Tsuna hated school, for multiple reasons. The chief being that he was always bullied and locked into rooms alone for hours. This time it was an abandoned music room.
Since he knew the odds of being found and rescued before dinner were very slim, he decided to explore the place. For once he was in a room with a window that still had some light coming through.
It was close to eight when he tripped on it. An old carrying case, which opens up to reveal a beautiful instrument and an odd stick.
He later learns it is called a violin.
Tsuna had never been good at anything. It was even in his name. Dame-Tsuna, which everyone called him, including the teachers.
But there is something about the wooden instrument that has his attention. It is so pretty it is almost a crime to pick it up, but it has clearly been left alone for a very long time.
Maybe, just maybe he could be good at something for once.
So when he's finally able to leave, he makes a note of where the room was. He plans to retrieve the violin later, and learn how to play.
Two days later...
It wasn't hard to find videos online explaining the basics of playing the violin.
What was hard is finding a music store that carried the right strings which were within his meager budget and hide his new interest from both his mother and the bullies.
He loved his mother, but she was so absentminded sometimes.
Replacing the strings was a challenge, but he eventually figured it out. The bow at least looked like it was in descent condition.
He waited until his mother was out of the house for a few hours before he put the video on and tried practicing. It wasn't that hard, though he kept getting the finger positions mixed up. It was actually rather fun.
Once he managed to complete a full song (it was 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star') he felt a sense of accomplishment that was missing from his life. It wasn't much, but it was more than he had before.
He still couldn't make heads or tails out of sheet music though.
Tsuna, age 9
It was getting harder and harder to hide his hobby. Apparently his habit of practicing in empty classrooms when most of the other kids had gone home had come back to 'haunt' him. There was now a persistent rumor of a ghost violinist in the school.
And the more supernaturally inclined kids wanted to find it.
He was about to start practicing when he heard something that chilled him to the bone.
"So you're the herbivore who's causing all the rumors about a ghost violinist. If you don't explain yourself I will bite you to death."
Tsuna turned to find... Hibari-san?!
Oh gods, he was so dead.
"I didn't start the rumors!" he said hurriedly, trying not to wave the bow around as a weapon or drop the violin.
Hibari narrowed his eyes at him.
"Then why have I been hearing multiple reports about violin music from abandoned classrooms after hours?" he demanded.
Tsuna blushed embarrassed.
"I didn't want anyone to hear me practicing, or have my mom find out about my hobby. And if I stay after school hours then the people most likely to mock me for it generally don't bother me," he said, not looking at the older boy.
Bullies were less inclined to stick around the school when there were teachers present, and he really didn't want to be mocked about playing badly.
Hibari narrowed his eyes at him.
"Why not join the music club or the orchestra club?"
"Again, I don't want to be mocked because I hit a wrong note," said Tsuna.
It had taken every bit of what little courage remained after years of being bullied to even start practicing the violin. He didn't want it shattered.
Besides, everyone knew him as "Dame-Tsuna". Someone who was so pathetic and worthless that it wasn't worth knowing him.
Hibari narrowed his eyes at him.
"If you can prove to me you're actually practicing and not just goofing off, I won't bite you to death. But if you can't..."
He didn't need to clarify how bad it would be for Tsuna if he couldn't play anything.
Tsuna gulped and prayed to the gods he didn't screw this up.
He put the bow to the strings and started playing. It was something he had only recently managed to get the hang of, and it was something a bit more...modern.
He was a huge fan of Lindsey Stirling.
(This is an actual violin artist who has a youtube channel. I'm a huge fan of several of her songs, like "Shatter Me", "Master of Tides", "Roundtable Rival", and "Shadows". I would totally recommend her music!)
Hibari said nothing throughout the entire song, but when it ended Tsuna was very, very nervous. He really didn't want to be bitten to death.
"Wao. You were acceptable, herbivore."
He almost let out a huge sigh of relief.
"If you're planning on practicing where others can't tell who's playing, then do it on the roof. That way the sound will carry enough to confuse people as to where it's coming from," said Hibari.
