Part I


Tsuna was in the hospital, and he was terribly lost. He had wanted to stretch his legs after lying in the hospital bed for over forty eight hours straight (they had removed his appendix), and the twelve-year-old had snuck out of his room while Nana was sleeping in an adjacent chair.

He had forgotten to take note of the room he was in (when he had arrived, he'd been in too much pain from a ruptured appendix to notice) and at that moment he was wandering down a hallway not even sure if he was on the right level. The rooms on this level look a lot bigger and nicer, the brunet thought. He felt awkward in his baggy blue pajama bottoms and the hospital-issued gown-top, not even wearing real shoes, only slippers. He was pretty sure he was on the top floor of Nanimori hospital.

Tsuna caught sight of someone in white turning the corner far down the hallway he stood in and he made a split-second decision to duck into an empty-looking room to his right. He felt like if he was caught wandering around on a creepily empty floor he'd get into trouble.

The room was huge and mostly white, vastly different from the other rooms on the lower three floors of Nanimori hospital. The entire far wall was a large window, illuminating the marble floor, clean walls, another door probably leading to a small bathroom, and lots of stainless steel by the hospital bed. Some monitors were at the head of the bed, an IV cord attached to-the person in the bed-

Tsuna nearly shrieked when he realized he'd gone into an occupied hospital room.

A girl was sitting in the bed, watching him with equally surprised wide purple eyes. Her black hair was pulled into two neat braids and she wore red glasses and a headband. The book in her hands was completely ignored as she stared at him.

"I-I, uhhhh, I'm s-sorry," Tsuna stuttered, not knowing what to do. He didn't want to go back out into the hall just yet because that doctor might still be out there, but if this girl reported him…."I just got lost.."

"Are you staying here too?" the dark-haired girl said, after a beat. "Do you know what floor you're staying on?" She could tell he was lost.

The questions weren't mean but Tsuna blushed and stuttered more because, no, he didn't even know what floor his own room was on. "I-I don't know what floor I'm on," he nearly whispered in shame. "I-I'm here cause I got my appendix removed…."

"Oh," the girl said.

"What are you here for?" Tsuna asked, forcing his eyes from the floor to her face.

"My heart doesn't work."

"Oh." Tsuna felt awful, and it was more than the slight physical pain in his side. He had thought getting an appendix removed would have been the most painful thing on earth, but this girl's own life was probably in peril and she couldn't be helped. "I-I'm sorry."

The girl pushed her glasses up her nose shyly. "I-It's okay," she said. "You look kinda pale, though.. are you okay?"

His side was throbbing from all the walking around and Tsuna hoped he hadn't pulled his stitches. "Yeah, my heart is working fine," he said.

"No, I mean… maybe you should sit down? You can, if you would like," the girl gestured to the chair in the room. "No one else is visiting or anything." He noticed the heart rate monitor attached to her finger, the sound of the blips from the machine quiet and faded.

Going against his better judgement and the desire to run away because of his own awkwardness, Tsuna tentatively went over to the chair and sat down. It was huge and swallowed him up, but he liked the softness. "Th-thank you." They shyly looked at each other again, then quickly away. The girl looked just as awkward as him, he thought. It made him feel better. "What.. is your name?" he said.

"Homura," she said.

"I'm Tsuna."

"N-Nice to meet you, Tsuna-san," she said.

"You too, Homura-san," he replied.

There was more silence as the throbbing in his side slowly resided. Homura fiddled with the book in her lap, not looking down to read it but also not knowing what to do or say. "What are you reading?" Tsuna asked.

"A book… for school," Homura said quietly. "I miss school most of the time and I'm supposed to read it...But my grades are so bad I don't think it'll help." She held up the book so he could see the title.

"That's hard," Tsuna said. "I go to school but I still fail everything." He blushed at his own words, but Homura's soft smile made the brunet relax. She was very pale, he noticed. The IV hooked into her wrist looked like her lifeline, keeping the slight girl with otherworldly eyes on the earth speaking to him.

"How old are you?" Homura asked him.

"Twelve," he said. "And you?"

"I'm twelve too," she said. "We're in the same year, then. I don't think I've ever seen you when I do go to school, though…" Tsuna agreed, he was pretty sure he would've remembered her nice purple eyes.

"I just started Nanimori Middle," he answered.

"My caretaker enrolled me at a Catholic school in Tokyo," Homura murmured. "That's why we've never met."

"Your caretaker?"

Homura didn't look sad as she said, "My parents are dead so I have a caretaker."

"I-I'm so sorry!" Tsuna panicked, feeling like the ultimate shoe bottom for bringing up a topic that must've been hard for the girl. "Homura-san, I-I'm really sorry, I had no idea…"

"N-no, it's okay," Homura stuttered, made just as uncomfortable by his sincerity, "I heard they were good people and they left me everything so my caretaker makes sure I get good care… and things.."

Tsuna noticed other things about her, like how her hospital gown wasn't even a hospital gown but a nice, embroidered white nightgown and how the medical instruments in the room were much shinier and organized than other rooms in the hospital.

"Still," he said quietly, "money probably doesn't make up for family."

Homura was still. Her purple eyes looked down at her pale, thin fingers and she nodded slowly.

"Can I visit you.. again?" "Will you visit again?"

They both spoke at the same time, and both awkward twelve-year-olds blushed the same. "Y-yes, if you'd visit, that'd be fine," Homura said.

"O-okay," Tsuna said, "I mean I think I'll get released today and go home but once I catch up on homework it's okay with you if I.. come visit?"

"I'll be here," Homura said, and smiled. Tsuna smiled back.

"I'm going to go try to find my hospital room again," he said, getting up. "Th-thank you for letting me rest here, Homura-san." He paused and awkwardly waved from the doorway. "See you… later?"

"Y-yes," Homura said.

As Tsuna walked down the (now empty) hallway, still completely lost, he couldn't help a small smile. That was really odd... but really nice..?

He would be sure to visit her again.

He was the first one who had come into her room in the past two weeks who hadn't been a nurse or doctor. The loneliness had nearly been killing Homura, and then she had blinked her purple eyes and there… there he was.

A skinny, short, fluffy-haired brunet with huge brown eyes and a funny outfit. Something in Homura had felt a strange sort of kinship with him in their brief conversation about themselves, a familiarity with Tsuna-san. She hadn't been able to talk to anyone her own age in months…

The thought that he might visit her again made her smile. Maybe… he'll be my friend?

She was able to sleep easier in the hospital that night.

Sawada Nana was just sleepily yawning awake in the chair by Tsuna's bed when he returned. She watched her son as he sat on the bed, a small smile on his face. "Where did you go, Tsu-kun?"

"Just for a walk," Tsuna said, legs swinging as he clasped his hands happily in his lap. "I think the doctor said we can check out today, right? Everything feels fine," he gestured to the spot underneath his shirt where bandages wrapped around his abdomen.

He was happy, Nana noticed. The way his shoulders curved upward instead of the depressed hunch Tsuna often had told her something on his walk must've changed him. Tsuna-kun wasn't a depressed kid, but he never seemed truly happy. "You're very happy today," she said. "Did getting your appendix removed do that?"

Tsuna giggled. "No, Kaa-san." The boy fiddled with his fingers, an air of awkwardness coming over him, as if he wasn't sure he should tell her something. "I.. I made a friend."

A friend? Tsuna was a nice boy and Nana had always wanted him to make more friends. This new revelation made her smile back at her son. "Tsu-kun, that's great!"

Tsuna bowed his head, his cheeks warm. "Yeah," he said shyly. Nana didn't want to say too much, but they both knew a friend for Tsuna was a very rare, precious thing. She would have questioned him more, but the doctor came into the room and their conversation ended. I wonder who this new friend is, she wondered.

a few days later

"I'm home!" Tsuna called as he set his bag down and slipped off his shoes. Nana poked her head out of the kitchen doorway.

"Welcome home, Tsu-kun!" she said. "How was school?"

A noncommittal sigh. This was normal for Tsuna, but it still made Nana worry. She knew her son wasn't very good at school, and prayed everyday that something would change. Tsuna was a good son, though, and she knew he tried. Sometimes. "Hey Kaa-san?" he asked, stepping into the kitchen. Nana looked up from the counter she was wiping off. Tsuna's brown eyes were hesitant and cautious. "Can I… Can you drive me to the hospital? I'd like to go visit a- a friend."

Nana had nearly forgotten about the new friend Tsuna had mentioned back in the hospital after he had gotten his appendix removed. "Yes!" she said without a moment's hesitation. "Would you like to bring your friend anything? I just made-"

Tsuna shook his head. "She, uh… she's hooked up to an IV so I don't think she can.. eat anything." Nana was silent with this new revelation. She… His new friend must be very sick. "Go up and get changed. I'll go start the car," she said, still smiling at him. He ran up the stairs yelling his thanks.

The hospital was very different when he was a visitor instead of a patient. Tsuna stood cautiously at the front desk, almost wishing that he had told his mom to stay with him instead of simply dropping him off. The nurse at the front desk was very nice and told him to go ahead when he explained he was visiting "Homura, in the top floor." He didn't even know Homura's last name, he realized. I'll have to ask her.

Tsuna got more and more nervous the more floors the elevator went up. When it finally reached the fourth floor, the short boy stepped out quickly. Last time he had taken the stairs and he wasn't sure which way Homura's room was. (he hadn't checked that room number, either). He kept walking, though, and found the right one. Homura was in room 427.

