Disclaimer: Katekyo Hitman Reborn! and all affiliated characters and settings are the creative property of Akira Amano, Shueisha, Weekly Shounen Jump, and any other companies holding the title to its license and distribution (VIZ Media, etc.). Used without permission for non-profitable entertainment purposes.

Warnings: Big one for language, some violence, SLASH. Yes, you read that correctly.

And we're back to more YamaGoku fic, haha. This particular installment also doubles as part of a long-overdue exchange with nuakiire from LJ (a.k.a. irenukia at deviantART), who drew me something amazing a while ago. She asked for 8059 in a not-quite-TYL timeline, involving denial, jealousy, and angst. Err, and this is what happened. 8);

It's time to forget about the past
To wash away what happened last
Hide behind an empty face
Don't ask too much, just say
'Cause this is just a game

--from 30 Seconds to Mars' A Beautiful Lie

Track 05 – Carving Cornetti
theme song: A Beautiful Lie – 30 Seconds to Mars

The day the world goes to hell in a handbasket starts out beautiful and crisp, with the cherry blossoms and the promise of spring on the air, like the gods have a sick sense of humor and are conspiring to make Gokudera hate Japan even more than he already thinks he might at this very moment. He doesn't want to admit it – especially not to the Tenth, oh gods never – but he kind of misses Italy. It's been eight years now, and he's used to Japan and everything about it, but…

For one, if he has to eat another bite of sushi, he's going to stab a certain someone with his chopsticks. And if he gets dragged to just one more mediocre Italian restaurant when he complains about it, he's going to replace the chopsticks with a fork. A very sharp one.

He's sick of the crowded train commute when he can't get a hold of his driver. Sometimes he wonders if Japanese men don't know how to wear deodorant. And if one more smartass drunk foreign chick grabs his ass, he's going to have to stop bringing explosives with him everywhere he goes if he doesn't want to blow up the entire goddamn train. (This is why he starts wearing suits instead of his old leather-and-chains get-up.)

And most of all, he's really fucking sick of that bitch following Yamamoto around like a goddamned puppy. Gokudera's known her all of three hours, and he already hates her.

Time to rewind – the day really starts to suck when Gokudera waits with the Tenth after one of Yamamoto's baseball practices. As much as life with the Vongola can be demanding on their lives, and as much as Gokudera craves that kind of action, sometimes it's nice to have little bits of normalcy find ways into their routines. One of them is Yamamoto's baseball career in the minor league, and the habit the Tenth makes out of coming to every practice he can manage. Of course, Gokudera comes along; he has come to terms with the fact that the baseball freak will always be just that – a baseball freak – and so he learns to be patient while sitting in a wide-open stadium with absolutely no cover whatsoever.

Today's practice is a pre-season practice scrimmage against another local minor league team. As usual, Yamamoto pitches like a pro and gives his team a glowing no-hitter for the record books. And as usual, Gokudera pretends he's bored, but saves the small, proud smile for a moment when he's pretty sure nobody's looking his way. It doesn't matter that this isn't an in-league game to Yamamoto; when he's in his 'zone', nothing is impossible for him – and that's something that Gokudera has come to admire (and rely on, whether he wants to admit that fact to himself or not).

After the practice game ends in Yamamoto's team's victory, Gokudera follows behind the Tenth with his hands in his suit jacket's pockets, trying to look uninterested. They're not even to the top of the stairs leading down to the dugout when a pretty girl beats them there, waving down Yamamoto.

Gokudera stops – doesn't realize he's frozen to the spot – when he sees Yamamoto turn at the girl's call, and doesn't realize he's clenching his fist when he sees Yamamoto smiling back at the girl until he's drawn blood.

The Tenth also sees Yamamoto's new cling-on and pauses; Gokudera has to force himself to look uninterested when the Tenth looks back at him with a questioning look on his face.

"Do you know her?" he asks.

Gokudera shrugs noncommittally; he doesn't recognize her, but doesn't want to look like he cares. The Tenth makes a curious face as he turns around to watch the interaction below. Yamamoto is still smiling and laughing as he talks with the girl, and it makes Gokudera feel all kinds of… something. Not angry, because dammit, he doesn't give a fuck about the baseball freak or who he hits on or whatever. But something in his stomach twists, because this doesn't feel right to him.

