Title: The Keeper

Pairing: Yamamoto/Gokudera (8059)

Genre: Romance/General

Disclaimer: Manga not mine, fandom cherry-popping, gayness rampant, etc.

Summary: A lever and a place to stand.

the keeper
a lever and a place to stand


July of 2006, Gianluigi Buffon was coming off of his World Cup victory and into Juventus's match-fixing scandal, all the alleged trappings of its aftermath. 2006 and his name was on everybody's lips, but ten summers before that, he was just another nameless soldier pulling for Parma, a teenager or just out of that neck of the wood, nobody special. Some midsummer night soirée, Hayato saw him standing at the foot of the stairs in his father's ballroom, gloves, jersey, and fingernail dirt scrubbed away in favor of that tailored tuxedo, a pointy dress shoe tapping against the bottom step, top-of-the-line leather that gleamed studiously.

The man was palming the ornate banister with one hand and holding a wine glass with the other, pale liquid like Tuscan sunshine in the creamy light of the chandeliers, and Gokudera, who even as a fledgling pianist had the artist's occupational fascination with hands—fingers, knuckles, little bones—remembered being drawn to the sight of those restless brown paws, caught in a study of small movements. He loitered, undecided, and caught the giant's eyes.

"Looking sharp," Buffon said, bending to speak at his level. Gokudera tugged at his collar self-consciously, even as a scowl tugged at his brows. Buffon didn't seem to notice. "This place is very beautiful. Perhaps you could lend me some assistance, I am feeling rather lost."

"What do you mean?"

"Like maybe they picked the wrong joker for the event, you think?"

He laughed easily, fiddled the lapel of his suit in a show of loyalty.

Before Gokudera could say anything, someone else had come to join them. A flutter of feminine laughter, a swath of dark taffeta cinched into a tiny waist, and a grin entered Buffon's blue eyes. "Well, that's my rescue brigade." He straightened. "Mind if I catch your name?"

"Hayato," Gokudera said, after a pause.

"Hayato." Buffon's mouth quirked up apologetically. "I'm Gianluigi. It's been a slice, little man."

He gave his half-empty glass to a passing waiter, and slid the freed hand up his date's submissive shoulder, ushered her off. Gokudera caught one last glimpse of long fingers transferring from delicate crystal stem to delicate curvature of bone, and then the encounter was over.

In the years to come, this man would cease to be Gianluigi entirely. He would contract to a simple Gigi, Gigi of the Azzurri, Gigi the Spider-Man. Gigi the Legend—yes, undoubtedly, after Germany—and now, the Fallen, embroiled in the sinister shadow loosely defined by a prosecutor office's summon. When his name was a shorthand on everyone's lips and all eyes in the world turned to watch for his next move, they would only see what Hayato had seen all those years ago at the foot of the stairs, a man who knew exactly where he stood in the game-scheme life had drawn up for him: crouching narrow-eyed in front of a goal, facing the rest of the world.


On a day in April, Reborn announces, "Tsuna will be receiving special instructions during Golden Week. You all should be prepared."

Nobody thinks much of that remark until exactly two weeks later when they all find themselves strapped down to a plane heading for Milan, Italy. Apparently, even after all these years, none of them seems to have learned that everything that comes out of Reborn's mouth actually needs to be taken strictly at face value.

There are the facts. Those present: the usual suspects. Among those excluded: Sasagawa, spared by reason of impending college examinations (the very idea of Lawn-Head in college offends the soul), and the kids, by reason of annoyance (a wise move). The rest of them, including the two wide-eyed girls, are met and shepherded from the airport by a string of identical black town cars. They are sequestered in separate rooms at the Brun, taking up the entire thirteenth floor.

Naturally, Gokudera is on the alert. To him, these movements are indicative of changes. The Tenth will not be coming of age for another year and a half—Gokudera's made sure to save the date—but as that important event looms closer, it stands to reason that the chess pieces would have already started moving across the board. The right hand man has the responsibility to keep track of these developments, and seeing as he has known Reborn the longest out of everyone present with the exception of his wretched sister, he takes pride also in being in on the know.

As such, he really shouldn't be so surprised that something like this happens:

"Where are you taking the Boss, Reborn-san?"

Reborn seems not to hear him, just continues walking down the long hallway leading from the elevators. Against physics, Gokudera somehow has to jog to keep up with his leisurely pace.

They pass through the lobby, where despite the fact that it's nearing on four in the morning, the house staff are still out and about, tactfully melting from awareness at their approach.

"Tsuna is receiving his special instructions tomorrow," Reborn says, in that tone of his that brooks no argument. "We are heading there now."

"There—where the hell is 'there'?"


"Palermo? That's at the other end of the country!"

"Which is why we have to catch an early flight," Reborn answers reasonably.

They come out onto the sidewalk, where one of the town cars is sitting patiently on the street in front of the hotel, tinted windows gleaming under the yellow spill of streetlamps. Gokudera tries to reiterate his point, but Reborn's ignoring him now, so he finds himself staring stupidly down at the top of Reborn's fedora, where Leon's huge reptilian eyes zoom up at him almost pityingly. As if saying, really, what else did you expect?

"Don't try to stow away in the trunk."

"I wasn't going—"

"You were thinking it. Anyway, don't do it. I'll have you trussed up and thrown in a canal."

The brief glimpse of the Tenth bound and gagged in the back seat that he catches when Reborn opens the door to climb in almost breaks his resolve. He manages to uncurl his fingers from the gnarled fists they've formed only after having convinced himself, with difficulty, that the petrified expression resonating from the tiny square of Tsuna's face exposed by the restraints actually reads, "Don't fret, trusted right hand man, and follow your orders!" instead of, "SOS!"

"And what are the rest of us supposed to do here?"

The dark window that moments ago Gokudera was prepared to leap through rolls down halfway, and Reborn's usual poker face reappears in the gap, wearing the trace of a smile. "Bianchi will look after the girls. You should take Yamamoto-kun out. Show him around town."

Then the car's already pulling away, leaving Gokudera on the sidewalk outside the hotel, wearing his Grateful Dead t-shirt and one sock. He glares after its fading taillights.

"That baseball idiot's already been to Italy!"


In Italian, there is a saying. It is, "Graves are filled with after-the-fact wisdom."

Gokudera thinks he could personally populate several shallow ones right now, given how he's currently standing like an idiot in the corridor outside his hotel room—having located his other sock, but still wearing the Grateful Dead shirt. Only hindsight is 20/20, he consoles himself, and raises one fist to bang as loudly as possible on the door he's been making dirty eyes at for the last ten minutes.

