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thousand fahrenheit white hot metal lights ([personal profile] mukuro) wrote in [community profile] khrminibang2009-09-03 10:15 pm
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the way things fall.
( Reborn tricks Tsuna into applying for an undergraduate degree in International Relations in an Italian university, and Gokudera joins him as a chemistry major. This is a collection of some of their experiences, starting from Tsuna and Gokudera’s high school commencement ceremony, and ending at their college graduation day. )
AUTHOR: [profile] ky_kestrel
ARTIST: [profile] kuroneko_sonata (link)
PAIRING/CHARACTERS: 5927 (Gokudera/Tsuna)
WARNINGS: Gokudera’s potty mouth and… semi-porn? Very soft porn. Very vague porn, actually.
RATING: PG-13


-- -- -- -- --


GRADUATION, HIGH SCHOOL, after four long years under Reborn’s tutelage, and he wasn’t even sure that he’d make it this far in one piece okay, and he was looking forward to a long post-high school sabbatical with less of the crazy and more peace and quiet and relaxation, but—

“What? I’m doing what? In where?”

“Stupid Tsuna. Do you think you can be even louder that that? You are causing a disturbance.”

Tsuna clamped his lips shut and gave his tutor a withering glare. Reborn was the one who had popped up in front of his seat, seemingly out of nowhere and in the middle of his graduation ceremony. So he was wearing his professor disguise – so what? His oblivious classmates were already dismissing the spectacle as another of those weird things that always seemed to happen around him, but they were definitely still listening – anything would be more interesting than the principal’s commencement address, and Reborn had just said something very interesting.

The boy pitched his voice lower and slouched down as far as his seat and his crisp white shirt and stiff, starched blazer would let him, and hissed, almost incoherently, “Italy? University? But I don’t remember applying for anything and—university?!”

“You applied last week. And you chose International Relations,” Reborn reminded blithely. “That is a good course for a future boss, Tsuna, you will be learning politics and diplomacy and maybe a handful of languages along the side—”

“Last week?” Tsuna blinked. “W-wait, you mean that—but I thought it was just an exercise sheet! You told me it’s to help me practice my Italian!”

The Arcobaleno smirked and hopped up on one of Tsuna’s knees. The boy froze and tried not to move too much – this close proximity invited easy kicks to his chin or punches to his face the moment he did or said something un-mafia-like.

“And you practiced your Italian. You know enough of it to survive now. And you can’t run away, either,” Reborn added, almost thoughtfully as he regarded Tsuna’s horrified expression. “You’re leaving the day after tomorrow. The Ninth wanted to see you as soon as possible. You should thank him because he put in a good word for you, otherwise your application couldn’t have been processed that quickly.”

“—No, I don’t know Italian, I can’t even say anything without mispronouncing at least a word in five—w-wait, that’s not the point what do you mean I’m leaving the day after tomorrow, that’s way too soon—”

“You have more than enough time. Gokudera will help you pack,” was all Reborn would say before he skipped off to the stage, presumably having been summoned by the principal to deliver an inspirational speech as a guest of the school. It was bound to be more interesting than the principal’s slow droning, but Tsuna couldn’t bring himself to worry about Reborn’s very unsubtle offers of unlimited job opportunities in the exciting world of the mafia.

He was getting on a plane to Italy in two days. He was going abroad, all the way to the other side of the globe for the first time ever. He was going to university in a completely different country in a completely different continent.

For some reason, he couldn’t think of anything else other than wonder how long the house was going to last without him around to stop Lambo and Reborn and Bianchi and everyone else from blowing it up.

-- -- -- -- --

“’Kaasan!”

“Oh, Italy, Tsu-kun, isn’t that exciting? Okaasan is so proud of you, I knew we made the right choice getting Reborn-chan as your personal tutor. So all that training and studying paid off—oh, what will we do if you meet a nice Italian girl in school, you can’t bring her back here for introductions, ooh, university in Italy, how romantic—”

No help there; his mother was clearly too happy and starry-eyed at the prospect of her only child going off to Europe to study at a supposedly prestigious university. Tsuna suppressed his sigh of frustration and turned to the other parental unit, his dad, lounging on the floor in front of the table in an undershirt and embarrassing flower-print boxers, and watching the proceedings with a fair bit of amusement. A lot of amusement, if Tsuna was not mistaken in his interpretation of that dreaded glint.

Otousan!”

Tsuna couldn’t quite keep the whine out of his voice – he was getting that desperate.

“Now, Tsuna, I know you’re excited, but you shouldn’t be too high-spirited, or you might miss something. This is an important event in a man’s life! Your endurance and determination will be tried and tested, and you will learn independence and wisdom through experiencing hardships and challenges in a different environment, and you will pick up the fine art of making sure you have clean underwear at all times while you’re traveling—”

“I’m not going to be traveling anywhere,” Tsuna muttered in an undertone, “I’m supposed to be staying in a student dorm—wait, no, I haven’t said yes yet!”

“It’ll be all right, Jyuudaime! I’ll be with you at all times; you don’t have to worry about a single thing!”

The boy smiled at his best friend awkwardly – the heartfelt reassurance wasn’t really working, but the wide, wide grin Gokudera was shooting him was just this side of infectiously ecstatic. Tsuna was tempted to remind the other boy that they’d be taking different courses, in entirely different departments, but his brain shrank into a corner as it was reminded of the highly technical course that Gokudera would be taking.

But, it should be all right, he thought as his mother exclaimed about getting the suitcases out, and Gokudera immediately jumped at the chance to help. He’d done nothing but survive by the seat of his pants the past few years, and this shouldn’t be any different.

University couldn’t be any worse than any of those other experiences, could it?

-- -- -- -- --

Fifteen hours on a plane, Tsuna discovered, was more an exercise in patience and his ability to distract himself than anything else – it wasn’t particularly romantic, and neither was it manly. It was actually quite boring after the first handful of hours and the novelty of the experience wore off, even though Gokudera was constantly doing his best to make sure his Jyuudaime enjoyed all the comforts that the plane had to offer – somehow getting the best seats in the first class cabin for the two of them, hogging a pile of blankets and pillows so Tsuna could sleep cushioned on all sides, hovering over the flight attendants whenever they prepared Tsuna’s meals, checking the in-flight program’s selections to see if they were all satisfactory—

“Jyuudaime, are you comfortable?” Gokudera whispered, seemingly for the hundredth time the past hour.

“Yes, really, I’m not dizzy or anything—” Tsuna paused to crack a huge yawn, and then blinked in surprise; it was still late afternoon in Japan, and he shouldn’t be feeling sleepy just yet. And wasn’t there something about sleeping on long-haul flights that he needed to watch out for? He didn’t want to be horribly jet-lagged when they arrive in Italy.

Gokudera, however, felt no such qualms – he immediately jumped to his feet and babbled about getting the flight attendants to turn all the cabin lights off so Tsuna could sleep easily. The smaller boy watched in alarm for all of a few seconds before his hand shot out to grab Gokudera’s arm.

The other boy froze at the contact. “J-Jyuudaime?”