Yamamoto looks up and sees them, waves with a smile and says something to the girl before he jogs to the bottom of the stairs. "Hey! Go on ahead; I'll be there later tonight," he says.

The Tenth smiles and waves back. "Okay! Give us a call if you need a ride!" And he turns to Gokudera with a smirk. "It's about time Yamamoto-kun found himself a girlfriend."

"Yeah," Gokudera says, but there's nothing behind the word. He doesn't know why he feels hurt – he doesn't like the baseball freak anyway, actually he kind of hates the idiot sometimes – but he says nothing, following the Tenth back to the limousine.

The girl joins them for dinner that night. Yamamoto introduces her as his "friend, Michiko," but says nothing more about their relationship than that. And it seems to Gokudera like she's trying too damn hard to make an impression on them. The more she laughs, the stronger the urge to either kill or run grows in Gokudera's stomach.

And the smile on Yamamoto's face just… makes him want to punch something.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

The girl says something in Yamamoto's ear with a sneaky-bitch grin and a half-glance in Gokudera's fuming direction at the dinner table, and Gokudera nearly misses his plate as he stabs down with his fork. Yamamoto blinks, looks at her with an eyebrow raised, but he's smiling anyway – and when she gets up and pulls at his arm to go to the balcony, Gokudera's teeth start hurting (when did he start clenching them, anyway?). He almost says something – does something, god what the fuck – but catches himself and takes a deep breath.

And it's then that Gokudera learns something about himself.

When he says things like, "Leave me alone, you fucking moron," and, "Fuck off, I'm studying," and, "Go find someone else to harass," he doesn't actually mean them. Not to the baseball freak; never to the baseball freak.

There's something he feels like he's missing, and he sees hints and snatches of it between Yamamoto and this bitch Michiko, and he didn't even know he was missing it until now. And now that he knows what he lacks, the desire grows to the point that it fucking hurts to breathe.

It's kind of like feeling he's being replaced as the Tenth's right hand man. But he never feels the same way when Kyoko or Haru fling themselves at his boss; it doesn't make him want to blow shit up or kick a puppy or go destroy an enemy base. It just makes him more determined to be stronger.

Michiko, the bitch, just makes him want to grab his hair and scream.

This, he finally realizes, this is what jealousy feels like.

And that's all it takes for him to think that oh my god, I am fucking jealous over the goddamned idiot of a baseball freak, and the idea is like a splash of cold water to his face.

He excuses himself after an appropriate amount of time, finding his way to the porch outside of his personal quarters (just down the hall from the Tenth's, just in case).

To tell himself that he doesn't care is a blatant lie – and if he's learned anything over these past eight years, it's that lying to himself gets him fucking nowhere. So he does what he's always done when things don't go his way.

He lets go, and moves on. Or, at least, tries to.

It's just a stupid little crush, anyway.

The feeling doesn't go away.

The occasional outings that Yamamoto goes on with that bitch just makes Gokudera feel a little more irritated. The admiration becomes distaste, becomes loathing. He comes up with fewer excuses to hang around the baseball idiot, and now when he says, "Leave me alone, you fucking moron," he actually kind of means it. And when the idiot accidentally forgets a meeting with the Guardians because he's out with Michiko, that small sliver of hatehatehate growing until it almost hurts once Yamamoto shows up (an entire fucking hour late) with an apologetically sheepish grin on his face.

It takes a lot of self-control that Gokudera isn't sure how he manages to not slam the idiot's head into the wall. Instead, he just lights up and leans back against the wall with a scowl, and continues the meeting. And makes sure he situates himself so that Hibari stands between them.

The family comes first, anyway. It's not like he has time to be mooning over an idiot that clearly doesn't give a damn, that still thinks their entire lives are some kind of fucking game. Well, whatever. He's got bigger fish to fry – they have to step up security, because even after they've taken extensive measures to scale down the Millefiore before they become a threat, they've still got a lot of enemies. Gokudera doesn't have fucking time to bother wasting his energy on other things.

… And he keeps telling himself that.

It's a week later that Gokudera finds himself wandering towards his favorite bar that he hasn't seen in a good while. He knows the Tenth is safe with Ryohei and Reborn at Yamamoto's baseball game and Gokudera's been working his ass off, so he feels like he's fucking entitled to his fucking night off.

