.3..

:x:x:x:

With the festival day looming, the Student Council eagerly reminded the freshmen drama crew to practice hard. They were expecting an audience of a few hundred or so, and the audience expected a good performance. Haru and Kyoko were ecstatic.

In theory, this meant that they were excused from any other club or class they were in. They still had to help their class prepare the food stands and decorate the room. Yamamoto's baseball team decided to hold a game booth; Hana and Kyoko were excused from their Home Ec. activity; Haru went through a few minutes of depression when she refused the rhythmic gymnastics club (they asked her to be the children's show star performer). Gokudera discreetly went around offering (threatening) his assistance to many clubs, but everybody declined most profusely, saying his presence would be sorely missed at the play. It had nothing to do with the fact that Tsuna spotted Bianchi speaking with the clubs beforehand and brandishing a plate of her cooking under their noses.

"Let's go over the script during lunch, Haru-chan," suggested Kyoko after class. Within earshot, Hana winced.

Haru was already heading to the door whilst shouting over her shoulder, "Meet me at the library, Kyoko-chan! Hana-chan too!"

One of the crew members shot to his feet. "Wait, Miura-san!" But the door shut.

"What is it?" asked Kyoko.

"I wanted to tell her about the lights. They've been flickering for the past few days." He shrugged. "We're not sure how to fix it."

Hana chuckled. "Then you're on your own. She's got nothing in her head but the script."

In the library, Haru was surprised to find most of the drama cast sitting at a table in the back, their heads bent down in concentration. It was rare to see Tsuna, Yamamoto and Gokudera in the library during lunch. Then she realized they were studying their script as well. As the director, she felt her heart swell in happiness at this knowledge.

"Tsuna-san! Yamamoto-san! Gokudera—" Haru quailed as the librarian pierced her with a glare. "—san. Haru is so happy," she finished in a whisper.

"What?"

She smiled. "You guys are working so hard for the play! Haru is proud."

They looked at each other and Tsuna said slowly, "Thanks Haru. Ah, you're working hard too."

"Of course! Haru is the director after all." She suddenly squeezed between Tsuna and Gokudera to look at the papers spread on the desk. "Haru can help if you want. I know the script inside and out—" She finally looked at the papers. They were not scripts but rather pages of another language.

Yamamoto chuckled apologetically, "Um, we're actually studying Italian, Haru."

Gokudera hissed, "Oi, don't tell her everything!"

"It's okay," Tsuna mollified, looking at Haru's surprised face. "Sorry Haru. We're practicing for the play, but we have to study other things as well. It's not that we don't take the play seriously or anything…"

"You guys are so smart!" They were taken aback by her sudden exclamation. She smiled brightly, "Not only are you practicing for the play, but you also find time to learn extra subjects! Marvelous! Haru is impressed! Haru underestimated your intelligence."

"Like you should talk!"

"Hahi! I was just complimenting you, Gokudera-san!"

"Now, now you two, keep it down. The librarian is coming over." Yamamoto turned to her with a more serious smile. "Haru, remember not to work yourself too hard. We wouldn't want the director to collapse on us."

Tsuna agreed. "You don't have to push yourself, Haru. We can help you."

Gokudera disagreed moodily with the Tenth. Quite a rare occurrence. "I thought you underestimated us."

"No, no, Haru is impressed by your thirst for knowledge!"

She was truly impressed, but she also saw the corner of a pamphlet showing from underneath Tsuna's paper. It looked like a brochure and it had an Italian name on it, most likely a tourist site. She wondered why Tsuna had it, and more importantly why he was hiding it, yet she didn't ask.

Instead, she continued to smile.

.x.x.x.

It was during break time and the class was milling about, chattering and laughing while the teacher took his sweet time. Yamamoto was putting his things away and ready to join Tsuna and Gokudera, when he heard it.

"Miura-san? Miura-san?" The same crew member from before was trying to get Haru's attention. So far he wasn't succeeding. Haru was gazing at nothing, chin in her palm.

Yamamoto called, "Haru! Haru, he wants to talk to you."

"Miura-san!"

Suddenly her head snapped up, and the crew member was startled to see her glaring at him.

"What?" she snarled.

The whole room fell silent.

