows or heat or a kind group of kids helping move snow. They got dump trucks trampling the snow down enough so they could walk on it without sinking under (well, not Lil' Arturo) and some guys that knew the junkyard manager who shoveled some hunks away to make paths for the sanitation workers and the one guy with a bulldozer that cleared paths to mounds of trash.
A particularly rotten string of luck came with the falling snow. They'd been beat up and arrested after trying to steal some food (and cash and cigarettes and booze). By the time they were tossed out they found out that their shack had been bulldozed to the ground, which wasn't as unheard of (it happened a few times before) as it was terribly annoying. By the time they found some extra siding to use the snow had started to fall, and they were forced to retreat to the underground cave near the Dump's entrance. Ace had Big Bill drag the siding over the gaping front hole and Grubber somehow fastened a door out of the mess. A couch, a three-legged table, and Grubber (in all his infinite wisdom) rigging up the mining lights again and it was just like home.
Just like home, though, wasn't all that great. It was cold and dark and covered in filth. They jacked an oil barrel from some other homeless people and lit up a fire, but it did little to help. They didn't have to prop open the door because the siding and sheet metal had enough cracks and holes to let whatever smoke leak out and blow away before they suffocated. The ground was solid with ice and snow in some parts near the door, but they managed. The whole lot of them went garbage picking for blankets and scraps of cloth and rugs, but the snow started coming down hard and all they had was a meager pile to keep them from freezing.
Such was not good news for Snake.
Being of the cold-blooded persuasion, Snake was most vulnerable to extreme temperatures. Though he tried not to let it slow him down or show too much, once the snow started it was all over. The serpent became a shivering, stuttering mess that could barely move. Though the Gangreen Gang didn't exactly conjure up the image of caring and falling over themselves to help another out, that was more or less exactly what they did. It was mostly the fear of having a dead body on their hands that motivated their quick and thoughtful action, but Snake was appreciative though he spat at them to fuck off (when he could stop shivering enough to speak).
Now though, Snake was more or less incapable or damn near everything. Not that it mattered, seeing as how the gang was more or less at a loss for what to do. They gathered up what meager food and funds and scraps of clothing they could, and gave everything else to Snake. The piled blankets and garbage bags on the frost-laden floor to keep him off the ice and piled the rest of whatever fabric they had on top. There wasn't much, but they did their part. Big Billy, the biggest and therefore most resistant to the cold, had given up his jacket and currently sat with him, acting as a heater. Arturo and Grubber took turns between acting as a gatherer and fortifying the front. Ace supervised.
Lil' Arturo stumbled in from the cold, stamping his feet and rubbing his arms, his face mostly hidden by scarf. He peered up at Ace and shook his head no, signaling his search for food or open pocket books was a failure while shutting the door behind him. The lead Gangreen sighed, but otherwise maintained his post at the table, playing solitaire. While Arturo stamped his feet, inching in towards the burning oil barrel to warm his hands and face, Grubber kept stuffing bits and pieces into the holes, trying to bar the snow from coming in any more than it already had. Big Billy plucked Arturo up and set him nearby, attempting to warm him like he was Snake. It worked only marginally, and the serpent seemed to be somewhat glad to have another warm-blooded body to help warm him.
Or at least he was, until a good chunk of the metal door barring the wind buckled in on itself. The two able bodied Gangreens leapt into action (shuffled to their feet) before Ace could even grunt at them to do something. While Billy, Arturo, and Grubber scrambled to fix the front wall, Ace and Snake were left behind – Ace because he wasn't putting up with any shit today, and Snake because he was more or less frozen in place.
Snake, being half frozen, only managed to turn a little bit to face his boss. His large teeth began to clack together, but no one seemed to notice. He hissed lowly and tried to catch Ace's attention, but more or less failed until he worked his vocal cords enough to actually say something above a harsh whisper.
"A-Ace p-pleassse I… Needss wa-warmsss…"
"Billy will be back in a minute, quit being a pussy."
"B-but A-Ace I n-needss wh-warm o-or I'm g-gonna-"
"You're fine." Ace answered quickly, barely looking over at him "Fuckin' quit it everyone's frozen."
"Ju-Jusssst ss-sssit I w-won'tss asssk an-anythingss elsse." Snake begged through chattering teeth "P-Pleasse bosss. I n-needsss you."
That apparently was more than Ace was willing to take. He threw his cards on the table and stood suddenly, knocking his stool back. Snake twitched despite his joints being chilled to solidity. Ace finally turned his total attention to Snake, who tried to shrink into his meager coverings. Before Ace could move anymore Big Billy and Arturo and Grubber returned from their patch job and piled around the cold serpent, oblivious to what just happened. Ace abandoned whatever his intentions were to shoulder his coat more securely and make his way to the door.