“I’m fine,” Tsuna repeated firmly, but not unkindly, and he tempered the implied warning some more by smiling, and tugging Gokudera down back to his seat. “I’m just going to take a quick nap.”

The half-Italian still looked like he wanted to do something drastic, though, so Tsuna added, “I don’t want to end up sleeping all the way, though, so could you… maybe wake me up after an hour or so?”

“Of course, Jyuudaime,” was the immediate reply, and the worry lines around Gokudera’s forehead disappeared as his face softened at Tsuna’s request. “How about an hour and thirty minutes? You’ll wake up just in time for dinner.”

“That sounds good. You should get some rest, too.”

Gokudera shook his head. “I’ll go over our paperwork one more time. I don’t want us to run into any problems going through customs.”

But their paperwork consisted of just a few documents – passports and plane tickets, embarkation cards, university acceptance letters, student information forms, student residence application forms; one set filled with Gokudera’s precise handwriting, another in Tsuna’s sloppier English, and Gokudera had already gone through them twice just to make sure that they were all in order.

It was pretty obvious – at least to the younger boy – that his friend was only using them as an excuse to stay awake. The years had given him a pretty good idea of how Gokudera’s mind worked, and right now the other boy was probably following some misguided notion that said he must stay awake and keep watch while the boss was taking a nap. Tsuna didn’t approve, but then again, he’d managed to get Gokudera to back down on the issue of the cabin lights, and it was already a victory as far as he was concerned.

So Tsuna smiled again, reminded Gokudera not to strain his eyes too much, and settled into his reclined seat to take a nap and maybe forget about the fact that they were now probably somewhere above Tibet or Nepal, if only for the couple of hours that he’d be asleep—

-- -- -- -- --

And of course, Gokudera couldn’t find the heart to wake him after the ninety minutes were up. The Tenth looked really, comfortably, deeply asleep, was what Gokudera would say, and Tsuna couldn’t blame him for hesitating – he didn’t remember anything, which meant he really was out like a light. He only woke up as the plane was beginning its descent, and he listened in dismay as the pilot announced that they would be landing in a bit, and then he was too busy fielding Gokudera’s profuse apologies to really care that he’d just slept through the better part of an entire long-haul flight.

After that he had to deal with Dino and his men, who showed up in full force to welcome the Vongola Tenth and his Storm Guardian to Italy, and Tsuna was so sure that the suspicious-looking contingent of black-suited and very obviously mafia-affiliated men would get him into trouble barely an hour after setting foot in the country, but no one even looked at them twice.

Either suits were a common sight in Italy, or that airport had ties to the mafia; Tsuna couldn’t bring himself to believe one over the other. But at least this meant that they would have no trouble getting around on their first day. Dino was as friendly and as cheerful as ever, and he enthusiastically took charge of making sure that the younger boys got to the main Vongola mansion safely—

“Main Vongola mansion?” Tsuna echoed dumbly. “We’re going to be living in the student dorms, aren’t we?”

“Well, yes, but the new school year won’t be for a few more months. Even if you went there now, you wouldn’t get a room to yourselves since the current semester’s not done yet.”

Tsuna gaped. “Whaaat? Then why did Reborn say that I had to come here right away? He even used the Ninth as an excuse!”

Dino laughed as the realization that he’d been duped turned Tsuna’s shy smile into an all-too familiar look of consternation.

“I guess you were tricked into coming here early,” the blond said, and he sounded sympathetic, at least. “But if Reborn told you that the Ninth wanted you here as soon as possible, then it wasn’t a lie. He really is excited about having you here. I had to fight him for the privilege of welcoming you two at the airport.”

“F-fight?”

“In a meeting that took three hours,” Dino explained with a teasing smile. “Can you believe it? It sounded like they were getting ready for war, the way he was ordering people about. They had to prepare your rooms, organize your welcoming committee, import food from Japan, form your security detail—”

“W-wait, what—”

“—I had to put my foot down at the convoy of limousines, though, I mean, it’s already unfair that the Ninth gets to be your host for four months, so maybe that’s why he let me fetch you guys instead… I was exaggerating a bit, Tsuna, no need to start hyperventilating.”

Gokudera frowned – he’d been grinning through Dino’s explanations, but now he looked disappointed that the man’s account wasn’t entirely true.

“You’re telling me that the Tenth isn’t being given the welcome he deserves?!”

Dino held his hands up peaceably. “Oh, he is! I only meant... well, you’ll see what I mean when we get there.”

-- -- -- -- --

Tsuna and Gokudera saw, all right – they arrived at the main Vongola estate just in time to see the central driveway turned into something that looked like a battlefield, scorch marks on the marble steps, swaths of the green lawn burned into cinder, men running about in a panic, and Xanxus at the center of it all, roaring about a rematch with trash.

“Aaah,” Dino sighed from the front passenger seat. “I guess the Ninth failed to convince him to hold off on challenging you until you’ve rested from your flight…”

Tsuna watched the mayhem with wide eyes, and wondered if he could convince Romario to turn the car around for the university, but Xanxus had spotted them, unfortunately. Tsuna squeaked. The man seemed to be glaring right at him, despite the fact that the cars the Cavallone used had heavily tinted windows.

“That bastard, showing such disrespectful behavior in front of the Tenth—Jyuudaime, do you want me to shut him up?”

Tsuna shook his head wildly – a closer look at the scene revealed the rest of the Varia lounging about the entrance above the marble steps, displaying varying degrees of amusement and disgust. He didn’t want to fight, but something was telling him that having Gokudera step out of the car first wasn’t going to get them favorable reactions.

And Xanxus was still boring holes through the windshield, red eyes burning with hatred and something that reminded Tsuna of the predatory smile that adult Hibari gave him after he passed the trial that granted him his X-Gloves.

“You two don’t have to do anything,” Dino was saying, “I’ll go talk to Squalo and get him to calm Xanxus down; this isn’t the place or the time for an all-out fight—”

“I’ll go,” Tsuna muttered, and he immediately drew protests from the other three men.

“I think—maybe Xanxus wants to see if I’d gotten stronger after what we went through in the future,” the boy hesitantly explained over the objections. “He should have heard about what happened, right?”

Dino nodded. Tsuna pulled his mittens, then his pill case out from his pockets. He thought, with some exasperation, that Reborn had probably foreseen this – he could think of no other reason why the Arcobaleno would pack it full of Dying Will pills on the night before his departure.

“The future Xanxus was like that too – he wanted to see how strong I’ve become, I mean, and… Just… I’ll try not to damage the lawn too much.”

“Jyuudaime, don’t worry about the lawn and just beat his ass to the ground,” Gokudera exclaimed encouragingly, at the same time that Dino dumbly echoed his promise about the lawn.

Maybe he really was jetlagged, too tired to heed his survival instincts, because he wouldn’t normally agree to fight, and he wasn’t the type to go seeking violence like this, fingers flexing against the comforting creak of his gloves, and the fire in his eyes burning all his anxieties and misgivings away. He was dimly aware that it wasn’t just the people on the driveway, stopping short in their tracks as he got out of the car – there were more above, watching the commotion from balconies and windows, but he knew he could ignore them. Rather, he needed to focus on what was in front of him right now: Xanxus, looking like Christmas had come early, and that he’d just been given permission to ruin it for everyone.