Except Gokudera can't stop thinking about how Michiko is probably at the game, cheering from the sidelines and screaming her fucking bitch head off. And he can't stop thinking about how Yamamoto is pitching a perfect game – excellent form, graceful as he hurls the ball from the mound to the backstop, that dangerous glint in his eye and the can't stop me now grin plastered across his face – and how it's probably all for that bitch.

… He is so going to get plastered tonight.

There's a new bartender working behind the counter tonight, though it's hard to say how new anyone is here anymore – it's been a while since Gokudera has been here. He orders a scotch – something he hasn't tried before, malty, on the rocks – and throws it back in a single swig. It's smooth and buttery, and oh, it feels good going down his throat in a burning trail of warmth.

On the fourth round of scotch, he's loosening his tie and eyeing the bartender, wondering why the bar's so damn quiet tonight and why the bartender's giving him the stink eye before sliding down the fourth glass of scotch. Gokudera sips it carefully this time, giving himself more time to taste it.

"What, haven't seen a drunk before?" he slurs, and then blinks as there's suddenly three bartenders. And what the fuck, he usually doesn't feel like this until the seventh or eighth round. Whatever this brand is that he's getting, it's gotta be pretty damn potent.

He sips it again, and lets the liquid roll around on his tongue–

Fuck. Fuck, fuckfuckfuck – he can't grip the glass anymore, and he thinks his head is about to roll straight off his shoulders if he leans back too far – nope, too late, he's sliding out of the chair–

A pair of too-muscled arms catch him as he falls backwards, and can't even muster the energy to struggle before the lights go out. And then he gets it – the bartender's stink eye and the weird-tasting scotch and the fact that he's a fucking moron.


Gokudera isn't entirely sure what's happening, but it fucking hurts, like his head and his back and his stomach are all going to burst, and he thinks the moaning he keeps hearing is his own voice but his lips and nose and tongue are all too numb for him to really put two and two together. There are voices around him, but they all sound like they're from a long ways underwater and he knows he's not fucking drowning because he's breathing air, even though it hurts like a bitch–

He eventually does connect the dots, and barely manages to crack open a swollen eye to find that he's in the corner of a dimly-lit room, tied to a chair and feeling like he's missing half his face.

And fuck, isn't he the brilliant one now. All that talk of raising security, and he's become the fucking weak link – the one that gets bested by a handful of punks with the oldest fucking trick in the book. Isn't that just fucking typical.

He tests the bonds at his wrists, finds them well-tied – not getting out of these ones – and the ones at his ankles give him a similar sense that he's going to be stuck here for a long time. And that's just fucking peachy, because the others are at a damn baseball game and nobody's going to bother looking for him if he's not supposed to be due home until morning.

"He's awake." It's the first thing that Gokudera hears clearly.


And without warning, there's a fist pounding into his gut and stealing his breath with a sharp oof.

"That's for taking our business, you fucking Vongola dog."

Gokudera gasps around the aching pit of a stomach he's got now, trying to catch his breath around the pain and the nausea that whatever it was they slipped him is causing him, and manages a scowl.

That earns him another sharp punch, this time catching his chin so roughly that he nearly bites his tongue when his teeth clack together so hard he swears he feels one of them crack. Moving his jaw experimentally after the sparks clear from his eyes, he gives his assailants a good look – and realizes that these tattooed, pierced-up and greasy-haired punks aren't likely even mafia.

Yakuza. Fucking great.

"I don't know what the fuck you're talking about," Gokudera wheezes, after he catches a hint of a breath a moment later. "Vongola doesn't do business in the league of small fries like you fuckers."

The first guy huffs, like he's about to laugh, but instead something hard and heavy strikes Gokudera at the base of his neck, and he doesn't remember much after that.

The good thing about yakuza trying to mess with a mafia family as large as the Vongola – retribution is like watching a fucking elephant step on a fly. Gokudera isn't entirely aware while this happens, because even though the yakuza aren't nearly as intimidating as Mafioso can be, they still know how to beat the living shit out of a human being. And they hardly spared punches with Gokudera.

And damn but he's sore, but at least he's going to be allowed to sleep in his own fucking bed very fucking soon. As soon as whoever's been given the task of wheeling him back to his own bedroom shows up, that is.