From within, there's a muffled groan, then a tremendous crash—as though someone, in the dark, swung out a semi-conscious arm to grope for a light switch, and found the entire table lamp instead. Gokudera feels his lips curl up; the breath he exhales is quiet, controlled and controlling.

In the next moment, the door pops open, and Yamamoto's frame fills the entrance, Yamamoto who is lounging loosely against the frame and digging his fist into sleep-heavy sockets. He yawns loudly, scratching his bare stomach.

"Wow, I was out like a light. What time is it?"

Clearly, not even a lifetime dogged by danger will teach this appalling simpleton the basics of vigilance. Gokudera would pay the hired guns himself to prove this theory; he'd even help them roll Yamamoto up in a carpet.

It's at this point and twenty seconds closer to an unfortunate incident that Yamamoto stops blinking like a dying owl and scrapes his palm quickly over his face, wiping away the last traces of drowsiness. His dark eyes widen in recognition. "Oh," he says, sounding surprised and weirdly breathless. "It's you. Hey."

That last one accompanied by a smile, pleased and hesitantly expectant.

He's not wearing a shirt. No socks, sweatpants dragged low over visible hips. His hair is a tragic wreck. For no discernible reason, Gokudera has become acutely aware of these facts, and then the back of his t-shirt is curling up to bunch against his clammy nape, chafing and too tight. This set-up is starting to feel entirely too familiar, and if he's not mistaken what comes next will be—


"Eight o'clock," he barks, wrenching the words out of his throat and into the open air, where they leave a harsh, accusatory trail.

Yamamoto—for the love of—actually starts looking around. "Already?" he asks, slightly awestruck but mostly just commentarial. "Ha, that's crazy. Can't tell at all from in here, huh? Needs a few more windows."

Gokudera is—his face is twitching, he has to stop. "Eight o'clock tomorrow morning," he says vehemently. "Be in front of the hotel."

"Why? What's going on? Do we have an assignment?"

There is a pause. His muscles work. Yamamoto's fingers are still on his face, a thumb lingering at the edge of one lip corner.


At that, he spins around and stalks away quickly, and if Yamamoto is reacting in any way—hand reaching out to catch on nothing, fingers swimming in barely warm air, mouth forming the shape of some inaudible word—then there's no way for Gokudera to know, see, he's already got his back turned.

Which is the way that it should be.


History will ask, how did the Azzurri ever manage to bring home the cup, with scandal and the shadow of arrest dogging their heels?

Here's how Buffon tells it:

"It was the second night of camp. All of the players were having dinner when I received a summons from the Parma Prosecutor's Office telling me to make an appearance the following day. Sensing the change in the atmosphere, every face in the room hardened. I felt a strong responsibility for dampening the mood like that, while feeling this nameless anger build within me. But I was desperately trying to endure it. Having finished eating, we began heading back to our rooms. That's when Fabio asked everyone to wait, gathering all of us around a table. He then said, 'Whether or not Gigi has committed a crime, I don't know the truth. But I do believe him to be a man who would admit to his wrongdoing if he's guilty. That's who Gigi is. And Gigi is saying he's innocent. That's enough for me to shred any kind of doubt. I believe him from the bottom of my heart.'"

Star players make a team, but it's the captain that holds it together. A leader who was born, not made—that's Fabio Cannavaro. The very definition of world class. And that, too, is Gigi Buffon, who kept five clean sheets in addition to a 453-minute scoreless streak during that year's World Cup finals, conceding only two goals in the end: one own and one penalty. The captain and the keeper, ballasting the storm.

But in July of 2006, when Juventus was dropped to Serie B and summarily stripped of honors for their involvement in Calciopoli, it was Cannavaro who transferred to Real Madrid, and Buffon who stayed.

If Gokudera ever saw him again, he would ask Buffon why he didn't leave as well. Why had he chosen to stay when there was so little—if anything—left to hold on to?


The cabbie glares horribly, eyes riveted at the cigarette the moment they slide into the back of the taxi, and pointblank refuses to start driving until Yamamoto has rolled down the window and waved a good-natured thumbs-up in his general direction. Gokudera rolls his eyes, settles back against the cheap leather seat. It sighs under his weight. He slips on his shades, preparing to ignore everything around him, even when Yamamoto reaches right over his face to hit the power button and misses his nose by hairbreadths.

"Er, I think you're going to have to say something here." Yamamoto gestures helplessly at the cab driver, who is now verbally abusing them in machinegun Italian with a heavy Lombardy accent. "Is he asking for the direction?"

Gokudera waits exactly fifty-nine seconds before complying, Isola Garibaldi something something, willing himself to convey as much disdain as he could over the top of his RB3358. His fingers itch. The Tenth could be in mortal danger at this very instance.

The driver huffs and puffs, but finally, they start rolling.


There is something inherently cloying in the wind that wafts through this city in April, flirting with skirt hems and rushing in through open car windows, tangling in passengers' hair. They are in the north, where it is cooler and the sky is bluer, and the clouds are enormous and untouchable—more so than anywhere else. Gokudera slants his eyes over just in time to see that Yamamoto is doing that annoying tick-box tourist thing where you hang with half your face out a moving car's window, arm braced along its edge.

Seen from the side, his almost-profile is traced in sunlight, backlit with the spring glare. His dark hair spikes sneakily over the back of his shirt collar, and the smile he wears is private—like nothing Gokudera has seen before.

This is motivation enough for him to tip his head the other way, exhale loudly. The smoke that unspools from his mouth curls in midair for one second before getting swept out the open window by the wind, dispersed into the busy streets. His gaze follows.

In a nod to stereotypes, Milan is fashionable. Milan is fashion, the forlorn hope of the avant garde. Shamal once told Hayato that this was his favorite city, and as his eyes skitter across the army of glamazons roaming the sidewalks with their skirts up to there and their boots up to there, perfect lips, perfect hair, and all the latest fashions, Gokudera has the sudden, inexplicable urge to send his former tutor a postcard. In Milan. Lovely weather. Do not wish you were here.

But the reality is, Milan is the ugly duckling, the Cinderella to her more conventional sisters. Wonder-seekers stepping off the Venice line with gondolas and sentimental waterways rosying their minds are invariably disappointed. The war had ravaged, leaving bombed out and twisted heaps of bricks and stones. The Lombards, descendants of conquerors, refused to let their capital city join the ranks of the Citta Morte, no way, no how; they had no choice but to reconstruct, and in the place of noble ruins, they built the present day Milano, high-rising blocks standing in for scavenged edifices, functionality over historicity. Out with the old, in with the new.

The Milanesi are a busy, future-oriented people who have no time to worry about their past.