“Be careful, Tsuna!” Dino called out worriedly, last-minute warnings while he could still give them. “Squalo told me that Xanxus has been training furiously ever since you guys came back!”

He had time to hear Gokudera confidently reminding Dino that he’d already beaten the man once before Xanxus charged at him, hands alight with the flames of wrath.

-- -- -- -- --

“M-maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.”

Gokudera looked up from cleaning a cut on his arm. “What do you mean? You won fair and square, Tenth!”

And destroyed the lawns and the gardens in the process, Tsuna thought gloomily. “Xanxus looked furious,” he said out aloud.

“He looked vindicated,” the Ninth corrected.

“Vindicated?”

The old man’s smile was sad but kind, crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes making him seem more amused with the situation than what Tsuna thought was proper. “He doesn’t like it, and he’ll be angry that he lost a second time, but you’ve helped him prove to himself and to everyone watching that his first loss to you wasn’t an accident.”

“Eh?”

“We weren’t the only ones watching your fight,” Dino repeated on the Ninth’s behalf.

“You mean the people watching from the windows?”

Dino nodded. “At least half of them think that Xanxus losing to you means that he’s weak.”

“T-that’s—”

“The other half didn’t know what to make of you since they haven’t seen you before now,” the blond continued. “Ridiculous, I know, but they’ve seen you fight. They know that your strength is real, now.”

While Gokudera sputtered and rambled about faithless idiots, Tsuna wondered if it was a good or a bad thing that he was keeping quiet about the fact that he didn’t really go all-out – he didn’t even consider using the X-Burner for fear of destroying the mansion.

-- -- -- -- --

Tsuna thought that he’d be spending the next four months just waiting for the new school year to start.

He was sorely mistaken.

The lessons started innocuously enough – Dino offering to continue Reborn’s language lessons, Gokudera enthusiastically volunteering to help with the tutoring, Basil asking if Tsuna and Gokudera wanted to go sightseeing, Lal Mirch (in Arcobaleno form) dragging him off to train, claiming that Reborn had tasked her to make sure that he didn’t slack off at keeping himself fit, the Ninth pulling him aside at least once every couple of days to check how he and Gokudera were doing, and Tsuna slowly, eventually letting curiosity get the best of him, enough to ask just what it was that Timoteo did in his capacity as the Ninth, because he really couldn’t imagine how a nice grandfather figure like him could be the leader of a criminal group.

Lessons on diplomacy and tact, experience in how to retreat without looking like he was the one running away, because no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t avoid stumbling across Xanxus and the Varia at least once a week, not when they were all living under the same roof, and he’d rather not destroy the mansion’s interior on top of redecorating the gardens and the lawn, thank you very much. He had to learn how to hold himself around Vongola executives, too, and the Ninth’s aides and subordinates. Tsuna never made a conscious effort to try to behave like a mafioso, though, relying on whatever quality he had that Reborn claimed made him into a passable boss, and Gokudera – Gokudera cycled through childish exhilaration at finding himself standing beside Tsuna while they were residing in the seat of Vongola power, spitting rage at anyone who so much as looked at Tsuna askance, and single-minded focus whenever there was anything Tsuna needed help with.

Of course, at that time none of it felt like lessons, at least not like the torture sessions Reborn so loved to subject him to. All of it was just him and Gokudera goofing around like proper teenaged tourists.

Then again, just when were Tsuna’s encounters with the mafia ever not lessons designed to nurture his growth as the future don of the Vongola?

-- -- -- -- --

In retrospect, Tsuna would end up admitting, albeit grudgingly, that it was a good idea that they went to Italy early. Those four months would be the closest he’d ever get to a vacation starting from when Reborn sauntered his way into the Sawada household, and occasional property damage as a result of running into Xanxus before the other had had his morning bottle of wine aside, Tsuna did enjoy himself. It was too bad that Yamamoto wasn’t there, too; the other boy had decided to stay in Japan and try playing for a professional baseball team – or to be exact, one of the several that approached him the day of their graduation, despite the fact that he’d never played in any major games since breaking his arm back in first year, and should be largely unknown to pro baseball scouts.

Tsuna didn’t even need three guesses to figure out who might have alerted said scouts to Yamamoto’s crazy pitches and superhuman batting abilities.

And there, too, was that thing called culture clash, the problem that all foreign students would have to grapple with at the start of a new school year. The sad fact of the matter was, no matter how much Tsuna had grown in confidence after years of dealing with megalomaniacs and deranged mafia babies, he was still awkwardly, hopelessly ill-equipped to handle the aspects of daily normal social interaction with people of his own age group, much less foreign students he’d have to communicate with using English and/or Italian.

Or, he might be if he hadn’t just spent the last four months as the guest of an all-Italian household that was just marginally less chaotic than the one he had back in Japan.

-- -- -- -- --

ONE WEEK BEFORE THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR, and the first thing Gokudera did when they entered the dorm room they had been given was to sweep the entire place for electronic bugs. Of course, Tsuna being the naïve freshman that he was had no idea why Gokudera was bending over to peer under the desks, hands fluttering over corners and feeling for bumps and imperfections in the wood. What he did know was that his best friend was doing something strange again, and that he would do well to close the door before they attracted the attention of their dorm mates.

“… Gokudera-kun. What are you doing?”

“Shh, Jyuudaime,” Gokudera said in an urgent stage whisper. “The room might be bugged. Please stay quiet for a while until I’ve made sure that no one’s listening.”

Tsuna blinked. “What—”

“Don’t move, too, I need to check for booby traps.”

Booby traps. In a residence hall for students? It was ridiculous, but of course, Tsuna had been dealing with the ridiculous every day for the past four years of his life, and he wouldn’t put it past Reborn to rig his bed to blow up or his showerhead to spew pink dye even though they’d presumably left the Arcobaleno to keep an eye on the construction of the underground base back in Japan. So he froze in place and watched bemusedly as Gokudera spent the next hour lifting bed covers and pulling out drawers and eyeballing each and every panel of the hardwood floor.

“No booby traps?” Tsuna asked wryly after Gokudera had stopped prowling around to finally stand still at the middle of the main room with a slightly confused, disappointed frown on his face.

“No booby traps!” the half-Italian immediately confirmed, a bright grin immediately replacing the frown, and Tsuna wondered if Gokudera was sad that he didn’t get the chance to show his resolve at this protecting the boss from the dangers of dormitory life thing.

The boy sighed inwardly as he stepped toward the bedrooms, confident that his companion should have exhausted all of his paranoia and that they could begin with the process of settling in without any more fuss, but—

“Would you mind if I took the room closer to the door, Tenth?” Gokudera asked in the next breath, and Tsuna could almost feel his enthusiasm sparkling out of his eyes.