"H-hello?" he said nervously as he pushed the large door open (it was closed this time), not sure if he should knock when he entered. He could see the dark-haired girl in the bed, but she wasn't sitting up that time. Is she asleep? "Homura-san…?" Tsuna took a step into the room.

Her eyes opened and she looked at him, immediately sitting up. "Ts-Tsuna-san!" She rubbed her eyes and fumbled around in the bed for her glasses.

"S-sorry," Tsuna said, "did I wake you up?"

"No, I was just napping a little," Homura said. Tsuna came over by the bed and spotted her glasses near the end. He picked them up and handed them to her, their fingers brushing as she took the glasses. "Th-thanks," the girl said. Instead of the white nightgown she had worn last time, she was wearing a simple lilac-colored shirt. The blankets were pulled up around her waist.

Tsuna sat down in the chair, the cushion already familiar to him. "I wanted to visit you again," he said. "So… um, yeah, that's why I'm here." He cursed his own awkwardness.

Homura nodded, smiling shyly. "Thank you for coming." There was silence in the large hospital room. The girl looked at him, then giggled a little.

"What is it?" Tsuna said, nervous.

Homura pulled her knees up to her chest, laughing some more. "It's just.. it's strange seeing you in different clothes. Last time you showed up in my room looking like you'd escaped from a mental asylum." Tsuna looked down at his orange t-shirt, cargo shorts, and gray sneakers, and blushed.

"It was the hospital-issue outfit," he muttered, tugging at his shirt hem, "and it wasn't like I meant to to meet anyone…" He quickly looked up. "I-I mean I didn't think I'd meet anyone my age and stuff- Not that I regret-"

Homura laughed again. "It's okay, Tsuna-kun," she said. "I'm glad you did meet me. It's nice to have someone my age to talk to."

Tsuna smiled back, relaxing. "Same here. No one at school talks to me unless they're calling me "dame Tsuna," and you haven't called me that yet, Homura-chan." Neither of them noticed the change in honorifics. The conversation had slipped into something comfortable and normal for the two souls.

"Dame Tsuna?" Homura sighed. "If I actually went to school, I'd probably get called that too."

"No, there's no way you can be as dame and dumb as me," Tsuna laughed. "I got a thirty-eight on my grammar test and my mom was impressed!"

"Thirty-eight isn't that bad," Homura said. "Especially with grammar." Her goofy smile made him laugh.

"I'm sure that you're the only person to ever think that besides me."

There was a knock on the open door and Homura and Tsuna turned to look at the doctor standing in the doorway. "Akemi-san? I didn't know you had a visitor," the woman said kindly. Akemi. So that's Homura-chan's last name, Tsuna thought. He shyly waved at the doctor.

"My name's Sawada Tsunayoshi," he said.

"It's nice to meet you, Sawada-san," the doctor said. She was an older woman with light hair pulled back into a tight bun, cleanly dressed in her white coat. "Akemi-san, it's time for your checkup. Can you say goodbye to your friend?"

"N-no, he can stay!" Homura said. "I-I mean… can he stay? You're just checking my heart rate and vitals, right?"

The doctor observed Homura's expression, then sighed. "If it's alright with you, I suppose Sawada-san can stay. You do get very few visitors…." Tsuna grinned at Homura, and she smiled back. The doctor came over and pulled out a stethoscope. He looked away awkwardly as she lifted the back of Homura-chan's shirt and pressed the stethoscope to the girl's back, listening. "Your heart is doing much better, Akemi-san," the woman said, dropping her nightgown shirt back down. "I think we might be able to take you off the IV within the next few days." Homura allowed the doctor to shine a light down her throat, and also check her pulse. Tsuna saw the heart rate monitor speed up a little.

"So I can start eating real food?" Homura said once her doctor had released her jaw, excited. The doctor nodded.

"That's awesome!" Tsuna said. "I'll make sure to bring some sushi when I come next time, Homura-chan!" Homura beamed at him, violet eyes sparkling behind her glasses.

"Not too much food," the doctor admonished, but smiled as well. "I'll check back later, Akemi-san. It was nice to see you, Sawada-san. My name is Doctor Masaomi, I hope to see you again."

"Yes," Tsuna said, bowing respectfully. He looked back at Homura once the doctor left, and they both sat just grinning at each other. "It sounds like your heart must be doing better."

"Yes," Homura said, shifting around her shirt so that it rested normally again. "They've had me on the IV for the past two weeks so I'm so excited to be able to eat food!" She laughed. "Although I've heard that hospital food isn't that good."

"It's not too bad," the brunet said, shifting his legs around in the huge armchair. "I mean, I was only here for two days, but it seemed okay."

"How is your surgery healing up?" the girl asked, remembering his surgery that he had mentioned the first time they met.

"It's doing good! Kaa-san says the scar looks scary, but it doesn't hurt at all." Tsuna lifted up his shirt, showing her the healing scar that ran along the right side of his stomach.

"Whoa," Homura said. "That's a big scar!"

"Mmhmm! It's apparently going to stay for the rest of my life, probably. I don't really mind, though, cause it looks cool."

"Yes, it's very tough," Homura said. "I have a tiny scar above my heart but nothing that big."

Tsuna bit his lip, remembering what she had the first time they'd met. "Hey, Homura-chan… what are you in here for? You said last time that your heart doesn't work."

The girl nodded, fiddling with the end of one of her braids. "I don't really know the technical terms but my doctor said sometimes my heart forgets it needs to beat. Like it doesn't know that I'm human and I need a pulse." She looked out the huge window-wall. "It's kinda funny."

"Heart-chan," Tsuna said in a funny voice, "you are a heart. Please beat for Homura-chan!" He made a gesture with his hand at Homura's shirt as if he was sending a magical spell. Homura giggled. The afternoon sunlight reflected prettily off of her dark hair as she gave the boy a happy, childish grin.

"It's beating again!" she said dramatically, pressing a hand to her heart. Tsuna jumped up and raised a fist to the air.

"The ritual was a success!"

"I'll have to tell my doctor that you fixed everything without her help," Homura said, flipping around the finger with the heart rate monitor clip on it. "I should have known it was this easy!"

They both laughed, and Tsuna sat back down, this time on the edge of her bed. He had been there for a while, and his mom would be arriving at the hospital soon to pick him up.

"Kaa-san's coming in a few minutes, so I should probably go soon," he said, running a hand through his fluffy brown hair. "Is it okay if I visit tomorrow? I'll bring food."

"Yes!" Homura said. "Thanks for coming today, Tsuna-kun. I'll await your swift return," her voice dropped to a dramatic level, "official Homura's Doctor Wizard." He giggled.

"Okay! See you tomorrow, Homura-chan!" He raised a hand, and she returned his high-five after a second with the non-iv attached hand.

Tsuna was grinning as he got into the car. "How was your visit?" Nana asked him as he buckled up his seat belt.

"It was really fun!" Tsuna said. "Homura-chan is really nice."

"Homura-chan? That's the first time I've heard you say your new friend's name," Nana said happily as they pulled out of the parking lot.

"Can I tell you about her?" Tsuna asked. Nana nodded. "Homura-chan… is twelve years old, same as me, and she's in the hospital for heart problems, and…."

He talked the entire way home.

As soon as four o'clock rolled around, the time when most kids got out of school, Homura was up and awake. They had taken the IV off that morning, and she had already experienced the amazing food that the hospital served. It had been the best food she'd ever tasted, and much better than not eating at all. The large room was the same as it always was in the months she'd stayed there, but just the thought of him coming made it feel cozier and warmer despite the rain that fell outside.

Tsuna-kun showed up at this time yesterday, she thought, trying to not get too excited. I'm sure he'll show up soon-

"Hey Homura-chan!" Tsuna said, appearing in the doorway. "Are you off the IV?" His expectant smile was infectious, and she gestured to her arm.

"No more needles!" she said, nodding. Tsuna's grin was the happiest thing she'd seen all day. He sat down on her bed, hefting the bag he'd brought with.

"I brought some sushi from a place by our house," he explained, "since the hospital food isn't very good." The brunet started lifting the small bento boxes from the paper bag, setting them neatly around the blankets.

"What do you mean? It's excellent!" Homura said, watching him. Tsuna gave her a weird look. "The mochi was a little sweet," she amended, "but I thought the roast beef at lunch was really good."

"I got cold soggy cereal," Tsuna said. "And overheated rice and vegetables for lunch." He laughed. "I forgot! You're on the rich person floor. You probably get really high quality food, Homura-chan."

"Oh," said Homura. She forgot often that the rest of the hospital wasn't as quiet or perfectly clean than the high-up fourth floor. Tsuna looked down at the lunch boxes. She could tell he felt bad about bringing food when she'd already had really good meals. "I-I'm still hungry, though! Can we eat this?"

He perked up. "Okay, if you want to," the boy said. "I told Kaa-san that I'd come here after school so she packed a lot of extra food." Among the crisp white hospital bedsheets several brightly colored plastic bento boxes were arranged, and Tsuna handed her a pair of chopsticks. She observed that he was still in his school uniform; a simple white shirt with a dark blue vest overtop, his sleeves rolled up to the elbows. Taking the chopsticks, she stared down at the different dishes.

Tsuna popped the top off of one and started scarfing down the contents. "Try some," he said with a mouth full of rice. She hesitantly began to eat as well.