That, and he happened to nap up there frequently enough that he wouldn't have to track down the timid herbivore a second time for an encore. His presence alone would dissuade the worst of the crowding.
"I'll keep that in mind, Hibari-san," said Tsuna with open relief. He wasn't going to be bitten to death.
Hibari left, making sure to close the door.
Tsuna debates on whether to keep practicing, but his internal warning system alerts him that others are coming.
He sighs and puts away his violin and bow, before making a discreet exit.
And by discreet, one would have to mean jumping out of the second story window into a nearby tree from din of long practice and managing to get down without crashing.
By this point, Tsuna has more or less mastered the art of the awkward and hasty escape. At least he didn't break his arm or get more than a few bumps and bruises anymore.
Hearing the voices, he sighed in relief. Today had been too hectic for his tastes, though he would have to find a place to hide until the worst offenders of his usual beatings went away. It was still too early for them to have given up on finding him and go home.
"Ahaha... why did you jump out of the window like that?"
Come on, his luck could not be THAT bad today!
He turned to find the baseball star Takeshi Yamamoto and hoped like hell the other boy didn't see the case.
"Last time I was in the room where the supposed music ghost is, I lost half my homework because they took out the fact they couldn't find it on me," he lied.
"Seriously?" asked Takeshi, surprised.
"Easier to hide from people who want to beat me up in the empty classrooms until everyone goes home than to walk and get beaten by someone other than Hibari-san," said Tsuna blithely.
Honestly, his mother never commented on how late he came home and just assumed he was out with friends. She never even noticed all the bruises he had every month, or that most of his allowance was usually spent on basic medical supplies like bandages.
He is so used to being ignored, at being dismissed because he was "Dame-Tsuna", that he completely missed the look in Takeshi's eyes. Like he was putting several things together that he didn't like one bit.
What Tsuna doesn't know was that Takeshi had overheard several of the repeat offenders who took particular amusement in beating them up and had dismissed them as making wild claims. That they were just talking trash.
Seeing the resigned and almost broken eyes of a boy he only barely registered as being in his class more than once, Takeshi realizes the painful truth.
The boys weren't just shooting the breeze when they spoke of hunting down the smaller, more fragile boy. They were reminiscing about how much pain they had caused the poor kid.
It had gotten to the point that Tsuna was hiding in the school until well after the clubs let out for the day just to avoid them.
Takeshi had to wonder exactly why his parents hadn't put a stop to this sort of thing already. If Tsuna was so desperate to avoid people that he had learned how to jump out of a window into nearby trees, then surely someone should have said something about it by now?
"Want me to walk you home?" he asked.
Seeing the startled eyes of the smaller boy hurt. Like he was in absolute shock someone was offering something as simple as walking him home.
Takeshi kept up his fake smile that was his standby.
The more time he spent in Tsuna's presence and was actually looking at him, the more his calm rage built up. What the hell was wrong with his fellow students that they couldn't see how close they were to breaking this poor kid?
And that anger only got worse when he realized that Tsuna's mother either didn't notice or care that her son was being bullied. She just assumed he was overly clumsy, not even noticing the odd case he was carrying.
He was really curious about what was in it, but he could tell Tsuna was skittish enough having him there as it was.
Sure he was a bit late to baseball practice, but it was a small price to pay.
One month later...
It was the beginning of the oddest friendship with the most unlikely person imaginable. Ever since Hibari found out Tsuna could play and wasn't likely to talk about it to others (thus reducing the risk of crowding and the inevitable act of being bitten to death), he took an odd interest in the smaller boy and his music.
He still didn't know where Hibari found the sheet music for some of the older Chinese songs (and yes, he had looked them up when he finally translated the titles), but he quickly found the one thing that almost guaranteed Hibari-san wouldn't turn his dreaded tonfa on him when he was annoyed.
For some odd and unknown reason, Hibari happened to like the Namimori Middle School song to the point it was his ringtone. Thus, the second Tsuna mastered it to such an extent that he could play it at the drop of a hat without missing a single note he soon found himself the go-to person to calm the older boy down by Kusakabe.