“I can defend you better from assassins like that,” the other boy continued with all the serious enthusiasm of a month-old puppy being trained to play fetch, “and anyone who manages to get through the traps I’ll be setting up will probably aim for the closer bed first, so…”

Tsuna took the room further from the door. He didn’t think it made any difference, really, but it was impossible to miss the approving beam Gokudera shot at him when he awkwardly agreed to the request.

-- -- -- -- --

FIRST DAY OF CLASSES, FRESHMAN YEAR, and they were ten minutes late because Tsuna had trouble sleeping the night before due to a sudden severe case of first-day jitters; he finally passed out a bit after two in the morning and as a consequence couldn’t have roused on his own. Unfortunately, Gokudera had yet to learn that it was okay to disturb his sleep, especially for something as important as the first class of the first day of their first year, and waited until the very last minute before reluctantly shaking him awake.

But fortunately for them, the first class was Introduction to Psychology, and the teacher was female – the effects that Gokudera’s looks and overall demeanor tended to engender in the fairer sex was probably what had saved them from getting black marks for tardiness on their very first day of class.

Unfortunately for Gokudera, more than half that class was also female, and he cursed as he realized that, no, disparate cultures and a different school environment wasn’t going to save him from going through it all over again.

Tsuna merely grinned and hid his face in his notes as the fluently-delivered Italian curse produced more besotted sighs than scandalized gasps.

-- -- -- -- --

Reborn had never been more spot-on when he said that Tsuna didn’t use his head to think and just charged in with nothing to lose. The boy never would have thought that it could be translated to his academic studies, though. He learned better through example and practical application, which was why he never understood Gokudera’s theoretical lectures on swimming and the physics involved in lobbing one Thunder Guardian plus two sticks of dynamite lodged in his maw over that hill yonder.

Which meant that Gokudera happily spent a lot of their study time together solving problems and explaining economic models while Tsuna watched, listened, and absorbed the steps and asked for clarifications on occasion. “No, Jyuudaime, you do it like this,” Gokudera would say, and Tsuna would watch as the other boy drew swift, clear strokes on his notebook, numbers and lines and notes in a well-known hand. And while the half-Italian would just as happily do the same thing for all his other classes, they had different courses and different core subjects. Gokudera was taking chemistry, and Tsuna took one look at one of his textbooks and promptly slammed it shut. He’d much rather stick to his essay-heavy subjects – at least he knew how to speak the languages being used and could maybe scrape together relatively coherent papers.

Despite his best efforts, though, his very first essay came back marked with a glaring D.

Tsuna scanned through his professor’s remarks with dismay. “I don’t really understand it, but I think he’s saying that I got the main point but lost it in poor sentence construction and grammatical errors?” The younger boy sighed. “I’m not really surprised, I mean, my English is worse than my Italian…”

There was nothing to it, really, but to accept this first failure and try to do better the next time, and it wasn’t as if he could change the grade by whining – and Reborn had beaten out all of his propensities for complaints a long time ago, reinforcing each flying kick with variations of his “suck it up and do something about it instead of whining” motto – so Tsuna trailed off into silence.

That was when he realized how strange it was that he’d be hearing silence instead of Gokudera’s indignant sputtering, and he turned to the other boy to find him standing completely still, brows drawn together like thunderclouds and narrowed eyes staring at the essay Tsuna still held in his hands.

“G-Gokudera-kun?”

“Don’t worry, Tenth. I’ll take care of this,” the half-Italian finally growled, voice low and heavy with deadly intent and promises of a swift retribution.

Sometimes Tsuna wondered why Gokudera always announced his threats by pulling out handfuls of dynamites even though the objects of his ire might be some distance away – he couldn’t be thinking of stomping all the way to the faculty buildings with dangerous weapons in plain sight, could he? Then again, even if university police did realize that those were very real bombs that Gokudera possessed on his person, the other boy could very easily blow them away if they tried to stop him.

It could be force of habit. Tsuna found himself thanking every deity he knew for it, because it now gave him ample warning, and he yelled as he launched himself at Gokudera’s back.

Since he had his face smushed up against Gokudera’s shirt, he only heard the muffled thumps the two of them made crashing to the floor, the sound of dynamite rolling away on the wooden surface, and the fluttering of the pages of his paper after he threw them into the air in his headlong rush to tackle the other boy to the ground. There was also Gokudera’s shocked exclamation when he realized that Tsuna was hugging him around the waist from behind.

The taller boy immediately turned around and started fussing over him.

“Jyuudaime! Are you all ri—”

“You can’t bomb the faculty room, and you can’t kill my professor,” Tsuna rattled off before he could get distracted by Gokudera’s fanatic concern for his physical well-being.

“But—”

“I don’t want you to get in trouble, and you might get expelled if they find you with dynamites, and you’ll go to jail if you hurt anyone—”

“Then at least let me—”

“No! No hacking into the school database to change my grades, no threatening the professors to go easy on me, no blackmailing the dean to give me special treatment!”

Gokudera’s initial shocked expression was being replaced by an odd frown, almost a grimace – as if he was being torn between different emotions. “I could… do your homework instead, Jyuudaime,” he suggested haltingly.

“No,” Tsuna repeated, and he shook his head as he realized that he was babbling, and most likely sounded crazy with the way he was preempting all of Gokudera’s protests. He needed to calm down and—do some more preempting, because Gokudera was probably going start apologizing any time now.

“I don’t want to take the easy way out,” he said slowly, clearly. “I don’t want to cheat. Not to mention, Reborn will find out and kill me. T-thank you, really, but I want to do everything right this time.”

“Oh,” Gokudera mumbled. “If you say so, Jyuudaime.”

He didn’t sound that convinced, though, and for a few seconds Tsuna wondered if he’d offended the other boy by implying that his suggestions were dishonest. But Gokudera’s frown was more sad and dissatisfied than angry, which, in Gokudera-speak, usually meant that he was unhappy that he couldn’t do anything more to help.

He didn’t think he could stand seeing the older boy going around with that hangdog look on his face, so Tsuna immediately relented.

“B-but maybe—I mean, if you have the time, would you mind going over my homework whenever I finish with them? Just to check the grammar,” he added hurriedly, “at least until I’ve reached a good enough level to work on my own again—”

Gokudera’s recovery was instantaneous. He immediately and enthusiastically agreed, and waved aside Tsuna’s anxious questions about whether he’d have time for his own studies (“I already know most of the first year material by heart, Jyuudaime, no need to worry!”) and confidently proclaimed that Jyuudaime will definitely get straight-A essays and it’ll be the teachers’ fault otherwise – the younger boy couldn’t help reacting to all that optimism and smiled back in mingled gratitude and relief.

-- -- -- -- --

Later that evening found Gokudera sitting in front of his laptop in the living room with the lights turned off, so that only the glare of the monitor illuminated his face with an eerie bluish glow. Occasionally he’d look up to check that the Tenth’s door was still closed, and that the rapid-gunfire sound of his fingers flying over the keyboard hadn’t disturbed the other boy, but it was late, and he’d made sure that Tsuna had already turned in for the night before sneaking out to boot up his laptop.