"It's good," Homura said. He smiled without swallowing. "Eww! Tsuna-kun, you need to swallow," she said. He did so. "You're such a boy..." she sighed.

"You're such a girl," he said, laughing at her disgusted expression. "Look, you've been sitting around in a hospital bed all day, but your hair is still perfect." His expression grew curious, and he completely missed the way Homura's cheeks went red. He thinks my hair is perfect? "Can you walk?"

Homura nodded, surprised at the question. "I sometimes walk around the bed, but only when they think my heart is working well enough to support the physical exertion."
There was a spark in his brown eyes as he met hers. "Do you… wanna walk right now? I mean, you look less pale than the last two times I've seen you… and I'll be here to catch you if you fall over." Homura thought about it. Her legs felt like they needed a stretch, and it'd be fun if she could walk around the room with Tsuna. Her doctor did mention that Homura should start trying to get regular strength back.

"Okay," she said, setting her chopsticks down on the little table by the hospital bed. She pushed back the white sheets as Tsuna stood up, careful to not knock over the little boxes of food. The brunet watched her carefully as Homura shifted her legs around to the edge of the bed and slid off. Her feet touched the (heated) floor of the hospital room as her purple cloud pajama bottoms settled. "See?" Homura said. "I can walk just fine." She demonstrated this ability by walking around the bed, the heart rate clip still attached to her finger.

Tsuna had a strange expression on his face. "I think.. maybe you should get back into bed, Homura-chan," he said. Homura peered at him. Is he… pouting?

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"It's just…" Tsuna mumbled, "I think you're taller than me when you stand up." Homura laughed at his childishness. She was a few centimeters taller than him, but she didn't mind at all.

"It's okay, Tsuna, girls are supposed to grow faster than boys when we're young," she said. Tsuna still frowned. "When is your birthday?"

"October fourteenth," he said. Next month. Tsuna felt even worse because he was older than Homura but shorter.

"You're older than me by exactly a month!" Homura replied. "That makes it easier to remember your birthday. I'll have to get you a gift soon, you'll be thirteen really soon, right?" Tsuna smiled again and nodded, forgetting about the height difference.

Suddenly, her foot caught on one of the metal feet of the bed and she went flying. Tsuna caught her as she fell heavily against him, her face squishing into his shirt. His hands wrapped around her arms, steadying her. "Th-thanks," Homura stuttered, pulling away quickly. He's the closest he's ever been, she thought. The sound of her heart rate monitor, normally background noise, seemed ten times louder as the beeps of her heartbeat sped up.

Tsuna noticed it too. "Is that thing on your finger monitoring your heart rate?" he asked, smiling, as he released the skinny girl. "It's beating really fast!"
"Y-yes," Homura said. I WONDER WHY, her brain yelled. "I'm going to take it off, though, because I can't walk very far with it on." And it's really embarrassing when you can hear my heart rate speed up when you're close. She reached for the clip on her finger.

"Wait, are you sure you should-" Tsuna started, but Homura had already pulled it off. Immediately the monitor flatlined, the volume much louder than the steady beeping from before. Both kids froze, hearing the constant drone. "P-puT IT BACK ON" yelled Tsuna as Homura fumbled with the plastic clip, yelling something indecipherable back. The door to Homura's hospital room flew open, and a doctor and two nurses ran in.

"I NeEED A CrASH CART AND tTWO MILLS OF EPINEPHRINE!" the doctor started yelling, and then caught sight of his apparently cardiac arrested patient and her friend standing in the middle of the room. "Akemi-san?!"

"S-sorry!" Homura said. "I-I just took off the clip, I didn't know that- Sorry!" She bowed deeply.

"Why did you take it off?" her doctor asked, very confused. "That's how we know that you're still alive!"

"I just wanted to walk around the room," Homura said, her face bright red.

They were both berated for the next five minutes, until the doctor seemed to remember suddenly that it was the fourth floor and Homura was a very rich patient. Still, even after they left, Homura looked very nervous and flushed. "I didn't even know there were that many nurses on this floor," she whispered. "I never see anyone all day." They both were silent.

Then the two burst into laughter. "I think you need to find a better way to get off the monitor," Tsuna giggled. He eyed the food on the bed.. "Hey, Homura-chan…. are you gonna finish that food?"

"I'll visit again," Tsuna told her after eating enough food for both of them since Homura wasn't very hungry.

He did.

Homura still hadn't figured out how to turn off the heart rate monitor so she could move around more without alerting any doctors. It had taken experiments and false alarms for the poor nurses on the floor, but she was sure she would get it soon. Homura had been correct, though, when she said there weren't a lot of people on the special rich patient floor. Tsuna and Homura could be as loud as they wanted and both the soundproof walls and the lack of other visitors made sure no one heard.

The visits continued for a month, nearly daily. On weekends Tsuna would spent most of the morning with her, and on school days he would stay until dinnertime. The previously bare walls had some decoration, such as the Tsuna's Bad Test Shrine opposite Homura's bed, and some scattered bad drawings of stick figures he had put up for fun.

"What are you doing?" Tsuna asked, looking up from the homework he had laid out on her bed. Homura crouched at the head of the bed, nearly standing on her pillow as she slowly reached for another button on the monitor.

"ShHH!" she hissed.

"Don't press that! You've already had five false alarms this week, Homura-cha-" She pressed her free hand against his mouth, shushing him again. Tsuna glared up at his friend as she ignored him and kept her hand against his lips. Homura pressed a button near the bottom, and the monitor went silent and dead. They both sat for a few seconds, scared that doctors would barge into the room with a crash cart again.

"Hey!" Homura said, whipping her hand away from Tsuna's mouth and wiping it on her pants. "You bit me!"

"Blehegggh," Tsuna spat, "your hand tastes like sanitizer! Don't shush me like that."

"You were distracting me," Homura muttered as she unclipped the cord from her finger. "See? Mission successful! No one has been alerted of my cardiac arrest." Tsuna sighed, but couldn't help smiling as Homura jumped off the bed and around the room triumphantly. "Take that, doctor!" she said as she high-kicked the air as if someone was standing there. She mimed a right hook. "Akemi Homura for the win!"

"You're going to overexert yourself," Tsuna said, but he got off the bed too and pretended like he was a cheerleader standing on the side of her wrestling match with invisible doctors. His own scar had healed completely.

The month continued. Sometimes Homura wasn't feeling as well. Tsuna could always tell because she would nap quietly while he did his homework in the chair by her bed.

It always made her smile when she woke up to see him glaring at his homework like he could set it on fire with a mere gaze. Whenever he caught her gaze, he would smile and say "hello, Homura-chan! Did you sleep well?" It was the stupid little things like this that made her love her newest and first best friend even more.

"But does the window open?" Tsuna asked, staring at the gigantic wall. He crawled across the bed, pressing his hands onto the glass.

"Ow! Tsuna-kun, you're on my legs," she told him.

"Oh. Sorry," he said, shifting around again. "I think there's a latch here." He pushed the tiny metal thing upward, and suddenly the top part of the window swung wide open. The glass was thick enough that he could lean on the bottom of the glass wall as if it was a windowsill, and there was no screen. "Whoa. It does open." A strong breeze blew through the open window, carrying with it the chill feeling of autumn and the sound of cicadas.

The two kids stared down at the beautiful landscape. They were four floors up, and far below was the large grass park that patients could walk around, with a circular driveway that came up to the front entrance of the hospital. The people below looked very small. "I didn't know it did," murmured Homura, feeling the fresh air for the first time in weeks. The air was getting colder as fall was turning into winter but it felt nice against her cheeks.

"You don't have your glasses on," Tsuna suddenly noticed. The red pair of glasses was sitting on the nightstand next to some (nearly dead) dandelions Tsuna had picked for her. "Don't you need them to see?"

Homura pulled her gaze away from the window, glancing at the glasses and coloring slightly. "Actually… not really… Most things I can see fine without them, I just need them for reading sometimes."

"Then how come you wear them?" Tsuna asked. Homura blushed, face bathed in the afternoon sunlight from the open window as she looked at Tsuna.

"...cause I get shy… and they hide my face," she muttered. Tsuna snickered.

"I think you look fine with or without them," he said, "but if it makes you less shy around me you can wear them," he winked. Homura shoved him over.

"Why should I be shy around you?!" she demanded as she mercilessly tickled the brunet. He gasped for breath, holding his hands up in defeat. She tickled his stomach one last time, then released him. "Tsuna-kun, there's no way I could be shy around you anymore," she said, looking out the window again. "You're my best friend."

Tsuna sat back up on the bed. "Same here," he grinned.

They sat watching the people outside for the rest of the afternoon.

"Kaa-san got me this book to improve my world knowledge," Tsuna said as they sat on the floor on top of extra hospital-issue pillows Tsuna had smuggled from a nearby closet. "Since Dad is from Italy."

"Italian Legends," Homura read as he handed her the book. "This looks cool." She looked at Tsuna. "I didn't know you were half Italian."

Tsuna shrugged. "I don't think Dad is entirely Italian, but yes, there's some foreign blood in me." She examined his face for the countless time, looking for signs of it.

"I guess you are a lot tanner than me," she said. There was something foreign in the tilt of his cheekbones, the high nose, and the curve of his brown eyes. Tsuna rolled his eyes.

"That's because you never go outside, Homura-chan!" Homura shot him an irritated look, and he shut up.

