Genre: Katekyo Hitman Reborn!
Summary: "He tries to say goodbye. Just in case." The last week of Sawada Tsunayoshi's life is relatively normally, excepting the fact that Reborn's teachings have a tendency to make a lasting impression on his students. [TYL!verse]
Rated: R for death. It's a good hurt.
Author's Notes: 4,104 words. UnBETA'd. For aradiantsun. Brb collapsing nao.
Tsuna has no idea what possessed him to say it; even as Hibari turns to look at him with all of the empathetic capability of stone, he is scrabbling to catch his words again in the net of his fingers, shove the wriggling silver syllables back into his mouth and swallow them whole.
“What,” Hibari says, cold and slow, “in your experience would indicate that I would take even a passing interest in such things.”
He sneers, lowly, lip curling to the tune that slides out of the grey ice of his irises. Tsuna is swimming in a pool of his own mortification. “That’s pretty fucking presumptuous, don’t you think? I should bite you to death.”
There’s a backpedal hitching Tsuna’s words. “I didn’t— I don’t know why I said— I’m really sorry, Hibari-san, I didn’t even— I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.”
There is a long, terse silence before Hibari sniffs derisively, as if to indicate that admitting it is enough to assuage him for the moment. Tsuna sighs, almost relieved, but still has the good sense to flinch when the ex-prefect makes a sweeping rise from the tall grass. Hibird flits to his thin, tightly-muscled shoulder, resituating itself as it lands; Tsuna’s stomach turns over nervously as Hibari’s tonfa catch the fading light of the sun and glint sinisterly in his direction.
“I don’t care,” he says.
“Really…?” Tsuna says, hesitantly, simply to clarify.
Hibari scoffs. “Such revolting trivialities would be a waste of my time.”
“Then…you’ll keep it a secret? I mean, if you don’t mind…” He’s on a roll with these regrettable questions. He needs to get his brain checked. There must be a bullet through his common-sense filter. Damn Reborn. Hibari’s already several feet down the hill, hands in his pockets; maybe he didn’t hear him.
“A waste of a waste is no concern to anyone,” he says, coolly. Hibird chirps. “And I have no intention of humoring you or any of those fools with false belief of the contrary.”
Tsuna’s muscles are tightly-bound until he’s out of sight and earshot. Then he sags back down to the earth with a groan, inhaling the wet, homey scent of the soil and the dry tang of the grass, and thinking that even after ten years, his Cloud Guardian still scares him beyond all measure of wit.
“Mm? Ah, you’re really serious this time, huh?”
“Of course I’m serious!” Tsuna says indignantly, pushing his food around his plate, his chin resting heavily on his palm. The bone is digging into the flesh but he doesn’t have the heart to move it. Yamamoto laughs and reaches out to ruffle his hair.
“Sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean to imply you weren’t.”
“I just…” Tsuna pauses, the words hanging on the inside of his mouth. “Do you think it’s a good idea?”
Yamamoto hums thoughtfully, resting his cheek against the inside of his hand, eyes running along the grooves in the wood of the table. Tsuna has to keep himself from restless movement. “Well,” he says, after a moment, “I think you’ll do fine.”
“…do fine when?”
“When you’re married,” Yamamoto says, self-assuredly.
“Isn’t that jumping a bit ahead of yourself?! I haven’t even asked her yet!”
“Hm? Oh! Well, yeah, I suppose so. And most people date a little before they get married… But I’m sure it’ll all be fine!” Yamamoto grins at him. “And if you really don’t like each other, you can get divorced, right?”
“You really don’t worry about anything, do you…?”
“Should I…?” His Rain Guardian has what Tsuna can only call the gall to look downright puzzled. The Vongola Decimo sighs and shakes his head, considering the hypothetical alternative.
“No… I’m glad you’re at least not freaking out or anything…”
“Ah, speaking of, you haven’t told Gokudera yet, right?”
Tsuna pales. Yamamoto laughs and slaps him heartily on the back in a moment of mutual understanding that the former does not find himself fully able to appreciate, simply because of the implications thereof. It’s the lingering silence afterwards - filled only by the sound of their chopsticks scraping for rice – that makes the sensation that’s waited in the pit of his stomach for the past few hours sweep over him in a wave, the froth of which leaves behind a strange aftertaste.
His friend looks up at him, dark eyes blinking. Tsuna shakes his head, smiles with one half of his mouth. “It’s nothing.”