Hayato likes Milan. The highstrung weather, the Manolo jungle, the flirty, rollicking streets have their brash charms, he thinks, tapping ash out the window. He likes the dizzying nightlife, the pitiful, defunct canal system, likes the brazenness of the excess. He even likes their football team—somewhere in the closet of his apartment back in Namimori is an old Rossonero jersey he never got around to making himself throw out. Not gallant Inter, but brutish, plodding Milan, bold, brilliant, constantly outshining his blood brother, but hated in all of Italy. It's hard not to look for all the parallels, when you know how to find them.

Juventus is based in Turin, not Milan.

"Stop here!" he orders, and the taxi skids to a halt. The cab rings with the cabbie's malediction when the fare is practically tossed in his face. "Come on," he says in Japanese, nodding to Yamamoto, who stares back in puzzlement.

"Where are we going?"

"In here. Hurry up, do I look like I have all day?"

"This is…"

"Quit dragging your feet and move."



"Are we going shopping?"

Gokudera clicks his tongue impatiently, and lights a new cigarette. "I need a belt."


The store has swank and name, more swagger than sense, and is possibly too hip for people who appear to be obviously high school students, but all the personnel trot up to greet them instantly, hover about at their elbows in a polite but decidedly subservient manner, leaving no doubt that the Vongola name has started its subsurface circulation the moment they stepped off the plane. While everyone is shouting "Ciao!" and kissing everyone else's cheek at least three times, the senior assistant, a tall, imposingly thin woman with penciled-in eyebrows, takes Gokudera's specifications. In the time it takes for him to fold up his sunglasses, she has returned, holding up two broad black-leathers that seem totally identical, both matte and studded throughout with intricate silver designs.

"Do you prefer the one that will make you look like a child gigolo, or the one that will make you look like an over-the-hill leather freak?" she asks, imperious and utterly without sarcasm.

Gokudera narrows his eyes in concentration, but he is prevented from making this terribly difficult choice by the braying sound of Yamamoto's laughter. "Are those your options? They're so similar, how're you gonna choose?"

Gokudera levels him with a glare. "Are you blind as well as stupid? They are nothing alike."

"They're exactly the same!"

Instantaneously, a scandalized undercurrent slithers across the rank of junior assistants. The temperature in the room seems to drop as they, as a single body, form a circle around Yamamoto, who immediately scoots back, suggesting perhaps that he needs the space the size of a small Fiat separating him from the encroaching shop girls. His idiotic smile falters as he swallows audibly.

None of the shop assistants understands Japanese, but they all have a preternatural ability to sniff out non-believers. In a blink, Yamamoto is flanked by eager women chirping away excitedly about colors and textures and cuts. In a stampede of stiletto heels, they all disappear into a dressing room.

When they emerge, Yamamoto is looking dazed and a bit violated, a skittishness to his step that was never there before. He still has a woman at his side fussing with his shirt collar, knotting up the loose tie. They've wrangled him into a suit, this slim, dark thing with clean flowing lines, touches of dark red here and there like the good, silky kind of wine. It moves with the cadence of his long limbs, frames the sharp hint of collarbones where the shirt peeks open carelessly, and still with an imperceptible strain about the shoulder set, as though the boy boxed inside isn't quite used to that kind of artful, expensive encasement, not yet.

He looks good.

The senior assistant makes a discreet cough, and chillingly reminds Gokudera that his cigarette's dropped to the floor, they're certainly very flexible here but rules are rules and they could be fined for that, could he please refrain from littering? He tunes her out completely, shoves another cigarette into his mouth without bothering to pick up the first one, and is nonchalantly flipping his knuckles over the lighter when Yamamoto stops picking at his sleeve awkwardly, face brightening. "Hey, that the girls over there?"

One day, Gokudera will probably learn to retain some capacity for lateral thinking even in a state of distraction, but that day is not today. His line of vision aligns with Yamamoto's instinctively, and the moment he recognizes Haru's and Kyoko's cheerful faces beyond the glass window, resplendent with sun and fresher than a July bride, is also the moment that Bianchi's slides into the frame. His mind holds one brief image of her proud, beautiful half-smile before it swims with nausea and he bends over and—

"Dio mio!"

"Hey, hey, Hayato, take it easy there!"

—drops chunks all over a rack of cashmere dresses.


"Have you ever considered hypnosis? I saw this special on TV once where they cured this guy of his post-traumatic stress disorder with hypnosis, it was pretty cool."

"Shut up," Gokudera snarls, and presses his face closer into the table's cool surface. "I don't have PTSD."

They're sitting at an outdoor café, far, far away from the shopping district, waiting for the extra strong espresso boasted by the waiter to revive some of Gokudera's more vital neurons, and for once, even Yamamoto can't find anything to laugh about. The flaying glare Gokudera's been sending him might have something to do with it, but he would do well not to get his hopes up.

"Hah! I just thought of something. The fashion house of Armanni—"


"—of Armani, right, right, they probably think you were some kind of extremist critic, hahaha."

"Well you paid for that hideous suit, so at least they know someone's a fan."

Yamamoto keeps chuckling, completely unfazed, like he finds people abusing his fashion sense particularly endearing. Gokudera's always had the bleak suspicion that Yamamoto only keeps up this airheaded lunacy to humor him—he's seen him in action, knows that someone who moves like that cannot possibly be as stupid as he looks. It's frustrating as a result to watch him shrug off heaps of abuse with a casual lift of his shoulder, a disarming grin, so easy and unguarded and deceptively harmless.

Nothing at all like Hayato, who never met a short fuse he didn't like.

Perhaps catching the direction of his gaze, Yamamoto picks up the unused straw sitting beside his glass, and tears off one end of the paper wrapping. He puts the exposed end to his mouth, and blows, sending the rest of the wrapper looping gracefully through the air.

Gokudera sneers, eyes sliding shut. "That was in Rome, you imbecile."

"Haha, was it?"

"It's in the title."

"I've been to Rome. First time for Milan, though. Doesn't look all that different."

"That's because you're a retard. Are you going to order champagne and ask for your first cigarette too?"

"I would, but I know you don't share your smokes. You don't share well."

Hayato narrows his eyes. "Share what exactly?"

"I don't know." Yamamoto shrugs easily. "Your things. Your past."

Gokudera stares at him. His past. Sharing. What is there to? His gaze flickers, momentarily, over to the obese pigeons scratching their dirty beaks out on the pavement. They could be in Rome, for all those birds know. Gutter rats. Some asshole once told him that, in that regard, all European cities were exactly the same, and since he was such a slum-dwelling cafone he should have known that, don't forget half-bred too. The last word leaving his mouth at the same time that Gokudera's ring sliced his bottom lip open. Only later did he learn that had been the eldest son of a local capo régime. Leaving town was like escaping from Hades, with hellhounds on his heel.