"Oh! That reminds me," the dark-haired girl said, shifting on the pillows with the book still in her lap. "I'm starting a different school next week! My caretaker decided to transfer me."

"You're leaving the hospital?" Tsuna said, surprised. Homura shook her head.

"No, I'll still be living here for monitoring purposes and because it's better than getting adopted, but during the day I get to take the train to school!"

Tsuna beamed at Homura. "That's really good! Your health must be nearly perfect now, if they're letting you return to school." He swung his legs around so that he was laying on his stomach in front of her. "Are you scared to start a new school?"

"I didn't have any friends at the old one, so not really," Homura said. "Maybe I'll make another friend this time."

Tsuna didn't respond. Homura looked at his face. His expression was… sad? "What's wrong?" He kept looking. Homura's cheeks felt a little warm under her friend's constant gaze.

"I'm… just trying to not be jealous," he admitted after a long second. "That I'm going to have to share my Homura-chan with other friends."

Homura pushed onto her knees and wrapped her arms around Tsuna in a sudden movement, pulling her best friend into a tight hug. "Tsuna-kun… You're my bestest friend, and no one can ever replace you," she said into his shirt as she held him tightly. Slowly his arms wrapped around her shoulder blades and he returned the hug, burying his nose into her shoulder.

"Okay," he said, after she released him. "I think the jealousy has been cured." His familiar brown eyes were very warm as they gazed at each other. "I'm really happy for you, Homura-chan." Feeling a sudden burst of affection, Homura leaned across the pillow pile again and pressed a quick kiss to Tsuna's cheek.

"Thanks, Tsuna-kun," she said. "If we went to the same school I'd talk to you every class period! I'd probably get even worse grades and get in trouble a lot." Tsuna gaped at her, his cheeks flushing bright red.

"Wh-why did you just k-kiss my cheek?" he asked.

"Because you're my best friend," Homura said, suddenly feeling awkward and flushed. She hadn't really thought about it when she had kissed him. "I just wanted to show you that I love you more than any other friend I could ever have." She hugged the book against her chest, wishing that she could hide behind it.

"Oh," said Tsuna. He leaned forward on one hand, his face getting close to Homura's. She closed her eyes on impulse. Slowly, his lips pressed against her own cheek. They were soft and warm, and it made her blush even more. He pulled away quickly, but kept his face inches from hers. "Like that?"

"Y-yeah," she said.

Tsuna settled back into the pillows. "I also love you more than any other friend ever," he said, grinning up at her as he rested his head on his hands. "Even if you're my first best friend, you're irreplaceable too!"

"Th-thanks," Homura stuttered. She fiddled with the book in her arms. "H-how about we read some of this?" she suggested, trying to quickly change the subject. The girl opened it up, flipping to a random page and story.

"Read it to me," Tsuna said, still staring at his friend and smiling. Homura obliged. Putting on her best reading voice, she began.

"Another legend of Italy is the dangerous and otherworldly underground mafia…." As he listened to her read, he started drifting off. Homura's voice was nice and comforting, he thought. The story flowed easily off of her tongue and they both were drawn away into another exciting world as she continued to read aloud. " more about the legend of the Primo's journey in Japan in Yen Publishing's Japanese Legends for only 20,000 yen- I think that's the end," she finished several minutes later. Tsuna started, wiping away the drool at the corner of his mouth.

"That was a good story," he said, sitting up off the pillows. Homura leaned against the side of the bed, setting the book down on the floor next to her. "I liked the Primo guy…. Maybe Kaa-san will buy the Japanese one so we can read more about when he married his wife in Japan…"

Homura nodded. "She sounded cool since she was strong enough to marry a powerful mafia boss," she said wistfully. "I wanna be like her when I grow up."

"I'll be like Primo, then," Tsuna said. He yanked off on of the bedsheets and tied it around his neck like a cape and puffed his cheeks with air, blowing the air out dramatically.

"Wh-what are you doing?" Homura laughed, holding her stomach as he continued this.

"Blowing fire out of my mouth! The legend said he could control fire, right?" Tsuna cupped his hands and blew directly at her. Homura held up a pillow as a defense, still giggling. Tsuna jumped around the room, sweeping his 'cape' and yelling "FIRE SPELL: SUPER HOT FLAMES" and other stupidly-named spells he made up on the spot.

"I-I don't think that's how it works," Homura gasped out, with tears in her eyes from laughing too hard. He was hilarious to watch.

"Watch out Primo's WIFE!" he said, jumping in front of Homura and pretending like there was a bad guy in front of them. He continued his ridiculous blowing. Homura jumped up too and tugged on his cape as she grabbed a pillow with her other friend.

"THIS WIFE CAN DEFEND HERSELF," she declared, and leapt up on the bed, pelting the white-sheeted 'Primo' with pillows. Tsuna kept on the ridiculous blowing, but fell to his knees when she refused to cease the pillow attack.

"My love- I am wounded," he gasped out, falling to the marble floor. Homura jumped off the bed, pretending to fuss over him as he breathed his last. She pulled his head onto her lap, brushing back his bangs. "G-goodbye, babe." Homura bit her lip to stop from laughing again at the ridiculous pet name. Tsuna stuck his tongue out and closed his eyes, apparently dead.

Homura couldn't hold in the giggles, and she burst into laughter as she cradled his head in her lap, her hair falling out of its braids and around his face as she bent over nearly crying. "B-BABE?! That legend happened hundreds of years ago! There's no way Primo called his wife thAT!" Tsuna's brown eyes popped open again, and he grinned up at her, still lying on the floor.

"It was the first thing I could think of," Tsuna giggled, staring up into his best friend's face. Homura tugged on his ears, which only succeeded to make both of them laugh more.

Once they had gotten it under control, the dark haired girl looked thoughtfully down at Tsuna's face. "Your birthday is tomorrow, right?" Tsuna blinked, surprised.

"Yes," he said.

"Can you still come over after school for a little bit? I have a gift for you," she said. "Kind of." The brunet's face split into a wide grin.

"Yes! Kaa-san already said I can still hang out with you tomorrow, just as long as I'm home in time for dinner." Tsuna pulled on one of Homura's braids in response to her playing with his ears. "I'll have a mini party with you! We'll celebrate your going back to school at the same time."

"Yes," Homura smiled. For a few seconds, the two stared into each other's eyes. Hey, Tsuna thought, Homura-chan's eyes… are a really pretty shade of purple.

Tsuna's cell phone rang, and they both jumped, startled from their game of checkers. He held it up to his ear. "Kaa-san? Oh, you're here? I'll be right down." Homura could hear Tsuna's mom's crackly voice through the phone's speaker. "See you soon, Tsu-kun!" When he closed the phone, she was still looking at him. "What is it?" he asked.

She started cleaning up the game. "Tsu-kun. That's a cute nickname." Tsuna flushed at being called that by her. "Can I call you that?"

"O-only for special occasions," Tsuna stuttered. He didn't actually mind his friend calling him that, but the name was embarrassing around other people.

"Okay, Tsu-kun," Homura said, grinning at him. Tsuna swallowed hard. For some reason, when she said his name like that she looked even cuter than usual.

"T-today is not a special occasion!"

Homura had arranged so that her lunch would come a little bit later, and that it would be a special lunch. Since shopping wasn't an option, she couldn't buy Tsuna anything for his birthday (order something, maybe, but that didn't feel right) so Homura had asked that she could have steak and chocolate cake be brought. A nurse had dropped it off a few minutes ago, and the girl had done her best to arrange it nicely. There was a smile on her face that wouldn't go away. It's Tsuna's birthday! She was excited.

Homura sat down on the bed, swinging her legs, trying to distract herself until her friend came. Her heart monitor was, as usual, hanging useless from the monitor. The electric clock on the nightstand showed he was a few minutes late than the time he normally came. A frown tugged at her lips. Tsuna… Where are you-

Her happy sky appeared in the doorway. "Hey Homura-chan!" the brunet waved, carrying a large bag. "Sorry I'm late, I had to stop at home and get some stuff for our going-back-to-school party!"

"It's supposed to be for your birthday," Homura muttered. Tsuna caught sight of the food trays set out on the bed.

"Whoa!" he said, eyes glazing over as he looked. "Is that…"

"Happy birthday, Tsuna-kun!" Tsuna looked back to her, pulling his gaze away from the food. The excited smile on his face made her relax. "I.. didn't know what to get you but I know your favorite food is steak and because this floor is for rich people it has really good steak.." He grabbed her around and hugged her, spinning the skinny girl around in a happy dance. Even though she was a few centimeters taller, he still lifted the girl off her feet.

"I love it, Homura-chan!" Tsuna leaned close and pressed a light kiss to her nose in a casual gesture of affection. "Can we eat now?"

Homura's cheeks were warm, and she could feel a tingling pressure where he had kissed her.

"O-okay," she said, and Tsuna immediately set her down and sat on the bed, careful not to knock the the trays. He patiently waited for Homura to sit down on the mattress across from him, and then started scarfing down the steak.

"Holy buckets," Tsuna said with a mouth full of food. "Level four hospital food is amazing!" Homura rolled her eyes, but took a bite off the plate. The food was good, but she had been raised on rich-person food, so it wasn't that big of a deal.

"Wait-is your mom making dinner?" Homura asked, suddenly concerned. She had never met Sawada Nana, but Tsuna's mother seemed very nice, and she didn't want to offend the woman. Tsuna swallowed a mouthful of food.