“Even if it’s nothing, you know you can ask me, right?”
“…yeah,” Tsuna said, nodding, a placid tone of pink feathering across his cheeks. “…hey, Yamamoto.”
Yamamoto smiles. “Nothing again?”
“No,” Tsuna says, shaking his head, “I was thinking… If we were to beat the Millefiore tomorrow and the world were peaceful again, what would you do?”
Yamamoto hums softly behind his wide lips and stops a moment to think. “Mm. Probably…go back to playing baseball.” His smile rekindles, streaking back across his face. “I don’t know if the major leagues would still take me but it’s worth a shot, right?
“But…” He pauses, and Tsuna does too. “I guess it’d be better if they didn’t. Just in case Vongola still needed me.”
“We’ll always need you,” Tsuna says after a second, before realizing how sappy it sounds. He blushes again.
Yamamoto laughs, big and full, which almost makes him feel better about it. “Of course! We’re family, right?”
And to an extent, Tsuna wonders if Yamamoto is still oblivious enough to think that this is still some small child’s game. Part of him thinks that it’s more than possible. After all, Yamamoto has a talent for putting all of himself into the games he plays.
But another part of him thinks he’s known all along that they are a part of something bigger.
And of one another.
Lambo only ever comes to see him of his own accord when there is something that he wants. Tsuna knows this instinctually; it is not something he has ever discussed, nor is it something he particularly enjoys. But he has never thought to discourage his doing it – it is a habit that has endured since his early childhood, and with each passing year Tsuna finds himself pining more sincerely for those days.
And so when the pseudo-bovine pads through the door with laziness plastered across his long young face, Tsuna is not the least bit surprised. Lambo has always seized the opportune moment when Tsuna is too loaded down with paperwork to formulate adequate grounds for why he can’t have whatever it is he’s decided he must have.
“Mm? What is it, Lambo-kun?”
Lambo scratches his head. “This guy won’t even look up at me… Must be busy.”
“You know, you should really stop talking to yourself like that.” Tsuna does him the courtesy of lifting his eyes from the ink running from his ballpoint pen onto paper. Lambo shrugs as if he doesn’t really care one way or the other.
“Eh, Vongola, I have a request.”
Tsuna sighs and nods in an, ‘I thought so,’ sort of way. “What is it?”
“I want to get my moped license.”
They stare at one another for a moment.
“My moped license,” Lambo says again, as nonchalantly as the first time. “I want to get it.”
“Lambo-kun, you’re fifteen.”
“Yeah. The legal moped licensing age in Italy is fourteen. So I’m a year late.”
“I don’t think they count it that way,” Tsuna says, doubtfully. “And who in their right mind would let anyone drive before twenty-one? That’s just reckless!”
“I’ll wear a helmet. And I’ll drive real slow.”
“That’s not the kind of recklessness I was talking about, exactly…”
“You let Reborn drive.”
“I didn’t really have a choice… Anyway, that was once! And I’m certain he didn’t have his license…”
“I’m a lot older than Reborn.”
“Wha— Lambo-kun, why would you need a moped license in the first place?”
“Well, to drive a moped, I suppose.”
“You know that isn’t what I meant!”
“Hm? Oh. Well, I-pin likes to see the cities when we’re there. And the metro’s pretty expensive, and most of the time, we end up walking a lot anyway…”
“…Lambo-kun, don’t I usually send you to Italy so you can see your own family?”
“Well, yeah, I guess so. But I usually don’t.”
“You mean all this time I’ve been paying for you to go sightseeing?!” No wonder the Bovino had never stopped with those yearly threats to come and collect their good-for-nothing son. He had thought they were mostly jest by now.
Lambo shrugs. “We were going to go to Roma next month.”
Tsuna groans through his teeth and has to resist to urge to introduce his face to his mahogany desk several times over.
“So can I get it?”
Several times over.
“Lambo-kun…” he begins, “it sounds way too dangerous. Especially because… Well, I’d rather I-pin got it.”
“Eh, but that’s so uncool… Getting driven around by a girl smaller than you. People would make fun of me. And besides, with her eyesight, they’d never let her get it. And besides even that, she’s not a citizen.”
“You have dual citizenship?” Tsuna blinks.
“Hm? Yeah. Reborn made me get it.”
“How long ago?”