Then, realizing what she'd just done, Haru frantically apologized, "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to… I mean, I was just caught off-guard…"

He and Yamamoto glanced at each other. "It's fine, Miura-san," he said. "I just wanted to tell you about the theater lights…"

Yamamoto listened for a bit before looking at Haru. She seemed back to her normal, cheerful self, but there was a distracted light in her eyes that said otherwise. He wondered how much sleep she was getting every night.

As it turned out, not that much.

.x.x.x.

Play practice was a disaster.

At first, some people were late because they got held up by their other festival activities. Haru could understand that because she too was a victim of helping her class with their duties. She was also the director of the play, and thus, prioritized it above all else, unlike the crew members. So she didn't let the slight bump bother her and cheerfully went on with practice.

But then... practice was a failure. The script was awkward. It was not flowing, and some parts of it didn't make sense. Actually, it wasn't the script, but more the actors and actresses themselves. Their parts didn't fit their character and style, making the flow of the story faulty and… awkward.

For example, Tsuna and Hana simply weren't acting their roles as the beloved King and Queen. They weren't very royal, and they weren't a very loving couple either. Yamamoto was the complete opposite of his part (what rebel leader laughed and apologized every time he had to sword fight?), and Gokudera simply was not Prince Charming. Kagawa Chika played her role okay, though she seemed more interested in the props. Out of the whole cast, Kyoko was the only person to act her part decently, but that was because she spent more time practicing than Haru and the cast combined.

Then twenty minutes into practice the one and only Hibari Kyoya swept in, scaring half the people witless and irking a few hot-headed types (Haru, Gokudera, etc.) by his very presence. Ignoring Tsuna's nervous greeting, he settled into one of the back audience seats and gazed at the temporary drama crew with hawk eyes. After a few edgy minutes it became obvious he wasn't going to move, and so they continued to practice with the new awareness that he was watching them. Needless to say, the already-insufficient actors were rendered useless by this unsettling attention.

On top of that, the lights were flickering from time to time, frustrating the crew workers who were trying to adjust them to no end. And the light-flickering had intensified upon Hibari's entrance, making his presence all the more ominous.

Patience pushed to the brink, Haru decided a long break was appropriate.

Just then the doors burst open, and in came Ryohei with his overwhelming energy, nearly blowing away the weary crew. Everyone braced themselves for the inevitable shout fest.

But he surprised everyone by saying seriously, "Sawada? Will you come with me for a sec?" Everyone but Haru was too distracted to notice Hibari slip silently out of the theater. As Tsuna blinked and made his way to the door, Ryohei stayed true to his character by adding, "Oh, and those two can come too." A careless wave at Gokudera and Yamamoto.

Gokudera fumed, "As if I need your permission! I will always follow the Tenth no matter what!"

"We'll be back soon," Yamamoto told the rest, and with that the four boys were gone.

The crew members either sat around or goofed off on the stage, and some girls went to visit the other clubs working for the festival. Kyoko and Hana did their homework, which Haru already finished because it was math. Easy.

So, after several minutes, the director decided to get some fresh air. Hopefully it would ease her boredom and frustration at the lack of productivity on the play. Besides, the flickering lights were really bothering her.

"In fifteen minutes we'll start practice again," she told the chattering group.

Breath in, breath out, she told herself. She was getting so sensitive these days, especially during practice. The festival was coming soon and as the director she felt responsible for making this play a success. The expectation and stress was starting to get to her, and she didn't want to become worked up. Wasn't this play all for fun? It was merely an enjoyable project that she and her best friends decided to do together. In the end, it was the memories of this experience that she wanted the most, wasn't it?

She didn't pay attention to where she was going, so lost in her thoughts that she was, and almost missed the staircase. Shaking out of her daze, Haru went down the steps, deciding to stop by the restroom, when she heard familiar voices.

"But what about the play?"

It was Tsuna. She stopped. His voice sounded upset, and she wondered what they were talking about.

"We have no choice." Reborn. She could recognize that baby's voice anywhere. "They ordered it, so there's little you guys can do about it. Anyways, you'll be staying for the play."

"Tenth, don't worry, I'm with you all the way!" Gokudera sounded happier than Tsuna. "We'll show those geezers our true power! Even if Hibari, the woman, and that idiot cow are coming too."

"But it's so sudden!" protested Tsuna. Haru was beginning to get a bad feeling. What was Reborn talking about? Were they going to do something illegal?

"You guys are lucky to have a few days of notification. It's only because I went to Italy ahead of time."