The yakuza hadn't done much to him other than slug him a few dozen good times, cut him up – he'd needed quite a few stitches – before the cavalry came roaring in. After that, Gokudera doesn't really remember much. All he knows is that a bunch of small fries got the drop on him, and he's embarrassed as fucking hell.

Once the Vongola medic bandages and x-rays and sews Gokudera back together, he's told to take a week off, but he doesn't have to spend that time in a hospital. And yes, he will have to use the wheelchair to get back to his room; it's hospital fucking policy. Gokudera hopes to God the others will have the fucking sense to leave him be, let him wallow in his goddamned shame.

This is why he's an idiot for even thinking about enjoying a relationship outside of mutual alliances and protective friendships. He's okay with that, now – he gets it. He fucked up bad, because he had to be a little schoolboy and let it distract him into a stupid mistake.

But it seems like certain idiots will remain idiots – no matter what kind of fuck off attitude Gokudera had taken on earlier, there's still a quiet knock at his hospital door, and a softly spoken, Gokudera? that sets his teeth on edge and makes him want to crawl in a hole and fucking die. That's who the Tenth sent to pick him up? Sick fucking joke. It's the last person in the world he wants to talk to – much less see – right now. But he can't do anything but look away as the door slides open.

He feels Yamamoto's eyes on him, and he can sense that Yamamoto is tense and worried – and this only makes him feel angrier, because damn it, this is Yamamoto's fault. … Kind of. The idiot isn't supposed to be worried about him anyway – why does the moron even care?

There's a nurse following in Yamamoto's shadow, and when she bustles about Gokudera – unhooking his IVs, checking the stitches and replacing bandages, he finally catches a glimpse of Yamamoto's eyes tracing the lines of his injuries. He feels embarrassed, exposed, vulnerable, and on instinct, he glares back up at the asshole.

Who, of course, has the fucking audacity to flash his charming, brilliant, I'm a fucking idiot grin.

"Don't say a fucking word," Gokudera snarls at him.

Yamamoto's grin falters into a grimace, but Gokudera doesn't watch to see if the baseball freak recovers the expression before he's ushered into a chair with a wince and a grunt of pain. The nurse seems to sense the tension buzzing in the air as Yamamoto takes control of the wheelchair and begins pushing it down the hall after the nurse.

The short walk/ride to Gokudera's room is uncomfortably quiet, but Gokudera is too annoyed and tired and he feels like shit, so why should he have to be the one to talk? At least Yamamoto isn't shooting his fool mouth off, but that much cooperation kind of surprises Gokudera. It surprises him enough that he actually tolerates the manhandling as Yamamoto helps him into something more suitable for sleeping, lets the idiot's hands flutter over him in a way he's only dreamt of – and probably can't continue to, at this rate. But once Yamamoto finishes getting him into his own damn bed (thank god, his own goddamned bed), Gokudera is ready to be alone. Really ready. He's had enough.

He lies on his side, facing away from the door, and pretends to have fallen asleep, hoping that Yamamoto will get the fucking hint and leave him the fuck alone. But the silence and the distinct lack of quiet footsteps moving towards the door tell him that he's not going to be so lucky tonight.

Gokudera can't help but flinch when he feels Yamamoto's weight joining him on the bed. He can smell the damn cologne that Yamamoto only wears when he's doing something important, like familial negotiations or going out on a date, and it makes him even more pissed off when the dumbass gets close enough that his breath tickles the exposed base of Gokudera's neck. What the fuck is the idiot trying to do, anyway? This can't be part of Yamamoto's orders, Gokudera is damned sure of that.

A hand snakes its way across his hip, and before Gokudera musters up enough rage to shove him away, he realizes that the large, strong, calloused hand is shaking – fucking trembling – as fingers brush against a large purple-black bruise near his bellybutton. The tingle of pain-pleasure makes Gokudera gasp, and he really does flinch this time, grabbing Yamamoto's hand and pushing it away as he rolls upright and scuffles away from the goddamned fucking idiot – what the fuck is he pulling?

"What the fuck do you want, Yamamoto?" he snarls, breathing harshly, gritting his teeth as his bruises throb in subtle reminder that he's not feeling all that great still.