“Hm? Well…” Lambo pauses to think. “I guess it must’ve been when I turned ten… He held a gun to my head and made me fill out the form and submit it to the Legal Affairs Bureau all while I was still half asleep.”
Tsuna spluttered. “Wh— Why would that be so important?!”
“I don’t actually know… Although, I guess, since I’m the Lightning Guardian, and it’s my job to take the family’s punishments, it’d be best for me to be able to travel between both Italy and Japan pretty easily. That’s pretty smart, actually…”
“This is the first time you’re thinking about it?!”
“Well I never really had to before…”
Tsuna groaned and buried his face in his hands for a moment before looking back up at Lambo through his fingers. He heaved a sigh and slumped back into the buttered leather of his desk chair. “That Reborn…”
“I guess he was pretty smart, huh?” Lambo seems to mull over the idea like its new.
“I think the word you’re looking for is cunning,” Tsuna says, tiredly.
“Do you ever miss him?”
They stare at each other again, this time for much, much longer.
Lambo nods, more like he’s satisfied with the admission than like he agrees with it. He’s never taken his hands out of his pockets, all this time. Tsuna purses his lips, something sharp skimming the edge of his tongue.
“…Lambo-kun,” he says, “just because you’re the Lightning Guardian, please don’t go out of your way to get hurt. Rather than being the rod for punishment to strike…”
“I’m the punisher, right?”
“Well, I’m not sure I’d put it that way…”
Lambo actually smiles, wide lips quirking at the edges.
“That actually makes me sound pretty cool.”
It flits away, though, slumping back down into his mouth. “…but how come we’re talking about that at a time like this?”
“Well, you mentioned it, so…”
“I’ll remember,” Lambo says with a sigh. “So can I get my moped’s license?”
Tsuna rubs his temples. “Take I-pin with you, at least.”
“I AM DEFINITELY AGAINST IT! TO THE EXTREME!”
“B-Big brother,” Tsuna says, gritting his teeth against the painful ringing in his ears, “it’s a phone, so you really don’t have to yell! I can hear you, you know!”
Ryouhei either does not hear or does not care to hear him out – it is most likely the former, since even as severely as he voices his opposition, his Sun Guardian has always been respectful of what is his non-existent authority.
“SAWADA! ALTHOUGH KYOKO IS NOW AWARE OF THE MAJORITY OF OUR BUSINESS AND GOINGSON, I THINK THAT THIS IS A BAD IDEA, TO THE EXTREME!”
“Big brother, please listen…!”
“Hm? AH, SAWADA! I DID NOT HEAR YOU!”
“I…yes, I garnered that. Listen, big brother,” Tsuna says, going slowly because his thoughts are relatively muddled and Ryouhei’s shouting still really scatters his brain. “I…I know your stance on this, but I’ve thought it through… And even if I’m not sure exactly how to go about it or what she’ll say, I’m definitely going to ask. And I just… I wanted you to know that.”
There is a short silence on the other end of the line before Ryouhei bursts back into his eardrums with a complete change of tune.
“THEN I WILL DEFINITELY APPROVE! TO THE EXTREME!”
“You’ll what?! Isn’t that a bit quick?!”
“I can’t very well argue with spirit like that. And besides,” Ryouhei says, snuffling low, “you’ve never let me down. And you’ve let Kyoko down even less.”
“Is there something less than never…?”
“NEVER TO THE EXTREME! OF COURSE!”
Tsuna winces but smiles, despite himself.
“Thank you, big brother.”
He can hear Ryouhei’s grin, wide and brawny as the rest of him. “Good luck, Sawada!”
His smile fades, and something smudges over the edge of him.
He hangs up before Ryouhei can ask the obvious question.
Gokudera’s hair is raked back from his face and twisted in what Tsuna supposes is intended to be a ponytail, but looks more the part of a gnarled, savage knot at the back of his head. Not that that was his focus.
His focus is actually on Gokudera’s mouth, primarily because it is yelling. Loudly.
“Eh?! Tenth, how could you not tell me?!”
“Have I done something wrong?!”
“Wh—No! It’s nothing like—”
“I’ve insulted the Tenth! I am unworthy to receive information!”
“Gokudera! It’s nothing like that!”
“Eh? Why didn’t you say so?”