Tsuna had expressed very strong feelings about doing anything illegal against that bastard professor, and for Gokudera that had the weight of a direct order. No matter how much he wanted to take vengeance on the Tenth’s behalf, he would obey.

That didn’t mean that he wouldn’t start doing thorough background checks on each and every one of Tsuna’s professors, though. Really, he should have done this weeks ago before they enrolled for their classes, and no amount of internal flogging was going to make up for his lack of foresight. But at least he could begin to make amends. If there was so much as a speck of dirt on any of those teachers, he was going to dig it out, and if it looked like they were actually unsuitable instructors despite their credentials, he was going to pull the Tenth out of their class and transfer his boss to a better block.


Especially that bastard who gave Tsuna a D. If there was even the slightest whiff of discrimination against non-English speakers in his history of teaching at the university…

Gokudera cracked his knuckles and grinned like an axe murderer getting his first chainsaw.

-- -- -- -- --

SECOND SEMESTER, FRESHMAN YEAR meant that they would be taking new classes, and getting new professors and new sets of classmates. This time Gokudera made sure to check all of Tsuna’s professors thoroughly, and helped him steer clear of the terror teachers and the quacks. At first Tsuna had questioned his suggestions, and Gokudera had nearly exploded with sheer joy when the younger boy confessed that he only chose his subjects so their schedules would match, but he fought back against the temptation to agree with Tsuna’s choices. The Tenth deserved no less than the best instructors and the best learning environment, and he’d do everything in his power to make sure that he got the best – even hack into the school’s database and bump off other students to grab slots for Tsuna in particularly-favored modules.

He based his choices on a lot of factors – the professors’ credentials, teaching styles, work attitudes, syllabi, requirements, assessments and reviews from former students, every single piece of information he could pull up on search engines, and for the general education subjects and the electives he considered Tsuna’s interests and the usefulness of the subjects for the Tenth’s position as the next head of the Vongola.

There was one elective spot that he failed to set right, though – maybe because of a glitch in the system, or because of something he couldn’t counter; Tsuna’s name remained firmly enrolled in that one class no matter how many times Gokudera tried to transfer him to an open slot in another subject. It almost felt like something was blocking his access, and only to that one subject…

“Jyuudaime, I’m really sorry. I know you feel uncomfortable about this elective,” he said mournfully as the other boy got ready to head off for his classes.

“I’ll be fine,” Tsuna replied with a small laugh. “It’s not like anyone knows who we are, and we’re not criminals. At least, I don’t remember doing anything that would make us criminals,” he muttered in an undertone.

Of course, there was that glaring fact that he was slated to be the next head of probably the most influential mafia group in the whole world, but as Tsuna said, no one had any cause to suspect them of being anything more than ordinary students. So Gokudera relaxed and turned his attention to other things.

“Aah… another thing, Jyuudaime. You might have to be careful around that professor. He makes Spanner look socially well-adjusted.”

The face Tsuna pulled at his description clearly showed that the other boy didn’t really believe him.

“No one could be worse than Spanner. No one.”

-- -- -- -- --

Correction: apparently, there was someone worse than Spanner, and Tsuna struggled to quash down on the urge to run out of the classroom and apologize for not believing Gokudera and beg for a transfer to another class RIGHT NOW, because, his identity was still safe, yes, but he was being singled out like whoa, and he disliked it extremely.

Class started out normally enough – the professor introduced himself and described the subject and their syllabus and what they’d be doing as students of Law and Global Crime for the rest of the semester, and then he took their attendance by calling out their names from the class roster.

Things started getting downright bizarre when he got to “Sawada”, and the widening of his eyes would have been amusing if not for the manic glint that accompanied it.

“You’re Japanese?! That is awesome! And you’re named after one of the great Tokugawa emperors, how cool is that—oh wait, lemme see if I can—Aah, khouneechiwa! Hon-tow ni yorowshikuu own-negaishimasu! Am I doing it right? Did I say that right??”

Tsuna mumbled something noncommittal and tried his utter best to melt into his chair, as all around him his dumbfounded classmates watched their professor degenerating into an otaku in the middle of an Akihabara sale.

“—Hey, hey, did you guys know that the next don of the Vongola mafia group is rumored to be of Japanese descent? They say he can set himself on fire and not get a single burn, and his subordinates are crazy strong enough to take on an entire army and win—of course, these are underground rumors and have probably been exaggerated beyond the realm of reality, but still, he’s got to have samurai blood in him, or maybe even ninja roots, that’d explain how he was able to assassinate all the other Italian candidates to get the position—Sawada, what do you think? You’d know what the yakuza are like in your country, is it possible that the Vongola Tenth might have come from a yakuza background?”

Oh god.

-- -- -- -- --

Thousands of miles away in Japan, Irie Shouichi turned around on his swivel chair to face the Arcobaleno watching his efforts from a nearby counter.

“That was mean, Reborn-san,” he said reproachfully. “What if that professor finds out about Tsunayoshi-kun’s involvement with the Vongola?”

“Not possible,” Reborn replied with a dismissive sniff. “Even Tsuna’s not stupid enough to call attention to himself that way.”

“But why risk his identity in the first place?”

The hitman smirked. “Can’t have him getting complacent with all those normal subjects. Anyway, this is a good exercise for him. He might even find insight into how the world regards the mafia.”

“And Gokudera?” Irie pressed. “I don’t think he’ll have any use for Music Theory.”

“His reaction to Bianchi is a weakness. At the very least, I’ll have him stop feeling ill whenever he so much as goes near a piano.

Irie shook his head at Reborn’s unsympathetic responses and turned back to face his computer screen. All the way on the other side of the globe, Gokudera was probably still trying to move Tsuna out of that criminology class, and Irie was going to have to block all of his attempts because he had a hitman with a gun telling him to do so.

-- -- -- -- --

(It’s the first semester of their second year, and they’re busy dodging students who kept thinking that Tsuna was still a firstie ripe for club recruitment.)

No, the Tenth is already in second year, he doesn’t need to join the Weightlifting Club, and you will leaveusthefuckalonenoworelse—”

Tsuna had to bodily drag Gokudera away from the scary-looking group of muscle-bound athletes before he could start pulling sticks of dynamite out of his pockets, because physical inequalities notwithstanding, a year as a chemistry major had done wonders to improve the other boy’s weapons – they were now deadlier and more destructive and even more accurate than before.

Gokudera had demonstrated when they flew back to Japan for summer vacation. Reborn had approved. He seemed especially pleased with the capsule-sized bombs that each had more power than a grenade, and—Reborn approving something was never a good thing. They were going to have to avoid the main drive of the school for the meantime, at least until the annual club recruitment fair was over.

“—those assholes, mistaking Jyuudaime for a mere first year—”

“Ne, Gokudera-kun, don’t you think people will get confused if you keep calling me ‘Jyuudaime’ and not by my name?”

Gokudera’s reaction to that was one of scandalized horror. “But I can’t just call you by name!”

He only asked the question to distract Gokudera from ideas of killing the next club members who tried to approach them, but the more Tsuna thought about it the more he realized that it might be worth his while to try getting Gokudera to call him by his given name. Maybe not at the moment, but he was patient. They had 3 more years at school, anyway.