"She is, but we usually eat pretty late, so I'm sure I'll be able to eat that too." He winked at her. "Worried I'll get fat and ugly?"

"No," Homura muttered. They kept on eating.

"Oh! I forgot." Tsuna hopped off the bed and went over the bag he had dropped by the closed door. He pulled out a small stereo and a CD case. "I brought music because this is a party, even if there's only two people." He plugged it into an outlet by the (turned-off and unused) heart monitor.

"Is that.. Italian?" Homura asked. It was some man singing in another language, but was pretty and comforting.

"I think so. My old man has a bunch of Italian CDs laying around." Tsuna, apparently satisfied with the volume (the walls the soundproof) returned to the bed and the food.

They chatted about anything and everything. The two kids were happy just to be in each other's presence, and Homura looked healthier than she'd ever been. Tsuna talked about how his father was never home but he didn't mind because he had Homura and Kaa-san, and Homura confessed that she wished she could meet her deceased parents just once.

The window was partly open, but not all the way. The weather had been cooling down quickly in the past days, and Tsuna wore a sweatshirt over his school uniform. Homura was warm in the heated hospital room, and Tsuna's presence always made her feel warmer too. He set down his fork, sliding out of the bed and looking at her. "Are you finished eating?" He held out his hand to her, as a new song started playing.

"Huh?" said Homura, confused. She took his hand and he pulled her off the bed. "What is it?"

"Dance with me," Tsuna said. He laughed, a little embarrassed. "I just.. feel like dancing. So dance with me, Homura-chan."

"I-I don't know how," Homura stuttered as he placed a gentle hand around her waist. "Tsuna, I don't think-"

"It's my birthday. Pleeease?" He pushed slightly on the hand around her waist, turning her with him as he stepped to the pretty Italian music. Homura nodded, trying to fight a blush. She placed her other hand on his shoulder and glanced into his eyes since they were nearly at the same height. They were warm and brown and looking directly at her.

"I think this is probably my favorite birthday yet," Tsuna said. "Here, I'll try spinning you." She held onto his hand tightly as he raised their arms above her hand and spun her gently. She couldn't help but to laugh as he spun too, the two of them twirling around the room. They kept stepping on each other's feet, but didn't mind.

"You're not very good," Homura giggled, "but that's okay."

"If we practice a lot I'll get better," Tsuna said. "When I get taller than you it'll be easier too." Homura nodded.

"This is good music, even if I don't know what the singer is saying," she said as Tsuna intertwined their hands.

"No it's okay I know what they're singing," Tsuna said in a mock serious voice. He cleared his throat and sang in a purpose-off-tone voice, "HOMURAA IS THE PRETTIEST anD beSTEST FRIENNNDD EVVERRR" Homura let go of his hands as he pretended he was holding a microphone. "I LOOOVVE YOU HOMURRRAAA"!" he finished with a loud breath. "That's what they're singing, if my translation is correct."

"That's what I thought," Homura laughed. The song was quieting down as it finished, and the two kids looked at each other. "Tsu-kun.." Homura said, "happy birthday. I love you."

He blushed at the nickname coming from Homura, but smiled back at her. "Thank you, Homura-chan," he said, reaching out for her hand and holding it tightly. "I love you too. Thank you for being here."

(a brief glimpse seven years into the future)

They all sat around the table eating breakfast. It was a summer day in Italy, and the radio was on giving the everyday Italian news. Most of the guardians didn't care about the civilian news, but because of a certain cloud guardian's Italian language skills being weak, Tsuna often left it on as background noise. The nineteen-year-old mafia boss was already dressed for the day in his normal suit. Gokudera, Chrome, and Hibari were also cleanly ready for the day, but Lambo, Ryohei and Yamamoto were all in their pjs. Tsuna considered it a successful day if half of his guardians were dressed before noon, so they had achieved that goal.

Reborn, in his adult form, was reading a newspaper from another country. That wasn't out of the ordinary. Since getting his normal body back after the curse was broken, he was often gone on long trips and vacations to random places.

The brunet continued eating as Chrome and Yamamoto made light conversation, Gokudera interjecting every few minutes. They were discussing new and upcoming mafia famiglias, and their strengths. Tsuna sighed. He was pretty sure they had already decided out alliances for him. Ryohei's standards for alliances involved fighting every other famiglia to test their 'worthiness.' It wasn't the best system.

A song came on the radio. It was an old Italian one, the kind that Nono or Iemitsu would have listened to, with light-hearted instrumentals and a male singer singing about his love. It blended into the background noise of the conversations. None of the guardians noticed.

Tsuna, however, was frozen. The bite of food he'd been about to take lowered back to the table with his shaking hand. HIs brown eyes stared at nothing, remembering as the familiar song played. He felt like he was choking on air, like the world was crushing him as the notes innocently sounded.

"Juudaime?" Gokudera asked suddenly. Tsuna numbly looked up from the table where his hands were clenched into fists. "Is something wrong? Do you not like that famiglia?" The famiglia that he and Chrome and Yamamoto had been discussing. Gokudera's voice drifted off as he saw the tears in his friend's eyes. The other guardians had fallen silent, and Reborn's dark gaze peered at Tsuna from over the newspaper he held.

Tsuna stood up. The song was still playing. He set down the fork he had been holding and walked over the radio. With one swift movement of Tsuna's hand, the radio fell, crushed, into the garbage by the stand it had been on.

"I'll be in my office."

The other Vongola were left sitting in the large dining room, utterly confused and a little shocked. "Juudaime's allergies... must be bad," Gokudera said quietly. "Because his eyes looked like they were full of tears."

(a brief glimpse eight years into the future)

At twenty years old, Homura was both beautiful and deadly. The Magica famiglia was still forming and no one had heard of them yet, but she was strong enough to take on anyone that endangered their kind boss Madoka. "Homura, come eat!" Madoka said. They were all living in a small apartment in Japan, preparing for the move to Italy in a few months.

Homura didn't look up from where she sat in one of the chairs in the living room, cleaning out one of her many guns. "No thanks, Madoka. Go ahead and eat lunch without me."

Madoka looked at her friend from the kitchen table, worried. Mami and Kyoko also knew something was up with the dark-haired woman. Homura was the coldest personality-wise of all of them, but that day she had been even colder than usual.

Madoka, however, had known her the longest. This seemed to happen on the same day every year. "Are you missing that person again?"

Homura's shoulders stiffened, but she forced herself to relax and continue wiping out the barrel. "No."

Her pink haired friend nodded, accepting Homura's answer if she knew it was a lie. "Alright. Please don't go too long without eating, Homura-chan."

The dark-haired girl closed her eyes for a brief moment. She tried to push away memories of a brunet 's happy smile and spinning her around and a sunlit hospital room-

"Happy birthday, Tsuna-kun," she whispered to no one.


Homura was more nervous than she'd ever been as she stood in front of the class. "This is Akemi Homura," the teacher introduced, and handed her a pen to write the spelling of her name on the board. With a shaking hand, Homura did the best she could.

A girl in the class smiled kindly at her, and the gesture helped Homura to relax a little. The smile had the same kindness Tsuna's did, just less concentrated as her friend. Homura tried to not play with her glasses as the teacher continued talking. She was led to an empty seat by the nice pink-haired girl. "I'm Madoka," the girl whispered to Homura. "I like your hair, it's very pretty." Homura smiled hesitantly back.

At lunchtime, Madoka came over and talked to Homura more. Homura was introduced to Sayaka as well.

These girls are really nice! Maybe I'll make even more friends.

Homura told Tsuna all about them, and he didn't mind at all. He was happy that Homura's new school experience hadn't been negative at all, even if both of them had no idea how to the homework. "It's like another language," breathed a horrified Tsuna when Homura showed him the page of homework she'd been assigned.

"Will you continue to stay here, at the hospital?" Tsuna asked her later.

"Yes, until my caretaker finds a better place. As long as we keep paying, the hospital doesn't care whether I'm actually sick." Homura leaned back, sighing dramatically. "It's nice to be rich."

Tsuna threw a pillow at her.

One afternoon, after riding his bike all the way to the hospital, an already-exhausted Tsuna passed out horizontally on her bed and fell asleep. He was on top of her legs, but Homura stayed still for a few minutes, finding it hilarious that her friend could fall asleep that fast. He was on his stomach and the tips of his sneakers hung off the wide hospital bed. He's drooling, Homura noticed. It didn't surprise her. When her toes started going numb from the weight of his torso across her legs, she slowly wiggled them out from beneath him, trying to not wake up the brunet. He slept on.

Tsuna-kun's a deep sleeper, she thought. His sleeping face is actually pretty cute. She crouched on the bed, looking down at him. His eyelashes are nice and dark too. Reaching out a finger, Homura poked his nose. Tsuna snorted in his sleep, and she bit her lip to keep from giggling.

Slowly, she brushed her hand down the side of his face, heart beating faster. His hair was soft to the touch, and she pushed it away from his forehead, fingertips caressing his eyelashes with the lightest of touches. "For being just a best friend," she whispered, "I think I love you a little too much." She bent down and pressed a light kiss to his forehead, then immediately blushed even though he was fast asleep. What am I doing?! her inner voice screamed at her.

She sat on her pillow, keeping an appropriate distance between herself and Tsuna. No kissing, she told herself. It's creepy if he's asleep.

Slowly, the little girl nodded off as well, her glasses falling off her face.

Tsuna woke up from his exhausted nap and realized where he'd fallen asleep.