She froze. Cold realization washed over her.

"How extreme! This time it's a tournament in Italy, eh?"

"It's not a tournament, Lawn-head!"

"But what about the others?" This time Yamamoto spoke. "We're just going to up and leave for Italy without telling them?"

"We're staying there for a week, Reborn! How do we explain that to everyone?"

"I already took care of the school. You can tell your family and friends anything you want."

She placed a hand on the wall and stepped backwards, back up the stairs. The brochure, the studying during lunch... it all made sense now. Suddenly she realized she wasn't supposed to know this. They had been planning to keep it a secret from everyone. Especially her.

"So we don't tell the girls until the day of the festival?"

"It should be fine. Just say that it was an emergency."

"Yeah. That way we don't worry them. At least Haru will be happy that we're practicing for the play."

The girl did not know this because she was already up the stairs and gone.

.x.x.x.

Kyoko and Hana looked up. "Eh, Haru, you're back early!"

"We're going to practice everyone. Let's go through the whole script." She didn't look at anybody as she made her way to the stage. Everyone exchanged glances, surprised at the girl's dull expression. Something had happened to Haru.

"But Tsuna-tachi aren't back yet," some crew members pointed out.

Haru turned and bent down to retrieve her script from the chair, and she shrugged, "That's too bad for them. We can practice even if they're not here." The lights flickered. "Now, let's get to work!"

Hana nudged Kyoko and raised her eyebrows at the director.

"I told you. She's got nothing in her head but the script."

Kyoko frowned.

.x.x.x.

"Miura-san, will you answer this question?"

No answer.

"Miura-san?"

The whole class turned to look at Miura Haru, who was clearly awake but mentally not present. She was gazing blankly at the back of Hana's head, oblivious of the attention on her.

A sigh. "Sasagawa-san, will you please poke her or something?"

Kyoko obediently poked Haru with a pencil. "Haru-chan! Haru-chan, pay attention!" No answer.

The teacher pushed up his glasses. "There's no helping it. I'll speak to her later."

From the other side, Yamamoto suddenly raised his hand and said, "Sensei! Haru is actually sleeping with her eyes open. I know because I do it all the time."

Behind him, Tsuna sunk in his seat and moaned, "That makes it worse."

Everybody laughed. The festival was around the corner and the whole school was in high, relaxed spirits. The teacher even smiled, acquiescing to their addictive mood. Haru was one of his brightest students after all.

"Being a director really takes up one's energy. Even one such as Miura-san."

Haru's distractedness didn't end there. On her way to class she tripped over nothing and crashed into a student carrying a load of art objects, causing him to lose balance and drop all the paint. This caused other students to slip and fall, and then crash into more students, resulting in mayhem.

At the library Haru didn't see a messy pile of books stacked precariously on a step ladder, and as she brushed by it the books came crashing down on her head. If she hadn't tripped at that exact same moment, she would've gotten hit for sure. But she tripped straight into the bookshelf, causing it to tip over and basically cause more chaos.

"Haru-chan, do you need to see the nurse?" Kyoko asked concerned. "You don't look so well."

Haru shook it off. "I'm fine. I just need to wash my face."

As she left Hana muttered to Kyoko, "She needs more than a face wash to wake her up."

"What? A shower?"

Hana sighed. "At this rate, Haru's going to get herself killed."

.x.x.x.

"Bye! See you guys tomorrow!"

Play practice ended early, much to everyone's relief. Even Haru looked glad as she dragged herself wearily out of the theater. All she wanted to do was go home and sleep.

"Haru-chan!" Kyoko ran to her and Haru stopped. "Come over to my house, okay?"

Haru blinked. "Why?"

"So we can relax and have some girl time," inputted Hana as she joined them.

"And we need to talk," added Kyoko when she saw Haru about to protest.

The director simply nodded. "Okay." She didn't have the energy to object right now. This made Kyoko and Hana glance at each other.

"We'll have a sleep over, okay? So bring a change of clothes."

"Okay."

Haru mulled over this as she walked home, ignoring other pedestrians. She was tired, true, but she was mainly distracted. It was all too obvious what the reason for the distraction was. For the umpteenth time she clenched her fists and shook her head to get rid of the unpleasant thoughts.

They're leaving. They're leaving without telling us.