-- -- -- -- --

Three more years at school, almost a lifetime’s worth of opportunities for the younger boy to ask to see where his Storm Guardian spent his childhood, because this was Italy, right? This was the country Gokudera came from, the country he grew up in – he had to have a home, and maybe he had a favorite room, a favorite haunt, or a favorite store he frequented, a favorite restaurant he visited often. But from what Reborn told him, and from bits and pieces of impressions and information he’d gleaned over the years, Gokudera didn’t exactly have a happy childhood, especially after his mother died, so Tsuna never asked for fear of upsetting the other boy.

That didn’t mean that he stopped being curious about Gokudera’s past, but again, he didn’t want to pry, so instead he just waited and accepted anything his best friend felt free to share with him – maybe a crass comment here about this bar that Shamal once brought him to when he was ten, or an unguarded moment there where his eyes would soften when they passed a nondescript establishment that Tsuna would later find out was a piano repair shop. Usually it was information about his country of birth—and Gokudera had a lot to share about the place that Tsuna would eventually come to think of as his second country.

So there were a lot of things that Tsuna learned to like about Italy through Gokudera: the architecture, the language, the food, the music, skiing in the Italian Alps (he’d never gone skiing before) and visiting the Ninth even if it meant risking explosive confrontations with Xanxus on a regular basis, and seeing the way the Ninth’s family operated (very like a real family, and in most aspects no different from his own) went a lot to allay his worries about the future Reborn had set him to.

But arguably one of his best memories of his stay in Italy was getting dragged out of class by Gokudera one February morning, sneaking out to a nearby park, scoping out the most secluded bench they could find, and then trying out different gelato flavors in the middle of winter until they got sick of – and sick from – eating ice cream, all because Gokudera refused to stay within the campus during Valentine’s Day.

-- -- -- -- --

So for about a week after they were both dosing themselves to the gills with cold and fever medicine. Gokudera religiously reminded Tsuna about his dosages and checked his temperature several times a day, and Tsuna kept trying to get Gokudera to take care of himself, too, but the other boy had the unfortunate tendency to neglect his own health in his zeal to prove that he was capable of taking care of the Tenth all by himself.

It got so bad that Tsuna had to resort to ordering Gokudera to bed to stop the half-Italian from staying up all night in his bizarre belief that assassins were going to take advantage of their momentary weakness and attack now, right after they both fell ill.

Given the way the universe so liked to screw with his bids for normalcy, however, Tsuna really should have expected that something was going to happen the very evening that he dismissed Gokudera’s concerns. But instead of putting years of practice watching out for the unexpected from Reborn to good use and doing his tutor proud, both boys slept like the dead and were thus jolted awake at two in the morning by the shrieking of full-grown men and the growling of what sounded like a very large feline.

He had no idea how they managed to get through the evening without the entire school finding out about what had happened. Or them getting expelled, for that matter – they must have broken at least a dozen steel-clad rules. A giant flaming cat in their dormitory where pets were explicitly banned. Three dangerous intruders where strangers also weren’t allowed inside students’ residences. Gokudera’s now-visible traps, which the intruders had somehow managed to disarm before Uri pounced on them. There was also the squad of Vongola subordinates who showed up to cart the trio off to the Vendice for even thinking of harming their boss’ successor.

Somehow, campus security missed all of that. Maybe it had something to do with the way people kept getting fooled by Reborn’s crappy disguises. And he remembered to thank Gokudera for saving the both of them, if only to reassure the other boy, who couldn’t seem to decide if he should be mortified that none of his elaborate traps managed to stop the intruders, or happy that his very own box animal had successfully thwarted the kidnapping attempt.

Now, what were they going to do about the very cranky jaguar/cheetah/leopard-thing who was adamantly refusing to go back into his box?

-- -- -- -- --

Whatever Reborn had been trying to accomplish by shipping his precious student off to study abroad, it wasn’t an overnight thing. Tsuna had to adapt to life without his mother’s home-cooked meals or the comfort of a familiar bed, the crutch of familiar surroundings and the all-too-familiar low expectations from people who’d known him since he flubbed that first PE exercise back in grade one – and Gokudera had to realize that he couldn’t always be by his beloved Tenth’s side twenty-four-seven, even though he certainly tried very hard those first few months.

It took a lot of adjusting, for the both of them, slowly getting used to the routine of normal student dorm life, the balance between studies and famiglia time – it was more of the former, since the Ninth did his best to make sure that Tsuna’s mafia roots didn’t intrude in his formative years as a college student, and asked to meet only once every couple of months. Slowly, slowly, mastering their schedules and their academic load, and for Tsuna, getting used to taking subjects and lectures entirely in English or Italian, getting used to the different air and the strange food and his new surroundings, until he opened his eyes one morning and abruptly realized that he’d completely acclimatized to the Italian university student thing, and promptly woke Gokudera up with a panicked screech.

“I,” Tsuna pronounced with all the grave finality of a person declaring that he was going to die of a previously unheard-of and therefore incurable, fatal disease within the next few minutes, “am acting completely like a mafia boss-in-training.”

“You don’t understand,” the boy interrupted when Gokudera started gushing about how naturally awesome he was and how he’d be ruling the mafia the moment he succeeded the Ninth. “I’m getting average grades. I can actually answer questions in class recitation. I’m not getting bullied like back at home. And I just realized that I’m now taller than some of my teachers—that never happens to me!”

“... But isn’t that a good thing?” Gokudera asked hesitantly, anxiously. “This means you are doing things right.”

Tsuna blinked, for a moment confused at the feeling of déjà vu he was getting – those words sounded awfully familiar, and it was odd that the older boy would use them, and then he remembered. He’d said them back in first year, like a vow he’d forgotten but was now subconsciously carrying out. It was amazing that Gokudera still remembered it.

“I guess… But it still feels weird,” the boy mumbled. “Like I woke up feeling like a different person today.”

“You’re still you, Jyuudaime. It’s always been you. And I’ve always believed that it was just a matter of time before you’d grow up to be that person in the future,” Gokudera said simply, and he sounded so quietly certain that the contrast with his usual excessive animation was startling.

Tsuna stared, said bewilderedly, “Eh. Are you sure you’re not talking about yourself? You’ve gotten really tall—” and stopped abruptly as he was hit with yet another very late realization: Gokudera was looking more and more like adult Gokudera, when did that start happening, and why had he never noticed before now?

He shouldn’t be so flabbergasted, of course people would grow up to be their adult selves. But for some reason he was having trouble grasping the notion that he and his friends were all growing up, and inching ever closer to that ill-fated time of 10 years into the future. Would Yamamoto be getting the scar on his chin soon? Were Lambo and Ipin going to be adolescents the next time he and Gokudera saw them? How about Hibari and Ryohei? Was the prefect going to turn out as driven as his older self, and the boxer as reliable?

Stupid questions. Tsuna shook his head to try to clear them, but it didn’t work; the image of an older Gokudera blocking out the light filtering through a forest canopy refused to go away, anguished green eyes, forehead forever marred with sorrow, somber black suit and ring-clad fingers with a bruising grip—

“—Jyuudaime?”