Yamamoto looks almost hurt as he stares up from his position on his side, propped up on an elbow, but seems to have enough self-control to school his features into something that Gokudera can't fucking read, and it's driving him fucking mad. One breath drawn too sharply, and Gokudera's curling in around his ribs with a frustrated half-moan. Just because the hospital let him out doesn't mean he isn't in a fucking world of hurt – the pain is so blinding that he doesn't even resist as Yamamoto's hands help guide him back down to laying on his uninjured side.

"Shh," Yamamoto says, soothingly, brushing hair out of Gokudera's face as he's gasping in air. "S-Sorry– I just needed to…" and he stops, hesitating, and making Gokudera even angrier because the idiot is doing everything he's wanted, but it's such a traitorous act because all Gokudera can think of is that fucking bitch Michiko.

Once Gokudera is sure he can breathe again without the little pain-demons stabbing their pitchforks into his stomach, he takes a deep breath and says – without turning around – "Just needed to what?"

Yamamoto's hand stops moving, leaving Gokudera to wonder at how soothing the motion had been, except that he's so sure he has a damned right to be upset. So what if his tone is a little harsher than he originally meant it to be? The idiot fucking deserves it.

Yamamoto's forehead suddenly is against the back of Gokudera's neck, and Yamamoto's breath is warm against his bare back. "I'm so damned sorry," he breathes, breath hitching on a sob, and suddenly Gokudera realizes that the idiot is actually serious.

Or maybe he's just having a weird fucking dream again. Yeah, that's probably it. It's gotta be the drugs, or maybe he really did fall asleep–

"I should have paid more attention, should have–"

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Gokudera snaps, voice sounding as shaky as he's feeling right now as he half-turns.

"You… you haven't been yourself lately," Yamamoto says, and Gokudera resists the urge to snap a yeah, well, you're a fine one to talk. "I'm sorry that I didn't do something about it when I saw it happening."

Gokudera snorted. "What the hell is that supposed to mean? It's not like you knew those assholes were going to take a few cracks at me."

The sigh sends another puff of warm breath down Gokudera's spine and over his shoulder, and he denies the goose bumps that crawl over his arms and legs at the sensation. Yamamoto stays quiet, which only makes the anger return again. If Yamamoto doesn't just spit out what the fuck he wants to say in the next thirty seconds, Gokudera has half a mind to just kick the teasing bastard out, bed rest order be damned.

Three. Two. One. … Damn you, Yamamoto.

"Look, it's getting late," Gokudera says icily. "I'm fucking exhausted, and I'm sure you've got Michiko waiting for you back at your place–"

Yamamoto stiffens against Gokudera's back, and he thinks – with a masochistic sense of triumph – that he's nailed the dumbass right on the head, for about all of two seconds. A small bark of laughter ruffling the hairs on the back of his neck is all the warning he gets. Before he can blink, Yamamoto's sitting upright, but he's dragging Gokudera up as well so that his back rests against the baseball-toned chest. One hand around his forehead, and another around his waist lock him into place, and he can hear the fluttering thump thump thump of Yamamoto's heartbeat against the back of his head.

"Michiko isn't my girlfriend, Gokudera," Yamamoto says, his voice rumbling pleasantly against Gokudera's back.

"What does that have to do with–"

"She was an old classmate from the school I went to before I transferred to Namimori." A soft snort, and then, "She's just a good friend. She did ask me out, though, but I declined."

Something flutters in Gokudera's chest, but he doesn't want to acknowledge that feeling just yet – this doesn't necessarily mean that Yamamoto is… No. He frowns; then why the hell is the idiot spending so much time with her, if they aren't dating?


"I told her there was someone else I was interested in." Again, the words rumble pleasantly against Gokudera's back, and he almost finds himself comfortable here, and– wait a second, what was that? Who?

He doesn't even want to entertain the possibility that maybe, just maybeIs this all a lie, then?

The way Yamamoto's hands tighten around him – the way Yamamoto's breath on his neck is harsh and needy and ohgod, are those his lips? – this isn't real. This was the drugs, or his mind, playing a cruel, cruel trick on him, and haha – very funny, you shitty asshole.

But the more he says that to himself, the more he knows he's only lying to himself.

Because those are Yamamoto's lips, and he's brushing them along the side of Gokudera's neck in a way that can hardly be read as anything less than it is. Yamamoto's breath comes in harsh, warm pants that speak of need and worry and a thousand other emotions, and the fragile feeling growing in Gokudera's chest is beginning to grow uncomfortable, like it's about to break.