It wasn't the fact that they were going to another country for a week. Well, maybe a little, she conceded. But it wasn't just that. What bothered her most was that all of them, even Tsuna, didn't trust her enough to say they were leaving. And it hurt her.

She closed her eyes briefly, trying to will away everything she heard that day at the stairs. Haru wished she didn't hear it, but at the same time she was glad she did. Her stomach twisted at the thought of Kyoko and Hana and everyone else that didn't know yet, or maybe never would.

I thought we were friends.

A car was coming. Haru didn't notice as she stepped onto the road, eyes not seeing anything. The car's breaks screeched as they tried to stop, but to no avail. She looked up and her eyes vaguely widened, but it was already too late—

Yamamoto suddenly grabbed her arm and jerked her back onto the sidewalk, to safety. The car honked angrily as it sped past a startled Haru. Pedestrians glanced curiously at the two.

She turned to her savior and blinked. "Hahi. Yamamoto-san."

"'Hahi?' Is that all you can say, Haru?"

Her eyes fell on the ground where she'd dropped her script, and she bent to retrieve it. His hand came down around her wrist and tugged her back, stopping her. She turned to stare at him.

"Yamamoto-san, what are—"

"You're overworking yourself."

She blinked. "Who? Me?"

He wasn't smiling for once. "You shouldn't take on more than you can handle, Haru. Don't try too hard."

Haru pulled her arm away and picked up her script, avoiding his gaze. "What are you talking about? I'm not stressed at all." She paused. "Thank you. But I was really just being careless." Her laughter was light. "It won't happen again."

Something in him snapped. "Haru, you could have been killed."

And suddenly it hit her. She really could have been seriously injured had Yamamoto not been there. She could be lying unconscious on the cold cement right now, or worse, dead.

It was stupid. She was stupid. How could she just blow it off so easily? But she was tired and stressed and yes, she was overworking herself. Yet a part of her didn't want to admit. It wasn't her fault. It was Tsuna. He was going soon—and Reborn said—and now they were leaving just like that. It overwhelmed her, as if she was drowning in an angry sea of emotions.

And finally, she couldn't hold it in anymore.

"Why are you worrying so much anyways? It's not like you care." It came out before she could think, and she immediately regretted it.

Yamamoto looked stunned. "What do you mean by that?"

She didn't look at him. "It's obvious. You and Tsuna-san and everyone will be leaving soon. So why should you even care about us?"

Realization dawned in his eyes before being replaced by a frown. "That's not true and you know it. Did we ever say anything like that?" A pause. "Did we, Haru?"

"Then why won't you tell us?" she burst out, finally unable to take it. "Were you planning to leave suddenly without telling us where you went? You were, weren't you?" Her fists clenched. "You don't trust us. I thought we were friends, Yamamoto-san."

At this Yamamoto flared up. "Then what about you, Haru? Were you going to keep doing everything by yourself, not letting your friends into your world and help you, until you drop from exhaustion? Is that what friends are to you?" He was trying to control himself, but it was hard. "Or like just now—are you trying to make us worry about you? Do you like doing that?"

Haru's mouth dropped open. Then her jaw tightened and her voice trembled, "You don't understand."

"What don't I understand--" She turned and walked away, pushing past the pedestrians blindly. "Haru!"

She bumped hard into a person--Tsuna, but she didn't stop. Soon, she disappeared into the sea of people.

"Ah—Haru!" Tsuna blinked as he stared after her, and then he caught sight of Yamamoto. "Yamamoto, did you see Haru—" He saw the look on his friend's face and asked, "What happened?"

The baseball player attempted to smile, but it didn't work. "Nothing. Don't worry, Tsuna."

For some reason, Tsuna didn't believe him.

.x.x.x.

Kyoko opened the door and smiled, "Haru-chan, you're early… What's wrong?"

"Kyoko-chaaaan!" Haru suddenly burst into tears and threw herself on the startled girl. "It's the sea," she wailed, "Haru is drowning in the sea!"

The younger Sasagawa blinked and then gently smiled. She patted Haru's head. "There, there. Don't drown."

Haru only wailed louder.

.x.x.x.


A/N: All I have to say is that I've had this whole chapter written out in detail for a very long time. (Hehe, Garowyn.) I hope the chapter flowed decently and that the characters weren't too OOC and that y'all weren't too disappointed. XP

That said, hope you enjoyed reading! I'll answer any questions you've got. XD