-- -- -- -- --

He noticed that the Tenth started acting a bit oddly after that. Tsuna would watch him if he thought he wasn’t looking, wearing a strange expression that made him look as if he waiting for the secrets of life to pop up on Gokudera’s face. Whenever he asked if Tsuna was feeling sick or having problems with his lessons, the boy would reply in the negative with a slight stammer and then either change the topic or look away guiltily, as if he’d been caught sleeping on the job.

Gokudera didn’t want to pry, but he’d rather know if there was a problem and what it was. It was obvious that Tsuna was reluctant to tell him, though, so maybe he only needed to wait. In the meantime, though, he had his own issues to deal with – first and foremost the question of why his pulse would, without any identifiable cause he could divine, suddenly start racing whenever he realized that the Tenth was watching him.

-- -- -- -- --

“Hm. There’s been a slight dip in Vongola’s grades lately,” Spanner murmured around his lollipop. “Gokudera Hayato, too. It’s negligible, but you asked us to keep you updated.”

“Both of them, at the same time?”

“Just a few points here and there,” the mechanic clarified as Vongola’s hitman tutor hopped over to look at the graphs he’d pulled up on the screen. “Irie would have known if they’ve fallen ill, so maybe something is distracting them?”

“Possibly,” Reborn said, maddeningly curt, and maybe Spanner would have bitten through his lollipop stick if he wasn’t the laid-back type. Not that he disapproved of spying on the Tsuna’s academic progress like Irie Shouichi was – in fact, he was personally invested in the Vongola Tenth’s growth, so he would have appreciated it if Reborn were a bit more forthcoming with his insight into his student’s behavior.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to go in and install a surveillance system? It will make monitoring a lot easier.”

“There’s no need. They’re around that age now. Things will fall into place soon enough.”

-- -- -- -- --

As Reborn said it, so would things fall into place; given enough time and nearly inhumane amounts of training and conditioning, Tsuna’s Vongola blood would eventually awaken and turn him into a functioning member of society, the image of himself as a successful college student and the image of himself as a bumbling failure back in middle school worlds apart from each other that his old classmates probably wouldn’t recognize him anymore.

For Gokudera, on the other hand, it was a long time coming. Say you admired a person so much that you nearly died for him, but since that person didn’t want you dying for him, you swore instead to be by his side at all times and to serve him until the end of time, that you’d give up your firstborn and your second and your third and all your descendants for the glory of his name, and all variations of vows and promises and declarations of loyalty thereon. Say you made that first vow when you were barely fourteen, and still brash and headstrong and idealistic, and that you’re now twenty and wiser and a lot more versed in the matters of the heart – or you so liked to believe.

It wouldn’t surprise anyone in the least if all that hero-worship turned into something deeper, especially not Tsuna’s tutor. It would have made things easier if Reborn had been there to strong-arm the both of them into seeing just what it was they were going through, but the Arcobaleno was right; things had a way of falling into place.

Or, in this case, Gokudera falling into one of the wine distillation vats in the chemistry lab, victim of a good-natured prank gone wrong, stumbling off to his dorm room after beating up the culprits, Tsuna hurriedly pushing him off to the bathroom to wash the alcohol off, Gokudera accidentally pulling the other boy in after him, Gokudera finding himself with an armful of wet Jyuudaime, Gokudera kissing Tsuna in the middle of his intoxication, and Gokudera thinking, in the middle of Tsuna kissing him back: hah, the pervert doctor was wrong, all of his tips about dating women were useless now that he was gay—

-- -- -- -- --

Gokudera is the primary candidate being considered for the position of your right-hand man, so you should learn all of his working habits and adjust to any that might seem strange to you, because once you and your Guardians are sworn in, he will be the one you’ll be interacting with the most often out of the six of them.

… Well, even more often than now, so you should take this chance to get to know him better.

Tsuna didn’t think that this was what Reborn had in mind, though, an hour after Gokudera had kissed him silly in the bathroom shower, the thickest blanket he could find wrapped around himself to ward off the cold, and Gokudera prostrating himself on the floor by his feet, wailing about sullying the Tenth’s innocence and demanding to be allowed to atone for his sin through ritual suicide.

“Gokudera-kun.”

“I’M SO SORRY, JYUUDAIME, I WASN’T THINKING—”

“Gokudera-kun.”

“—I COULD HAVE STOPPED IF I REALLY WANTED TO, BUT JYUUDAIME TASTED AMAZING AND—”

Gokudera-kun—

“I SHOULDN’T HAVE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF YOU SO SHAMELESSLY—”

“GOKUDERA-KUN—”

“PLEASE LET THIS UNWORTHY ONE MAKE REPARATIONS FOR STEALING YOUR VIRTUE SO BRAZENLY—”

Hayato!

Tsuna could have roared and it probably wouldn’t have stopped Gokudera, but the half-Italian froze now in mid-kowtow at the use of his given name, eyes going comically wide and forehead already darkening into a livid red from repeatedly being smacked against the floor.

“J-Jyuudaime,” Gokudera croaked – he sounded like he was on the cusp of fainting from joy at hearing Tsuna saying his first name.

“You know, isn’t it the other way around?” Tsuna asked levelly. “I mean, me taking advantage of you, since you’re the one who’s drunk in this case.”

“But. But.”

“And if I’d known that this is how you’d act like when you’re drunk, I would have dragged you with me to that bar that they keep talking about in class weeks ago.”

Gokudera made an incomprehensible gurgling sound. Tsuna flushed as he realized just what he was saying – was he being too forward? Was that why Gokudera looked like he was having a hard time breathing?

“I-I guess, I might not have done something that drastic, but…”

The boy made a decision, and slid off his bed down to the floor so they were more-or-less level. Gokudera made a move as if to jerk away, but Tsuna caught his eyes, pinned him in place with just the force of his honest consent.

“I wish you’d told me sooner, you know? Then I’d have figured out why I can’t stop looking at you, or why I keep thinking of you when I’m in class, or why my chest feels funny whenever we’re together – t-then again, it could just be me panicking over not getting all this geo-socio-political stuff, and I might have freaked out if you’d told me before now, because… I’m only realizing now… I think… I l-like you, too, so…”

He wasn’t sure when it happened, but Gokudera was suddenly very close, close enough for their breaths to mingle and close enough that Tsuna could see the flecks of blue – or maybe turquoise? – in his brilliant green eyes.

“S-so you’re not… I mean, you think—”

“No, I’m not mad, and yes, it’s really okay,” Tsuna answered confidently, somehow knowing exactly what to say, and Gokudera was suddenly hugging him tight, laughing and smiling fit to break his face in half, thanking him, repeating his declarations of loyalty, devotion, love, over and over and over again; and it felt right; the way they fitted with each other, and Tsuna had to wonder why it took them so long.