Tsuna kneads his temples and resists the urge to yell that he did say so, because it is likely to only make things worse, and Gokudera has tried to commit seppuku in a fit of melodrama already this month, and Tsuna isn’t sure he has enough ibuprofen or patience to cope with it this time. But he can’t blame his Right Hand; there was a time in his life where he would have loved to. But he can’t. They’ve all been on edge recently, haunted by the distant visage of the Millefiore, and for the most part, Gokudera’s return to adolescent hyperdevotion has been a relief.
At least he sees him, most days, not that he isn’t still usually so lost in the midst of his own ingenious mutterings that it can take days to get through to him. Luckily, the door to his lab – which is more a room of unalterable solitude – is closed today, which is how Tsuna knew he would run into him.
And, perhaps more luckily, the cover of the piano is still left up, ivory keys still glistening from the sweat that’s dampened even Gokudera’s fingertips.
“I didn’t know how to tell you,” Tsuna says.
“I didn’t know how to tell you.”
Gokudera blinks as if “tact” is a completely foreign concept to him, and Tsuna does not for a moment doubt the likelihood of that fact. “You could’ve just told me… My Japanese is as good as anyone else’s.”
“Not like that! …never mind. It’s… I don’t know. It’s complicated.”
And it is, but it isn’t – he’s a liar. He knows. And he knows the exact reason he’s been so glad to see Gokudera holed up for the majority of the week, but if he professes now it will all have been for naught.
It’s hard enough keeping secrets – Gokudera’s mind is too sharp and his eyes seem to bore into him with the intensity of scalpels, always eager to dissect him over-affectionately.
“Tenth, you know you can always tell me anything! After all, it’s my place to act as your confidente.”
Tsuna’s fingers are biting into his leg through the thin cloth of his pockets. He offers him a meek, tongue-in-cheek sort of smile and it feels almost painfully ironic in doing so.
“Do you… Do you think I’m right to…”
“What? Eh, Tenth, you’ll do great! Kyoko-chan definitely will be a wonderful Lady Vongola!!”
“You think so?”
“Definitely!” Gokudera grins, horrendously wide, reminding Tsuna for a moment of his Varia competitor.
He sighs. “Well, at least we’re all in agreement…”
“…eh, Tenth, how many people did you talk to before me?!”
Tsuna pales. “Ah, well, nearly everyone…”
“Even lawnhead?! Even the baseball nerd?! Even that bastard Hibari?!!”
Tsuna nods because he does not trust his voice. He falters, badly, primarily because the look on Gokudera’s face suggests that there is about to be a repeat of the seppuku incident, and that is something he simply doesn’t have the resources to deal with again. “B-But, that wasn’t because… It’s that I have something to ask you! On top of everything…”
“Eh?! What is it! Anything!!” Gokudera seems to be dangerously close to hysterical tears.
“Well, that is… Er, assuming that she says yes,” Tsuna fumbling, hands making the rounds betwixt and among one another, “I was actually hoping that… I mean, if you don’t mind…”
He pauses. Of course Gokudera won’t mind but… He damns his upbringing and tries to spit it out as bluntly as possible, although he chokes on the words when they’re halfway up his throat and they muddle. “Ifyouwouldbemybestman?”
It is about twenty seconds before Gokudera leaps on him, scooping him up and twirling him around, squeezing him so hard that Tsuna is certain he will break in half. He’s still holding him that way when he seems to remember the way the conversation started.
“Hey, Tenth, stuff like this… Next time, I want to be the first to know! If that’s not presumptuous. Because then I can help!” He grins like the lovable menace that he is.
Tsuna smiles, stomach churning.
“Yeah, of course.
Kokuyou Center is the same rundown, overgrown terror it was ten years ago, and Tsuna supposes that old habits must die hard.
He has a single chance to turn around. To forfeit this idea and move on to another. To be honest. To change his mind and, subsequently, his course of current action. To remove the morbidity from every step he has taken to reach here. One chance to revert to the No-Good Tsuna he still expects himself to be.
That Reborn would expect him to be.
And he does not.
Chrome surprises him; a slight bump of the shoulder as she exits the elevator he is headed for and they’re both lit up as red as school children. She seems to be following her master’s lead nowadays more than ever – he can hardly see her cute, effeminate face for all her hair. It runs nearly to her elbows.
“Ah, Boss, I’m really sorry!”
“Ah, it’s nothing, Chrome, don’t apologize, it was mostly my fault…”
He stumbles a bit more through awkward apologies, her waving him off all the while, begging forgiveness in the humblest of ways, before he has time to realize the way she’s wringing the hem of her skirt. And the way her hands are white-knuckled and trembling.