His past. He's done the math, and it's never been particularly reassuring. 80 percent of it was Italy. At least 20 percent was just him making shit difficult for himself.

From a cartographer's standpoint, Italy is the shape of a boot, one long, unrelieved curve from the tip that kisses Sicily to the lakes of Lombardy. A common prejudice is that the further you go to the south, the darker the souls of the inhabitants. Gokudera disagrees. His journey was a northward tread, and everywhere he went the experience was pretty much the same. Ejected from Sicilia. Practically laughed out of the Napoli court. The month he spent in Bologna learning how to make T4 from scratch and researching tsuchinoko on the side, one of the best he'd ever had in his life, until she, too, rebuffed him.

Roma. Proud, historic, regal like that dickwad's nose he'd broken that time, and for three miserable, March-sodden days, he couldn't find a single establishment to take him in for the night. Desperation seething up in waves; he hated this country then.

In all those years dragging his feet from place to place, city to city, like a beggar with his hand outstretched, he had only a theorem to offer. I can be your lever, with me you can move the world, just give me a goddamn place to stand.

Like Archimedes, he never managed to resolve that last condition by himself either.


His temples are searing again with the fingers of nausea. He slumps over in his seat, dropping his cheek to the table.

Beside him, Yamamoto is—bastard's smiling. Moisture gleaming on his upper lip. The straw still dangling from his mouth seems almost obscene. It's the same sunny, unfamiliar smile, the one he had on earlier in the taxi, like he's actually capable of a thought that for some reason doesn't make it past the surface. Gokudera is still trying to decipher what exactly that might be when Yamamoto reaches over and palms the back of his neck with one broad hand, kneading gently in slow, concentric motions.

His shirt slips, and it's skin on skin.

He tenses.

Yamamoto's smile does not waver, but his fingers have stopped moving. Gokudera almost wishes they hadn't, because damn it baseball freak, now is no time to drop the oblivious act. This is deliberate, those long, clever fingers are saying, with their immobility, their conspicuity, their insultingly familiar calluses. It's a little bit distracting and a lot annoying, this instance of mutual acknowledgment, contact after a series of near-misses, last night in the hallway being the last. They haven't touched since February, not since that day after the game and the wind outside was so loud when he walked home, pilfered long drags from his dying cigarette.

But now here's Yamamoto's hand, a warm weight on his neck, coaxing the discomfort of sweat. Sooner or later, one of them will have to bring it up, verbalize the requisite 'Fuck off', and the stubborn expression on Yamamoto's face looks like it's settled down for a Mexican standoff.

In his peripheral vision, there's a flutter of movement, and their waiter swoops in, bearing their order on a tray. The moment broken, Gokudera straightens up in his seat, and Yamamoto's hand drops back to his side. Their eyes slide away simultaneously.

Say something, his mind advises. Share. He mutters, glaring at the soup bowl, "Actually, the last time I was in Milan was right before I transferred to your school."

Yamamoto's gaze is transfixed on some unspecified point between the tip of his scuffed trainer and the street. His eyes are narrowed and very dark, almost shuttered, lashes throwing long shadows on his cheeks. "Yeah?"

Yeah. Staggering into town on the last leg of his doomed pilgrimage, low on nitro and nicotine-starved. Reborn's letter in his pocket beating a pulse that spoke of new hopes, foreign shores—but he couldn't give in, not until he was absolutely certain there was nothing left worth staying for. One last job, one last chance, and that was this storied, buttressed, policed city, which was not his home—in which he was barely a guest. His hotel room was no private suite at the Brun, but it had a bed, a window that looked out to crisscrossing laundry lines, and a television that seemed to stream nothing but local programs, football specials.

On the smudged screen, some foreign player wearing black and red stripes was giving an interview. A Brazilian. "I love Milan. If possible, I would like to be a Rossonero forever," the man said, flashing a million dollar smile at the camera. For no real reason, Gokudera felt his throat closing up.

That night, he finished the job. The following day, he boarded a plane for Narita International. Flying over the Pacific Ocean for the first time, he asked for his dinner in Japanese.


He does, however, remember a good day.

A day in June. All the windows heavy with sunlight in the drawing room, where six-years-old Hayato was fucking up Brahms on purpose to piss off his music teacher, dragging out an arpeggio mutinously in a lazy slur of fingers. Then the heavy double doors were swinging open, their sleepy creak sighing in tune with the click of highheel pumps on the marble floor, and the music came to a jarring halt. In a graceless tumble, he was in his mother's arms, inhaling deep the sweet lily fragrance that lingered in the folds of her dress. The private tutor excused himself hastily, immediately forgotten upon absence.

His mother. Like a finger pressing lightly to a skipping vein, her presence was quiet and welcome, shaping its arch to his being, synching perfectly with the flow of oxygen to his heart. Sunlight came on strong, effusive, like water spilling everywhere. Backlit, she looked unreal. Mi sei apparso come un fantasma. Sun on her hair, on her lips and her hands, tracing her secret smile, secrets that were like music he'd never learned. The grand piano their witness. It didn't occur to him until much later to wonder if she ever missed it—though she must have—the rush, perched on that heightened stool, chasing the metronome before an enthralled audience. But his fingers remembered hers, in a way that the ivory keys never did. In the hallway, there were voices, consonants melting into vowels, but in here all was quiet, all was sunlight. More than Italy, more than even music and the perfection of prime numbers in later years, she was the one thing he wanted the most, the one thing he could wholly have, and that, he remembers, was a good day. One of many.


But that was before. Before he developed this invisible exoskeleton. Before Italy taught him hurt—and loneliness, the art of self-armoring. Before he realized that, to the proud, keen-nosed Italians all around him, the lily perfume of his soft, beautiful mother was a stench, a stench that came from motley barbaroi blood flowing from her veins to his, so rank and pungent and well-permeated that he could never hope to come clean, never hope to outrun its floating presence regardless of how many years thereafter he spent bathing under storm gutters, plunging his hands in burn-sweet nitroglycerin, holding the stained fingers over barrels of smoking tars.


Late morning tips over into afternoon. Boredom mounts.

"So, are we doing anything else today? Anymore sightseeing?"

"What? You want to go to the Duomo and feed pigeons? Take pictures with German tourists?"

"Hey that sounds like it could be fun."

"Like a hole in the head. If you want one of those, all you have to do is ask."

Yamamoto grins, squinting in the sun. "Oh come on, it's my first time here," he cajoles, and Gokudera's just about to shoot back a reasonable, "I am just so heartbroken for your perfect European holiday," when his vision snags on a bold silhouette out by the pavement and his mouth slackens around his cigarette.

"What about… a spin?"


"A ride. Driving. Sightseeing from a moving vehicle. Don't all movies about European holidays have one of those scenes?"