"Boss, where are you-"
"I'm going for a walk."
"Don't wait up."
The door slammed, rattling violently in the threshold. Snake withdrew, pushing himself between Billy and Arturo, shutting his eyes so he wouldn't have to face them.
Ace had left in a huff, and was starting to regret his decision. It was fucking cold, and the wind wasn't helping. It had stopped snowing, but the powder was light enough it whipped up around him and occasionally smacked him straight in the face despite his attempts to hide it in his collar. It was really fucking cold and he didn't know where he was going, but he couldn't stay there. Too much had gone wrong for him to tolerate. His home was gone, splintered under some asshole's truck. All of the shit he usually did with his gang was put on hold. He couldn't feel his fingers or nose or legs or anything really. His gang was more or less frozen solid and useless and he couldn't do a damn thing to help any one of them.
Not even Snake.
Ace picked up the pace, jogging wherever he was going instead of slowly staggering. Half running made him feel better if he didn't count the ice in his lungs. At the very least he could feel a heartthrob in his fingers and legs. It started to sting when he slowed to a stop, somehow finding himself on the edge of the still-unfinished Citysville Bridge, close enough to the edge to warrant a few staggered steps back. They'd started to plow the unfinished section on the Townsville side for some stupid reason and one of the trucks had fallen in – he'd seen it on the news when he went scrounging around in delis looking for scraps. Moments later, he saw the familiar steaks of light fly off to save the stupid ass that drove into the channel.
The Gangreen leader shook his head and rubbed his hands together, ducking his head into the short collar of his coat. It didn't help. The wind was terrible up on this bridge, whipping around him every which way, always managing to stab at his unguarded face. Ever the stubborn one, he leaned against a heavy iron beam, blocking a small section of him from the harsh weather. It figures he'd stoop to thinking of the Powerpukes. Everything else was fucked up – why not throw in his mind? Nothing a little frostbite couldn't cure. Ace briefly wondered if he should go back home and convince the boys to head to a shelter – at least until the snow melted. At the very least they'd be slightly warmer and maybe get some food if the orderlies weren't complete judgmental assholes or people they robbed before. At most they'd be back to normal in a day or so, able to feel hands and feet and move without feeling like they were tearing their joints apart despite being south of twenty-five years old.
Without his permission, Ace's mind took a quick turn and he thought about Snake again. He'd actually started to pity the serpent before he threw the breaks on that, sneering to himself. Snake didn't need pity. He needed blankets and maybe a heater to sleep under. Ace contemplated holding him over the fire until he was able to move again, but the last time Billy had tried that fabric caught fire and Ace just got mad at everyone and left for a while. Snake didn't need pity or handouts, but he did need help. The thing of it was, Ace didn't know how to give it, or even where to start. Snake had always been self-sufficient to the point Ace had nearly convinced himself that, if Snake had ever wanted to, he could up and leave and be just fine. Ace knew he would never dare, but the thought was there, and it annoyed the hell out of him so much sometimes he punched the little bastard to trick him into thinking he was worthless an weak. It was working so far.
Now though. Now was different. Snake was actually helpless. Despite what Ace knew, what Ace saw in him, Snake couldn't take the cold. It was ruining him – if not killing him outright. But what could he do? Nothing, that's what. He didn't even have body heat to give. It figured that he'd have nothing to pony up when he was actually needed to do something useful. He felt like a jackass, expecting everything from Snake and giving shit in return all while kicking him around just to keep him under his boot. Worst of all, Ace couldn't shake how desperate he looked, curled up and small and shivering under the blankets. Snake was so much stronger than he was, seeing him reduced to that… it fucking bothered him.
Ace exhaled into his hands, some of it slipping through his fingers and sliding skyward in white streams. The water below the Citysville Bridge was still and deep, but refused to ice over. It was too early for that, but cold enough to fuck everything else up. For a second he wondered what would happen if he plunged in, if his blood would ice over and stick him in shards. He thought of Snake again, and how broken and frozen he was, and how he'd probably dive in and save his stupid ass anyway.
It was so fucking stupid that Snake had to be the one to get screwed over.
Mother nature could suck it. Nothing was allowed to do that except for him. And he was starting to feel shitty about that clause.
The lead Gangreen shook his head again and stamped his feet, pushing off the bar and shivering. He felt suddenly compelled to go home and warm up, though he knew it wouldn't be any less frozen inside the hollowed-out trash mound than outside it. He told himself it was the wind. Inside somewhere he could escape it, and that would make him feel better.