Homura was curled on her side at the head of the bed, on top of the pillows. Tsuna hoped she wouldn't notice that he'd drooled on the sheets as he pushed himself up, rubbing his eyes. Her glasses were askew on her face. Reaching out, he gently pulled them off of her and set them on the small table next to the bed.

She doesn't look very comfortable, Tsuna noted. She wasn't even in the bed the right way, and the pillows were uneven beneath her. Without a second thought, he knelt on the bed and wrapped his arms around his frail best friend's waist, lifting her slightly so that he could set her back down in the bed the right way. She mumbled something but fell silent again as her shoulders rested against the soft sheets. "There we go," Tsuna murmured, releasing her. She relaxed into her pillows. Tucking the blankets around her, Tsuna smiled down at the girl.

"Hey, Homura's heart," he whispered. "Keep beating strong, okay? I'd like to be with her forever…. so please don't stop keeping her alive." There was no response but the quiet blips of the monitor next to the bed. Tsuna pressed a kiss to Homura's forehead and left the room with one last glance back at her as she slept.

"Homura-chan sounds very nice, Tsu-kun," Nana said to her son as they cleaned up the small dinner the two of them usually had every night. She winked at the boy. "Maybe you'll marry her when you grow up." She was teasing him, and expected the thirteen-year-old teenage boy to respond accordingly with blushing and loud protests and "girls haVE cOOtIEs." Instead, Tsuna kept on drying the dishes.

"Of course I will," he said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the entire world. "She's my bestest friend."

Nana burst into laughter at his serious answer. Tsuna is very grown up, she thought. It was adorable. She'd have to call Iemitsu later and inform the man that his son already had a prospective fiance in mind. "That's fine with me," she said. "Just wait until you're older, okay?"

"Okay, Kaa-san."


"Are you okay, Homura-chan?!" Madoka said, offering the girl a hand. Homura stared up at the pink-haired girl, taking in the image of the strange dress, weapon, and surroundings.

"M-Madoka-san?" She was very scared and confused. Around them, the surroundings pulsed and moved with a creepy rhythm and darkness.

"You're going to be fine now. Stay behind us."


"Tsuna-kun?" Homura asked, laying on her back on the bed, the opposite direction of Tsuna who had his socked feet on her pillow. "Do you think… that magic is real?"

The question seemed out of the blue, but Tsuna had known Homura was thinking deeply about something. He flipped around so that both their heads were next to each other and stared into her eyes. It was November, and frost had started creeping up the edges of the window-wall. The room was warm, though, and there were several extra blankets tucked around the two. Tsuna was working on math homework.

"What's going on, Homura-chan?"

"My friends at school…. Madoka-chan, Sayaka-chan, they have powers," she whispered. "They can do amazing and strong things that normal people can't do." Tsuna was silent. "It's not in my imagination, I've seen them fight these monsters like it was nothing, and it's all real."

"Are you asking if I believe you?" Tsuna said, flicking his finger against her cheek. Homura bit her lip, shrugging. "I believe you, Homura, both because you're my best friend and I trust you, and… " he shrugged too, "magic doesn't seem that far-fetched. There's a lot of stuff we don't know."

Homura nodded. She reached for his hand, playing with his graphite-stained fingers absently as she spoke. "I just.. I'm so weak. I can't run very fast or protect anyone like they do, and I wish I could."

"How do they get their powers? Were they born with them?" Tsuna murmured, his eyelids low as he looked at her.

"No… Madoka-chan said it was a contract they made."

"That seems dangerous." Homura closed her eyes, dropping their hands to the bed. Her eyelids felt heavy, and instead of responding, she gave into the sleepiness.

"I think it is," she whispered, then fell asleep. Tsuna looked down at her, a worried crease in between his eyes.

"I think you're strong already," he said, running his hand through a strand of her hair. "I think you're very strong." He wondered more about the 'magic' that she spoke up, and still wasn't sure what to think. However, Tsuna had meant what he said and he believed her unconditionally.

Please don't drift away.

She didn't bring up the magic powers again, and seemed happier the next day. Tsuna wanted to make sure Homura was completely cheered up.

"Your birthday's tomorrow!" he announced one day over an afternoon game of tic-tac-to.

Homura nodded happily. "We'll be the same age again."

"Are you feeling good?" Tsuna asked, examining her face. She was very different from the pale girl he'd first met, laying in the hospital bed with the IV. "No heart pain in a while?"

"Yes, everything's been fine," Homura said. "I'm glad the doctor rarely visits and leaves us alone because she'd know that I'm not sick at all anymore." She drew another x, beating Tsuna. "Even though I was born with a weak heart, it's working just fine."

"Good," said Tsuna. She caught the excited edge in his tone and looked uup at him.

"What are you planning?" Tsuna zipped up his sweatshirt, ready to go home after the long afternoon with her.

"You'll see," he grinned at her. "See you tomorrow, Homura-chan!"

Once he was gone, Homura looked down at her hands, the smile slipping from her face. She had been feeling amazing the past month, it was true, but she knew the heart problem wasn't gone. She could feel it in her chest. That was one of the reasons Homura hadn't asked her caretaker to be moved from the hospital.

I'm so weak, she thought. I don't want.. to be like this… unable to even leave a stupid hospital room.

She had learned more about Madoka and the Contract. What it would involve her in, though, was also something she didn't want. Witches were the scariest thing she'd ever seen, and if Tsuna ever got entangled with one because of her…

She pressed a shaking hand to her heart.

I wouldn't be able to protect him as I am.

If one of those witches ever got close to him...

It was Homura's birthday, and Tsuna was determined to make it the best day of her life. Nana was having a sleepover at another friend's house and so he said he'd ride his bike to the hospital, which was all part of the plan. He quickly went home and changed out of his uniform and packed a backpack full of the stuff he'd need. Grabbing a thermos, he turned on the stove and heated up water for hot chocolate while grabbing the rest of the things required for what he wanted to do.

Ten minutes later, the thirteen-year-old was on his bike pedaling quickly down the sidewalks. It was cold outside and he had a hat and scarf wrapped tightly around his neck. Luckily, there was only frost and no snow on the ground, perfect for his birthday plans.

As usual, the fourth-floor hallway was empty and silent. Tsuna burst into Homura's room with the backpack. She was sitting on the bed, and whipped around her head, surprised at his quick entrance. He chucked a scarf at the dark-haired girl. She was already dressed in normal clothes; jeans and a blouse. Tsuna looked around for her sneakers, and after finding them in a drawer, threw those at her too.

"Put this on," he said, pulling more warm outdoor window clothes out of the backpack. Homura caught the dark grey scarf, looking down at it, confused and surprised. Giving an irritated sigh, Tsuna walked over to her and pulled the coat over her head, zipping it up and making sure most extremities were covered up. He pulled the hat on top of her head until it covered up her eyes. Flipping the flap up so he could see her pretty violet eyes, he smiled. "We're going out for your birthday."

"Wh-what?" said Homura. In response, Tsuna tied the scarf tightly around her so that it covered half her face.

"I'm sneaking you out of here for the afternoon. It's pretty cold outside, so make sure you're all covered." he reached for her hands and gently slipped gloves over her thin fingers, brushing his thumbs over her palms in a swift gesture before letting her go. He still had on all his own outdoor clothes.

Tsuna grabbed the bag again. He reached for Homura's hand, and pulled her out the door and down the hallway. "Is it okay if we take the stairs?" he asked her. She nodded, the only thing visible of her face her eyes peering at him from underneath the large wool hat. He giggled at the sight, pulling her on.

It was chilly outside, but she couldn't feel the cold due to the warm clothes Tsuna had brought. No one had stopped them or even questioned the two as they went out a side entrance to where cold metal bike racks were. Tsuna released her hand and hung the bag on the handlebars of his bike.

"You're gonna have to hold onto me, but it's a really short ride, I promise." After a seconds pause, Homura nodded and climbed onto the bike, putting her feet on the footholds sticking out of the back wheels. She wrapped her arms around Tsuna. "All good?" he asked.

"Yes," she mumbled through the scarf. Tsuna kicked off and pedaled as fast as he could.

It was very strange being outside. People were everywhere, and the boy weaved in and out of them as they continued down the street. The cold wind stung her eyes and made them water. She… didn't mind. Homura liked the sensations the cold brought. Besides, Tsuna blocked her from most of the wind. She tightened her arms around his torso, leaning her head against him.

They flew down the streets and alleyways. The city of Nanimori flashed by quickly, but Homura's violet eyes captured every split second of the ride, drinking in the sights and sounds that she had been denied of for so long. The street they were on grew thinner until they were on a simple sidewalk surrounded by dormant grass and trees. Tsuna finally slowed as they arrived. It was a large, nearly-empty grass park with little benches scattered everywhere, and leafless trees blowing quietly in the November wind. Homura let of him and stepped off the bike. "You ride fast," she said, pushing the scarf down so she could speak clearly.

"I didn't want the hot chocolate to get cold," he explained, his cheeks flushed and his breath heavy. Leaning his bike against a tree, the brunet grabbed the bag and then her hand.

"Hot chocolate?" Homura was led over to a bench underneath a tree. Because of the time of year, most everything was in dormancy, including the plants and people who used the park. She couldn't see anyone else in the small hills and sidewalks of the place.