And the fact that of course Chrome must know.
Of course. He almost hits himself, how could he not—Well. Of course. He should’ve known, of course she would know. How could she not know?
And so he slowly stops and does something he very rarely does, which is to ask Chrome a truly intra-personal question. It takes him a moment to get the words out, primarily because they have been sitting, oblique and unmoving, in the pit of his stomach for the length of the week.
“I… Chrome…are you…worried?”
She seems stunned, then humiliated, but still manages to shake her head in a way that makes him feel guilty, somehow. He tightens his brow and forces a smile, drawing the ringbox from his suit pocket to rattle it a bit, which gives him the jitters but seems the only amicable gesture he has to suit the circumstances.
“I’ll be alright, Chrome. I’m… The worst she can say is ‘no,’ right?”
Chrome makes a sound that he’s sure is supposed to sound like an affirmative but comes out as more of a whimper. He bites his lower lip and presses the “down” button on the elevator console.
“Chrome…” He struggles, but says it anyway. It seems to him worse not to say it. “I… No matter what, I…have always been honored to have you and Mukuro as my Mist Guardian.”
“Me too,” she says, reflexively. He blinks, and looks back to find her stumbling to find the right words. “That is… I… It…was always an honor to call you ‘Boss’, Boss.”
There’s a short silence before he forces a smile. “Eh, Chrome-chan, don’t be so morbid… Saying it in the past tense like that… I’ll only be gone…” He stops himself. Rephrases. “I’ll see you again soon.”
She nods, weakly, hands knotting across her stomach, eyes unreadably but desolate-looking.
He turns away and walks into the elevator not because he’s about to be late but because he can’t bear to look into them anymore, and he thinks that, more than anything else, it is being honest that pains him the most, now.
She says yes. Sweetly, and with a smile.
“You—Eh, K-Kyoko-chan, you mean it?”
She only warms to him all the more, laughter dancing so enthusiastically around her eyes that he can hardly read him. A blush lights his cheeks.
“Tsuna-kun is so funny…”
That his first kiss from her is on the same day of his proposal seems ironic. What seems even more ironic is that she begins to cry, afterwards, beaming all-the-while.
“You haven’t even noticed that the one I loved all this time was you.”
She melts him. The ring fits.
“Propose as if I were to die.”
He scratches it out with a thin line and his hand refuses to shake. He folds it, slowly, and burns it with a slow consideration using Gokudera’s kidnapped lighter. He sighs, and places it, smoking, in the incense holder above the altar holding Reborn’s ashes.
And thinks, quietly, ‘Well, at least I learned something.’
And tries not to think that, for all his mercilessness, Reborn probably never intended for such things to ever become quite so literal.
Yamamoto is the first to retaliate. The bullet that clips his chin is the same that buries itself in Tsuna’s shoulder. Overdramatic, he thinks. How frivolously theatrical. Even if it does make him look cool.
What frightens him the most is that Gokudera cries. It is a cyclical terror that rushes through him in a tempest, and he can neither believe that it affects him so deeply, nor that he feels it more sincerely than the pain that blooms so widely across his vision that it swallows him.
He cannot possibly know that Lambo is reduced to such a state of hysterics by his grief that Haru feels obligated to use Bianchi’s cooking to knock him unconscious. That it is the hardest the boy has cried since he was five years old. That Ryouhei takes the news even worse.
That Kyoko stops speaking, and does not again until his younger self saves her life in a warehouse not far from their underground base. And never once removes the ring from her finger. Not even in jest.
Hibari keeps his promise.
As if it’s all there ever was between them.
And it is. By most standards.
Tsuna tries not to feel pity for the gunman, but he cannot help it – it’s as if all of him has been unleashed, the floodgates of his emotions lowered, and they cascade from him in a wave of blood. Yamamoto has hardened and so has the silver of his blade; he thinks that the last thing he is likely to taste for a long while is gunsmoke, steel, and the ache that Gokudera’s face leaves behind.
He tries to say goodbye.
Just in case.
But his mouth will not form the words and so he settles instead for cementing in his mind the first sentiment he wishes to feel upon his return. (And he will return, he says, shakily, to himself. It’s just like going to sleep for a little while. A sleep wherein he does not breathe. Or dream.)
Guilt has never tasted quite so bitter, to him.
And darkness has never felt quite so irresistible.