The door slammed, rattling in its place. The remaining Gangreens looked up, shuddering at the cold that swirled around their cabin. Ace glared at them and they quickly turned their eyes away, save for Snake, who was closed up and hiding somewhere beneath Big Billy and between Arturo and Grubber. He stamped the snow off his boots and barred the door shut. The fire had gone out so he started it again with a broken lighter, cursing under his breath. The other gang members wisely kept their eyes shut or turned away.
The fire went up but did little to help, throwing light instead of heat and making shadows shift and Ace's vision shake. He shook his head and clapped his hands together, holding them over the flame, waiting until his skin prickled through the moth-bitten gloves to pull them back and into his coat. He backed away from the barrel and made a point to ignore his skin pebbling from the sudden lack of heat. He approached the huddled mass that was The Gangreen Gang and regarded them for a moment, picking out and separating the bits and pieces of his followers mentally until they were all present and accounted for.
"Move." He muttered, forcing himself between them, molding into some fucked up contortion that was going to murder his back in the night. He ignored it, feeling bits and points of ice bleed through the blankets and coats and shit. He worried for a moment, but then felt a tremor of breath, and he knew that Snake was alive, and that was good for now.
Once everyone got re-situated and mostly comfortable, Ace was bold enough to turn his head to Snake. At first he simply stared, but then he shifted and started chewing his raw lip, tasting the blood and feeling the cracks. Snake didn't move. He hadn't moved since Ace made everyone move except to breathe, and that bothered Ace. His big ass grin was unmarred and pulled into a frown and that bothered him too because he was expecting at least an attempted hiss, but it never came. Snake didn't seem to blink or move or do anything but breathe every few seconds. It bothered and scared and messed with his hand to the point where he noticed he'd actually turned to face the serpent fully, watching and waiting for the slightest sign that this was all just some joke and he'd be fine in a minute. Of course, nothing happened, and Ace felt his guts sink into the frozen floor.
"M'sorry." He muttered lamely, sliding his cold but warm-blooded hands over Snake's face, trying to ignore how fucking frozen it was and how thin the slits of his eyes were.
The Gangreen leader stroked the thin, cold scales under Snake's eyes, trying to coax them open. He got a small tremor, but that was about it. So he kept it up, hoping it would help at least a little bit. When trying to rub heat into him didn't quite work out, Ace drew his serpentine follower half into his lap and wrapped his arms around him, shivering from the cold. Snake stirred, but only a bit, and Ace didn't care so long as he got a reaction. So long as he could feel a heartbeat or breath somewhere in there, Ace didn't care. He wasn't going to be a little bitch over this.
Ignoring any looks, he pulled open his coat and slipped Snake's pointed face inside. He hissed at the cold face in his stomach, doubling over but otherwise keeping him there. Ace pulled the coat over them, hiding Snake's face inside, trying desperately to warm him because now that he thought about it holy shit Snake could actually die from this and it was making him shiver. The rest of the gang bunched around him, reacting to him, and Ace felt sick for it. At least they did as he told them and helped Snake the little bit he told them to – and them pressing in like that was helping the frozen Gangreen a bit too.
Snake's eye was open when he looked down again. Ace twitched and looked away, glad for sunglasses. For a moment he wondered why the fuck he cared so much, why he was even doing this to begin with. A part of him wanted to push Snake onto Billy for looking at him like that, but he was too cold and stuck to move. He frowned stubbornly and glared at him, though his sunglasses obscured it. Snake's eye slipped shut an instantly Ace regretted it, panic forcing ice-blood through him, thinking (stupidly) that Snake was somehow dead because he glared at him.
Ace pushed the thought aside for good when Snake, despite the majority of him slowed and stopped up, moved his head into Ace's stomach. It was like holding a frozen fucking turkey, but Ace felt pretty good about the whole arrangement. Finally he did something, and on top of that he did it right. He could feel Snake's heartbeat, feel him breathing, and (holy shit) he felt him hiss – even if it was a little, meager, stupid parody of his usual hiss, Snake hissed and that was more than anyone had gotten out of him. So Ace felt pretty good about himself despite being half-frozen and a huge fucking mess.
He cradled Snakes head and relaxed, finally satisfied. He leaned back against Big Billy, using his sizable girth as a pillow and back support. He was cold, miserably poor, filthy and disgusting, but he was alright for now. He didn't think he would sleep, but that wasn't unusual (especially when It was this fucking cold). Instead, he just held Snake's head and tried looked out the cracks in the siding, ignoring the spears of wind and waiting for the sun to rise.
As always, thanks for reading! I'd also like to thank everyone who has clicked through and favorited and reviewed despite the lack of activity here. You're the best!