They both sat down. "Yep. Since you gave me food for my birthday, I tried my best to cook something for you!" Tsuna pulled off his gloves and unzipped the bag, revealing a thermos and two mugs. Sticking a finger into the thermos, he yanked it out quickly. "Ouch! Still hot."

Homura accepted the cup he handed her. She took a small sip, feeling the hot liquid nearly burn her tongue. "It's very chocolatey," she smiled. "I like it."

"Happy thirteenth birthday, Homura-chan." Tsuna's fluffy brown hair stuck out a little bit from underneath his orange hat, but he still looked like the most perfect thing in the world as he grinned at her.

Tears filled Homura's eyes. Instantly, Tsuna's smile was gone. "What-What's wrong?! Is the hot chocolate bad? Do you need to go back to the hospital?!" She sniffled, wiping them away with the back of her hand.

"N-no, everything's perfect," she said. Everything was perfect at that moment. The surroundings, the pale blue-grey sky, the beautiful frozen earth around them- everything but her heart. She set down her hot chocolate and wrapped her arms around Tsuna, forcing the tears down. "I'm just really happy with you, Tsuna."

Tsuna put his drink down too and hugged her back. "But why are you crying?" he whispered into her ear.

"No reason," she whispered back. "It's… good to be alive."

She finally released the boy, and they finished their hot chocolate. The tears were gone, and Tsuna relaxed more when he saw her smile. They talked about school, and life more. Two small people, huddled together in a wintry park, laughing about their similar lives. "Sometimes I forget we're only thirteen," Tsuna said. "Everything seems so real and scary right now, but in a few years, we'll probably laugh together about it."

Homura nodded. The hot chocolate was nearly gone, only a small chocolate ring remained in the bottom of her mug. She didn't want to let the moment go or to return the hospital just yet. She looked at Tsuna's face again. His nose and and cheeks were rosy with the cold, but his eyes were a lovely warm brown as he gazed back. There was silence as the two friends stared at each other. I really do love Tsuna, Homura realized. She leaned in close to him. "Hold still," she said, concentrating. Tsuna stared into her eyes as the dark haired girl lightly brushed her lips against his cheek. Tsuna's entire face went bright red even though she had kissed him on the cheek before.

"Wh-what was that for?!" He reached up and felt his lips.

"I just wanted to say thanks! I'm not going to do it again or anything!" Homura pulled up her scarf over her face so that only her eyes poked out, hiding her red face.

"How come you're so red?" Tsuna said, his fingers still on his cheek, ignoring the fact that he was bright red too. His words only made the girl blush more.

"C-cause I was gonna kiss you on the lips but decided we're too young."

Tsuna choked. "R-really?!" he said. Homura refused to pull down the scarf, not able to believe that she herself had just spoken the words. "Hey, Homura-chan," her friend murmured. "When we get older, I'll kiss you on the lips then."

"N-no, just forget about it" she muttered, embarrassed out of her mind. Tsuna ran his hand through her hair

"Your braids came out when we were riding down here," he said. "Sorry about that. I guess I did ride really fast." Her long hair fell across her back, tangled in the layers of the scarf wrapped around her neck. "Your hair is really pretty, Homura-chan! You should wear it down more often like this." The compliment made Homura smile underneath her scarf.

They sat more. It was about six in the evening, and Tsuna knew he needed to get his friend back to her hospital room soon. "Ready to head back?" he asked her. She nodded, setting her empty mug back into the bag. Reality was slowing coming back to her, and it was hard to push away all the thoughts she had about the future and the contract and Madoka and leaving Tsuna and "Come on, Homura-chan."

Unlike the ride to the park, on the ride back Homura kept her eyes shut. She leaned against Tsuna even more tightly, focusing on him instead of the surroundings. He was the one thing she would miss the most. She buried her nose into his coat, breathing in the scent of her best friend. Tsu-kun… I love you so much…. The girl's tears were carried away by the wind, so that Tsuna wouldn't tell she had been crying more.

You're the one thing I don't want to let go of.

(a year in the future)

At six in the morning, Tsuna stepped down the stairs to where Nana was already up, preparing breakfast. She looked at him, then held out her arms to the fourteen-year-old without speaking. Tsuna hugged his mother tightly. "Can I.. stay home today?" he whispered. It was just the two of them in the kitchen, all the rest of the busy Sawada household still slept.

"Yes," Nana murmured into her son's hair. "That's just fine."

"Okay," Tsuna whispered, his words muffled by her apron. He didn't let go for a few minutes, but Nana didn't mind. When he finally pulled away, his brown eyes were wet with tears. "I just.. miss her… so much." Nana smiled sadly at him, running her hand through his hair comfortingly

"I know, Tsu-kun. I know."

When Yamamoto and Gokudera arrived an hour later, Nana informed them that Tsuna was taking the day off of school for personal reasons. "How come?" Gokudera said, looking at Yamamoto to see if the baseball freak knew why. "Did Reborn train him too hard last night?" Nana shook her head and kept smiling, wiping her hands on her apron. They could see something sad about her demeanor, though.

"Today is a hard day for him. But he'll excited to see you tomorrow." The door shut, and Gokudera and Yamamoto were left wondering.

"What's so special about November 14th?" Gokudera questioned.


No one had noticed the entire time they were go, and no one checked in to make sure Tsuna was gone by the end of visiting hours. He had never stayed past seven because of Nana, but since his mother was staying at a friend's house, he hung out with Homura even longer to celebrate her birthday. A nurse had set dinner outside her door, and even though it was lukewarm, the two kids enjoyed the bread and soup together inside the room. The window stayed shut. The outside at night was far too cold for them.

Once the tray of food had been eaten, Homura and Tsuna sat the bed, continuing their conversations. The topic ranged from Tsuna's deadbeat dad to the legend of Primo to where Homura's clothes came from. Homura didn't bring up her magical friends, and Tsuna didn't ask. He only wondered.

Tsuna also made her wear the heartbeat monitor when they were just sitting around. "If a doctor walks in and you're not wearing it I don't wanna get in trouble," he had told her countless times. She obliged.

She seems happy and herself, he thought, but still distant. There's a part of her I can't reach anymore. The thought made him sad. "Here, turn around," he said. "I'll try braiding your hair." Homura sat in between his legs as the brunet stared down the dark locks.

"Tsuna-kun, do you even know how?" she said, giggling as he started twisting the strands.

"Well, n-no, but I can figure it out, it doesn't look that hard…" He let the twisted braid go and it unwound in his fingers. Brushing his hands through her hair, he tried again. "How do you do this everyday?"

She shrugged, looking at a spot on the wall, feeling the slight tugs and pulls on her hair as her friend kept trying to braid it. "Girls like doing hair. It gives me something to do." She giggled as he frustratedly piled up her hair on top of her head, then released it. Her hair fell messily around her face, and Homura turned around, giving Tsuna a look. "What do you call this hairstyle?"

"Beautiful," he said, laughing as she frustratedly tried to smooth it down, her headband falling off. "What?! Do you not like it?!"

"It's perfect," she laughed too, then yawned. She fell to one side purposely, swinging her legs around so that she could comfortably lay down. "I'm pretty sure visiting hours are over, it's pitch black outside." Tsuna had barely noticed the fading sunlight.

He lay down beside her. "They are." The brunet yawned as well, wiping a sleepy tear from one eye. "Man, Homura, you have really fancy pillows. I never even… noticed…"

"Yeah…." Homura said, watching him drift off. "Watch this," she said, and clapped her hands. The overhead lights in the hospital room flicked off. The only light came from streetlights far below them through the window, and the flickering light of her monitor.

"Wooowww," Tsuna said. "I've known you for months and you've never shown me that…. you were holding out on me…"

They both fell asleep. Two small bodies curled up in the large hospital bed, facing each other, fingers just brushing. For a few hours, their world was at peace.

Tsuna woke up from an incoherent dream, having no idea where he was. He quickly regained his sense of bearing. I'm with Homura, he thought sleepily. Still at the hospital.

It was pitch black outside and as he focused more, he realized his face was buried in Homura's shirt. His head was tucked underneath her chin, with one arm underneath her, the other wrapped around her like a teddy bear. For a small moment, instead of pulling away, Tsuna pressed his face further against her, breathing in the smell and warmth of his best friend. His forehead fit nicely in between her shoulder and the soft feel of her shirt collar brushed against his nose. Even though his arm was numb he still pulled her tight to him.

"Tsuna-kun?" Homura murmured sleepily. Tsuna's brown eyes flicked open in surprise. He blushed against her shirt, releasing her. In the darkness, he could see her violet eyes were open and looking at him. "Did you have a bad dream?"

"N-no," he said quietly. He slipped his arm from underneath her, releasing the slight girl. He was about to make up some excuse, but then caught side of the view from the window. "Whoa." Sitting up, Tsuna pressed his nose against the cold glass. "Homura-chan, look! It's snowing!"

Four floors up, the view of the falling flakes in the darkness was bright and amazing. They reflected the yellow and white street lights from below as they fell silently from cold, dark clouds. Homura sat up next to him, staring openly. "Wow," she whispered. "They look so pretty." The girl reached for the freezing latch and opened the window wide, letting in all the snow and the cold into the room around them. The freezing flakes brushed her nose and eyelashes. The burn of the cold against her fingers on the windowsill helped Homura focus on the moment, to take in every second Tsuna-kun was next to her.

They sat with the blankets wrapped around their ankles, watching the snow blow into the room around them. Tsuna glanced at the clock, which read 3:24am. "It's a belated birthday gift from nature."

