A/N: I wrote this a couple months ago, but wasn't sure if I was ever going to post it. Now, I've reread through it, and actually rather like it, so I hope you do too.

Warnings: SAD! And genderswitch, as usual. Italics are flashbacks.

Disclaimer: I don't own Katekyo Hitman Reborn.

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The crunch of loam under his feet echoes in his ears, the path one he has walked many, many times since the destination at it's end had been deemed important; the walk isn't difficult, but his breath weighs heavily in his chest anyway.

"Gokudera-kun," she says, warm, grateful smile lighting up her face. "Thanks so much for helping me with my homework."

"I would do anything to help the Tenth," he replies, causing an embarrassed blush to creep across her cheeks at his earnestness.

He carries a briefcase full of necessities for his work in this day and age in one hand, while the other cradles a chrysanthemum.

His fingers still on the keys as he hears the door creak open behind him, but his head remains bowed.

"Gokudera-kun?" Her voice is soft and hesitant as she walks into the room. "I heard you playing. I-" she hesitantly explains, "I knew you played the piano, but I don't think I've ever heard you actually play before."

Her footsteps move closer until she stands right behind him, and he doesn't flinch as she places a hand on his shoulder. "It was very beautiful, but... it was so sad..." She sits next to him on the bench, her back facing the piano, and she peers at his profile. "Gokudera-kun, are you alright?"

Her face is worried when he looks at her- she has grown up some, is more comfortable with the fate she has been dealt, and she knows the life she'll lead in the future won't be an easy one.

He diverts his gaze, and that is answer enough. With a sigh, she brings an arm around his shoulders and pulls him close, embracing him, and he can smell her perfume- the perfume he gave her for her last birthday, though he still refuses to tell her just how expensive it really was.

It is comforting, and so he allows himself to be held.

He notices that the ambient noise of the surrounding forest has gone quiet- no animals dare to linger in this area.

He wants to protest, to cling to this bit of metal like the lifeline he feels it is; the Storm Vongola ring is one of the few tangible ties he has to Tsuna, and he wants to hold those that he has close, because he doesn't deserve any more.

But, she is insistent they must be destroyed, and he can only helplessly hand over the ring, even as she smiles at him in gratitude.

He feels like something is breaking.

He is getting close, and though he wishes to stop, to delay the inevitable, he continues to walk on.

She looks embarrassed, and he can't help but notice just how much she's grown since they'd first met. Nearly ten years of toil and strife together.

"Gokudera-kun, I-" she begins, but then pauses, looking frustrated. "No, that's not right... Hayato-kun," she tries again, and she takes his hand in hers. "I've been thinking about this a long time, and I-"

She stutters again and fumbles for something in her suit jacket, and by this point his heart is thundering in his chest- he just can't believe... She pulls out a ring box and then looks him directly in the eye, "I- I know this is sudden and very unorthodox but," A shuddering breath and she swallows heavily, "For so many years, you been such a great friend. You've always been there for me, and I know you feel that you haven't done your best, I want you to know that I appreciate you and the things you do for me."

There are tears in her eyes, and he can see them because he can't seem to look anywhere else. "But, ever since we met, I- I've liked you. Even though you were rather scary in the beginning, I couldn't help but admire you- you were so amazing and wonderful to someone as No-Good as me. And as the years went by, you were so loyal and caring, and- and I fell in love with you."

They both freeze after this admission, staring at one another as though breaking eye contact will shatter the world. His heart is soaring, and yet at the same time it felt like it has been lodged in his throat and he is choking on it.

"What?" he croaks out.

"I'm in love with you," she replies slowly. "And I know you've never shown any romantic interest in me, but," And he's made aware of the box she holds once more, "I wanted to ask you- will you marry me?"

Disbelief surges chaotically throughout his mind, and thoughts and feelings collide but one thought concretes itself in the rising tides: he isn't good enough. This wonderful, amazing woman wants him to marry her but he can't, because he isn't good enough. He is a bastard child from an adulterous affair who chain smokes and curses almost as bad as a sailor, and who has a short temper and a sadistic streak a mile wide- he is almost the exact opposite of her.

What can she see in him?

"No," he replies, and tries not take that back when her hopeful but vaguely worried expression slowly dawns into dismay. "I can't, I'm sorry."

He can't bear to watch as she slowly breaks down into tears, and so he turns and fairly runs from the rooms, ignoring her cries of, "Hayato-kun, wait!"

"Wait!"

There is movement from up ahead, and he frowns. No one else should be out here today, he has made sure of it...

Chaos reigns inside the base, and he runs to find someone who knows just what is going on. He rounds a corner and spots Yamamoto, who, for once, isn't smiling like an idiot but frowning in grief.

When the Rain Guardian sees him coming, the expression changes to apprehension. "Gokudera..."

"Where is the Tenth?" he demands, inwardly panicking. If something has Yamamoto rattled, then it has to be bad.

Another flicker of sadness and Yamamoto grimaces, "They betrayed us. Tsuna, she- she-" To his shock, a tear runs down the Japanese man's face, and his heart stops. He shoves his way through the door behind the other, only to stop on the threshold at the sight inside.

They haven't even had a chance to clean her up yet, bullet holes riddle her torso and her clothes are stained with liquid red, blood speckling the pale skin of her face, eyes half open and cloudy, expression slack in death. He lets loose a roar of unmitigated fury and grief at the sight and turns on the person nearest to him.

"Why didn't you save her?" he demands, and then throws them bodily out of the room, ignoring their explanation that she had died almost instantly. A choked sob escapes him as he falls to his knees by the bed on which her body lay, and he picks up a cold, limp hand, bringing it to his cheek; so different from that day, less than a week ago, when she held his hand in her two warm ones and asked him to marry her.

"I'm sorry," he whispers.

And in the silence, he cries.

He almost forgets to breathe when he sees her, sitting up in the coffin and looking so young. Too young.

Their eyes meet, and her eyes are confused and afraid. "Gokudera-kun?" she asks, and her voice sends him to his knees- though he knew that it was coming soon, he hadn't expected the meeting to be this soon.

"Tenth," he whispers. He's missed her so much, and now, to have her here, is a terrible blessing- amazing because she was here with him again, but horrible because she had no idea what had happened. She had no idea how he had wronged her...

And then to have her ask the one question he has been dreading.

"Gokudera-kun, why am I in a coffin?"

What is he supposed to say?

He's failed.