Summary: It takes Gokudera a while to realize exactly how he feels about Tsuna. (One-sided GokuTsuna.)

Disclaimer: I do not own Katekyo Hitman Reborn.

A/N: I worked really hard on this, so I hope it turned out well. Man, but am I ever mean to Gokudera...

Warnings: Sexual themes, language, allusions to violence, angst.

Sawada Tsuna Must Die

Gokudera isn't sure what to expect when he first arrives on Japanese soil. Okay, so he's half Japanese (an Oriental half-breed, according to the smug whispers that Father's subordinates thinks he can't hear), and sure, he knows the language, but he's lived in Italy his entire life. This is a world that's entirely foreign to him, that may as well be another planet, and it makes him angry. It makes him want to punch a wall until his knuckles bleed (or, better yet, somebody's face).

More than anything, though, he's frightened. But nobody can know that—not ever.

He's been sent in order to establish good relations with the Vongola's boss-to-be; some pampered runt, as far as he's heard. Soft, easily manipulated; the type of person that makes Gokudera want to throw up (or blow shit up, when he has the chance). He's going to be transferring into the kid's school in order to become his subordinate, although a little voice in the back of his head keeps whispering that his old man just wants to get rid of him. He tells himself that it doesn't make sense, because Bianchi—the real child, the one who doesn't raise any eyebrows—may be coming here, too (no matter how much he may pray otherwise). But the thought still burns, still makes the hole inside him widen just a little bit more.

Not like he even misses home all that much, but at least it was familiar, at least there he knew who was who in the fucking zoo.

That's what he tells himself, anyway.

Gokudera hates Sawada Tsunayoshi the moment that he lays eyes on him. The boy's pathetic, as expected. Weak, spoiled, and unsure of himself; certainly not cut out to be the boss of anything, let alone one of the most powerful mafia families in the world. His eyes are way too wide, way too innocent, and he may as well be an angel with that smooth, expressive face. The Vongola doesn't need an angel, though; it needs a demon. Somebody with the conviction to get things done.

He can hear the whispers as he walks over to his assigned seat, the girls giggling behind their hands. It puts him on edge. Attention of any kind always reminds him of old piano recitals, of vacant smiles and claps on the back by strangers saying 'great job, son'.

He stops by Sawada's desk, and feels the hatred clawing hot and ugly in his throat. Gokudera does nothing to hide his disdain, revels in the fear he sees on the other boy's face, takes great satisfaction in kicking over his desk.

Good, he thinks as he stalks the rest of the way to his assigned seat. He should be afraid.

There's something about the boy that draws Gokudera's attention, and Gokudera tells himself that, whatever it is, it's borne out of loathing. What else could it be? Glaring at Sawada is the only thing that seems to ease the burning feeling inside of his chest. It's unnerving, because he's never felt this way before, never wanted so badly to incinerate someone with his dynamite. His fingers twitch restlessly against his jean-clad thighs, and the teacher's voice fades into meaningless static.

Gokudera knows one thing for certain: Sawada Tsunayoshi has to die.

After class is out, Gokudera keeps watching, and his anger continues to grow. Everything that Sawada does seems to grate on his nerves; his awkward laugh, his clumsiness, the look that he gets on his face whenever he's confronted with something that frightens him. It takes every ounce of Gokudera's self control not to attack Sawada during the volleyball game. Not that he even needs to, the way the boy is being bludgeoned repeatedly by the ball.

Somehow, Sawada's miraculous increase in skill towards the end of the game only pisses Gokudera off more. But unlike in the classroom earlier, he carefully schools his expression into one of apathy. He realizes how ridiculous it is that anybody, no matter how insufferable, can have such a profound affect on his state of mind.

"It's not over," he says to Sawada, because the idiot seems to think that it is. It will be over, though. Soon.

And then Gokudera will be heading back to Italy.