"Yeah, that sounds great. Should I call a taxi?"

"No, not on a taxi. On that."

"That's? Oh."


A Ducati 749R. Slick black, gleaming curves like a Mediterranean dream that would feel good under your palm. An utter classic. Her trellis frame sings a song of excess, brassily uneconomical, and his y-chromosome is so instantly horny it's hard to sit upright.

Yamamoto whistles. "Not bad. Though I read in a magazine it doesn't handle half as well as the Suzuki GSX—"

"If you wish to live, do not finish that sentence." He throws Yamamoto a look like he's been beating orphans with his baseball bat, like the Ducati might be his next victim. "Make yourself useful and keep watch."

"Keep watch? What're you going to do, hotwire the bike?"

The very thought. Gokudera hums impatiently, groping for his penknife as he slouches out of his chair. He thumbs the catch that sets off the secret attachment, crouching low beside the bike to examine its ignition box. Apparently, some part of him will always and forever remain a thirteen-year-old with an all-purpose toolkit hidden in his pocket knife.

"You are going to hotwire the bike."

"I'll return it when we're done. And idiot, what did I just say? Keep your eyes open."

And this is the part where, were he anybody else in the world, someone with brains and sanity and a functioning moral compass maybe, Yamamoto would have physically restrained Gokudera and dragged him away, informing him in no uncertain terms exactly what a fucking psychopath he is. The fact that he doesn't, just shoves his hands into his pockets, eyes slanting imperceptibly up and down the street, serves to compound Gokudera's suspicion that while half the shit he gets up to is due to his personality disorder, the rest of it can be rightfully attributed to these pathological enablers.

Given the ease with which Yamamoto slips from semi-respectability to shadiness in the name of the Vongola (or joyriding, whatever), he either has to be inhumanly thick, or an evil genius, neither of which is a thought Gokudera cares to dwell on at length when he's up to his eyeballs in intricate machinery.

"No Vespa scooter for the princess," he mutters to himself, working as quickly as he would allow himself without incurring unacceptable damage to the starter solenoid.

His lips crack into a fond smirk of their own accord at the sound of the engine purring, sweet and low. Hayato throws one leg over the bike, feels it rumble to life beneath him. Powerful, complex, difficult to handle. Exactly how he likes his toys.

"Well, what're you waiting for? Hop on."

The thing about Yamamoto, he doesn't have to be told twice. There's a sliver of dissonance when his fingers insinuate themselves into the loop of Gokudera's belt, but then they're easing into the stream of traffic and it's forgotten, not even an issue in light of the way Milanese drivers treat their streets like a game of Space Invaders and fellow commuters like the malicious prowling aliens in horrible 8-bit graphics. Neither of them in a helmet, wind twisting through their hair, and all Gokudera can think is, speed, speed, as he cuts through the swarm of vehicles, changing lanes at will. They're halfway out to Navigli, and if he's driving a little faster than a harmless city tour would warrant, well, that only proves that his job description says 'mafia guardian' and not 'chauffeur'.

But Hollywood sentiments aside, with the sun beating down brightly and the aforementioned soft breeze singing motherfucking joie de vivre, this right here is a fairly picture perfect moment, one begging to be shattered totally and impossibly. Plus, the Ducati handles like the wonder of design she is, and maybe the almost-diss from earlier is still smarting because this is what happens next:

"What team?"


"Recruiting you. The manager who came to scout you out, who does he represent?"

A long pause, in which Yamamoto seems to be considering the question, scanning the field for landmines. Maybe he's even frowning, tension needling between his brows. The customary sounds of Milan roar up around them, drowning out the long, sweet curve afforded by the silence.

"Yomiuri Giants."

"That's a big deal."

"I guess so."

"You'd look like total shit in white and orange."

It's not true, and on some deeper, non-bastard level, Gokudera knows it. Likelier than not, Yamamoto would look completely fantastic in pro uniform, even better than he did in the designer suit that was forced on him earlier, because Hayato knows he would also be wearing that brilliant, triumphant smile, the bone-deep satisfaction of a great talent finding its place. It would awaken his longtime ache, sure, and at the same time, just make him want to get closer, want nothing more than to bury his nose in Yamamoto's neck and inhale the sexy wave of energy that always wafts off of his person after a victory.

He manages to drag himself back to awareness and Yamamoto is saying, "Oh yeah?" An amused tone, with a smile snapping on its heels, ambiguously shit-eating. "You don't even like sports, how'd you know Yomiuri's colors are white and orange?"

The bike swerves into a reckless, sliding arc and vectors across two entire lanes of traffic, galloping onto a busy sidewalk, leaving half the tread of its tire on the shoulder. "Fuck," swears Yamamoto as Gokudera wrenches the handles left-ish, stomps the brake, and they come to a sudden, grinding halt in a spot recently vacated by a gaggle of harassed middle-aged women.

Immediately, a chorus of horns and highly creative Italian invectives blares up around them, utter cacophony.

A beat passes before Yamamoto begins easing his fingers from where they've basically skewered themselves into Gokudera's sides, muttering, "Goddamn, Hayato."

"Get off."


"Get off," he says again. Traffic continues to streak past them heedlessly. His cigarette's burned down to a stub; he spits out the filter and stares silently at his hands, unmoving and white-knuckled around the black steering bars, until the lightening load signals Yamamoto's slow dismount.

"Look, if it was something I said—"

He waves the inchoate apology away with a shrug, hands digging into his pockets, one after another. It takes a few minutes, and Yamamoto's undoubtedly confused stare flays into the back his neck, where the skin still tingles with a phantom touch, glowing red hot. It's slightly unacceptable, but—there. His fingers close around the hotel pen he's got stashed inside his blazer, at the same time that his other hand brushes the edge of something, something paper. He closes around the square shape.

A matchbook. He turns it over in his hand, stares at the nondescript cover, mellow cardboard, the skinny red stripe of sanded surface used for striking. Flips it open to observe the row of evenly lined matches, never used, like teeth on a comb. He doesn't remember how it got there. Must have been slipped in there along with his smokes, ages ago, a geologic era ago. The pale wooden bodies holding the ignitable heads have since darkened with age.

"What are you—"

Decision made, he pops the pen's cap, scribbles on the match cover an address that doesn't even have to be plucked from memory.

"Here," he says, tossing the matchbook over to Yamamoto, who looks nonplussed but catches it deftly with one hand, reflexive. "Nine o'clock." He throws the bike into gear. "Be there."

"Wait a sec, what am I supposed to—"

"Don't be late," Gokudera intones, with the exact same inflection, and speeds off without a further word.