The Disciplinary Committee kept it's silence on his ability to play the violin, but there is a silent sense of relief that he can because it meant a reduction of being bitten to death by the bloodthirsty Hibari.
At least he could practice more without having to worry about anyone laughing at him for it. Hibari's preference to the roof was well known, and as far as anyone knew the boy had a thing for classical music. It wasn't like the teachers were going to tell him to turn it down, since they could barely control his actions to begin with.
He also noticed an increased scrutiny from Takeshi, which was really weird considering the other boy had barely noticed he existed before. But the older boy keeps his silence and his distance.
He didn't think he could handle the strangeness of having actual friends. He was so used to being alone it was his default state.
It was official.
Smoking_Bomb was a genius when it came to music. After developing an interest in the violin, he had become more and more proficient in classical references, but this boy understood them. Apparently his mother taught him piano and happened to be a large fan of the greats like Chopin or Beethoven.
He quit playing after her death, but he still kept up with the music. And the chat boards, once he dared to look for them.
The two of them hit it off almost instantly, and as an unintended consequence Tsuna ends up learning Italian. Mostly to translate some of the things the other boy said, but also because he's perfectly aware that his missing and most likely dead father was half Italian himself.
Because honestly, he would never believe his mother when she claimed that narcissistic jackass who spent all of a week in their home and barely even looked at him or even listened was his father. He didn't know who that man was, but there was no way in hell that jerk was his dad.
It only cemented the idea that his mother may have finally lost it, trying to pretend that the obvious drifter was his father.
It took him four months to finally get Smoking_Bomb's real name out of him.
Gokudera Hayato. A boy about his age who was currently trying to avoid his older sister who had a bad habit of using him as a guinea pig for her horrible cooking, and had a short temper.
He seemed rather happy to have someone his age who had zero expectations of him and shared a love for classical music.
Tsuna hoped one day he can meet his chat board friend, if only because he knew how to play several pieces of music that practically demanded a pianist accompany the violin to make it sound completely epic.
And when he shared that idea with Hayato, there was a two-day long pause before the boy timidly admitted he'd love to do the same, if only because it might actually remind him of the good times with his mother, rather than the sour times where he had to play while under the effects of his sister's absolutely horrible cooking.
Tsuna could absolutely sympathize with having something you love being ruined because of multiple bad experiences. It was why he refused to play around others until Hibari took an interest.
One did not refuse Hibari anything if he expressed open interest in it. Not if you wanted to avoid being bitten to death. At the most, the older boy simply made specific requests for what Tsuna played that day while he napped.
Maybe one day he'd be brave enough to play in front of others, rather than just to the violent Hibari-san.
Takeshi was outside the door again, just listening. He had long since figured out what was in the case Tsuna had carried that day, and where the boy favored practicing.
It had taken some doing to slip up to the roof and leave the door just open enough to hear the boy play without Tsuna realizing it. He was rather good and he had to wonder why no one else had figured out this side of him.
It made Takeshi itch to pick up something himself to join him.
Not a violin, because that would require he take too much time out of his baseball practice, and he had little interest in the string instruments. But maybe a flute, because he always liked the soothing feel of the music.
And there was a flute in their attic. He remembered seeing it once after his mother died...supposedly it belonged to an ancestor and it was still in good condition.
"Eh? Yamamoto-kun, what are you doing up here?" asked a teacher a little too loudly.
Takeshi flinched, but at least he had been quick enough to close the door fast enough to avoid being busted. Forget Tsuna, he'd hate to see what Hibari's reaction would be to him intruding on the boy's playing!
"Just enjoying the peace and quiet without intruding on Hibari-san's nap time."
Which was partly true, but not the real reason he came up here.
"Lunch is almost over," the teacher reminded him. Takeshi winced, because there was no way Tsuna would play the rest of the song after he heard that stupid teacher's voice.
Damn, and it was a really good one too.
Almost as if it was fate, his dad sent him up later that night to put some things up in storage, and he stumbled across the old flute...and some sheet music. It was all old and just barely legible, but still in decent enough condition.
Now he just needed to figure out how to play and read the notes. Baseball was great, but he wouldn't mind a real hobby that he could keep to himself.