He feeds Sawada some bullshit about usurping his position as Tenth, because it seems like a much more legitimate reason for Gokudera's behavior, a reason that actually makes some kind of rational sense. Truthfully, the last thing the Gokudera wants is that kind of responsibility. He's never been ambitious; he just does what he's told (to be useful, to be needed). And while his concern for the future of the Vongola does have something to do with this burning desire to blow Sawada to smithereens, he can admit, if only to himself, that it's a very small something.

Mostly, he just wants this alien feeling to go away.

So he tries to kill the little bastard. He honestly does. But Reborn hits Sawada with another one of his Quick Fix bullets and everything goes to hell.

Standing there, surrounded by his own dynamite, he almost wants to laugh. What a way to go, he thinks; a sure-fire addition to the Vongola Hall of Shame. He can't laugh, however, with the panic pulsing through him, paralyzing every muscle. All he can get out is "the end…of me", because it's the first coherent thought that pops into his head.

Oh shit, I'm going to die. And then, I guess there are worse things that could happen.

He counts down the seconds to impact; he's memorized the detonation times of his entire arsenal. For those few agonizing seconds, the world becomes a blur of motion and fizzling fuses. But when 'zero' comes, there's no kaboom, and Sawada is crouching in front of him, the flame on his head extinguishing with the last of Gokudera's dynamite.

"Ah," he says, sighing in relief. "Thank goodness."

The feeling in Gokudera's chest—the one he'd thought was hatred—swells warm and thick and overwhelming. In his head, 'Sawada' becomes 'Tenth'. Gokudera's mouth seems to open on its own and he speaks loud and fast, smiling wider than he has in eleven years. And the things that he's saying are not supposed to be said; they're things that ought to be kept inside. Some of the words are lies (I just wanted to see if the Tenth had the strength to be a suitable boss), but most of them are not (Tenth, I'll follow you until the end of this Earth), and he just keeps speaking and grinning and feeling heat rising to his cheeks.

The warmth is still there in his chest, a pleasant burn, and he feels strangely elated. When he says, "I'll give you my life, Tenth," he means it. He just doesn't know why.

If Gokudera was frightened before, he's absolutely terrified now. But Japan isn't looking so bad anymore. In fact, it's looking better and better with every passing second.

He desperately needs another cigarette.

More people are welcomed into the Vongola family, and it should make Gokudera proud; it should make him happy. Should, but doesn't. Anger and anxiety gnaw at him instead, making him say and do things that are at best undignified, and at worst unprofessional. Because every new person means one more rival for the post of right-hand-man (one more person to steal away Tsuna's smiles). He does his best, to be a good subordinate, to not let emotions get in the way of his judgment, to not make it personal.

Sometimes it works out.

Most of the time, it doesn't.

And when Bianchi comes over from Italy, vowing to kill the Tenth so that Reborn can go back with her, Gokudera hopes that she's not being serious. (She isn't, because if she was really serious then the Tenth would already be dead; Gokudera knows this instinctively, even if he would never admit it aloud). Because if she was serious…

…He doesn't know if he could live with killing his own sister. But if it came down to that, if he really had to choose one or the other, he guesses that he would have to try.

The realization is only half-scary.

Gokudera doesn't understand why the Tenth is so uncomfortable around him, so he keeps trying to bridge the invisible gap that he just knows is getting wider and wider. He offers to help him with homework, to help teach him how to swim; anything to be a good right-hand-man.

But the thought of Tsuna being angry or upset makes Gokudera want to hurt himself, so he finds that his ability to be honest with the Tenth is severely limited. The boy is useless when it comes to certain things, like math, and Gokudera is very much aware of it. But he tells the Tenth otherwise, tells him that he's flawless, because that's what he thinks that the Tenth wants to hear.

He likes it when the Tenth smiles.

Except that, for some reason, the Tenth doesn't seem to smile all that much. Not genuinely.

And those rare smiles—the ones that make the Tenth's eyes light up, that make his face almost painfully beautiful—they're only given to a handful of people (Sasagawa Kyoko and the Baseball Freak).

But never, it seems, to Gokudera.

So Gokudera hurts, and wants, and is torn between how much he hates himself for being so pathetic, and how much he longs to make the Tenth (proud of him, want him, need him, safe) happy.