He drives north, into the Lake District, mainlining at just under 220 km/h on the freeway, and by the time glass-colored Como is opening up beneath the Ducati's front wheel, it's well into the afternoon, the sun an eggwhite burst in the lower belly of the sky. The stooping, sunbaked buildings around him have begun to cast shadows. The air is cool, the wind relentless. Italy is still hard for him, unsurprisingly, but the way he thinks about things doesn't matter anymore—if it ever has. He is here. A sour feeling starts up in the seat of his stomach. No matter where he turns, everything he touches goes to ruin. He curves his fingers around his chest, where the distance keeping him from his Tenth has coiled around his heart like a time bomb, stirring and palpitating restlessly from tick to tock.

It rides him just as hard as all the intractable miles between Japan and Italy did once: with every ache and beat.



"You're fifteen minutes late."

"Just, wow—are we even allowed to be in here?"

"I told you not to be late. Where the hell were you?"

Slowly, Yamamoto steps into the blinding light under the curving dome, eyes wide and a little awed, like one of those people who open their doors on TV to find cameras and giant cardboard checks being shoved at them. He does something that looks suspiciously like crushing a clump of grass underfoot with the tip of his shoe, as though making certain that it is all, in fact, not some sort of wild hallucination. "I had to stop and ask for directions," he says abstractly, still taking in the gallery of empty seats. "It took awhile."

There's a beautifully scathing comment Gokudera wants to make about staggering understatements, but it occurs to him that the entire situation was his doing anyway, and maybe there's a limit to how far unreasonable demands can go. He shoves this thought out of mind, because Yamamoto has come into whiffing distance and every inch of him hair down reeks of perfume.

"What is that stench on you?"

"Oh, that." Yamamoto grins sheepishly, sniffing his shirt. "I ran into some ladies handing out samples. They gave me some freebies."

"By throwing you into a vat of the stuff?" Up close, Gokudera can see lipstick marks braceleting his t-shirt collar, in shades of red and pink and sunset bronze. He frowns. "Did they give you a makeover while you were at it too?"

"They gave me directions, actually," Yamamoto says quickly, and it's possible his cheeks are flushed, dark red to match the imprint closest to his Adam's apple. "Still, when the taxi dropped me off here, I was almost sure I'd gotten the wrong address. Just. Wow."

Easily impressed. Some people might find that endearing. Not like that's a challenge with Yamamoto, who is well-adjusted and well-liked and cheers for teams on ESPN indiscriminately. Even random Italian women who don't know him or his language from Adam find him so disgustingly personable that they all want to take him home and feed him pasta forever and ever.

All of which means a whole lot of nothing to Gokudera.

"Welcome to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza," he grumbles, tamping down the annoyance. "Otherwise known as the San Siro." He nudges the ball lying unobtrusively at his feet, and Yamamoto's eyes fly to it like a bullet to a target.

"What is this about?"

"How about a game?"

"Ahaha, what? A game? Of football? You are challenging me to a game of football?"

Here, Gokudera begins fingering his belt in a totally innocent manner, and the laughter ends abruptly.

"You're serious?"

"Just a kickaround." He sends the ball into the air, thinking 9.8 m/s2, t is ? (2d/g), calculating how many seconds he'd get for the estimated height, and catches it again on its way down, from knee to ankle to ground in a fluid movement. "Don't be a chickenshit."

Yamamoto's eyes widen briefly; then, he smiles, flashing teeth. "Don't want to make you cry, that's all."

"You wish." This is Italian calcio now, the macho way of Serie A, of the Milanista, where men soldier through popped knees and ruptured ligaments towards a manly victory, and any winging sissy who doesn't like that can get the hell off the pitch.

Of course, just because a bat is not involved doesn't mean Yamamoto should be underestimated. Like, say, when he pulls some fancy footwork and swipes the ball from under Gokudera's heel. "The only way you could beat me is by playing dirty," he yells, rushing past as the stadium rings with his laughter.

Playing dirty would be dogging his steps with mini-bombs. Playing dirty would be an errant knee to the crotch, a loose elbow, a hatchet heel, a sucker-punch combination of all three. Playing dirty…

Gokudera stops running and doubles over in his track, pretending to clutch dramatically at the side of his ribs, and as expected, Yamamoto pauses momentarily to glance back at him in bewildered concern; the ball, losing momentum, lolls pathetically at his feet. That's all the opening he needs. The glissando of the game is interrupted, and Gokudera chooses this moment to surge ahead and score the first goal, smirking over his shoulder as Yamamoto's face dawns in realization.

Forza Italia.


When Gigi Buffon made all those record-breaking saves at the 2006 World Cup, he wasn't trying to save face. That was just a man doing his job, and if doing his job was synonymous with "defending national pride" then all the better for him.

But when Buffon stayed at Juventus, when he ignored the voice in his head likely giving the very good advice that he could, at that point, literally have gone to any team in the world, it was something else entirely. You could say that it was love, or loyalty, or old-fashion pigheadedness that made him stay, but what the world saw then was a man showing his quality.

Because a man does what he must.

After all, the definition of world class is only this: that you don't measure your place by where you stand in the world, but by where the rest of the world stands in relation to you.

Don't be the lever.

Be the fulcrum.


The game ends, appropriately, on the same impromptu note that it started out on. The final score stands at 14-3.

"If you'd stopped to take a drink of water when I told you to, maybe you wouldn't have lost so badly."

"Shut up."

"Maybe a less aggressive offense…"

"I'm two syllables away from triple bombing your ass."

Yamamoto just laughs a dirty honking laugh, like he knows the threats are mostly without heat, and at this point, Gokudera thinks depressingly, it's probably true.

He flops down onto the grass, getting dirt on his jeans, and out of the corner of his eye, sees Yamamoto follow suit. Side by side beneath the flood of stadium light. Time congeals around them. He has to confirm to himself that they're on terra firma and not, say, floating in some nondescript blue-black ether, stars twinkling up and down the firmament, the stuff of hallucinogenic fantasies. Myth and history, proof and paradox.

Two separate languages lie between them, scattered in fragments of accents and inflections, and still the only proper way of understanding is this: when Gokudera stares, sideways, at a tripe of sweating gleaming at Yamamoto's temple, matting his hair.

"This place is much bigger than it looks on TV."

What place, he is thinking, distractedly. Tell me where is my place, because I've been looking.

"I wonder if I'll feel the same way about the stadium in Tokyo," Yamamoto continues, barely above a whisper, and Gokudera bursts out before the warning properly makes it through his brain-to-mouth filter, "Does that mean you said yes?"

There is a moment of silence, the leaden pause as things settle into the territory of 'no going back'.

"What do you mean?"

"It's a simple question. Did you or did you not take the recruiter's offer? Yes or no?"