Homura smiled softly. "Thank you," she told the sky and the melting snowflakes around her. She leaned against Tsuna's shoulder, still watching the night sky. Tsuna closed his eyes and rested his head on hers, their fingertips brushing. Once he heard Homura's breathing slow again, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and lowered her back to the pillows with the utmost gentleness, closing the window. Then the brunet slumped to the pillows too, fast asleep.

The pain in her chest was enough to startle her awake. It kept coming and going, throbbing with a slow heartbeat. Homura reached for her monitor in the morning light, making sure the clip was still on her finger. She was careful not to wake Tsuna, who was curled at her side, but his eyes slid open. "G-good morning," she murmured. Her heart throbbed again. Tsuna sat up, smiling softly at her.

"It's nearly eight o'clock," he said, yawning. "We slept in. Lucky it's a weekend." The pain was growing worse. Homura could barely force a smile.

My time… is up.

The white shadow of the contractor flicked at the corners of her vision, but when she looked at that corner of the room, he disappeared. "Hey, Tsuna," Homura said, rubbing her eyes and sitting up too. "Can you go get us some food? Breakfast?"

"I thought you just ask the nurse," Tsuna said.

Homura nodded. "Can you go find her now, though? I'm really-" her chest started to squeeze up again-"hungry." Tsuna stared at her for a long minute, then smiled and nodded.

"Sure, Homura-chan! Be back in a few minutes." He reached over and gave her an unexpected hug, then hopped numbly off the bed and slipped on his sneakers. He still wore the jeans and sweatshirt he'd fallen asleep in.

No. Please don't come back. Don't make letting you go more painful than it has to be.

As soon as the back of her friend disappeared out the wide door, Homura gasped out loud. Something was very, very wrong with her heart. She could barely breathe. Her vision swam and a new beeping noise started distantly, but her ears felt like they were filled with cotton.

One clear thing in her vision made her stomach drop. As she bent over in pain on the bed, she could see a blurry figure standing in the doorway.

Tsuna hadn't left.

"Homura-chan!" he cried, his words muffled.

"Ts-Tsuna, l-leave," she gasped out. "G-go-" She couldn't see his expression very clearly, but her words only made him slow as he ran for her.

Homura fell back on the bed and rolled onto her side in pain, trying not to cry out loud. Tsuna ….. Why are you here? I didn't want you… to see this.. To have this be the last thing you see of me… His hands gripped her arms and he kept calling her name desperately. Everything was fuzzy.

She looked up at him. For one, infinite but microsecond of time her eyes focused on his. Brown eyes set into a pale face, staring into hers with uncontrollable fear. "Tsu-kun," she breathed in pain, but then the sound of the heart rate monitor


and everything went black

Tsuna was forcefully pulled away from Homura and out of the room. He kept screaming and crying incoherently, not able to look anywhere but at Homura. Homura-chan. Laying on the bed not moving. The awful, terrible, constant noise of the monitor, above the calls of the doctors and nurses.

The last thing he saw of her before he was wrenched out of the room by someone was an oxygen mask placed over her mouth and paddles hovering over her skin.

Everything after that was very numb.

He quietly whispered Nana's number for a nurse to call her to come pick Tsuna up.

He didn't leave the hospital even after she arrived.

Sitting with Kaa-san (for an hour), not saying a word, not looking at anything in particular.

The doctor bending down in front of him. Tsuna hearing his own voice ask if Homura was okay again, but not really recognizing it as his own.

The doctor's own face looking scared and sad why was she scared why was she confused as she told him that we got her stabilized but then something happened and then tsuna heard the final three words and nothing was ever the same and broke and his heart broke because




(about an hour before Tsuna was given the news)

Homura awoke, barely conscious. She registered that there was a mask on her face and her chest ached. Her doctor was talking to another nurse. Her entire body hurt too, but the pain in her heart was the only thing she could focus on.

"...stable for now. She'll need constant surveillance, I don't know if she'll be able to make it through another attack like that…"

Homura tried to lift a hand but found that it was too weak. Tsuna-kun… isn't here…good…. The thing she needed, however, was. Kyubey's tail swished as he perched on the edge of her bed. The doctor had left the room, and the nurse murmured something about grabbing another swab. For a few seconds, they were alone.

His glassy eyes didn't look away from Homura. Waiting. "Contract," Homura whispered from behind the oxygen mask covering the lower part of her face. The tail swished back and forth again.

"Your wish?"

"To.. be able to protect the world from… witches so…..Tsuna.. Can live in peace…." She couldn't fight the tears that trickled from the corners of her eyes even as she tried to be determined in letting everything go. With this contract, there was no returning. No ever seeing Tsuna again. To protect him, he couldn't know or see anything related to those dark monsters she had witnessed.

Kyubey's expression didn't change. "Your wish has been granted."

Around her the world filled with light.

Goodbye, Tsu-kun.

The nurse returned seconds later to find the hospital bed empty.

The one Sawada herbivore rarely missed school, Hibari noticed, but he'd been gone that entire week.

"Iemitsu," Nana breathed into the phone. She didn't know what to say. "You really can't take time off work and come home? Just for a few days? Tsun-kun… he really needs his father right now."

"No, Nana, I told you… I can't...What's wrong with the tunafish?"

Nana closed her eyes, the haunting sound of Tsuna's heart wrenching sobs as she'd driven him home from the hospital still in her ears. As a mother, that sound hurt her more than any physical pain could. "His heart.. It's been broken," she murmured.

"Awww, did Tsunayoshi get rejected by a girl? He'll get over it pretty soon, he's young…"

"No, I don't think he will," Nana whispered.

"What was that? Nana, honey, speak up, the connection's weak…"

"Why aren't you going back to the hospital, Homura-chan?" Madoka asked.

The violet eyed girl didn't look up from the bomb she was learning to assemble. "There's nothing for me back in Nanimori. I have the entire country to protect now." Her hair fell around her face, hiding her expression from the pink-haired girl, but Madoka frowned.

Something's very different about Homura-chan.

Ah, he's returned to school, Hibari thought, watching the daily throng of students arrive at Nanimori middle. Looking like the same, herbivore-self he was before.

"His grades are about ten points lower than usual," Tsuna's teacher told Nana, "but since Tsunayoshi's tests are already low that's normal for him…"

Kyoko watched Homura mercilessly deal out death to a witch, expertly wielding the guns and bombs she held like they were normal for sixteen-year-olds to use. "She's the scariest one out of all of us," she told Madoka.

"Homura-chan is the hurting the most inside, even if she doesn't show it," Madoka said quietly back, looking sadly across the lair to her dark-haired friend. "So even though she fights well, she's the most susceptible to the darkness she fights every day."

"We'll protect her from that, though."

"As much as possible."

(two years later)

"Now that this obstacle is complete, it's time to start on the next mission," Reborn informed Tsuna as they sat looking out his window.

"Huh? What are you talking about?" the brunet said.

"To find the Vongola Decimo a wife!"

The arcobaleno expected Tsuna to blush, to get loud and angry, to give a normal protesting Tsuna response. The boy didn't say anything for a moment. "Mmm… probably not," he said quietly.

Thrown off by this lack of emotion, Reborn paused before giving the boy a familiar kick to the head. "A wife is the most important guardian of all, dame Tsuna, don't think that you can be Vongola Decimo without one. She protects the emotional balance of the boss, manages affairs at home, even functions as an extra guardian when the boss' life is in danger, provides heirs…"

Tsuna choked slightly as Reborn finished. "Besides that last one, those all seem very nice," he laughed. "I just don't think that's going to happen anytime soon."

"Of course not, you're fourteen," Reborn replied. "But finding a prospective bride is important."

"I know it is," Tsuna's voice dropped. "Some girls, though, you just can't reach."

'Some girls?' Reborn hadn't known Tsuna already liked someone. He was sure Tsuna wasn't talking about the Sasagawa girl, but then who could Tsuna be referring to?

"We'll work more on this later," Reborn concluded.

(three years later)

Tsuna looked at his precious guardians, friends, feeling a bubbly love and affection for them. It was Christmastime at the Sawada home, and even though his trash father wasn't home again for the holiday, the house was filled with people and a happy spirit. The sixteen-year-old smiled happily at his mother as he helped her dish out some pastries. Sprawled around the living room floor was their friends and acquaintances, all chatting loudly as they snacked.

"Juudaime, look! It's snowing!" Tsuna set down the bowl and walked around all the people sitting around on the floor to where his friends were pushed up against the window in the large sitting room. The snow had been very late that year.

Lambo's and I-pin's noses were pressed directly against the glass as they and Yamamoto and Gokudera and Chrome stared out into the night. Snowflakes fell softly outside. They slowly drifted downwards silently, a stark contrast to the lively party within the home. "It's beautiful," Chrome whispered.

Tsuna's smile was tinged with sadness as he looked outside too. In his heart he felt a painful longing that he knew could never be granted. you remember when we watched the snow on your birthday? He thought, as if she could hear him. I miss that time.

I miss you so much.

end of part one

part two: At age twenty-six, Sawada Tsunayoshi is the Vongola Decimo. New alliances are forming as a powerful witch moves across Italy towards the Vongola. Tsuna decides to make an alliance with the Magica family because of its extensive knowledge about witches, but doesn't know that his first love Homura is both alive, and in that famiglia. As the witch moves over Italy, the two reunite.