-- -- -- -- --

Well, better late than never, as people always said. At least they both realized before they graduated and started getting busy with famiglia work, and Gokudera could now begin to make up for lost time – and freely watch Tsuna whenever the other boy nodded off in the library. He always made sure to choose the most secluded table so they wouldn’t be disturbed, and it meant that no one could see his expression of utter and complete contentment, and there would be no witnesses to catch him tenderly twirling a lock of Tsuna’s brown hair around his fingers, no need for the inevitable bloodbath and tedious cleanup operations he’d have to resort to should anyone spot him watching Tsuna drool on his books with the goofiest love-struck grin on his face.

And their trips to the park for gelato became actual dates, and Gokudera’s fangirls completely stopped stalking him after one of them caught the two of them cuddling on a park bench, a single cup of amaretto gelato between the two of them, and Hayato Gokudera-san personally feeding Tsunayoshi Sawada-san delicate spoonfuls of the alcohol-laced dessert.

Really, he should have confessed ages ago.

-- -- -- -- --

The first thing Tsuna did when the summer before their senior year started was to ask about getting Mukuro released from the Vendicare. Of course, his request caused an uproar – not only were a lot of people taking him seriously now, but the Ninth was also getting pretty obvious in his attempts to prepare him for his succession right after his graduation. It seemed like a stupid move; Mist Guardian or not, Mukuro was still a criminal – what amounted to a convicted felon sentenced to life without parole in their circles, and Tsuna’s request left a lot of people confused. At best, his supporters reasoned that the Tsuna was just willing to give Mukuro a second chance, and at worst, his detractors claimed that he was out to destroy the mafia by setting Mukuro loose.

The Ninth did everything in his power to grant his request, and it was just a matter of time, really. A string or two pulled here, a couple of favors called in there, and influence and all the resources the Vongola had, and a lot of leaning on the Vendice, and Mukuro was a free man again, albeit a very weak free man. Five years spent in a water tank had all but turned him into a fish, and the shock of transitioning from free-floating and watery to dry and gravity-bound had sent him into a coma for half a year. And then when he woke up, he had to undergo extensive physical therapy to regain his strength and all the body mass he’d lost. It was a lot of trouble to go for someone who’d tried to kill his Guardians and possess his body, and speculations ran rampant as to why Tsuna would do it.

If anyone had asked him directly, Tsuna would say that he was merely getting tired of Mukuro bothering him in his dreams every evening before he was to take a major exam.

-- -- -- -- --

There was one last thing that Tsuna learned to like about Italy – maybe it was something in the air or the food or the atmosphere or the fact that it was technically Gokudera’s backyard, or his turf, or his home court or whatever they called it – the other boy seemed bolder somehow, more daring, not even needing to ask permission more than twice to show Tsuna what he could do with an free evening and years of devotion (repressed desires) behind him—and finally, finally calling him by his given name.

Maybe he didn’t mean to. Maybe, in the heat of the moment, and the explosion of sensation, Gokudera just forgot and said the first things coming to his mind; Tsuna certainly felt like he couldn’t remember his own name whenever the other boy pushed at a certain angle, but there it was – “Jyuudaime, Tsuna, Tsuna,” voice low and rough and tender, fingers gently but firmly coaxing, dimmed lights not quite veiling the intensity in Gokudera’s eyes as they drew each other closer and closer to release.

-- -- -- -- --

A DAY BEFORE GRADUATION, COLLEGE, and Tsuna and Gokudera were on their way to the main Vongola estate to answer an invitation from the Ninth. Tsuna was still basking in the realization that he’d successfully completed a four-year undergraduate degree, and wasn’t really worried about the unusual summons. Maybe the old man wanted to see them before the actual graduation ceremony. Or maybe he wanted to talk about Tsuna succeeding him, which wouldn’t be as pleasant, but anyway, he was graduating, they were all still alive, he and Gokudera had mind-blowing sex last night, and he was graduating. Nothing was going to put a damper on his good mood, not Levi parading around with his “Xanxus forever” flags and badges, not Bel trying to trip Gokudera with his invisible wires, not even Xanxus using him for target practice.

Well, except maybe—

“Reborn!!! What the heck are you doing here?!”

“Here to attend my student’s graduation ceremony, of course.”

“Wait, Yamamoto, too?!” Tsuna gaped at where the taller boy was being mobbed by some of the Ninth’s younger aides, all clamoring to get the baseball player’s autograph on their shirts. “And Kyoko-chan and Haru and Ipin and Lambo and—”

Off to one side, Bianchi was worriedly hovering over Gokudera, who had doubled over, busy dealing with a violent stomachache. His parents were laughing over something the Ninth said (“Oh, Tsu-kun, you have to introduce us to your girlfriend, okay? How do I know? Why, you’ve been sounding utterly lovesick in your letters lately, silly. Really, don’t think you can hide something like this from your mother, I would love to meet her—”), Fuuta, Irie, Spanner and Giannini were seated around the coffee table, the younger boy eagerly listening to the other three arguing about their inventions, and at the other end of the room was Ryohei yelling about this extreme gathering of extreme people, and a visibly annoyed Hibari being distracted by Dino, and Chrome standing in another corner with the other girls and the kids, shyly watching everything else with a quiet smile on her face.

“—Wait, even Hibari-san came here!” Tsuna belatedly exclaimed. “This isn’t just about Gokudera and me graduating, is it?”

“So you did learn something in college,” Reborn observed with a half-smirk. Tsuna’s eyes tracked Leon climbing down from the Arcobaleno’s fedora hat and on to his hand, and there transforming into that all-too-familiar gun, and he flinched away in reflex, the impulse coming back to him so easily despite the fact that he hadn’t been shot with it in a while. Reborn merely used it to nudge his hat up a bit, though – knowing him, he probably only did it to see if Tsuna would still react.

The boy frowned at his tutor. “What does that have to do with all of you being here now?”

Reborn’s reply was both guileless and completely calculated, and Tsuna remembered that very same black-eyed glint, every time Reborn pulled the trigger on his gun, every time he announced a new Vongola tradition, every time he started a new training regimen, and right before he announced that he was shipping Tsuna off to university in another country.

“You mean no one told you? The Ninth is retiring today. We’re officially inducting you as the Vongola Tenth right after your graduation ceremony.”

It was ridiculous how Reborn always managed to turn all of his announcements into bombshells – that declaration was enough to rouse even Gokudera from his anguished stupor, and as everyone started talking, offering their own suggestions about what they were going to do to celebrate, voices blending into familiar (almost well-loved) chaos, Tsuna realized that he felt like he was coming home.

Everything was falling into place, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

-- -- -- -- --
thedovetailor: (i like gay)

[personal profile] thedovetailor 2009-09-05 05:04 am (UTC)(link)
/piles love all over Lynffles for this fic! ♥
erisabesu: (Default)

[personal profile] erisabesu 2009-09-06 07:46 am (UTC)(link)
This story was so much fun! XD I loved how Reborn was using Shoichi and Spanner to spy on them and rig Tsuna's class schedule! *laughing* There were so many amusing details. <3 I also loved Gokudera still attracting girls and having a fan club, lol, and then Tsuna realizing how they've started to resemble their future selves physically, and how that changes everything. ;3 All in all I enjoyed this a ton. <333