Here it comes.

Slowly, Yamamoto pushes himself up, pillaring himself with his arms. They're close enough that when he turns over and leans down, his face hangs almost directly above Gokudera's. It is obscured by shadow, deeply unsettling.

"It's okay," he says. "I don't expect you to forgive me."


Gokudera nearly breaks his spine bolting up, and Yamamoto has to reel back to avoid a head-on collision. "That's—what the hell does that even mean?"

Yamamoto looks back at him evenly. "Tsuna already knows."

At this point, Gokudera corks him, just beneath the chin. He feels his knuckle meet bone: that one would smart, hurt, leave a bruise. Good. Yamamoto goes down, and he's on his knees with his teeth digging into his bottom lip, jaw shuddering against the overbite.

"So what? So you're just taking advantage of his good will to do whatever the fuck you want? You—you fucking ingrate, I'll kill you!"

This is not empty threat. This, out of everything in the world, is unforgivable. It's unforgivable because it's Tsuna. Tsuna, who gave him a family, who was practically the only thing standing between Gokudera and a life as just another nameless Mafioso soldier, expendable and open to arrest for god knows how many felonies. Tsuna, who gave him a choice that wasn't shot in the throat by a sicario or cleansed by the corrupt police. Tsuna, who was—and is still—the only person in the world who could reach in and draw Gokudera out of that place deep inside, where he still mourns and hates and yearns with such an awful, blinding fury that even he's afraid he might one day self-immolate.

But he suddenly feels like a pitcher of ice has been poured down the back of his shirt, because Yamamoto is rising from the grass, fists clenched, body taut, and the expression on his face tells Gokudera that the horrible anger he holds inside has somehow found a mate.


Actually, Gokudera hadn't even known Yamamoto had been looking at clubs.

It was not apparently a conversation you had with people you'd been shoving up against various vertical surfaces of the school locker room for the better part of three months—no time to engage in heartfelt conversations about prospects and life-changing decisions in between blowjobs and deep bruising kisses, clearly. This was of course unfair, since Gokudera was no strong advocate of healthy communication either, but saying that was like assuming he even knew how to be otherwise. He didn't.

So really, it made sense that he would walk into the changing room that day after the game, steps assured by long habit, to find Yamamoto paying ear service to some crisply dressed vulture, who bandied words like potentials and promising future like a price tag. Pitching. Yamamoto had seen him even if the recruiter hadn't, and once upon a time, there would have been an explosion, demands for explanations, why and what and wherefore. Instead, he turned around and walked up the staircase, back onto the field. Silent and calm even as his bones hugged the ache home, made it his own, made room for it with all the others. Fine. It meant he was growing.

That was February, and the wind flayed skin from flesh. March, and Namimori drowned in rain. He dripped it all over his carpet coming home from school, his apartment small to the point of inducing claustrophobia. April, and they hadn't touched in two months, but the snappish casualness of their conversations didn't suffer for it, so no one noticed. No one had noticed before. It had started in an unspoken agreement, we're in this together, and they were still in it together when it fell apart.

It was like the first day after a surgery: clothes over your body shielding the scars. How can anyone tell you used to be different?


Once, he used to think loneliness was logarithmic, growing smaller with the accruing distance. Ever since he lost the music and discovered through his brush with applied chemistry that, really, all the sciences could be stripped down to mathematics, the pure, barebones underlying principles of the universe, he has taken advantage of the fact that he could see in patterns that other people couldn't to manipulate the world around him, numbers and systems streaming through his mind and onto paper, making sense of things.

But looking at Yamamoto now, his face like one long crack in the wall that just keeps getting bigger, all he can think about is asymptotes, the mathematics of longing. Infinitely close, but never reaching, so that even if you press your hand flat against the surface, there will still be that space in between, oxygen rushing past. It is in that sliver of space that he used to find his place, he thinks, having for awhile somewhere to come back to, and suddenly, the emptiness feels huge.

"I used to think I was just a baseball player."

His head snaps up, but he stays silent and just lets Yamamoto talk at him.

"That's all I wanted to do. Play baseball. My father makes sushi, and I would be a baseball player. I didn't think I could be a swordsman, or—anything like that. But now it's not that simple anymore. So now I'm learning how to be many things at once."

He's trying to decode that, figure what it might mean, is it I never asked for any of this or It's over, but actually, all he hears is the same promise, saying We're in this together like it always does. Against his better judgment, he is anchored by that assurance. As always, he's capable of velocity, frenetic energy, but not depth—that only comes of having been dragged down once too many times.

So Yamamoto isn't much for explosion, either. All the anger has dissipated from his person somehow, leaving instead a kind of acceptance, and an ocean rolls over Gokudera then. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and so he just reaches out and takes—neck? Hand? Settles for the lipstick-smeared collar, and when his shoulders lurch forward and the momentum carries him over the edge, Yamamoto just goes with it, lets Gokudera topple them both over, with him flat on his back. Gokudera brings his face down, close enough so their breaths mingle with each exhale, and a strange look crosses over Yamamoto's face.

"You were right," he says, teeth scraping over Yamamoto's lips. Just for a taste. His tongue remembers the flavor, craves it.

"I'm not going to forgive you."

A man does what he must, which in most cases, is just the best that he can.

No system is perfect. You can ascribe certain values to things, but in the end, they are only relative.


They don't have sex on the pitch. Not for lack of trying.


Later, though, back at the hotel, there is this totally scandalous scene as they come stumbling in through the posh lobby. This isn't so much Roman Holiday now as it is Pretty Woman, even if there are no hookers and none of it makes any fucking sense.

("Where's the bike?"

"I said I'd return it, didn't I? Get in the cab.")

They slam into an elevator, and an elderly woman very politely scurries back out into the hallway, throwing them an alarmed look as the door slides shut behind her. This is confusing, until Gokudera catches a glimpse of his face in the wall-to-wall mirror and sees what she must have seen—the flushed, glaze-eyed, lip-biting slut look that fills him with abject horror. He considers shoving Yamamoto away from him, but Yamamoto's hand is currently tugged inside his waistband, thumb stroking the path of his spine, skimming the top of his ass.

His mouth is pressed to a skipping vein in Hayato's neck when he mutters, "I didn't think we were ever gonna get to do this again."

"I didn't think—" and Gokudera pops up on his toes, shuts him up by kissing him, the failsafe method.

The elevator seems to take a million years and then some, but finally it stops crawling and deposits them unceremoniously on the thirteenth floor landing, where Yamamoto immediately makes to steer the two of them towards his suite at the end of the hall. Gokudera jerks him back roughly by the shoulder.

"Right here. My room's fine."

"Are you sure? You've never—"

"Yes. Get a move on, do you want to wake the rest of them?"