The burning, alien feeling is still there, and he still doesn't know why.

The fireworks are pretty, and Gokudera hasn't really seen any since he was a small child. He remembers not liking fireworks back then, because they made a loud 'bang!' that hurt his ears. But he has long since gotten over that; dynamite makes a much louder 'bang', a bang that can kill.

He finds that he likes fireworks now, with their vibrant colours, and the explosions that mean togetherness and happiness and fun (instead of blood and death and whispers of "the end of you", which sometimes make him excited, but he never likes it; not really). When he looks over at the Tenth, he can see That smile, wide enough that it's causing the Tenth's cheeks to dimple, his eyes to crinkle at edges.

It's even more breathtaking than the fireworks, and Gokudera can imagine, in the corner of his mind that he keeps around for what's left of his childishness, that some of that smile is meant for him; even a fraction of it would be more than enough.

And suddenly, in his mind, 'Tenth' becomes 'Tsuna'.

This, however, he keeps to himself.

The dreams start not too long after the incident with Mukuro. Gokudera doesn't always remember them, and when he does it's more of an impression than a real memory. Even so, they always leave him sweating and panting and so hard he can barely stand it, and he tries not to think as he reaches down to relieve the insistent throb between his legs.

Later, when he's smoking a cigarette to calm his racing heart, he tries extra hard not to think about the fact that it was the image of Tsuna's face that made him bite his bottom lip and shudder as the heat in his belly threatened to consume him. And he definitely tries not to think about what it might mean.

Shamal finally agrees to train him (in a manner of speaking), but Gokudera just can't bring himself to muster up the sense of self that Shamal insists he needs in order to progress. He understands, vaguely, that he's supposed to see his own life. But he just can't understand how Shamal can insist that Gokudera doesn't see his own life, because he does. He sees it very, very well.

That's the problem.

Dying for Tsuna, he thinks, would be a good way to die. (Would Tsuna cry at my funeral? He wonders, flinging yet another stick of dynamite.) Certainly, there are worse things that could happen.

During his fight with Belphegor, the only thing he can think of is victory (for Tsuna, always for Tsuna); if he fails, then he is unworthy of being Tsuna's right-hand-man. And since being Tsuna's right-hand-man is the closest he can ever come to being something that Tsuna cherishes, there's no way that he can lose.

He hears them all through the intercom, telling him that he should withdraw, because the fight isn't worth it. They can't know, though, they can't possibly know how wrong they are.

But then Tsuna says that he wants to see the fireworks again, and that he wants Gokudera to be there. He says, "I want us all to laugh together again!"

And although Gokudera doesn't really value himself any more than he had before, he realizes that Tsuna might very well cry at his funeral. And the thought of Tsuna crying, especially over him, is enough to make Gokudera care more about staying alive than he does about winning.

He may not be able to be the friend that Tsuna wants him to be—the ordinary classmate, somebody who doesn't touch himself while thinking of Tsuna's face—but he can give him at least that much.

In his mind, it becomes a promise.

Just you wait, Tsuna; we'll be watching the fireworks again next year. All of us, together.

As he stumbles out of the smoke, beaten and bloody but still very much alive, he says as much aloud.

He hears Tsuna crying above him, and all he wants to do is wrap his arms around the other boy; to hold him tight and never let go.

But he doesn't move. He just sits there and listens.

It hits him; a sudden, blinding clarity. Like an epiphany. And he knows, without a doubt, what Tsuna means to him, and exactly what the burning feeling in his chest is.

I love him, he thinks, and the realization (or is it just an admission, something that, maybe, he's known for a long time) is not nearly as scary as he thought it would be. It doesn't change much; Gokudera's feelings are neither more nor less intense, and Tsuna is still crying.

The only thing that changes is that his resolve comes into sharp relief, although it doesn't really count as a change so much as a conscious acknowledgement of what Gokudera's come to think of as his own personal mission.

He knows one thing for certain: There's no way that he can let Sawada Tsunayoshi die—in the past, or in the present.

Because without Tsuna in the world, Gokudera can see no point in living.