"I was so damned worried," Yamamoto finally says in a soft whisper. "When you didn't show up at the game, or back at the estate after, I… I didn't know what I'd do if–"

Gokudera snorts, a shaky half-laugh that leaves him feeling almost sick as he realizes what Yamamoto is saying. And maybe it's the drugs or just his own damned exhaustion, but after the rough last couple of days, he needs this – whatever this is – right now. He finally lets one of his hands fall over the large, sports-calloused hand that's wrapped around his hipbone.

"You idiot – you damned idiot," he whispers, but the words are gently spoken and have no anger behind them. "Why didn't you say something sooner?"

Yamamoto's breath pauses, hitches against Gokudera's neck as his arms pull Gokudera even closer. The idiot's hands are still shaking a little bit, and if Gokudera isn't mistaken, it sounds like Yamamoto is about to cry–


"It's okay now," he says, assuring. "I'm okay – those yakuza were just a bunch of punks, and I was stupid to let them catch me off guard. They didn't hurt me that badly – ow!" Yamamoto's arms loosen their grip just a little, and Gokudera sighs. "Okay, so maybe they did beat me up a little. But it isn't that serious."

Yamamoto snorts against his neck in a laugh. "Sorry," he says sheepishly.

"Yeah, well. You'd better be." But Gokudera is smiling, shifting and carefully nestling further into his comfortable 'chair'. He's warm and feeling safe, and things finally aren't looking so bad after all – and it's making his eyelids feel like leaden weights against his eyes.

"Rest," Yamamoto whispers, and Gokudera's already halfway there.

When he wakes up, he's alone – but there's a note beside his bed with the promise of breakfast coming soon in Yamamoto's careless handwriting. Gokudera allows himself a small smile before he realizes that there's a very real possibility of having sushi for breakfast. He almost laughs to himself, but remembers his bruised ribs. Wincing, he rolls out of bed and stumbles toward the kitchen, hoping to catch Yamamoto before he gets too far into making a Japanese-style breakfast.

He makes it just in time, much to Yamamoto's surprise (You're up! Wait, shouldn't you still be in bed–). There's an almost sheepish look on the idiot's grinning face that makes Gokudera wonder if there's any hint of regret there. He cuts off Yamamoto's worried tirade.

"Pancakes," he says sternly. "And strong black coffee."

Yamamoto smiles, and the small trace of guilt disappears under that stupid, goofy grin of his. And it's then that Gokudera realizes he'd be lying if he didn't love the warm feeling that grin left, when it was directed at him.

Gokudera made a mental note to make sure it didn't take a thorough beating to get a point across, the next time. But with Yamamoto, he had a feeling there probably wouldn't be a next time. With all the smiling of a proper housewife – haha…… wait a second, what the fuck am I thinking?! – Yamamoto slides him a steaming hot mug of fresh black coffee.

When Yamamoto's back turned to work on pancakes, Gokudera allowed himself a smile around the steam coming from the coffee mug.

(Until he splits the stitch holding his badly-split lip together, and gets coffee into the open cut. Even the brightest of Yamamoto's smiles aren't enough to keep Gokudera from swearing until he's blue in the face as he tries to dab the blood away from his face before Yamamoto sees.

Which he does. As Yamamoto dutifully burns the pancakes while he scrambles for the first aid kit and a couple of pieces of butterfly tape, Gokudera swears that whatever gods are staring down over him is probably laughing up a storm at his expense.

Ah, well – the next batch of pancakes are delicious, even as Gokudera tries to ignore the fact that they're pre-cut into tiny, tiny pieces. Fucking idiot.

But this is his idiot, and that's all that matters to him at this point.)

end track.

Note on the title: Cornetti is the modern Italian name for an ancient Roman talisman cornicello, carved in the shape of a horn from plastic or precious metal, and is traditionally used to protect against evils like the "evil eye."

Also, there is a podfic version of this story available for download as well, courtesy of keitorin of livejournal. Please check out the fiction index at my livejournal (bakabokken dot livejournal dot com), and a link to the download is available under this story's description there. … If anyone's interested, that is.

As always, feedback is very much appreciated and coveted! Thank you for reading!