With what can only be magic and a prayer, they manage to get the door open without snapping the key card in half, and only pause the one second to flick on the lights—visibility is important, this needs to be seen—before crashing in a mass of limbs on the bed, they're lucky it's so conveniently situated. Gokudera feels the wind literally knocked out of him when Yamamoto drops like a ton of brick on top of him, and then proceeds to just lie there, face buried in the crook of his neck. He hits the moron upside the head.

"Don't fall asleep on top of me again."

"Hey now, be fair. That was one time."

"Only you would fall asleep wearing a buttplug."

"I was bushed out from practice," Yamamoto protests laughingly. "And there was that math exam the next day."

Which he ended up failing deplorably anyway, but only because Gokudera had, in a fit of vindictive pique, rolled him over onto his backside and left him sleeping like that all night, so that the next morning in class Yamamoto was unable to sit still for two minutes without wincing in obvious pain, his favorite sitting position severely compromised by an ill-advised foray into kinky sexual play. He smiled through it like a champ, however, made such idiotic replies to the teacher's concerned inquiries that Gokudera was left with little choice but to drag him into a supply closet after class and attempt to suck his meager brains out by way of his cock.

"Sometime today?" Yamamoto asks, leaning on his elbow, and Gokudera seizes him by the waistband and hauls him down flat on top of him.

He doesn't know what he's thinking next, but from here on out they're flying on autopilot. There's appreciable familiarity in that, Gokudera thinks, shucking Yamamoto out of his pants and taking his dick into one spit-slick palm, stroking it to full hardness. He looks up just in time to catch Yamamoto's dark eyes going all-pupil as he makes a breathy sound, reaching down and around to cup Gokudera's buttocks and drag him closer. They're crushed together on the bed, still half tangled in their clothes, and when their uncoordinated grappling results in the removal of shirts, Gokudera is greeted by the rough heated slide of Yamamoto's skin against his. Familiar—and yet nothing at all like how he'd imagined this would be.

He acts like a punk but thinks like a mathematician; it should surprise no one that the way he fucks—or gets fucked—is a cross between the two. As far as makeup sex go, it is completely ridiculous, lawless and potentially life-threatening in nature. At no point does anyone stop to weep and make grandiose vows of fidelity. There is potential for a sappy moment when Yamamoto presses Gokudera's thighs back and hooks his calves over his shoulders, slicking him before pressing tight against his entrance, biting his lips hesitantly—but Gokudera brilliantly forestalls this by grinding the cleft of his ass against Yamamoto's erect cock, at which point it finally gets the message.

Fortunately, Yamamoto's gone full-on non-verbal now, making a series of messy, dumb jock sounds that sends a trill of shivers down Gokudera's spine, fingertips digging into the gaps between his back ribs. He hates that. He does not, however, hate Yamamoto's sharp and minute thrusts, nor the way his face fortifies in concentration as he moves over Gokudera, wet hands gripping his hipbones. His mouth salty with the taste of Gokudera's body, the exponential curves of his straining shoulders mapped by mathematician fingers.

(There will be a distinct dearth of tears and vow-making in the afterglow as well, but that only takes place in the time window between rolling away from the wet spot and throwing the condom into the trash, so.)

"Was that Italian?" Yamamoto asks, sliding down beside him. His voice sounds thick and blurry in his throat. "That was Italian. Say it again."

"Say what?" Gokudera boggles, struggling to speak in starts and fits of panting. "Have you gone completely deaf? I didn't say anything. When have I ever spoken Italian to you?"

Except maybe, Merda, or possibly, La mamma di Yamamoto è una maiale, perhaps in a singsong voice, even, but what was forced from his mouth in the preceding moments couldn't possibly have been words: only a shudder, made into noise.

(The last thing he'd said aloud in Italy before leaving for Japan all those years ago had been an apology. Spiacente, he had muttered, mouth pressed to the cool marble in a shadowed corner of La Scala, mere steps away from the charred, well-dressed corpses of his latest targets. Spiacente. Sono spiacente. The same words, over and over, until his voice had given out, been absorbed by the ancient stone, which took on the consistency of his guilt. Asking forgiveness of no one, because it was forgiveness that no one could grant.)

Yamamoto just chuckles fondly, and throws his obscenely heavy arm over Gokudera's neck, fingers raking into his sweaty hair. With a strategically-aimed kick, Gokudera sends the dead weight tumbling off, and gets up from the bed. "Dumb jock," he says, in deliberate, well-enunciated Japanese, cracking his neck as he circles over to the bedside table for a new pack of smokes. His thoughts are enormous, crowd around in his head.

He opens his mouth again, and smoke vents out instead of words. I am not your keeper. I understand now. It's not my place to choose your place. I thought I had it all figured out, but you are a disturbance.

You complicate things.

Instead, "You have until this cigarette burns out to get me hard again," and Yamamoto nearly burns the bed tackling him down onto it.


Buffon, in another interview:

"I'm reminded of Fastrada's ring story. You know the story? The one where the Emperor Charlemagne falls in love with Fastrada. The barons are in his court, extremely worried because they see that Charlemagne is neglecting the affairs of state. When the girl suddenly dies, the courtiers feel relieved— but not for long because Charlemagne's love does not die with her. The Emperor carries her body to his bedroom, where he refuses to part from it. The Archbishop Turpin suspects an enchantment and insists on examining the corpse. Hidden under the dead girl's tongue he finds a ring. As soon as the ring touches Turpin's hands, Charlemagne falls passionately in love with the archbishop and quickly has the girl buried. In order to escape the embarrassing situation, Turpin flings the ring into lake Constance. Charlemagne thereupon falls in love with the lake and never leaves its shores."

One: Princess Ann left Joe Bradley behind in Rome, but that was Rome and politics were almost certainly involved.

Two: The values of places are also relative.

From the thirteenth floor window of a hotel room, Milan spreads out like a blanket of dotting lights, a much softer city in the night time than she appears in the glare of day. The city is showing her age, all the long, night-dimmed centuries written in cobblestone streets, and in his dreams, Gokudera will remember that, a sky colored orange with artificial light, reflected as a spill of illumination on a bare shoulder. The warm darkness of the room, that cloying heat, and the sound of low, even breathing, holding itself aloft.


well, we all need someone we can lean on
and if you want it, you can lean on me
yeah, we all need someone we can bleed on
and if you want it, baby, you can bleed on me

(rolling stones, let it bleed)



A/N: I am not neglecting my other fandoms, and especially not my WiP. This is just... a brief foray into something fun - if by fun you mean insane meandering that took over my brain while flying over the Pacific Ocean. My first brush with this fandom, so reviews would be HUGELY cherished.